Law school honors outstanding Latina/o alumni

(April 1, 2010) The Office of Alumni Relations and the School of Law were proud to recognize two outstanding alumni at the first Latina/o Alumni Awards Reception in March. The awards are presented to alumni who exemplify excellence and service in the legal community.  The La Justicia Award was presented to Jesse Valdez '04, and the Spirit of Service Award was presented to Blanca Rodriguez '97. The Latina/o Alumni Awards Reception will be held annually to celebrate alumni who share the law school's goal of diversifying the legal community. 

La Justicia Award - Jesse Valdez '04
The La Justicia Award honors a Latina/o alumnus whose contributions and achievements in the legal community embody the law school's principle of standing for excellence and reaching for justice. Through mentorship, their commitment supports the school's mission of training outstanding attorneys to be leaders for a just and humane world. 

Jesse ValdezJesse, a partner in the Bellevue law firm Valdez Leyman, PLLC, is committed to promoting diversity and advancing the communities he is a part of, both legal and Hispanic. Before founding Valdez Lehman, Jesse worked for Shulkin & Hutton in downtown Seattle, focusing on bankruptcy and business law, and externed for the Honorable Judge Karen A. Overstreet, Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Washington. 

He is the Hispanic National Bar Association Regional President, the Vice-President of Finance for the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, and a member of the King County Bar Association. He also is a board member for America Scores, a non-profit that provides outreach to high-risk youth utilizing soccer as a building block, and a volunteer for several pro-bono legal clinics in the region. He also received the 2009 Latina/o Bar Association of Washington Member of the Year Award.  Jesse holds a B.A. from Central Washington University and an LL.M. from the University of Washington School of Law.  

Spirit of Service Award - Blanca Rodriguez '97
The Spirit of Service Award acknowledges a Latina/o alumnus who is unequivocally committed to a more just and humane world, has worked to foster justice and promote equal representation in the justice system, and has made sacrifices to ensure that the underrepresented are given a voice. Blanca Rodriguez

An attorney with the farm worker unit of the Northwest Justice Project for more than a decade, Blanca is committed to conducting outreach to migrant workers in rural areas of Washington and representing farm workers in employment matters including unpaid wages, overtime, discrimination, health and safety, workers' compensation, and unemployment insurance benefits. Blanca moved with her family from Durango, Mexico when she was 6. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, a pursuit she accomplished by attending night school to better accommodate her work schedule during asparagus season. She went on to earn her B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University.  During law school, Blanca received a PILF summer grant to work for the United Farmworkers of America after her 1L year. 

Prior to joining NJP, Blanca was awarded a two-year fellowship from the National Association of Public Interest Law Foundation to work with the United Farm Workers Union in Sunnyside, Wash. Blanca serves on the board of directors for the Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP) and is a member of the Washington Women Lawyers judicial evaluation committee.