Center for Social Justice and Public Service Grads 2023

The Center for Social Justice and Public Service hosted its annual Celebration and Graduation Ceremony in the Mabie Grand Atrium of Charney Hall on May 18, with an inspiring welcome to the honorees and their families in the audience by Dean Michael Kaufman.  The event provided the opportunity to honor those who study and work in public interest and social justice law, as well as a chance to reflect on the accomplishments of students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Center for Social Justice and Public Service Grad Celebration 2023At the event, twenty graduates were honored with Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificates in the area of general study, criminal justice, immigration law, and environmental justice. Nineteen students were honored with Pro Bono Awards, having each completed at least 50 hours of volunteer work in the last academic year. Ryba Bhullar was honored as the Pro Bono Graduating Student of the Year having completed 678.5 hours of pro bono work during her law school career. Ralph Dimarucut and Hayden Rain Craig were honored as Pro Bono Students of the Year, having completed 255 pro bono hours and 378 on-call pro bono hours in the last year respectively. Collectively, the Center’s Graduates and Pro Bono Award winners performed thousands of hours of volunteer work and free legal services for marginalized members of our society. In addition, the Edith and Herman Wildman Social Justice Writing Award was presented at the event to Leah Fabisoff for her paper, “The ‘Long Arm’ of State Law after Dobbs: Civil Liability for Out-of-Sate Physicians?” Student Alexandria Morones was given Honorable Mention for her paper, “Preserving a Voice: Recommendations for Prioritizing Tribal Access to Radio Broadcasting.” 

The Center is proud to be able to fund over thirty summer social justice and public service placements this summer, in the form of summer grants.  Students who received the Richard P. and Made S. Berg Summer Social Justice Grants, Justice Stevens Fellowship recipients, and Center Social Justice Grant recipients were announced. In addition, two students received named grants made possible by local law firms, Hoge Fenton and the Jachimowicz Law Group.

This year’s celebration featured a new annual award, the Professor Nancy Wright Social Justice Award, given inProfessor Eric Wright memory of Professor Nancy Wright who with her husband, Professor Eric Wright, led the way in social justice work at Santa Clara Law and inspired generations of students to work for justice. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that she was an indispensable
part of the establishment of our Public Intent Program both in terms of our class and clinical offerings,” said Prof. Wright, “and this award named in her honor seems entirely appropriate to commentate her contributions to our Public Interest Program and her encouragement of our students to follow their heart in the work they pursue.” The honor is awarded to a member of the Santa Clara Law community for commendable work in furtherance of social justice and public service. This year the awardee is Professor Eric Wright, for his years of leadership and inspiring work at Santa Clara Law, including work involving the Center for Social Justice and Public Service and the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center. Professor Wright made an emotional tribute to his late wife, “she and I taught the public interest practice course together for many years and Nancy added far more to that class than I ever fully realized until I returned to teaching without her,” he said. “She left a very big hole in the classes we taught together- as well as in my heart. I will never stop missing her. I was lucky to have met Nancy and students who had her were lucky to have her as a teacher.” He went on to say “I am deeply honored to be the first recipient of the Nancy Wright Public Interest Award.”

Keith Wattley J.D. ’99The event also featured keynote speaker Keith Wattley J.D. ’99, the founder and director of UnCommon Law, which supports people navigating California’s discretionary parole process through trauma-informed legal representation, mental health counseling, legislative and policy advocacy, and in-prison programming led by those who have been through the process themselves. Prior to launching Uncommon Law in 2006, Keith was a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit law firm in Berkeley. He has also engaged in impact litigation and individual cases involving unlawful prison and parole conditions, and he has trained hundreds of lawyers, law students, and others in advocating for the rights of incarcerated people. He was presented with the Social Justice Community Champion Award at the event.

Center for Social Justice and Public Service Commencement Ceremony Awards The event concluded with remarks by two Center graduates, Ahmanda Lee, and Josephine Velázquez. Their remarks on the work they completed in law school and the lessons they will take into the legal profession were both inspiring and meaningful for all who were present.

Other presenters included Professor Evangeline Abriel, Faculty Director of the Center; Professor Caitlin Jachimowicz, Director of the Center; Professor Margaret Russell; Professor Melissa O’Connell, Professor David Ball, Professor Britton Schwartz, Professor Marina Hsieh, and Professor Eric Wright.

Photo album of the event.