ALL INVITED TO NOV. 6 WOMEN LAWYERS DINNER, By Charmaine H. Buehner

Women Lawyers of Ventura County (WLVC) invites Ventura County legal professionals and friends to WLVC’s Seventh Annual Dinner on November 6, when LVC will honor two very special advocates: United States Congresswoman Julia Brownley, who will accept the Legacy Award, and retiring Ventura attorney Robert Guerra, receiving the Holly Spevak Memorial Award.

WLVC is excited to bring this year’s Annual  Dinner to the Museum of Ventura County (www.venturamuseum.org). Each dinner ticket ($85 for WLVC members, $95 for non-members) will include two free admissions to the Museum. The event will feature wines by Four Brix Winery, catering by Main Course California and live music by Miles Lang and Jill Singer. Four Brix is a boutique urban winery located in the heart of Ventura that specializes in internationally-inspired wine blends. (www.fourbrixwine.com) Main Course focuses on sustainable, local and from-scratch cuisine that is sure to impress even the most discerning “foodies” in attendance. (www.maincourseca.com). The silent auction, conducted during the wine tasting portion of the evening, will benefit WLVC’s community partner, Girls, Inc. and WLVC’s scholarship fund.

Holly Spevak Memorial Public Service Award Recipient, Robert Guerra

The Holly Spevak Memorial Award honors the memory of a woman whose short time as an attorney brought lasting community contributions and access to justice through her pro bono work. This award is presented to an attorney who exemplifies Ms. Spevak’s commitment to serve others.

Robert Guerra’s public service career began long before he became a lawyer. Carmen Ramírez met Robert when they were undergraduates at different Cal State campuses. Both were stewards of the civil rights movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, and worked together on the student movement for access to justice and equality. Carmen’s and Robert’s paths crossed again as they found themselves in the same section at Loyola Law School in the fall of 1971, where they encouraged each other to obtain their law degrees. After graduating from law school in 1974, the two stayed in touch as they worked in various legal aid programs in the greater Los Angeles area.

In 1977 Robert became the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Association of Ventura County, which later became the Channel Counties Legal Services. In 1978, Robert recruited Carmen to work for him. Around that same time, Robert hired a newly-minted attorney, Manuel Covarrubias, to work for Legal Aid.

Carmen describes Robert as a demanding, yet understanding boss. Both Judge Covarrubias and Carmen recall with admiration Robert’s unwavering demand that all individuals be treated with respect and compassion, no matter how humble the individual or difficult the person’s problem.  After a number of years at the Legal Services office, Robert entered private practice, and spent almost twenty years as law partners with then-lawyer, now-Judge, Covarrubias. Robert then became a family law facilitator.  In 2002, Robert was appointed to work for the Self-Help Center of the Ventura County Superior Court, where he and Jodi Prior became colleagues. In 2005, the State Bar of California awarded Robert the President’s Pro Bono Service Award.

For the last several years, Robert has volunteered every Thursday at the Santa Clara Valley Legal Aid. Executive Director Laura Bartels, who is also the incoming VCBA President, views Robert as the “the quiet calm in the eye of the storm.” She praises his volunteerism, teaching ability and “knowledge of family law, probate, guardianships, civil issues, and tenant law” as having changed the lives of thousands.

Robert retired from the Self Help office in September. Though he seeks to devote all of his newfound time to his retirement endeavors, WLVC is honored he will be with us for one more night, at the November 6 dinner, to accept his award. As Carmen Ramírez says, “Robert has never suffered fools, and always has been a quiet and calming influence wherever he found himself. Robert never gossiped, took   people at their word, and worked very hard at his profession.” WLVC can vouch for Carmen’s remarks, as Robert served as WLVC’s secretary for the last 6 years. We miss him already.

Legacy Award Recipent, Hon. Julia Brownley

Historically, the Legacy Award has gone to a female attorney credited for her good work breaking gender barriers or for increasing diversity in the legal profession. Going forward, the award will go to a person for his or her work that aligns with WLVC’s new mission: to empower and advocate for women and girls in law and society. With this broader focus on those who advocate for the rights of women and girls in law and society, WLVC is honored that Congresswoman Brownley has agreed to accept the Legacy Award this year.

Representative Brownley is serving her second “freshman” year in Washington D.C. The first time, she was a George Washington University political science student before she went on to obtain her MBA from American University. Now, after a private-sector career in marketing and six years as a California State Assembly member, she is a freshman United States Representative. Brownley represents California’s 26th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Ventura County and parts of Los Angeles County.

Brownley got right to work when she took the oath of office on January 3, 2013, and became a member of the 113th Congress. Since her swearing-in, she has introduced seven bills aimed at ending the dysfunction in Washington, establishing a nationwide seal of biliteracy and advancing veterans’ rights. Brownley is also an avid supporter of women’s reproductive choices, health care, and equality in the workplace.

Brownley has raised awareness about governmental inaction that disproportionately affects women and families, like the sequester. She is a staunch  supporter of same-sex marriage and a  champion of veterans’ rights. She is the ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Affairs. Attendees can look forward to hearing about these key issues, and how her work on them strengthens Ventura County.

Dinner Registration

Online registration for the dinner is open now at www.wlvc.org. Please contact Charmaine Buehner at charmaine.buehner@ventura.org, or 805-654-2588 for questions about the event. To donate to the silent auction, please contact Katherine Hause Becker at katiehause@baslawoffice.com. Charmaine Buehner is an Assistant County Counsel for the County of Ventura and the President of WLVC. 

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