KCBA/KCBF held it’s annual Recognition Event on September 21st 2010. The event was held in recognition of both volunteers and donors. A jazz band ensemble played music while attendees ate and mingled.
UW Law School Dean Kellye Testy thanked volunteers and donor for their support of KCBA’s pro bono programs. To read more about the event you can got the Bar Bulletin article. You can view pictures from the event here.
In recognition of their outstanding commitment to civil legal aid the 2010 volunteer of the year awards went to:
The Neighborhood Legal Clinics
Nathan Kirk has volunteered for the Federal Way Legal Clinic since 2003. In his almost 10 years of service to the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, Nathan continues to go above and beyond to show his commitment to the clients we serve. He can always be counted on to pick up extra shifts at the clinic, even at the last minute. Fifteen years ago, Nathan spent his time as a trial lawyer. He then married the woman of his dreams, moved to Virginia, and returned to his other passion – computer programming.
After returning to Washington, he went to work as a programmer at Weyerhaeuser. Since retiring last year, Nathan has spent his time working with his son’s web development company, volunteering for the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, and preparing community suppers once per month. Nathan strongly believes in the mantra “Clothe the needy, feed the hungry…”, which keeps him returning as a clinic volunteer year after year. When asked what he likes most about volunteering for the legal clinic, he replied, “Relieving people’s anxiety, clearing confusion, and pointing people in the right direction.” He added that people often just need a friendly ear, someone to complain to about their situation, and then they’re happy. In honor of his outstanding dedication to the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, we are pleased to present Nathan Kirk with the Joseph M. Gaffney Award for Outstanding Service of an Attorney.
Outstanding Volunteer of the Year:
JeannieBeth Asuncion, Legal Assistant, Forsberg & Umlauf P.S.
JeannieBeth Asuncion has volunteered as a clinic assistant for the Neighborhood Legal Clinics for almost 20 years. JeannieBeth is a committed volunteer at two legal clinic locations: the Southeast Legal Clinic and the Downtown Legal Clinic. A Legal Assistant at Forsberg & Umlauf, JeannieBeth began her career in 1990 after graduating from Griffin Business College. In August of 1990, she was hired by Jager & Manning where she was the first woman of color to be hired at the firm.
JeannieBeth began volunteering for the Neighborhood Legal Clinics because she wanted to give back to the community where she grew up – the Rainier Valley. Growing up in a predominately black neighborhood and as the first generation born in the US, she wanted to show that there was more to life than what she grew up watching on the streets (drugs, prostitution and gang violence). She believes that life is about choices and decided to lead by example. JeannieBeth was asked what keeps her coming back as a volunteer year after year. She responded, “It’s amazing what simple things people need help with and it makes a huge difference in their lives. The best thing about volunteering is seeing the relief and smile on people’s faces once the attorneys have helped them with their problems. It’s the best feeling.” In recognition of her amazing dedication to the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, we are pleased to honor JeannieBeth Asuncion with the 2010 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award.
Volunteer Legal Services
Volunteer of the Year:
Hank Balson, Public Interest Law Group
Volunteer Legal Services recognizes Hank Balson for the contributions he has made as a volunteer with our Wage Claim Project. Hank has been volunteering for the project since April of 2005. He has dedicated his time and talent to helping clients in need who were denied a paycheck for their hours worked. Hank is a wonderful advocate for wage claim clients and very supportive of KCBA’s pro bono programs. In addition to taking pro bono cases, Hank has also mentored less experienced volunteer attorneys which expands the volunteer panel and allows KCBA to place more pro bono cases. Hank always willingly helps KCBA staff by answering their questions.
Hank Balson is an attorney with the Public Interest Law Group, PLLC, in Seattle. Hank focuses his practice on wage-and-hour disputes, employment discrimination, and prisoner civil rights. Prior to joining PILG, Hank was a staff attorney with the Institutions Project of Columbia Legal Services, where he litigated cases that challenged illegal conditions in prisons, jails, and juvenile institutions in Washington.
Hank states, “Pro bono work is an integral part of my firm’s mission. Only a small minority of individuals can afford to pay typical lawyer fees, especially when it comes to litigation. If we didn’t volunteer, we would be giving up the opportunity to work on some of the most compelling, rewarding cases – the kinds of cases that make our jobs fun, and more than just a way to make a living. Wage claims are particularly rewarding for me because they allow me to help challenge basic injustice and vindicate a fundamental legal and moral right that most of us take for granted – the right to get paid for our labor.”
Family Law Mentor Program
Volunteer of the Year:
Catherine Sherred, Attorney at Law
The Family Law Mentor Program recognizes Catherine Sherred as the Volunteer of the Year for 2010 for her dedication and high quality legal work on behalf of a domestic violence survivor and her children.
Catherine represented her client for nearly 18 months in a highly contested dissolution case which ended up settling moments from trial. Not only did the case settle with a very protective parenting plan, including limitations on the opposing party’s time due to his history of acts of domestic violence, but the client also has a domestic violence protection order protecting her and her children. Catherine has been practicing law for 6 years. Her practice focuses on family law.
In addition to volunteering with the KCBA Family Law Mentor Program, Catherine has been a volunteer with CASA of King County and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. In a very difficult case, with an aggressive opposing party, Catherine not only demonstrated great legal skill, but her compassion for and understanding of her client were unmatched.
Thank you, Catherine.
Kinship Care Solutions Project
Volunteer of the Year:
Susan Carroll, Attorney at Law
Susan has been practicing family law since graduating from the University of Washington School of Law in 2005. She has been using her expertise in her pro bono representation of a paternal grandmother in a nonparental custody case. The father of the child unexpectedly died. There was a previous custody order in California granting the father custody of the child and the ability to relocate the child to the State of Washington. The child’s mother had not contacted the child for 13 years. It was anticipated that this would be a simple default case. Working with the California courts, Susan assisted in setting up the UCCJEA conference where the judges agreed that jurisdiction should be moved to Washington. Just after this order was entered, the missing mother suddenly appeared, obtained counsel, and alleged reasons for her absence that included extreme spousal abuse by the child’s father. After multiple in-court continuances, contested temporary orders were entered that included the child remaining with the client and a full FCS parenting evaluation. The evaluation recommended that the child stay in the custody of the client with a reconciliation parenting plan. The trial has been continued for settlement negotiations.
With Susan’s compassion, commitment and skill, she has provided the necessary representation to ensure that the child’s welfare and stability are protected. Susan’s dedication to improving access to the legal system extends to her work with KCBA’s Neighborhood Legal Clinics where she has been a volunteer at the Southwest Family Law clinic since March 2009.
Self Help Plus Program
Volunteer of the Year:
Ron Mattson, Attorney at Law
The Self Help Plus Program is proud to recognize Ron Mattson for volunteering with this program since October 2009. In 2009, the SHP program started a pilot program using volunteer attorneys to review paralegal-drafted family law pleadings for pro se clients. Ron Mattson was the first attorney to join the Self Help Plus Program and has been truly instrumental in helping to make the pilot a huge success! Ron has provided excellent feedback and is always available to assist when questions arise. Ron always goes above and beyond and is a dedicated volunteer. His passion and commitment for assisting clients in family law matters is apparent, as is his dedication in helping to make the legal pathway for low-income individuals less complicated. Ron’s participation at the King County Bar Association clearly demonstrates his dedication to the clients and the legal community. He currently serves as a volunteer at both the Neighborhood Legal Clinics and the Family Law Mentor program and has been actively involved at KCBA since 1993, participating in the Family Law Section, Small Practice Section, as a member of the Board of Trustees and with the King County Bar Foundation, both as a Trustee and as its Secretary for several years.
Ron Mattson has been a partner at Wechsler Becker, LLP, since January, 2006. He received his BA degree from UW in 1969 and his JD from Willamette University College of Law in1972. Family Law has always been a major part of his practice and, since joining Wechsler Becker, he has thrived on focusing entirely on this area. Ron is dedicated in all areas of his volunteer work and usually has at least one direct pro bono case open at all times. Ron was named CLS Volunteer of the Month for March 2005, and was named a Family Law SuperLawyer in Washington’s Law and Politics magazine in 2008 and 2009.
Housing Justice Project
Volunteer Attorney of the Year:
Josh Sundt, Sound Legal Center PLLC
The Housing Justice Project is pleased to recognize the volunteer efforts of longtime HJP/Kent attorney volunteer, Joshua Sundt. Josh began volunteering with HJP/Kent in March 2007. Although housing law and eviction defense are not staples of his solo practice, Josh has developed a deep knowledge of the Washington Residential Landlord/Tenant Act and the Unlawful Detainer Act, and has used this knowledge and his general legal experience to become one of HJP’s most effective advocates. Josh’s quiet, thoughtful and kind approach to working with clients has become a model for less experienced HJP volunteers. Josh is always calm, prepared and ready to rumble – and his special brand of careful, cool advocacy has resulted in tremendous results for our clients.
Over the years, Josh has earned the respect of the HJP staff, his clients, the court and opposing counsel. As HJP/Kent staff attorney, Beth Strosky, puts it, Josh’s commitment to HJP goes beyond the services he provides directly to our clients. His mentorship and training of other volunteers has been an immeasurable benefit. Staff Attorney Kerry Robinson adds that Josh treats HJP clients with the same respect he would show clients in his practice. He listens carefully, gathers the facts, applies the law, explains the process and options, and then engineers an outcome that is typically far better than the client imagined possible. Josh’s work and dedication are exceptional.
Josh will soon be leaving Bellevue and HJP for a new position as an Administrative Law Judge in Vancouver. We thank Josh for all he has done to help make our HJP program a success.
Volunteer Legal Assistant of the Year:
Kate Gunter joined HJP in December 2009. Since then, she has devoted many hours of service as a legal assistant at the Seattle clinic. Kate is a dedicated volunteer. She can be counted on to fill in at a moment’s notice to help with clients or to assist with administrative duties. She never hesitates to stay beyond clinic hours in order to help volunteers complete client paperwork. Kate has a welcoming smile and always puts our HJP clients at ease. She is a very good listener and uses her strong organizational skills to provide excellent, concise and informative client intakes for our volunteer attorneys. Kate also enjoys teaching and quickly became an outstanding mentor for new legal assistants.
Kate recently completed her Paralegal certificate program at the University of Washington and is passionate about public service. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in social work and a Master’s degree in Human Services, Kate worked with a group of non-profit organizations in New Jersey promoting legislative advocacy and legal rights for under-privileged women. When asked to describe her HJP volunteer experience, Kate said, “I started volunteering at the Housing Justice Project to obtain real world legal experience. I keep coming back because I like being a part of an organization that helps families. I enjoy meeting and working with a diverse group of professionals who are helping to make a difference in our community.”
The King County Bar Association Pro Bono Services Committee is proud to present the first ever “Friend of Pro Bono Award”. This award was created in order to recognize businesses who support pro bono work. With the generousity of these community partners, low income clients are given truly meaningful access to justice.
Friend of Pro Bono
Seattle Deposition Reporters LLC
When a local firm asked for the help of Seattle Deposition Reporters LLC for help, on behalf of a low income KCBA pro bono client, they did not hesitate. The client’s case was headed to trial and three days of depositions of the opposing parties were needed. Not surprisingly, the client could not afford to pay for the reporting service or for a copy of the deposition transcripts.
When the volunteer attorney handling the case contacted Mark Hovila at Seattle Deposition Reporters and explained the situation, Mark promptly arranged for court reporters affiliated with the firm to cover all three days of the depositions. As it turned out, Mark himself provided the reporting services for a day, with Jill Cheeseman and Debra Roberts covering the second and third days. Each of the reporters provided transcription services completely free of charge.
The case is scheduled to be tried later this year, and the client’s ability to obtain a just result will be dramatically enhanced by the availability of the depositions. Seattle Deposition Reporters provided a wonderful example of how the legal services community can pull together to ensure that access to the court system is not limited to persons of means.
Thanks again for providing the services, and hearty congratulations!