A member of the Supreme Court of California paid a visit to the Napa County on Thursday to praise the pro bono work of attorneys and other volunteers at Legal Aid Napa Valley to help the less fortunate seek justice.
Ming Chin, an associate justice since 1996, praised those who offer legal services without pay, saying they are “stellar examples” of what it means to give back to the community.
“Your dedication to the less fortunate in our community opens the doors of justice to all,” Chin told about 80 guests gathered at the east Napa home of attorney Bob Arns and his wife, Anne, a Legal Aid board member.
Diane Dorame, executive director, Legal Aid of Napa Valley, said the volunteers gave more than 2,200 hours of pro bono work in 2013, representing more than 150 clients.
This work is a major boost to an agency which operates with three full-time-equivalent attorneys on a $500,000 annual budget, she said.
The guests included judges, with the Napa County Superior Court’s Presiding Judge Rodney Stone introducing Chin to the group gathered in the Arnses’ wine cellar.
Citing Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter from his Birmingham jail that read, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Chin praised the lawyers’ willingness to donate valuable time and energy to make sure the less fortunate have equal access to justice.
“Because of you and because of your good work, I am certain that the law will continue to be a noble and honorable profession and that it will be practiced with integrity and civility,” said Chin, 71.
With the economic downturn, the need for free representation has grown, Chin said. “We are going to have to do much, much more,” he said.
Each of you can make a difference,” he told the volunteers. “And believe me. What you do matters.”
Among those honored Thursday during the fourth annual Pro Bono Recognition Event were Napa attorneys Tracy Skelton, Charles Gravett, who is the Napa County Bar Association president, and Matthew Stevens of Yountville, a Golden Gate University law student. Other law students, lawyers and assorted volunteers received certificates of recognition, and posed for photos with Chin.
The Legal Aid office represents clients on immigration, housing and senior law, domestic violence and other civil matters. The attorneys do not work on criminal cases. Most of the cases deal with either immigration and senior-related issues, Dorame said.
“There is a segment of the community that’s very poor,” Dorame said. “We have this tremendous need.”