La Raza Lawyers is reaching out beyond Latinos.
Last week at its annual Noche de Gala, the San Francisco-based organization announced the creation of a joint fellowship with Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. The recipient, Boalt Hall student Lisa Cisneros, will work for a year with California Rural Legal Assistance on the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender farmworkers, according to BALIF's Rebecca Prozan. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is also participating in the project.
La Raza president Oliver Gutierriez said the organization will try to arrange joint events with every other minority bar association in the Bay Area.
The organization also used Thursday's event at the W hotel to honor Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Arriola and Beatriz Esparaza Duenas of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights as La Raza's attorneys of the year.
Arriola has been a forceful advocate for judicial diversity, and predicted that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would appoint more diverse judges under new judicial appointments secretary Sharon Majors-Lewis. "You're going to tell me, out of all the wonderful lawyers in this room, you can't find one or two judges?"' Arriola said.
Duenas described the impact that stricter enforcement of immigration laws is having on her work. A typical call to her office is, "The mother whose husband was just deported needs help with contracts for cleaning houses," she said.
One of the biggest ovations of the evening was reserved for Alameda County Sheriff's Detective Rafael Alvarez. He was among a group of investigators who worked more than three years to identify the body of a 16-year-old girl dumped behind a Castro Valley restaurant in a canvas bag. Afterward, Alvarez traveled to Yahualica, Mexico, to help deliver the girl's remains to her family. "We did our job," Alvarez said.
— Scott Graham