Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Attorney Joaquin Avila Named to Receive Loren Miller Award
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Voting rights lawyer Joaquin Avila has been named to receive the State Bar of Californiaís highest honor.
Avila, 53, will be presented the Loren Miller Legal Services Award by Chief Justice Ronald George on Sept. 7 at the State Barís annual meeting in Anaheim.
The attorney, formerly of Milpitas and now working in Los Angeles, is renowned statewide as an expert in voting rights, especially on behalf of Latinos. His 1991 lawsuit on behalf of five Monterey County plaintiffs was instrumental in eliminating at-large municipal court elections in that county, and he was carefully consulted by court leaders in Los Angeles and elsewhere around the state during unification of municipal and superior courts.
Avila was one of the lead attorneys in the lawsuit that blocked a Los Angeles County election and resulted in the redrawing of supervisorial district lines. That action led to the election of Gloria Molina, the first Latina to serve on the Board of Supervisors.
Avila became staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and educational fund soon after his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1973, and became the organizationís president and general counsel in 1982.
In the 1970s, he testified before Congress about the discrimination Latino voters encountered in Texas. With MALDEF, he helped formulate a civil rights agenda for Latinos.
He went into private practice in 1985, devoting himself to voting rights issues, especially in California and the Southwest. His work earned him a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
Avila currently is working on a challenge to the at-large voting system in the city of Santa Maria, where 45 percent of the population is Latino but no Latinos have ever been elected to office.
Before Harvard Law School, Avila graduated from Yale University.
He has taught at the University of Texas law School and at Boalt Hall School of Law at UC-Berkeley.
The Loren Miller Award was established in 1977 to commemorate the State Barís 50th anniversary. It is presented to an attorney who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to legal services and who advocates for the disenfranchised.
The State Bar also announced that attorney Phillip Scott Campbell of Oakland will receive the Jack Berman Individual Award of Achievement for his work at the Alameda County Law Clinic.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company