In Honor of Justice

Despite his Italian surname, joked DistrictAttorney Gil Garcetti, “[My heritage] is Mexican-American and my wife is Jewish.So our kids ask, ‘Well, what are we?'”

Garcetti was praising our city’s multiethnicpopulation as he spoke at last week’s Anti-Defamation League SpringLuncheon, touted as a tribute to Israel’s 50th Anniversary but, infact, honoring Deputy District Attorney Carla Arranaga andDeputy Sheriff BerniceAbram. Recognized for their efforts incombating hate crimes in Los Angeles, they were this year’srecipients of the Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate. The luncheon washeld at the Harriet and Charles LuckmanFine Arts Complex on the campus ofCal State Los Angeles.

Both Abram and Arranaga have been instrumental inthe development and implementation of various anti-crime projects.Abram directed the Sheriff’s Department’s Multidisciplinary DomesticViolence Training Project and helped develop the “Field Deputy’sGuide to Domestic Violence” and the California Peace OfficerStandards and Training ’96 Domestic Violence Telecourse.

Arranaga’s accomplishments include working withthe ADL on establishing “Hate Crimes Protocol” and co-chairing theLos Angeles County Human Relations Commission Task Force on HateCrimes.

In her succinct acceptance speech, Abram, anAfrican-American, thanked the largely Jewish audience for the “newwords I learned today: todaraba” (“thank you very much”).

Before introducing Arranaga, Garcetti spoke to TheJournal, praising the deputy district attorney and the ADL for “afabulous job” in the fight against acts of anti-Semitism.

“Because of Carla,” said Garcetti, “she had themcertified to adult court. Probation is not the message we want tosend [to these perpetrators]. They were sentenced to two years instate prison. That’s the kind of thing she’s doing, and it’stough…and she does it almost single-handedly. I’m proud ofher.”

He went on to commend Arranaga, aseventh-generation Angeleno, for her focus on the source of themajority of hate crimes — juveniles — and her commitment to “nipthis problem in the bud” by instituting programs designed to tackleracism at an early age.

When Arranaga took to the podium, she returned theadulation, thanking Garcetti for his “wonderful vision in the battleagainst hate crimes.”

She also said, “I am touched because this honorcomes from the ADL, an organization that I have respected, emulatedand admired.” Thanking her parents “for instilling decency andhumanity,” Arranaga alluded to the importance of strong parental rolemodels.

Representing the family responsible for the prize,Joe Sherwoodsummed up the afternoon’s honors, singling Abram and Arranaga for the”good work that they’ve done.”

Also present at the function was CaliforniaSupreme Court Justice StanleyMosk.

Following the buffet luncheon — a smorgasbord ofMexican and Middle Eastern culinary delights — attendees weretreated to renditions of classical music standards by theIsrael Camerata Jerusalem.

Public Counsel Thanks Steven A.Nissen

A room awash in blues, browns and grays, cracklingwith energy…

No, this isn’t a Max Beckmann exhibit at theArmand Hammer Museum but the sea of three-piece-suit-clad attorneysholding court at a recent silent auction sponsored by Public Counsel Law Center, theagency that provides free legal help and access to low-incomeresidents and nonprofit organizations. The event, with proceedsbenefiting Public Counsel, was held this year at the Century Plaza Hotel in CenturyCity.

Following the auction — which included luncheswith staffers from the Los Angeles Times, hotel and dining packages,and Mattelproducts such as Chinese Empress Barbie (! ) — the crowd movedinto the Los Angeles Ballroom for the William O. Douglas AwardDinner. Sidley &Austin, TheGreenlining Institute and Mattel Inc.received the Law Firm Pro Bono Award, the Community Achievement Awardand the Corporate Pro Bono Award, respectively.

But the man ofthe hour was Steven A.Nissen, the executive director of thestate Bar and the former chief executive officer of Public Counsel.Close friend and Los Angeles Chief of Police Bernard Parks moved the crowdwith his introduction of Nissen, praising his “body of knowledge, hiscode of ethics, and [the fact that] he never works in [his] ownself-interest.” In accepting the award, the visibly moved Nissenpraised and thanked his staff at Public Counsel numerous times, aswell as his wife, fellow attorney LynnAlvarez. (Photo of Steven Nissen, left, with Bernard Parks by BrendanEisen)

Nissen, a Fairfax HighSchool graduate, went on to study law atStanford andUC’s Boalt Hall.In 1984, at the age of 33, he became the chief executive officer ofPublic Counsel and turned a failing organization into “the nation’slargest pro bono law firm.”