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Latino Values, Outreach Celebrated by L.A. Legal Community

Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013

Latino Values, Outreach Celebrated by Los Angeles Legal Community

Story and photos by Maria Iacobo

There was much to celebrate at last week’s Judges and Lawyers Night, the annual event put on by USC Gould’s Latino Law Students Association (LLSA). In addition to honoring two members of the greater Los Angeles legal community and having a keynote address by recently elected Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey ’82, the students, faculty, alumni and guests toasted the revitalization of the LLSA. The current board – all 2Ls – began working as 1Ls to rebuild an organization that they thought should have greater engagement with the school, community, alumni and others across the USC campus.

     LA County District Atty Jackie Lacey '82

Lawrence Cisneros ’14, current LLS president, says he ran for the position because he wanted to make sure the group successfully maintained all of the projects they began as 1Ls.

“I wanted to make sure that everything we wanted to do actually got done,” Cisneros said. “I wanted to make sure we were connected to the Latino community around us, the administration, alumni and other USC groups. When I came to USC, we weren’t a very relevant group. I wanted us to be in a position to influence other people.”

LLSA re-established “Teen Court,” a program at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. Teen Court is an alternative sentencing program for juvenile offenders in which high school students serve as jury members.  Law students work with the high school students to understand the law and punishment in a given case; a real judge and probation officer oversee the courtroom procedures. Claudia Lopez ’14 is the program’s administrator and attends the court every other week.

On campus, LLSA started Hora Latina, a monthly event at which fluent Spanish speakers have lunch with law students who want to learn Spanish.

“Hora Latina helps students who want to do public interest and pro bono work in Los Angeles develop the language skills that will be helpful to them,” Cisneros says.

La Taquiza is another annual event the new board created last year to bring together law students and the USC Gould custodial staff, many of whom are Latino.

“We wanted to honor the work and the workers in the building,” Cisneros said. “We recognize students and faculty with awards, but the custodians don’t get any recognition for coming in to school day in and day out. We want to acknowledge all the work that they do for us so we invite them to a lunch in their honor. It also celebrates our shared culture.”

Latino Law Students Association Executive Board 2012-13

In her keynote address, Lacey recognized Cisneros’ efforts to honor the custodians.

“You are to be commended that you have that kind of character to remember where we all came from,” Lacey said.
Evan Langinger ’14 says he wanted to be involved in LLSA as soon as he arrived at USC Gould. Langinger worked as an afterschool tutor in the local community before coming to law school and saw firsthand the variety of problems the Latino community faced. Langer is serving as LLSA’s academic chair this year.

“I also wanted to promote Latino values at school and get other students who weren’t members of the organization, or Latino themselves, involved,” Langinger said. “Tonight is a good example of that. This isn’t just for Latinos, and there aren’t only Latinos here. We have alumni here from all ethnicities as well as students from other ethnic groups.”

Michael Ortiz ’79 was honored with the Inspirational Alumnus Award during the evening’s festivities. Ortiz is the directing attorney of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). Ortiz reestablished immigration services at LAFLA and created their Immigration Rights Office. Ortiz was recognized as “an influential figure in our legal community and a role model for Latinos in East Los Angeles.”

                      Michael Ortiz '79

The Honorable Jon Takasugi ’90 was presented with the Judge Armendariz ’50 Award. Takasugi, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, is the director of the Pro Bono Bar Review, a free preparatory course for financially disadvantaged students who have struggled to pass California’s rigorous bar examination.

Takasugi’s father, the late federal judge Robert Takasugi ’59, began the program in the 1960s. The younger Takasugi served as a teacher before becoming the director when his father stepped down. Today, the program has more than a dozen instructors covering many areas of the exam.

Lacey, the first female and first African American to hold the position of Los Angeles County District Attorney, shared with her audience several of the projects she has started since taking office. She said she wants to make sure the community knows what is going on in the D.A.’s office and that “it belongs to them.”

          The Honorable Jon Takasugi '90

“We have a goal of insuring public safety through this change we call ‘realignment,’ the shift of prisoners from the state to the county,” Lacey said. “We are working on getting accurate information about where people are when they’re released. Are they adequately supervised? Are they reintegrated into our society? Do we have a path for them out of their criminal life?

“We are also working on protecting your precious credit card and access numbers. What happens with this theft is that the criminal gets away with it. The bank heretofore hasn’t been interested in pursuing those people. They would just rather pass the fees on to you. I’ve decided to confront the banking industry and say ‘no.’”

Lacey said her office will be hiring a bilingual public information officer so that her department can share press releases in Spanish.
“We’re also continuing to go after the unscrupulous people who take money from people seeking a path to citizenship and represent themselves as lawyers,” Lacey added.

Another important goal to Lacey is making sure that people of all races and ethnicities have the opportunity to serve at the top leadership in the D.A.’s office and in law enforcement.

“I’m also personally using my office to inspire young girls and women who’ve never thought about a career in law or law enforcement,” Lacey said. “Because, no offense against the guys in this room, but I’m tired of being the only woman. There needs to be at least one, two, three, four more.”



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