Diversity & Inclusion Celebration Award Recipients

Diversity at Santa Clara Law

Social Justice and Human Rights Award Criteria

The Santa Clara University School of Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award was established to publicly recognize outstanding achievements of individuals in fostering a diverse and inclusive legal profession, and furthering civil rights and social justice for those who have been traditionally underrepresented in society. The award is based on a variety of factors, including community service, youth activities, career achievement, community educational involvement, professional and community honors, business and professional leadership, and education honors.

Organization of the Year Award Criteria

The Diversity Gala Organization of the Year Award was established to publicly recognize outstanding achievements of corporate, nonprofit, or governmental entities which has engaged in innovative best practices to improve the hiring, retention and promotion of a diverse and inclusive work force and engaged in service to underrepresented communities.

2024 Award Winners

Carlos Rosario is a native of San Jose and studied engineering at the University of Southern California and law at Santa Clara University. He has worked in large law firms, automated driving companies, Google’s sister company Wing, and now Confluent where he is a generalist attorney. Carlos works with numerous nonprofits, and in 2019 he left his job as an attorney to become a turnaround CEO of a 750-employee network of health centers in Santa Clara County. In response to that work, he was appointed to the Santa Clara County Health Advisory Commission, and later to the San Jose Planning Commission. Carlos has also been on the boards of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, both Santa Clara County Black Lawyers Association and Santa Clara County La Raza Lawyers Association, Sacred Heart Community Services, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and the Katherine and George Alexander Law Center. 


Elevate Community Center was founded in 2021 with a mission to support historically underserved communities in achieving long term stability and self-sufficiency. Elevate’s services include financial literacy education, as well as legal services in areas of domestic violence/family law, criminal record clearance, landlord/tenant disputes, legal services for small businesses, and other general civil litigation. Over 90% of Elevate’s clients are considered Extremely Low Income and below 30% of Area Median Income. Elevate takes pride in accepting legal service requests that are often too complex for traditional legal aid, and provides services across multiple California counties with a focus in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Watch a ~4 minute video about Elevate


2023 Award Winners

Akshay Verma JD ’06 is currently the Director of Legal Operations at Coinbase, where he’s been since April 2022.  Prior to Coinbase, Verma held the same title and position at Meta, where he joined in 2018.  Before Meta, Verma practiced law for seven years and then pivoted his career in 2012 to a role involving consulting and business development at Axiom Global.

Verma graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1999 with a degree in Chemistry, and later obtained his J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2006.  During his law school tenure, Verma dedicated himself to furthering diversity, equity and inclusion as the President of the South Asian Law Student Association.  In 2005, he and three classmates founded the Santa Clara Law Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.  He served on the Board of the Student Chapter until graduation.  Verma was also a staunch advocate for underprivileged youth, volunteering his time as a teacher for the Fresh Lifelines for Youth program, an organization aimed at reducing recidivism for incarcerated minors.

After graduating from SCU Law, Verma practiced in the environmental field at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (2006-2008) and then at Farella Braun + Martel (2008-2012).  At both firms, Verma served on the Diversity Committee, where he worked on initiatives aimed at increasing the diversity profile of incoming associates to the firms, as well as providing scholarship funds to diverse 1Ls.  Verma joined the Board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, serving as its President from 2012-2014

During his tenure at Meta, Verma served on the legal department Diversity Steering Committee where he spearheaded an effort to launch Meta’s Law Firm Diversity Program in 2019.  The program involved a heavy data-driven approach to evaluating and improving the diversity of the firms serving Meta.  Verma worked closely with the inaugural Diversity Champion firm, Kilpatrick Townsend, to launch Meta’s Legal Scholars Program, a two day event aimed at giving incoming diverse 1Ls a primer into law school life.  Many of the Program’s alums are now SCU Law students.

Verma remains dedicated to SCU Law, serving as a law school Ambassador and teaching as an adjunct professor.


LEAP is changing the face of the legal profession by assisting underrepresented students navigate the law school application process. We do this by offering eight monthly workshops where our “fellows” learn about the process of applying to law school and they are exposed to over 40 diverse attorneys who share their career experiences.  LEAP fellows are paired with both an attorney mentor and law student mentor who walk them through this law school application journey. In addition, a free LSAT course is provided to each fellow.  In our three short year, LEAP has had close to a 100% acceptance rate to law schools across the country.

2021 Award Winners

Nahal Iravani SaniThe Social Justice and Human Rights Award for 2021 was presented to Nahal Iravani-Sani JD ’93. Judge Iravani-Sani is a Superior Court Judge presiding in Santa Clara County, California. Appointed in 2017 by Governor Brown, she is the first Iranian-American judge to serve on the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Prior to joining the bench, she was a Deputy District Attorney for 22 years prosecuting crimes through all phases of the criminal justice system. Dedicated to education and mentorship, Judge Iravani-Sani instructs Trial Advocacy at Stanford Law School and Santa Clara University School of Law. She enjoys serving as a mentor to the next generation of trial attorneys. As an immigrant to the United States at a young age, Judge Iravani-Sani is passionate about her role as an ambassador of the Iranian-American community, and she recognizes the importance of giving back to her adopted country. She has served in leadership positions on nonprofit community and professional organizations, including the boards of the Iranian American Bar Association, Pars Equality Center, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. The San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition and Santa Clara County Bar Association have recognized her leadership and commitment to promoting diversity in the legal profession. In 2017, she was interviewed by the Huffington Post.

National Black Law Students Association logoThe Organization of the Year Award for 2021 was given to The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA). NBLSA is the largest student-run 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the country, representing over 200 law schools across the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The mission of NBLSA is to increase the number of culturally responsible, Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. Rachel E. Barnes, the 2020-21 Chair and JD/MBA candidate at the University of Virginia, accepted the award.

2019 Award Winners

Hon. Shelyna V. Brown JD '96The Social Justice and Human Rights Award for 2019 was presented to Honorable Shelyna V. Brown JD ’96. Judge Brown received her BA from UC Davis and her JD from Santa Clara Law. Judge Brown is a sought after speaker, serves on several boards and has been recognized for her excellence in advocacy, and praised for her contribution to the community. In 2009, she was honored by her office as the Trial Attorney of the year. In 2010, she was honored by the 100 Black Women of Silicon Valley for her Excellence in Advocacy. In 2011, Judge Brown was honored by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley. Also in 2011, Judge Brown received a Congressional Commendation from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren for her work and commitment to her community. In 2012, Judge Brown was awarded the Unsung Heroes award, by the Santa Clara County Bar Association. Most recently, Judge Brown was appointed by the Governor, to serve as one the youngest judges on the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Judge Brown endeavors to continue to serve her community in her new capacity, as a Superior Court Judge.

The Law Foundation of Silicon ValleyThe Organization of the Year award for 2019 went to the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. The Law Foundation uses innovative legal advocacy as a tool for social change. The organization crafts inventive solutions to the life-changing legal issues facing low-income families and individuals in Santa Clara County. The Law Foundation’s attorneys, social workers, community workers, advocates, and pro bono volunteers advance the rights of more than 10,000 individuals and families each year through legal services, strategic advocacy, and educational outreach, with a focus on three key issue areas: housing, health, and children & youth. The majority of the people the Law Foundation serves live below 125% of federal poverty guidelines, which stands under $25,000 annually for a household of four, and their legal services are free of charge.

2018 Award Winners

Lizbeth MateoThe recipient of the Social Justice and Human Rights Award for 2018 was Lizbeth Mateo JD ’16. Mateo has made headlines for being one of the first undocumented immigrants to be appointed to a statewide post in California, and more recently for her courageous work to end the separation of undocumented families.

In 2018 Mateo was named to an advisory committee that seeks to improve access to college for low-income California students. California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon appointed Mateo to the post, saying she is “a courageous, determined and intelligent young woman who at great personal risk has dedicated herself to fight for those seeking their rightful place in this country.”

Santa Clara Law Prof. Bradley Joondeph, who taught Mateo when she was a student, issued a statement upon her appointment.“Santa Clara Law is extremely proud of Lizbeth. She embodies Santa Clara’s values and mission — a person who, despite significant obstacles, has used her education to be present for others. Lizbeth’s determined pursuit of her calling, in the face of various risks and hardships, inspires all of us who desire a more just, caring, and loving world, especially for those at society’s margins.”

Warriors Community FoundationThe 2018 Organization of the Year award was given to the Warriors Community Foundation. As the philanthropic arm of the Golden State Warriors, the Foundation supports local organizations that help underserved children live, learn, and play. They believe that all children in the Bay Area deserve opportunities to be healthy and well and to succeed socially and academically. Since 2012, the Foundation has given away more than $10 million in grants to organizations and schools in Alameda and San Francisco counties, refurbished 80 basketball courts in low income communities around the Bay Area, and shared the joy and excitement of Warriors home games by donating thousands of tickets. Throughout the year they promoted education through the Warriors Math Hoops and Read to Achieve programs, as well as, the Back to School in the Bay campaign. Their aid in our communities goes above and beyond to support diversity and inclusion in our higher education systems. We hope to see many of these students on campus in the future as part of our undergraduate and law school programs, and are grateful to the Foundation for all that they have accomplished for families in the Bay Area.

2017 Award Winners

Jim ObergefellJim Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges, a case involving more than thirty marriage equality plaintiffs from four states. After the Supreme Court ruling made marriage equality the law across the entire United States on June 26, 2015, Jim has embraced a career as a speaker with the APA Agency and continued his work as an LGBTQ activist.

Apple Inc.Apple Inc. has continued its commitment to diversity by creating a diverse culture that’s inclusive of disability, religious belief, sexual orientation, and service to country. The Diversity Network Associations (DNAs) at Apple are groups where employees can make connections that create trust and a feeling of belonging; where everyone can find community and feel supported.

2016 Award Winners

Judge Paul GrewalHONORABLE PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of California
The Santa Clara University School of Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award

Since joining the Court in 2010, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal has presided over and settled criminal and civil cases in a wide range of subject areas, including patent, employment, civil rights, commercial contract, trademark, and federal misdemeanor cases. He serves as a member of the court’s Technology Practice and Patent Local Rules Committees.

Judge Grewal received his Bachelor of Science from MIT, where he was elected to Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi, and his law degree from the University of Chicago. After graduating from law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sam H. Bell of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. After working on complex commercial litigation at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Arthur J. Gajarsa of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Judge Grewal then joined Day Casebeer Batchelder & Madrid (which later merged with Howrey LLP) where his practice was focused on intellectual property litigation, with a focus on patent trials and appeals. He tried patent cases in various federal district courts across the country and argued appeals before several federal appellate courts, including the Federal Circuit. His clients ranged from large technology and biotechnology firms to small medical device and financial firms to individual inventors. He was registered to practice before the Patent and Trademark Office, and his practice included re-examinations before the PTO.

Judge Grewal is a former President of the South Asian Bar of Northern California and the North American South Asian Bar Association.

2015 Santa Clara University Diversity Gala Organization of the Year Award

2015 Award Winners

HONORABLE TANI CANTIL-SAKAUYE, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of the State of California
The Santa Clara University School of Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award

Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye is the 28th chief justice of the State of California. She was sworn into office on January 3, 2011, and is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice. She chairs the Judicial Council of California, the administrative policymaking body of state courts, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments. She has served for more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts, and has been appointed or elevated to higher office by three governors.

Born in 1959 in Sacramento, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, graduating with honors in 1980. After taking a year off to visit her ancestral homeland, the Philippines, the Chief Justice entered the UC Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., School of Law in 1981.

For a more complete biography, visit www.courts.ca.gov/13338.htm

JEANETTE LEACH, Assistant Dean for Diversity Programs
The Diversity Gala Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeanette Leach is originally from Oklahoma but has lived in California since 1985. She has been part of the Santa Clara University community for 25 years. As the assistant dean for Law Diversity Programs, Ms. Leach is responsible for the design and implementation of programs and initiatives that increase minority student matriculation and retention. This position provides direct support to minority law students, works directly with similarly situated leaders and collaborates with legal professionals who lead programs for minority lawyers. Dean Leach has three adult daughters and two grandchildren. She enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling.


2015 Santa Clara University Diversity Gala Organization of the Year Award

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are dedicated to enriching OUR COMMUNITY through innovation and excellence on and off the field.

In a collaborative effort, the Giants Community Fund, the club’s 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the team’s Community Relations Department, work to identify, develop, support and raise awareness for people, issues and programs that are important to our fans and communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern and Central California.

Giants fans are likely to recognize the work of the Giants Community Fund or the Giants Community Relations Department through a public awareness campaign, educational activity, fundraiser or grant giving program of either entity. These activities and programs focus on the following areas:

  • Youth Recreation & Fitness
  • Health
  • Violence Prevention
  • Education/Literacy

Each season, the Giants hold more than 350 community outreach and awareness programs and events, either at AT&T Park or throughout the community, which define the work we do in the afore-mentioned focus areas. Programs include: Girls Day; Jefferson Awards Students In Action; Team Not For Sale; Salute to the Military; Until There’s A Cure; Strike Out Cancer; Strike Out Violence; Family Safety; Giant Race benefitting Project Open Hand and BAWSI; ALS Awareness; Junior Giants Glove Drive; Junior Giants Stretch Drive; Education Day; Donate Life; Challenger Clinic; AAA High School Championship; Anti-Bullying Awareness; GiantSweep; Peanut/Nut Allergy Awareness; Step Up to the Plate for Homelessness; and many others.

The Giants Community Fund’s flagship program, Junior Giants, serves more than 22,000 boys and girls in 87 underserved communities throughout northern and central California and southern Oregon. It is a free and non-competitive baseball program that has served as a model for MLB youth initiatives. Using baseball as the hook, Junior Giants provides opportunities for children to learn the meaning of leadership, teamwork, confidence and integrity, as well as the importance of education, health and bullying prevention. During the 2014 season, the Giants, in partnership with Bon Appetit Management Company, opened up The Garden at AT&T Park which has served as a unique gathering place for our fans and has offered an innovative and healthy food experience within the ballpark. Located behind the centerfield wall, this one-of-a kind space offers our fans a bounty of fruit, vegetables, greens and flowers grown sustainably in a unique space at the ballpark. The Garden will also serve as an outdoor classroom for children in the local community to gather to learn about sustainability, urban farming and healthy eating. Through hands-on activities, such as cooking classes, children will see first-hand where food comes from, how it grows and how to prepare a healthy meal.

In 2015, the Giants embarked on our third World Championship Trophy Tour presented by Bank of America. The three-month trophy tour began in January and made over 40 stops visiting Giants fans in Junior Giants communities throughout northern and central California and Oregon. It also made stops in Nevada, Arizona and New York. Over 35,000 Giants fans had the opportunity to take their photos with all three trophies throughout the tour.

The Giants continue to respond to and fulfill many special needs and requests in the community providing experiences to fans confronting illness, experiencing life’s milestones and other special circumstances.

Giants employees, from the players to the front office staff are expected to give back to the community and our fans. Players and uniformed personnel do this through developing their own community programs or supporting existing programs in the form of visits and appearances, financial contributions and relaying important messages through videos, press conferences and media interviews. Our front office staff support many of the organization’s community initiatives and actively volunteer their time throughout the year.

In 2014, 45,000 game tickets were donated to 275 community groups through the Take Me Out to the Ballgame ticket donation program, which is funded by Giants players, MLB’s Commissioner’s Community Initiative and MLBPA’s Players Give Back. Additionally, more than 1,500 autographed items and special field experiences were donated to 1,200 groups who used them for fundraising purposes, raising more than $100,000.

Santa Clara Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award Winners – 2014


Michelle A. Banks, 50, is Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer of Fortune 500/NYSE company, Gap Inc., a position she has held for more than five years. Gap Inc. owns the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta and Intermix brands, and is located in San Francisco, California. Michelle reports to the Chief Executive Officer, is a member of Gap Inc.’s Global Management Team, and is the executive sponsor of Gap Inc.’s corporate diversity council. In her role, Michelle is responsible for the global compliance, equity administration and privacy functions in addition to the global legal function. Prior to becoming General Counsel, Michelle established the corporate governance and corporate compliance functions at Gap Inc. She joined the Gap Inc. Legal Department in 1999 as the Senior Corporate Counsel responsible for International retail and distribution.

Before joining Gap Inc., Michelle worked in-house in California as Legal Counsel for the Golden State Warriors NBA team, and in Tokyo as American Counsel for ITOCHU Corporation, a Japanese trading company. Michelle was also associated with several law firms, including Morrison & Foerster in California and New York. Her law firm practice focused on corporate finance and international commercial transactions.

Michelle serves on the Executive Committees of the Boards of Directors of two non-profit organizations, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA). Michelle has also served on the Strategies Committee and the Governance and Nominating Committee of MCCA’s Board and is currently chairing the Strategic Planning Task Force of UWBA’s Board.

Michelle is Chair of the General Counsel Forum of the National Retail Association and serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession.

Michelle has been recognized as a Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business and Corporate Counsel Diversity Champion by the San Francisco Business Times, a Most Powerful and Influential Woman by California Diversity Council, a Woman of Achievement by Legal Momentum, and a Top General Counsel to Watch by Corporate Board Member.

Michelle was admitted to the California bar in 1988. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles, with degrees in Law and Economics. Michelle has attended Stanford Directors’ College.

Michelle lives in San Francisco and Sonoma, California, with her husband, Lee, and their 12 year old son. She was born in Redwood City, California.


Luis J. RodriguezOn Oct. 12, 2013, Luis J. Rodriguez will be sworn in as the 89th President of the State Bar of California. Luis will be the first Latino, the first active Public Defender and the first Santa Clara Law School Alumni to serve as President of the State Bar.

Luis attended Santa Clara University. While at SCU, Luis’ commitment to social justice blossomed when he joined a coalition of student groups to urge the school’s administration to divest from South Africa’s then apartheid government; he fought for an expansion of the Ethnic Studies curriculum and participated in student politics. Upon graduation, Luis was honored with the Nobili Award. The Nobili Award, named after SCU founder John Nobili, S.J., is given by the faculty and the provost to the male graduate judged outstanding in academic performance, personal character, school activities, and constructive contribution to the University.

Luis went on to Santa Clara Law School where he was active with the La Raza Law Students, and he continued his commitment to diversity and access to justice. In 1994, Luis joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office where he has worked for the last 19 years to fight for the rights of indigent adults and children charged with criminal offenses.

In his role as Special Counsel to then Public Defender, Michael P. Judge, Luis was also key to advancing Mr. Judge’s commitment to the diversity of the attorneys in the Office. Luis was instrumental in assuring that not only attorneys were representative of the diverse population in L.A. County but that law clerks were similarly representative of L.A. County’s rich and diverse community.

Luis has taken leadership roles throughout the years as President of the L.A. County Mexican American Bar Assoc., President of the California La Raza Lawyers Assoc., President of the Latino Public Defender Assoc., member of the California State Board of Education and Chair of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness (COAF). The mission of COAF is to advise the State Bar Board of Trustees on appropriate strategies consistent with State Bar policies and procedures that enhance opportunities and advancement in the legal profession for diverse populations, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented.

The commitment to social justice can be traced back to Luis’ family and childhood struggles. Both of his parents were Mexican immigrants. Neither parent had an education past high school, so Luis was the first in his family to attend college and law school. Although Luis was born in Los Angeles, at the age of 2, his parents moved back to Mexico to Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua. He lived in Juarez until the Fifth Grade which is when the family moved back to Los Angeles.

In the period from living in Mexico through high school in the U.S. Luis experienced xenophobia first hand. He and his family were often told to “go back to Mexico” or asked to show “your papers”. In addition to fighting to overcome obstacles faced by many poor and immigrants, his family faced personal struggles. His father battled substance abuse for many years. Yet, his father’s struggle was ultimately successful. This battle taught Luis about redemption, forgiveness and compassion.

Because of the obstacles that he faced and the support that he received from many, Luis forever committed himself to being the voice for those who have no voice. Luis is happily married. He and his wife are raising two young, socially conscious and loving girls who will become strong, independent and compassionate women.

As President of the State Bar of California, one can be assured that what has driven Luis for most of his life will continue to be the motivation to serve the community in a broader scale.

Santa Clara University Diversity Gala Organization of the Year Award – 2014


Mark ZemelmanKaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.
award to be accepted by
Mark Zemmelman, Senior vice president and general counsel

Kaiser Permanente and Kaiser Permanente’s Legal Department are honored to accept the Organization of the Year Award in conjunction with Santa Clara Law’s 10th Annual Diversity Gala.

The very foundation of Kaiser Permanente was built on the need to provide health care for all populations; including dockworkers being refused treatment through traditional avenues during the mid-1940s. Our organization has a long and proud tradition of diversity, inclusion, innovation, equal opportunity, and advocacy. Through the investment of extensive time, effort, and resources, Kaiser Permanente has developed a diversity and inclusion strategy of which we are very proud.

Diversity and inclusion tools have enabled us to strategically and precisely recruit a diverse workforce to obtain the human talent required to meet the diverse care and service needs of our members, patients, and customers. Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to providing total health for all and eliminating disparities in health and health care is made possible by an effective diversity infrastructure.

A particular area of disparate diverse talent development is the legal profession. As such, Kaiser Permanente’s General Counsel is committed to inclusive development, hiring, and use of diverse professionals within our company and through our external legal partnerships. This approach aligns with Kaiser Permanente’s long-standing diversity and inclusion strategy, and raises awareness about diversity and inclusion within the legal profession.

The organization takes great pride in its diversity and inclusion posture and history of leadership in affording fairness and inclusion to applicants, employees, vendors, our members, and the community. Kaiser Permanente remains steadfast in its 67-year tradition of inclusion, fairness, and diversity. These principles are embedded into the fabric of our organization and aligned with our long held beliefs and core values throughout Kaiser Permanente.

Santa Clara Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award Winners – 2012


Judge Phyllis Hamilton was born and raised in Jacksonville, Illinois. After the death of her mother at a very young age, she was raised by her maternal aunt who worked in the laundry of the town’s largest employer, the state hospital. Judge Hamilton was the first member of her family to attend college and is the only one in her family who has obtained a professional degree. She received her B.A. from Stanford University in 1974 and her J.D. from the Santa Clara University, School of Law in 1976, cum laude.

Judge Hamilton’s legal career began as the Deputy Public Defender at the California State Public Defender’s Office in San Francisco where she provided appellate representation for indigent criminal defendants. In 1980, Judge Hamilton began her career as a judicial officer serving as an Administrative Judge for the United States Merit Systems Protection Board in San Francisco. Then in 1985, she was appointed as the first African-American Court Commissioner of the Oakland Municipal Court at the relatively young age of 33. She served as Court Commissioner until 1991 when she was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to serve as its first African-American Magistrate Judge. Judge Hamilton held that post until she was appointed by President Clinton on May 25, 2000, as United States District Judge for the Northern District of California. She serves in that position with life tenure and handles all manner of federal cases, both civil and criminal.p She recently relocated her chambers from San Francisco to Oakland.

Judge Hamilton continues to participate in mentoring programs for high school and law students as well as training and continuing education programs for lawyers.p She serves on various committees for both the Northern District and the Ninth Circuit and serves as Chair of the Rules Committee for the Northern District and Chair of the Wellness Committee for the Ninth Circuit. She is also a member of the National Association of Women Judges and the Charles Houston Bar Association and the Federal Judges Association. Judge Hamilton currently lives in Oakland with her husband Steve Rowell.

Andrew VuANDREW A. VU ’93

Andrew Vu was born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up during the Vietnam War. Days before the fall of Saigon in April, 1975, Vu’s family boarded a helicopter and fled Vietnam. He and his family arrived in Seattle, where local churches supported the family. The family eventually settled down in the Silicon Valley where Vu’s parents found work on the assembly line to support their five boys. His early childhood experience is what continues to drive Vu’s commitment to creating stronger communities and supporting others to succeed.

Vu went on to receive a B.A. from UCLA and receive a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. After graduating from Santa Clara Law, Vu began his practice with the San Jose City Attorney’s Office where he defended the city in wrongful termination suits, civil rights suits, and general civil litigation. Vu then went on to serve as an Assistant District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco where he prosecuted and tried serious and violent felonies. In 2000, Vu left the public sector and began his corporate law career, first, as corporate counsel to Sony PlayStation, then as an Assistant General Counsel at SAP, one of the world’s largest and leading business software company. Vu is currently a Senior Associate General Counsel at Walmart Global eCommerce, managing the legal support for intellectual property matters, as well as online marketing and merchandising departments.

Throughout Vu’s dynamic legal career, he has continued to be an active leader in his community. Vu is the co-founder of the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California and a former president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley. He has also co-founded the Asian Pacific Islander Justice Coalition of the Silicon Valley, a network of over 25 non-profit organizations that seek to unite, empower, and advocate for social justice within the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. In June 2008, after the California Supreme Court invalidated the prohibition against same sex marriage, Vu and his long term partner of sixteen years, Thanh Ngo, were legally married.

As a result of his contribution, Vu is the recipient of such awards as the 2006 Asian American Heroes Award Honoree, awarded by Santa Clara County Board Supervisor Liz Kniss, the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California’s 2009 Trail Blazer Award, and the 2012 SF Business Times / Silicon Valley Business Journal Corporate Counsel’s Community Champion Award.

Santa Clara University Diversity Gala Organization of the Year Award – 2012


Google, Inc and Google’s Legal Department are honored to accept the Organization of the Year Award in conjunction with Santa Clara Law’s 9th Annual Diversity Gala.

At Google, we work hard to ensure that attention to diversity is built into everything we do–from hiring our employees and creating our company culture, to running our business and developing our products, tools, and services.

Through global talent development programs, we are working to increase diversity in the technology industry and develop the next generation of professionals. Growing the worldwide pool of leaders is vital for Google and for our industry. Having Googlers with a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services.

Many companies are facing a common challenge: fewer and fewer university students are graduating each year, and enrollment rates are even lower for women and underrepresented groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. What this means for Google and its industry peers is that the available talent pool is less reflective of the global population.

We are working hard to reverse this trend. Through education outreach programs, conferences, targeted recruitment initiatives, global talent development programs, and nonprofit organization partnerships, we are trying to attract, recruit, and retain the world’s top talent, and create a workforce that reflects our globally diverse user audience.

We are proud of the work we have done so far, but also recognize that there is much more to do. We hope that through our continued efforts we can help build an industry that is more reflective of the global population and more receptive to its needs, and in doing so, raise worldwide awareness about issues of diversity and inclusion.

2011 Award Recipients

Honorable Judge Rise Jones PichonHonorable Judge Rise Jones Pichon has been a Superior Court Judge of the County of Santa Clara, California, since 1998. She previously served as a Judge of the Municipal Court from 1984 to 1998 when the trial courts unified, and as a Court Commissioner from 19832 to 1984. She earned her J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1976 and a B.S. in 1973 from Santa Clara University.

She is a member of the California Judges Association, the American Bar Association, the American Leadership Forum, and the American Inns of Court, William A. Ingram Inn. She currently serves as president of the board of directors for St. Thomas More Society, and she is a member of the advisory board for the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at SCU.

She was appointed by the California Supreme Court to the California Commission on Judicial Performance and served from 1999 to 2007, including service as Chairperson from 2002 to 2004. She was appointed to the Judicial Council of California by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and served from 1994 to 1997.

In addition, she served as Supervising Judge of the Palo Alto Court Facility from 2006 to 2009, as Supervising Judge of the Sunnyvale Court Facility from 1999 to 2001, as Presiding Judge of the Municipal Court from 1999 to 2001, and is presently serving her second term by election on the Santa Clara County Superior Court Executive Committee. She is currently the Supervising Judge of the Criminal Division of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Superior Court Jury Standards Committee, and is a member of a number of other court committees.

In 2008, she served on the ABA Accreditation Self Study Committee for Santa Clara Law and the 2009 SCU Strategic Planning Committee.

She has taught in the California Judicial College, the National Judicial College, at several local community colleges, and has been a guest lecturer, speaker, and panelist at universities and law schools in the area. She has also served as a mentor to aspiring lawyers and law students throughout her career.

In 2011, she was honored by the Santa Clara County Bar Association as Judge of the Year.

Simao J. AvilaSimao J. Avila was born in the island of Sao Jorge, Azores (Portugal). He immigrated to the United States as a teenager with his parents and five siblings to join his father’s side of the family, who had already lived in California for many years. The first of his family to attend college, Avila earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Saint Patrick’s College in 1977. He then joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), where he worked at Casa de los Ninos in Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico. He says this experience led him to become a lawyer instead of a priest.

Avila earned his J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1983, and he began his practice with the National Labor Relations Board as a field attorney for Region 24 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, representing workers, unions, and employers alike. Avila later returned to the Bay Area, where he practiced for 16 years at Littler Mendelson and became a shareholder. He represented many private and public-sector clients on nearly all aspects of employment and labor law during that period. In 2001, Avila became labor and employment counsel for the Office of General Counsel, University of California.

Since 2007, he has served as senior Counsel, Legal & Government Relations for Kaiser Permanente, where he and his colleagues on the Diversity Committee continue Kaiser’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the practice of law.

Avila lectures at Stanford University School of Law and at the University of California, Boalt Hall, on negotiations and ADR. He has served as a board member with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and St. Vincent’s Day Home, which offers comprehensive child development programs and services for children in East Oakland.

Intel logoThrough collaboration, capacity-building initiatives, creative application of technology, and strategic giving, Intel Corporation strives to transform education, increase economic opportunity, and make the communities where we operate better places to live and work. Diversity is a critical component of that work.

Intel believes its ability to innovate depends on ideas, and great ideas come from great people. The wide range of perspectives that are gained by hiring and developing talent from a diverse, global labor pool gives us a better understanding of the needs of our customers, suppliers, and communities, and help us advance our leadership in both technology and corporate responsibility. Studies show that employees working in a diverse environment tend to feel more fulfilled, creative, and productive on the job, resulting in increased productivity, efficiency, and innovation.

Since Intel’s Women’s Initiative in 2004, for example, the number of women in technical mid- to senior-level Intel jobs has grown by 24 percent. Additionally, 30 percent of the members of the Intel Board of Directors are women. Still, Intel continues to work on increasing the number of under-represented minorities and women in managerial and senior leadership positions.

Intel encourages employees–from recent college graduates to Intel veterans–to join one of 20 chartered Intel employee affinity groups. These groups are organized around racial groupings, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, as well as other affinities such as parenthood and disability. They provide a powerful means of support and integration for employees.

Diversity is an integral part of Intel’s competitive strategy and vision. Our goal is to continuously advance a work environment that honors, values, and respects all of our employees.

2010 Award Recipients

Judge Edward DavilaHonorable Judge Edward Davila was born in Palo Alto, California. Davila earned his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in 1976, making him the first in his extended family to graduate from college. He earned his J.D. from Hastings College of the Law in 1979. During law school he worked in the Santa Clara County Jail for Pretrial Services, and went on to spend eight years as a deputy public defender for Santa Clara County. In 1989, he started a law partnership, Davila & Polverino.

Governor Gray Davis appointed him to the Superior Court for Santa Clara County in 2001. In 2011, he began his Federal Judicial Service as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of California. For nearly three decades, Davila has been active in the Bar Association and in the community, and he has received numerous awards for his service, mentoring, and efforts to diversify the practice of law.

Dorian DaleyDorian Daley serves as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Oracle Corporation. She began her career at Oracle in 1992 after spending five years with the commercial litigation group of Landels, Ripley & Diamond in San Francisco. She earned her J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1986 and her bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University in 1981. Prior to her appointment as General Counsel, Ms. Daley was Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Oracle’s Litigation Group overseeing all business and IP litigation worldwide. Throughout her tenure at Oracle, she has been an active participant in litigation for the company, resolution of pre-litigation disputes, investigations, and policy and standard contract review on issues relating to litigation and dispute resolution, working closely with management on both tactical and strategic issues related to these areas. As one of the few female general counsels at a Fortune 500 company, Daley is a role model for women and minorities in the legal field, and she actively supports a wide range of diversity programs at Oracle.

Justice Carlos MorenoJustice Carlos Moreno was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of California on October 18, 2001, following his nomination by Governor Gray Davis.

Justice Moreno began his career as a deputy city attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, prosecuting criminal and civil consumer protection cases and handling politically sensitive and legislative matters as special counsel to the city attorney. He then joined the firm of Mori & Ota (now known as Kelley, Drye & Warren) in 1979, representing institutional clients in the firm’s general commercial litigation practice.

In the fall of 1986, Governor George Deukmejian appointed Justice Moreno to the Municipal Court, Compton Judicial District, where Moreno handled general criminal matters and supervised the court’s civil department. In October 1993, Governor Pete Wilson elevated Justice Moreno to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he presided over felony trials in downtown Los Angeles.

Justice Moreno was then nominated to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton and in February 1998, he was unanimously confirmed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California by the United States Senate. Moreno served as a federal district court judge for over three years, presiding over a broad range of complex civil and criminal matters.

Justice Moreno has served as President of the Mexican American Bar Association and has been a member of the California Judges Association, the Presiding Judges Association, and the Municipal Court Judges Association of Los Angeles County. He has served on the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School and the Board of Governors of the Association of Yale Alumni. He is a Director of the Arroyo Vista Family Health Center and a former President of the Yale Club of Southern California. In 1997, Moreno received the Criminal Justice Superior Court Judge of the Year Award from the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and in 2003 the Roger J. Traynor Appellate Justice of the Year Award from the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. Justice Moreno is the Chair of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care.

Keith WattleyKeith Wattley earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Indiana University, after which he obtained a law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1999, in the Bay Area. He has a long history of advocating for the rights of prisoners and parolees. As an attorney, Keith has represented thousands of prisoners in cases involving mental health care; gang validation; religious freedom; standards for licensing California’s prison infirmaries; access to medical care; excessive use of force by correctional officers; parole proceedings for prisoners serving life terms; visiting and parole revocation proceedings.

Keith founded UnCommon Law in 2006 to focus on helping prisoners challenge unlawful prison conditions, including the parole consideration process for lifers. Along with the other attorneys in his office, he represents prisoners in parole hearings throughout the state. He also represents prisoners and parolees in administrative hearings and in both state and federal courts.

One of Keith’s primary goals with UnCommon Law is to help educate and empower prisoners and their supporters so that they can become effective in pursuing justice for themselves. He sincerely believes that attorneys and professional advocates can only succeed through the direct involvement, hard work and dedication of prisoners and their supporters in the community. He frequently provides advice and training to prisoners, parolees, their family members and advocates on various prison and parole matters.

In addition to his work at UnCommon Law, Keith serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, which fights to protect the rights of women in prison. He also serves on the board of directors for the Prison University Project (aka, the San Quentin College Program), through which hundreds of prisoners have obtained college degrees and completed high school equivalency (GED) and college courses.

2008 Award Recipients

Victor MarquezVictor M. Marquez is a past president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, an organization of more than 48,000 Latino judges, law students, and attorneys. He is the founder and principal of The Marquez Law Group, a boutique firm in downtown San Francisco. Marquez’s practice focuses on real estate transactions, private and public finance, and state and local government relations. He has extensive experience working before administrative, legislative, and executive bodies. He is also approved counsel for the community development banking departments of Bank of America, Citigroup Global Markets, and Silicon Valley Bank.

A primary focus of his practice is working with municipalities, and representing private, non-profit, and public interests in the finance and construction of mixed-use private/public joint venture development projects. His litigation experience includes employment, real property, contract, and personal injury matters.

Marquez earned his B.A. in Law and Society from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1987, and his J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1990. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1990 and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts of Central California and Northern California.

As an immigrant from a small mining town in Mexico, Marquez came to the United States without knowing a word of English. Despite this, he became the first from a large family to attend college and then law school. Upon his graduation from law school, he went to work for Gordon & Rees, a commercial law firm in San Francisco, where he practiced real estate law.

In 1993, Marquez assumed the executive director position at San Francisco La Raza Centro Legal, a community law center serving newcomer immigrants and the Latino Community. During his five years there, he expanded the breadth and depth of the organization’s key programs: he started a senior law program to help seniors with consumer fraud, elder abuse, social security, and other issues; he founded a youth law program to help protect the rights of children in the schools and on the streets; he initiated a citizenship campaign program that naturalized thousands of immigrants; and he fortified an existing housing and immigration program.

Other highlights of Marquez’s involvement in the community include service on the advisory board of the American Jewish Congress; as a board director for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel; and on several capital campaigns for community-based organizations. In addition, he has served as president of San Francisco Law Raza Lawyers Association for two different terms within the past ten years and as general counsel for the past three years.

He is chairman of the board of the Mexican Museum, where he helped lead an effort to build a new facility to house the largest collection of Mexican art outside of Mexico. For this and his other community work, he has been recognized by the Hispanic Chamber of commerce as one of the most influential leaders in San Francisco Bay Area.

Hon. Leon E. PanettaHon. Leon E. Panetta was born and raised in Monterey, California where he attended local schools. Panetta earned a B.A. (magna cum laude) from Santa Clara University and a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law, where he was an editor of the Law Review.

He served as a First Lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.

Panetta first went to Washington in 1966, when he served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California, the Senate Minority Whip. In 1969, he became Special Assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and then director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for enforcement of equal education laws. His book Bring Us Together (published in 1971) is an account of that experience. In 1970, he went to New York City, where he served as executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsay, overseeing the city’s relations with the state and federal governments. Then, in 1971, he returned to California, where he practiced law in the Monterey firm of Panetta, Thompson & Panetta until he was elected to Congress in 1976.

Panetta represented the Central Coast area in the U.S. Congress for 16 years until 1992. As a congressman, he authored the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988; the Fair Employment Practices Resolution extending civil rights protections to House employees for the first time; numerous successful measures to protect the California coast, including creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hospice care for the terminally ill; and other legislation on a variety of education, health, agriculture, and defense issues. During most of that time, he also served as a member and chair of the House Budget Committee, as well as a member of the House Agriculture Committee and chair of the Nutrition and Domestic Marketing Subcommittee. Following that, he was appointed director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1995, and served as Chief of Staff to President Clinton from 1995 to 1997. In 2009, Panetta was sworn in as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2011, President Obama nominated Panetta to the position of Secretary of Defense. The United States Senate confirmed Panetta’s nomination by a 100-0 vote.

With his wife, Sylvia, Panetta is co-founder of the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay–a university he helped establish on the site of the former U.S. Army base, Fort Ord. The Institute serves as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center for the advancement of public policy, seeking in particular to attract thoughtful men and women to lives of public service. In addition to his work at the Institute, Panetta served on many public policy and organizational boards, including his roles as chair of the Pew Oceans Commission and co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. He previously served as a member of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan committee established at the urging of Congress; as a member of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future; and as the co-chair of the California Council on Base Support and Retention. He has served on Santa Clara University’s Board of Trustees, and was a member of the law school’s Board of Visitors.

Panetta has received many awards and honors including the John H. Chafee Coastal Stewardship Award, the Julius A. Stratton Award for Coastal Leadership, the Aquarium of the Pacific Ocean Conservation Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Distinguished Public Service Medal from the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and the Smithsonian Institutional National Portrait Gallery Paul Peck Presidential Award for service to the presidency, the Natural Resources Defense Council Forces for Nature Award, and was the National Hospice Foundation Silver Anniversary Honoree for 2007. Panetta is also a recipient of the Santa Clara Law Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes law school alumni who have distinguished themselves in their profession, their community, and in service to humanity.

2007 Award Recipient

Elizabeth BirchElizabeth Birch is among the most visible gay leaders in the country. She has been the keynote speaker in a great variety of settings, from corporate America (IBM, Disney, General Mills, Fleet Bank, Apple, and Citigroup to name a few), to associations (Working Women, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Emily’s List, Religious Action Center), and on many U.S. campuses and universities. One of the highest-profile women in corporate America, she is also one of the most recognized gay leaders of our time. She has been trusted by many organizations to help guide them through various challenges, or to simply inspire them to take the next step.

Since 2009, she has served as General Partner at True Blue Inclusion, LLC. True Blue Inclusion is focused on highly integrated plans for diversity, inclusion, ethics and social responsibility for corporations and nonprofits. The organization serves to advance an organization’s policies, benefits, cultural competency and values alignment, both internally and to the marketplace. Their clients include many Fortune 500 companies.

From 1995 to 2004, she served as the president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)–the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization. Under her leadership, the institution grew dramatically, from 100,000 members in 1995 to a combined total of 1.1 million supporters (600,000 members and 500,000 on-line supporters) by January 2004. She has been credited with bringing gay and lesbian issues into the living rooms of America in a new, fresh, and creative way. While other advocacy organizations talk to their own constituency, Birch talks to America. She has allowed millions more Americans to better understand gay lives.

Birch also has represented HRC and the GLBT community across the country and in the media on Good Morning America, the Today show, 20/20, This Week, Face the Nation, Nightline, Crossfire, Larry King Live, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and other programs. By positioning GLBT issues in paid and free media and by making public appearances in front of national audiences, HRC is transforming the way America views GLBT people.

During Birch’s tenure, the HRC Foundation pioneered a dynamic array of educational programs, including HRC WorkNet, a comprehensive resource center for GLBT workplace advocacy, and HRC FamilyNet, a virtual online village for GLBT families. The National Coming Out Project, also an HRC Foundation program, is helping thousands come out each year. Under Birch’s direction in the spring of 2000, the HRC Foundation produced “Equality Rocks”–the largest GLBT concert ever created. Held at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., it brought together more than 45,000 people in honor of equality, including artists as diverse as Garth Brooks, Chaka Khan, Melissa Etheridge, George Michael, The Pet Shop Boys, Ellen DeGeneres, Nathan Lane, and many more.

In 2002, for her work in the civil rights community, Birch was honored to receive one of the highest civil rights honors in the country from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). LCCR is a coalition of 186 progressive organizations, including the NAACP, Catholic Charities, and many more. She has received numerous other awards and honors in the legal and nonprofit fields, including the 9th Circuit’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award.

Birch previously served as worldwide director of litigation for Apple Computer, Inc., and as general counsel to Claris Corp., Apple’s software subsidiary. During her tenure at Apple, Birch also managed human resources counsel and risk management. She worked extensively for Apple USA in handling all aspects of sales and marketing issues, and at Claris, she was part of the senior management team. She has also helped various Fortune 500 companies develop and implement non-discrimination and domestic partner benefits policies. In 2000, she became the first leader of an LGBT organization to address a national political convention when she gave a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention.

She graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law with honors and earned a degree from the University of Hawaii in political science and oceanography in 1980. In 2002, the University of Hawaii conferred on Birch an honorary doctorate of humanities degree, and she gave the graduate school commencement address that year. While in law school, she clerked at the California Supreme Court for Justice Stanley Mosk. Before joining Apple in 1989, Birch was a commercial litigator at the firm of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen in San Francisco. She has a long history of advocacy in the gay and lesbian and HIV/AIDS communities.

Birch has been profiled in the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and a variety of other print media.