Pro Bono Stars Nominations for 2023
Do you know a lawyer who has made outstanding pro bono contributions in the Denver legal community? If so, please nominate that person to be recognized by the Denver Bar Association (DBA) and the DBA Access to Justice Committee as a 2023 Pro Bono Star!
The Pro Bono Star Recognition
This year, the Denver Bar Association and the DBA Access to Justice Committee will be recognizing 5-10 lawyers as Pro Bono Stars in the Denver legal community. The purpose of this recognition is to spotlight the pro bono efforts of our members. Pro Bono Stars will be recognized on the DBA website, via DBA social media, and at a DBA Board of Trustees meeting. The Pro Bono Stars will be announced in October 2023.
Pro Bono Star nominees should be active members of the Denver Bar Association and should have contributed pro bono services to the Denver legal community in the previous two years. Candidates will be evaluated on the basis of the nature and extent of their pro bono contributions. Consideration will also be given to diversity, including diversity of the lawyer, the lawyer’s pro bono contribution, the lawyer’s practice area, and geographic diversity.
Please send nominations to Virginia McClerkin at [email protected] by June 23, 2023. Please include the lawyer’s full name, contact information, and a brief summary (approx. one paragraph) of the pro bono work the lawyer does and why you are nominating the lawyer. Feel free to suggest more than one candidate.
About the DBA Access to Justice Committee
The DBA Access to Justice Committee works to promote access to justice and pro bono services in the Denver legal community. The Committee has promoted a host of pro bono legal clinics and events. The Committee meets monthly. For more information about the Committee’s work or how to join, go to https://www.denbar.org/Members/Committees.
2022 Pro Bono Stars
Nicoal Sperrazza, Esq.
Nicoal Sperrazza, Esq., owns her own practice focused on family law and civil litigation matters. As a first-generation Korean American and coming from an immigrant family, pro bono work is especially important to Nicoal and her commitment to help bridge the access to justice gap. Nicoal primarily volunteers through MVL’s Family Law Unbundled program because she can customize her volunteer hours based on both her personal and professional schedule. She is also grateful to have expertise in a practice area that is vastly underserved, and where she can make a significant difference in the lives of others and their children regardless of their current financial situation.
Naomi Stokeld focuses her practice on business law and estate planning, working with multiple clients from entrepreneurs to medium-sized businesses. She is licensed in Colorado, California, and Chile. Why volunteer? I believe lawyers have a fundamental duty to use law to build a more equitable and humane society, by providing access to justice to those that society has neglected. Working with non-profit organizations allows me to help people navigate business, elder, and family law issues, improving their lives and the world around them.
Leo Milan is an Assistant Attorney General and with the Colorado Department of Law. During his years prior to his appointment at the Attorney General’s office, and while in private practice, Leo was actively involved in Missions for Ministries, building houses in Juarez, Mexico for the poorest of poor. More recently he has been involved with Habitat for Humanity and participated in local builds. He often offers his time for judging and mentoring high school students in a variety of civic and legal opportunities.
As a member of the Denver Bar Association for longer than he can remember Leo, without hesitation, can affirm that the relationships formed through the DBA are lifelong. Prior to having the large community of lawyers in the Ralph Carr Justice Center, the ability to get on the phone and pick the brain of other DBA members on a legal or ethical issue could never be discounted.
Leo is humbled by the selection as a 2022 Pro Bono All-Star and wishes to congratulate the fellow recipients. As a former AG coordinator and present volunteer for the Pro Bono Post Decree Clinics in Arapahoe and Adams Counties, this MVL sponsored program has been blessed by the support of Attorney General Weiser, and no less than 60 volunteer attorneys and staff from the Attorney General’s office have taken advantage of this volunteer opportunity. This community outreach provides legal guidance to a severely underserved population. It is due to the incredible volunteers from the Colorado Department of Law, and MVL leadership that the Pro Bono Post Decree program has been so successful. Leo believes volunteering is essential. Giving back to the community is essential. And of extreme importance is setting an example for the young lawyers following in our footsteps.
Leo is the recipient of the Denver Bar Association Volunteer of the Year Award (2017), the Metro Volunteer Lawyers Award for Dedicated Service (2019), and the Attorney General’s Maurice Knaizer Distinguished Service Award (2020). Leo is presently an At-Large Member o the MVL Board of Directors.
Amelia is a partner at Power Law, a boutique law firm that focuses exclusively on compassionate criminal defense. As a firm of former public defenders, Power Law is dedicated to the ideal that every person accused of a crime ought to receive excellent legal representation, regardless of ability to pay. Amelia continues to represent indigent clients as a contractor with the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel and she began Power Law with a discount rate program for those that need a strong defense but make too much to qualify for state-paid representation. Since entering private practice, Amelia has made pro bono work a central part of Power Law’s mission. She has largely focused her pro bono representation on clients charged for exercising their First Amendment rights to protest local and societal injustice. Amelia spent hundreds of pro bono hours representing Lillian House, a protest leader and community activist who faced serious felony charges in two jurisdictions arising from the 2020 Elijah McClain protests in Aurora. After almost a year of litigation and effort, all charges against Ms. House were dismissed. Amelia continues to represent other protestors pro bono, both at the trial and appeal stages, to uphold their individual constitutional rights and to protect the sanctity of the right to protest in Colorado. Amelia’s passions for equity and social justice align strongly with her pro bono work as well as in the day-to-day difference she strives to make in the lives of each of her clients.
Spencer Allen practices environmental and natural resources litigation for a small Denver firm. While the type of law Spencer works on does not present many opportunities for direct pro bono work, he has always been driven to help bridge the legal need gap. He is a dedicated volunteer with the Federal Pro Se Clinic (FPSC) since starting private practice and the Federal Limited Appearance Program (FLAP) since its inception. Spencer volunteers every month with the FSPC assisting litigants in a diverse range of cases from Title VII employment discrimination to Fair Housing Act violations and frequently represents clients in federal court through FLAP at all manner of hearings, including scheduling conferences and settlement negotiations. Spencer’s early introduction to pro bono work started in the DU Law Civil Litigation Clinic, where he was inspired on a daily basis by 2021 Pro Bono Star Professor Tammy Kuennen on how to be a dedicated advocate to those in need.
Chris Jackson is a partner at Holland & Hart LLP. His practice focuses primarily on civil appeals in both state and federal court. Chris has handled appellate pro bono matters for over a decade on a wide range of topics, from landlord–tenant disputes to divorce proceedings to foreclosure matters. Most recently, he’s been an active volunteer at the CBA’s civil appeals clinic, which provides free, limited-scope legal consultations to pro se litigants. Chris also spends a substantial amount of time on election-related pro bono work where he helps nonprofits, candidates, and others navigate the often-complex rules surrounding political activity. Chris also serves on the CBA Board of Governors and the DBA Board of Trustees, and is an active member of the ABA’s and CBA’s appellate practice committees.
2021 Pro Bono Stars
Tammy Kuennen teaches the Civil Litigation Clinic at DU’s Sturm College of Law, where students represent low-income people in civil legal matters, including defending tenants who are being evicted, helping people experiencing domestic violence to obtain protective orders, and representing people whose wages are not paid. Before joining the SCOL in 2004, Tammy was a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center, and prior to teaching she practiced at Legal Aid Services of Oregon for five years. Tammy’s pro bono work, which she characterizes as “food for her soul,” includes membership in a grassroots community group called the Direct Action Team, whose mission is to fight wage theft. (Tammy calls the Tuesday night meetings that she has attended religiously since January of 2018 her “church.”) In addition to her passion for this work, Tammy is equally inspired to advocate on behalf of children who are exposed to abuse in their homes. She has volunteered since 2015 as a guardian ad litem with the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, on whose behalf she regularly (three times per year) trains other attorneys to do the same. Tammy’s primary passion - what motivated her to attend law school - is working with adult survivors of gender-based violence, which she does in service of Project Safeguard, where recently she was a member of the Board of Directors. Tammy will be presenting, along with the Executive Director of Project Safeguard and attorney Pamela Maass, a virtual training for the Faculty of Federal Advocates on September 29th, 2021 at noon, to inspire federal court litigators, in partnership with her Clinic students, to provide pro bono representation to survivors in replevin actions and tort cases in county court as a means of achieving economic justice (info here).
Wesley is an attorney at Cohen & Cohen, P.C., where he represents consumer bankruptcy and family law clients, and he is the owner of Parks Mediation. Wesley is also an adjunct professor at the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law teaching mediation, negotiation, and alternative dispute resolution. From 2015 through 2020, he provided pro bono mediation services through Jefferson County Mediation Services, where he mediated over 100 cases as a volunteer mediator. He is a volunteer and lead mediator for Court Mediation Services in Denver County, and he provides pro bono mediation, legal representation, and mentoring services through Metro Volunteer Lawyers. He was pivotal in launching the Resolution Corps, a CBA-ADR Section program that promotes access to justice through virtual mediation services. Wesley is the current Chair of the CBA-ADR Section.
Katharine Lum (Katy) is an attorney with Lass Cooper & Ramp, LLC. Her practice focuses on family law at both the trial and appellate level. Katy is a member of the Family Law Section Executive Council, where she serves on the Amicus Committee and co-chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Committee. Katy began providing pro bono legal services in law school through a student volunteer organization. She has been an active volunteer with Metro Volunteer Lawyers since becoming licensed to practice in Colorado. Katy participates in the MVL post-decree and unbundled clinics, where she provides consultations to parties seeking assistance with various aspects of their domestic relations matters. Katy was recognized for her outstanding participation in the post-decree clinic in 2020. She also takes full representation MVL family law cases. “My parents instilled in me the importance of serving my community at a young age. Particularly today when the vast majority of our community members cannot afford representation, I believe all attorneys in private practice have an ethical obligation to increase access to justice through pro bono work. Particularly in domestic relations, where 75-80% of litigants are self-represented, just an hour of consultation can go a long way, and a little information can have a huge impact. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to help my clinic and full representation clients feel organized, empowered, and in control of their own cases, which frequently involve the most important aspect of their lives—their families.”
Deborah Yim is the founding attorney of the Primera Law Group, where she represents Colorado workers and small businesses in employment and civil rights cases. Over the past 20 years, she has devoted countless hours to pro bono service. In just 2020 alone, as part of the Federal Pro Se Panel and Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice, she dedicated hundreds of hours serving as pro bono counsel to Colorado workers in four federal district court cases challenging workplace discrimination and abuses. The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for the Asian American community, with the onslaught of prejudice, microaggressions, and hate crimes against not only Asian Americans but Asian-owned businesses. As community outreach co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado (APABA), Deborah recognized the need for Asian American attorneys to step up and actively support a community that was scared and hurting as a result of the pandemic. Deborah spearheaded APABA Cares which was a five-part program involving: (1) a free legal hotline to guide and support small business owners and individuals needing legal information; (2) free legal clinics in which low income elders – the most vulnerable to COVID-19 – received legal assistance in drafting crucial end-of-life documents such as powers of attorney and advanced health care directives; (3) a holiday basket and feed-a-senior drive benefiting low income Asian elders and a Lunar New Year basket drive benefitting refugee and immigrant families of the Asian Pacific Development Center; (4) Compassion in Colorado – a free service that endeavors to keep Asian seniors safe from potential hate crimes by providing them with walking companions; and (5) educational resources and workshops that educate the community on how to respond to hate crimes and how to stand up for others as bystanders. Deborah also serves as legal services co-chair of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association and pro bono counsel to the Denver Asian Real Estate Association, a non-profit promoting sustainable homeownership opportunities in Asian American communities.
I am an Estate Planning Attorney for Peak Trusts & Estates, LLC, in Denver, CO. I believe in educating people about complex legal rules by using everyday language and stories, so they can create estate plans that encourage family harmony, especially during difficult times. I get so much personally out of volunteering with organizations like Metro Volunteer Lawyers because it feels great when you know you have helped someone who really needs it. I also enjoy all the great friends I have made in the legal community volunteering alongside them.
2020 Pro Bono Stars
Cheyenne is an associate at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, where she focuses on litigation matters. In the last year alone, she has spent more than 300 hours working on pro bono matters. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Cheyenne has volunteered with the Federal Pro Se Clinic, where she advised two litigants regarding a contract dispute and defamation claims. She also volunteered through Downtown Denver Partnership’s efforts to clean up the downtown area after the recent protests. Cheyenne serves as her firm’s representative for the Legal Aid Foundation’s Associate’s Campaign.
Sonia Ramirez Anderson
Sonia is an attorney at Husch Blackwell LLP, where she focuses on helping companies navigate various employment related issues. Since 2016, Sonia has donated hundreds of pro bono hours to the Denver community representing local nonprofits and indigent clients. Recently, Sonia served as pro bono counsel for an elderly woman in a case alleging civil rights violations and seeking to restore her client’s disability accommodations. Sonia also provides pro bono counsel to Hands of the Carpenter, a nonprofit that serves single women in need. Sonia has also provided assistance to the Colorado Lawyers Committee Hate Crimes Program. She is an active member of Judge Adam Espinosa’s Dream Team, which provides a platform for diverse students to meet and seek mentorship from diverse legal professionals. She is currently serving her second term as Vice President of Committees for the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association.
Felipe is an attorney at Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, where he focuses on civil rights and employment cases. Felipe has been providing essential pro bono legal services to the Denver Community over the last two years as coordinating attorney for the Mi Casa Resource Center Legal Clinic, which is sponsored by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association. Through the Clinic as many as 40 individuals each month--many of them monolingual Spanish speakers--are provided free 30-minute legal consults with an attorney in criminal, family, employment, bankruptcy or housing law. Recently, Felipe championed Mi Casa’s efforts during the COVID-19 crisis to successfully transition the clinic to a virtual platform which has provided services to people in need during this challenging time.
Aurora is an associate attorney at Johnson & Klein, where she primarily focuses on civil rights cases. Aurora has been practicing law for about three years. In that time, Aurora has made an enormous contribution to the Denver legal community. Among other things, Aurora has represented at least six prisoners on a pro bono basis in submitting clemency requests to the Governor’s Office, defended protestors pro bono against criminal charges for their activism, taken several cases from the pro bono panel at the U.S. District Court of Colorado, and represented several prisoners pro bono seeking Special Needs Parole due to their medical vulnerability during the severe outbreak of COVID-19 in Colorado prisons. Aurora has also been a legal observer during recent civil rights protests and is providing pro bono representation to an individual arrested during the protests. In the past year alone, Aurora has represented 13 pro bono clients.
Jim has been a DBA member since 1974. Jim has been a part of the monthly ATJ Bankruptcy Clinic held at the Colorado Bankruptcy Court for the past fifteen+ years. He has given his expertise and other important information to individuals interested in filing their own bankruptcy. For the past several years Jim has been, with rare exception, the only attorney collaborating with bankruptcy court personnel in conducting this clinic. This Pro Se clinic may not have continued to function without his assistance. Jim has recently helped Metro Volunteer Lawyers with Bankruptcy applicants. Since the end of last year until the present, May 2020, he has taken six cases. Jim is also involved in advising the Federal Pro Se Clinic on their organization of a Bankruptcy clinic and has participated for the past several years in attending the monthly Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans clinic in assisting and answering questions of former veterans of our country’s armed forces.