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After a four-year break induced by the pandemic, the Riverside Barristers held their Annual Judicial Reception May 17 on the rooftop of Riverside’s City Hall.

The event provided a dual function: the Barrister’s program gave out their judge-, attorney- and clerk-of-the-year awards for both 2020 and 2023. (The 2020 awards were catching up from the pandemic shutdown.)

The Barristers is a division of the Riverside County Bar Association, designed for attorneys new to the State Bar of California.

2023 recipients

Riverside Superior Judge Emma Smith won Judge of the Year. She is assigned to mental health and substance abuse cases.

Alejandro Barraza, who introduced the award, said that Smith is an expert that lends her help to new attorneys, and who runs her courtroom with dignity.

“Our courtrooms are places where people are heard, and their voices are listened to, and they are treated with dignity and grace,” Smith said.

Attorney Megan Demshki of Aitken Aitken Cohn won Attorney of the Year. She practices personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice.

She is a past-president of RCBA Barristers, vice-president for the Consumer Attorneys of Inland Empire, on the Riverside County Bar Foundation Board of Directors, and received the 2022 Streetfighter of the Year Award. 

“She’s absolutely phenomenal, and this award does not even do her justice,” RCBA Barristers President Lauren Vogt said. 

She joined the Barristers because she had a desire for friends, she said.

“We’ve held each other through our losses in the courtroom,” Demshki said.

“I can’t recommend (Barristers) enough,” she continued.

Lisa Hamlett won Courtroom Assistant of the Year.

2020 recipients

Riverside Superior Judge John Vineyard was awarded Judicial Officer of the Year. He was the RCBA Barristers president in 1992 and president of the Leo A. Deegan Inn of Court in 1993.

He was appointed commissioner to Riverside Superior Court, and joined the bench as a judge in 2008. He works in family court. 

Barristers past-president Goushia Farook said that Vineyard offered to be available to new lawyers in a new attorney academy she participated in in 2015.

“He would end every meeting by sharing that he was available if we had questions or needed any help. He never asked for anything in return and never wanted any credit for his contributions to the success of the program,” Farook said.

Vineyard’s remarks were brief.

“I promised I would not give a speech. So, thank you,” Vineyard said.

Greg Rizio of Rizio Lipinsky received the Attorney of the Year award. Vogt, who, in addition to being RCBA Barristers president is an associate at Rizio Lipinsky, said the group chose Rizio for his leadership in the Riverside legal community.

“He inspires one to be a better lawyer, a better attorney, to give back to this community,” Vogt said.

“I look around, and there are so many of you who are going to be future leaders of the community,” Rizio said.

Lisa Acosta won Courtroom Assistant of the Year. She started working with the court in 1996, and is now assigned to Commissioner Wendy Harris, in family law. 

“Lisa is a shining example of the best judicial assignment. She is prompt, attentive, detail oriented, and always greets us with a smile on her face. While managing self-represented litigants, she is patient and understanding. Each paralegal at my office raves about how kind Lisa is, even though they have never met her in person,” said Farook. 

The Barristers had decided to give out the courtroom assistant award during Farook’s tenure as president.

“We all know how important our clerks are to running the courtroom, and getting our matters handled,” Farook said.


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