Irvine, CA – Keynote speaker California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was joined by over 800 leaders of the Orange County legal, civic and business communities at the Hotel Irvine Monday night for the annual Volunteers for Justice Dinner. At the event, the Public Law Center (PLC) honored Haynes and Boone, LLP, the Gibson Dunn Jerra Litigation Team and Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD). Each year, PLC and its 1400 volunteers for justice provide $23 million worth of free legal services to Orange County’s lowincome veterans, seniors, domestic violence survivors, children and their families.
The evening program began with US Army Veteran Federico Naal, whom PLC helped obtain his US citizenship, leading the entire ballroom in the pledge of allegiance. Becerra soon took the stage and encouraged the attendees to be “warriors for justice”. He recounted his own experiences struggling to find affordable and effective legal representation for his parents when he was a Stanford Law student decades ago, and later, working as a legal aid attorney in Massachusetts. Becerra told the crowd to not be discouraged when they looked around and felt it was “just us” representing low income clients pro bono, because “the 33rd Attorney General of California will bring the Department of ‘Just Us’ into the fight as well.”
Later in the evening, PLC presented the Community Partner of the Year award to OCCORD and its Executive Director Shakeel Syed. The two organizations have a long-standing partnership to encourage full participation in the democratic process – organizing large citizenship fairs multiple times throughout the year. Together PLC and OCCORD have assisted thousands of individuals in becoming U.S. Citizens.
PLC next honored a team of lawyers from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher as its Attorneys of the Year. The group of ten lawyers volunteered almost 4,000 hours to represent a pro se litigant, Mr. Jerra, who had been visiting PLC’s Federal Pro Se clinic for his affirmative civil rights case. After six days of trial beginning in April 2017, the jury awarded Mr. Jerra $500,000.00 in compensatory damages and $175,000.00 in punitive damages for the harm he suffered while incarcerated. The Jerra Litigation Team include Danielle E. Serbin, Priyah Kaul, Jared S. Greenberg, Kandice L. Kovac, Christina R.B. Lopez, Matthew T. Sessions, Lauren Donovan Friedman, Katie M. Magallanes, Mark Dittrich, and Helen Galloway.
Finally, PLC honored the Orange County office of Haynes and Boone, LLP as the Law Firm of the Year. Since 2014, Haynes and Boone has co-co-counseled with PLC representing a group of low-income, homeless residents of Costa Mesa. The City of Costa Mesa enacted an ordinance prohibiting individuals from staying at a motel for longer than 30 days at a time. This action directly impacts vulnerable individuals and families who rely on extended-stay motels as last-resort housing and a place to live where their children may remain in school. Haynes and Boone has already volunteered over 3,500 hours on the case, which is scheduled to go to trial later this year.