The California Lawyers Association is awarding the prestigious Bernard E. Witkin Medal to outgoing Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin and bestowing other awards on others who represent the best of the legal profession.
Chin, who retired earlier this year after serving on the court since 1996, has authored over 350 majority opinions and more than 100 separate opinions. Among them were landmark decisions involving issues such as DNA, toxic tort insurance coverage, surrogate parents, spousal abuse and hate crimes. He’s a nationally recognized expert on DNA evidence.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has praised him as a “leader in helping our courts embrace technology to expand access to justice.” He chaired the court’s technology advisory committee, the Science and the Law Steering Committee, and the California Commission for Impartial Courts.
The son of Chinese immigrants and the youngest of eight children who grew up working on his parents’ potato farm, he was the first Asian-American attorney in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the first Asian-American partner in a major Oakland law firm, the first Asian-American to serve as president of the Alameda County Bar Association and the first Chinese-American justice on the California Supreme Court.
The Witkin Medal is named for the preeminent legal scholar and writer Bernard E. Witkin, who was its first recipient in 1993. It is awarded annually to a member of the legal community who has helped shape the legal landscape through an extraordinary body of work. See past Witkin Medal recipients.
The law firm of Duane Morris LLP in San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Counsel for Justice are being recognized for their contributions to diversity in the legal profession.
Duane Morris has an active firm-wide Diversity & Inclusion Committee that includes mentoring circles that meet monthly to review hours, assignments and evaluations of each diverse associate to increase their opportunities for success. Also, the Duane Morris Women’s Impact Network for Success is devoted to enhancing attorney development to fully realize the talent, knowledge and potential of their women attorneys.
In the pursuit of advancing diversity and inclusion, Duane Morris attorneys are actively involved with leading organizations including The Minority Corporate Counsel Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Filipino Bar Association of Northern California, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, Charles Houston Bar Association, and more.
LACBA’s Counsel for Justice, the charitable arm of the LA County Bar Association, has raised millions of dollars in four key areas: domestic violence, support of veterans, immigration assistance and AIDS services.
Through its pro bono legal service projects, it serves a diverse client base of predominately low-income members of the community who are immigrants, veterans, domestic violence victims and people living with HIV and AIDS. Its nine-person team of attorneys and staff embodies diversity as to gender, ethnicity and orientation.
The counsel also fosters diversity within the law firms it partners with on pro bono work. When the law firms are able to offer pro bono opportunities involving diverse clients, it helps the law firms attract and retain diverse legal professionals who are interested in giving back in this way.
Loren Miller Legal Service Awards
CLA is honoring two individuals who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to legal services and who have personally engaged in significant work extending legal services to the poor.
Jora Trang is being honored for her 30 years as a civil rights advocate whose vision for social change weaves together worker-centered strength, collaborative coalition work and race equity.
Trang serves as chief of staff and equity at Worksafe, a California-based organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the basic right of all people to a safe and healthy workplace.
Before joining Worksafe in 2011, Trang litigated class action employment and labor cases while working with the Employment Lawyers’ Group (ELG); the National Center for Youth Law; and the law firm of Minami, Lew & Tamaki. She also served as a senior litigator at Equal Rights Advocates.
Honoree Robert D. Newman, general counsel for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, is being recognized for his 35 years of impact litigation that has secured public benefits, essential health services and housing rights for communities in need. In one of his major victories, he obtained a consent decree whereby the California Department of Health Care Services and the California Department of Social Services agreed to reform the way mental health services are provided to children and young adults in the child welfare system. He continues to fight to make sure children receive the services they are entitled to.
He is described as a brilliant litigator and teacher who recognizes his own privilege and uses it to open doors for others.
See past recipients of the Loren Miller Awards, which are co-presented with the California Commission on Access to Justice and the Legal Aid Association of California.
Jack Berman Award
Mayra Joachin, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, is receiving the Jack Berman Award of Achievement, which recognizes lawyers who are within their first eight years of practice.
Joachin focuses on advancing the rights of low-income immigrants through impact litigation, direct work with affected individuals, administrative advocacy, and technical assistance. Her passion for immigrants’ rights stems from her experiences as a Salvadoran immigrant.