Featured photo shows Legal Aid Society executive director Pablo Ramirez, LAS president Joyce Holcomb and LAS vice-president and Access to Justice honoree Eugene Kim.
The Legal Aid Society honored attorney Eugene Kim, San Bernardino Judge Khymberli Apaloo and Assemblymember James Ramos at their 2023 Access to Justice Gala April 14.
The dinner featured a silent auction, a live auction and singers who performed hits that went with the event’s theme: Give my regards to Broadway.
Even the smallest commitments to legal aid can have profound impacts on your community, Kim said. Kim had no interest in pro bono work until he was directed to represent an inmate at Patton State Hospital, he said. The inmate wanted to refuse medical treatment, and the hospital wanted to establish precedent, so there was no chance of the case settling.
Immersed in studying case law, Kim said he realized the human importance of law.
“This wasn’t just a case, it was a human being we were dealing with,” Kim said.
Every person is entitled to certain fundamental rights, Kim realized, and he became an organizer for pro bono work as president at the Orange County Korean American Bar Association.
“People can make a big impact in the community just by supporting organizations that provide access to justice,” Kim said.
Kim is also a founding member of Stream Kim Hicks Wrage & Alfaro. He serves on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Judicial Section Advisory Committee, and is the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino’s vice president. He also sits on the Altura Credit Union board, the Big Brothers Big Sisters board, and is on the San Bernardino County Elimination of Bias Committee. He is past-president of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, the Asian Pacific American Lawyers of the Inland Empire and the Pick Group of Young Professionals.
San Bernardino Superior Judge John Pacheco introduced Apaloo. He lauded her creation of the court’s townhall webinar series, which she started in response to the George Floyd protests.
“It was Khymberli who went to our (then-Presiding Judge Michael Sachs) and said, ‘Hey, we have to do something. There’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of hate. There’s a lot of protests going on. We need to speak out against racism. We got to speak out against hate,” Pacheco said.
Apaloo started by thanking her family for their support.
“I did not think anyone was paying attention. I was just doing what I felt like, and I was doing what I love, and when we execute on what we love, we get our best results,” Apaloo said.
Apaloo joined the bench as a commissioner in 2012, and was appointed as a judge the next year by Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown. She currently sits on civil cases, but has also served in family law, criminal law, probate guardianship and appellates. She graduated from the New York University School of Law, and joined the bar in 1997.
Apaloo is co-chair of the California Judges Association Task Force to Eliminate Bias and Inequality in Courts. She has been on the board of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, the Inland Counties Legal Services and the American Red Cross. Her family has been in San Bernardino since 1904.
Bill Lemann, introducing Ramos, said the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has financially supported the Legal Aid Society for 15 years.
Ramos stressed the relationship between the tribe and the Legal Aid Society. The LAS provided the tribe representation when they faced lawsuits due to their horse rides or cigarette sales, before the casino was built, Ramos said. The tribe would not have had the money to fight the lawsuits without Legal Aid.
“Legal Aid was there for us. So as we were able to grow in our economy and our base, we never forgot those that gave back to us in time of need, so that we continue to give back through philanthropy, and that includes the Legal Aid Society here today,” Ramos said.
He has since worked to help keep the courts stable, he said.
The county has come a long way since an 1866 militia massacre of Native Americans, Ramos said, and the changes can be seen in the diversity of judgeships in San Bernardino County.
“I’ve also seen our community grow, our community grow so much with diversity, different views now being appreciated, voices being able to stand up on this podium to stand up as judges of the superior court,” Ramos said.
Ramos was elected to the California Assembly in 2018, when he was serving as a San Bernardino County Supervisor. He grew up in a mobile home in the San Manuel Indian Reservation, and is the first and only Native American elected to the state Legislature. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Redlands, and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from California State University, San Bernardino. He worked in tribal politics, including roles as gaming commissioner and business committee member, treasurer and tribal chairman, he said. He then worked on the Community College Board of Trustees, where he became president.
Auction and song
Attorneys Michael Scafiddi and Bill Shapiro ran a live auction. Dave Myers of the Myers Law Group won a bidding war for tickets to a Utah-USC football game that he donated to the Legal Aid staff.
Guest singers were Troy Clarke, Lisa Donahey, Mary Ann Hermansen, Lettrice Lawrence and Haqumai Sharpe, who performed showtunes from “Anything Goes,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Wicked” and “Damn Yankees.”