2015 Family Law Awards

Each year the Family Law Awards recognize family law advocates for their outstanding dedication and commitment to legal services for low-income Californians. More about the Family Law Awards.

The awards ceremony took place during the 2015 Family Law/Self-Help Conference, held at the Judicial Council Conference Center in San Francisco.

Following are the 2015 honorees.

Robert L. Uriarte, Managing Associate, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP

Robert Uriarte, 2015 Family Law Award

Robert Uriarte worked with Bay Area Legal Aid Attorney Brenda Star Adams on a complex interstate custody case, during which he contributed more than 400 volunteer hours. The case, which involved depositions from witnesses in two states and in three languages, became much more involved than anyone had previously imagined, Adams said. “He spent his weekends driving out to witnesses’ houses, drinking their tea and convincing them to testify for our client, despite fear of the repercussions.”

“More than anything else he did for me and our client (and there was a lot), the one thing I appreciate the most is that he never even considered leaving us behind,” she said.

The eight-day trial, during which Uriarte argued motions and examined witnesses, ultimately led to a positive outcome. “Our client was able to keep her children, and was empowered in the process,” Star Adams said. “She went from homeless to housed, penniless to supported, from victim to survivor, and Rob had a very big hand in that.”

Mélody Saint-Saëns, Staff Attorney, Bay Area Legal Aid, Contra Costa County Regional Office

Melody Saint-Saens, 2015 Family Law Award

During fewer than ten years at Bay Area Legal Aid, Mélody Saint-Saëns has provided direct assistance to clients in more than 1,000 cases. Since 2011, her work has resulted in more than $2.5 million recovered for clients. In addition to her case work, she coordinates Bay Legal’s Contra Costa County Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic, which serves more than 500 people every year.

Many of Mélody’s clients have limited English proficiency and she champions language access in Contra Costa County. Additionally, she trains community partners on best practices and strategies for cultural competency and working with domestic violence survivors.

Each of her clients receive top quality family law help, never walking away without at least an assessment, but often direct assistance with a wide range of collateral legal issues. She ensures that her clients and their children have a true opportunity to escape violence and build an independent secure future.

“Mélody’s passion and dedication to serving the most vulnerable populations in Contra Costa County is inspiring. She works tirelessly on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, providing holistic family law assistance,” said Genevieve Richardson, Managing Attorney, Bay Area Legal Aid.

Dana Schumacher, Coordinator, Self Help Legal Access Centers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles

Dana Schumacher, 2015 Family Law Award

In her role as coordinator for Self Help Legal Access Centers, Dana has worked tirelessly to facilitate family law services and to support innovative delivery models. One of those models, a partnership between the Long Beach Self Help Center and Office of the Family Court Facilitator, has given rise to several new workshops for litigants and an increased pool of volunteers to provide services.

Dana has successfully worked in collaboration to ensure disability and language access issues are addressed. Thanks to recent outreach to local leaders in the Cambodian community, the Long Beach Center will now provide additional workshops in Khmer.

“Dana has been very proactive in her desire to broaden the services that self help offers, and she has been very successful in that endeavor,” said Karla Barrow, managing attorney at LAFLA. “Her achievement of those goals has led to greater access and strengthened relationships that ultimately benefit the community in such urgent need of services.”

“Dana’s work ethic and ‘can-do’ attitude serves as an example of what we can and should expect from our self help center leaders,” said Ana Storey, Director of Client & Community Services at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.