Chief Justice Ronald George, Professor Bruce Zucker, and State Bar President Karen Nobumoto.
Cal State Northridge business law professor Bruce Zucker has been honored by the State Bar of California with its 2002 President's Pro Bono Service Award for his commitment to providing legal services to the underprivileged, prisoners and parolees.
Zucker was one of nine California attorneys and legal teams honored at the bar's annual meeting in Monterey on October 11. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George and State Bar President Karen Nobumoto presented the awards in nine categories, including Zucker's for government service.
"I didn't expect to get this award. The highest honor for me is the recognition I get from my students. But being acknowledged by my peers is a close second," said Zucker. "Often for things to change in communities, the only remedy is to hire legal representation, and access to justice for low-income people is just abysmal."
Zucker's award was based on the more than 150 hours of pro bono legal work he provided during the past year while also serving as a full-time CSUN faculty member. He founded and directs the university's Tenant Legal Clinic where CSUN students perform community service by helping low-income families with tenant/landlord issues.
Zucker attributed his nomination to a case he and 10 of his clinic students handled in which an elderly, low-income couple faced eviction because of clutter in their apartment. The professor and his students first stepped in, cleaning up the home. Then when the landlord continued to pursue eviction, Zucker took the case to court and won the couple the right to stay in their home.
"I like the study of law more than the practice, and teaching gives me the flexibility to take cases that interest me," Zucker said. "When a case comes my way, I get so incensed that this stuff is happening and there is no one to correct it, so I have to get involved."
Zucker credited the university with encouraging community service work from its professors, in addition to their academic research, teaching and university service. Zucker said he tries to bring that experience back to his students through the service-learning classes he teaches.
Although they are not yet in law school, Zucker still gets his CSUN students quite involved doing research, trial briefs, discovery requests and interviewing clients. He also takes them to court for experience in the judicial process.
The professor, who keeps a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket at all times, said, "It is important being a connection between the classroom and the world."
In addition to his teaching and CSUN tenant legal clinic work, Zucker also volunteers as supervising attorney for the Van Nuys Self-Help Legal Access Center. In that role, he enlisted 19 of his students to help translate and distribute foreign language flyers for clients needing court interpreters.
That type of service spurred the legal center, which is part of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, to nominate Zucker for his award. The Self-Help Legal Access Center of the Ventura County Superior Court also nominated Zucker for his work there as a judge pro tem in small claims court.
"Bruce Zucker's work demonstrates compassion for the forgotten members of our society, namely the poor and prisoners," said Tina Rasnow, coordinator of the Ventura County center. Among his pro bono cases, Zucker represents parolees in appeals of revocation hearing decisions.
"He believes in justice and that everyone, no matter his or her circumstances, is entitled to justice," Rasnow added. "Because of his work, families have been able to retain housing, prisoners have been able to get a fresh start after completing their just sentence, and students have had the opportunity to learn the value of helping others."
The bar association's Pro Bono Service Awards are presented each year to California attorneys and law firms credited with contributing a significant amount of time and legal expertise in helping the poor.
Zucker earned his bachelor's degree from UCLA and his law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He joined the CSUN faculty in 1996. He teaches real estate law and finance in the university's College of Business and Economics.
@csun | October 21, 2002 issue
Public Relations | University Advancement
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