2008 Award Recipients
 
Consumer Advocates of the Year -
  Catherine Blakemore - Protection and Advocacy, Inc.
  Teresa Favuzzi - CA Foundation for Independent Living Centers
  Margaret Johnson - Protection and Advocacy, Inc.
  Marty Omoto - CA Disability Community Action Network
 

Assembly Member of the Year
Assembly Member Mike Eng
 
Since being elected to the Assembly in 2006, Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) has been a solid and true supporter of consumers and their legal rights. Prior to coming to the State Assembly, Mr. Eng was active in his community in a multitude of ways, from enhancing after school programs for low income students to providing free immigration legal advice to immigrant working families. As Chair of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, Assembly Member Eng has been pivotal in leading efforts to oversee a broad range of consumer protection legislation. He not only has a solid pro-consumer voting record, but as an attorney, he has been instrumental in talking about these issues to his colleagues. This year, he authored the CAOC-sponsored AB 2947, which, if signed, would have prohibited pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements related to elder and dependent adult abuse actions. In all of his many roles, Assembly Member Eng’s intelligence, dedication and graceful sense of humor made him a natural choice as Consumer Attorneys of California’s 2008 Assembly Member of the Year.
 

Senator of the Year
Senator Ellen Corbett
 
Senator Corbett (D-San Leandro), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has had a lifelong commitment to consumer legal issues. Elected to the Senate in 2006, Senator Corbett’s legislative record includes a myriad of consumer legislation, including bills to reduce prescription drug costs, to require retailers to provide cash for unused gift cards, to restore wetlands along the bay, and to protect consumer rights and increase penalties for discrimination against the disabled. Senator Corbett has also authored CAOC sponsored legislation, including SB 93 in 2006, which would have prohibited the amount paid by Medi-Cal from being considered as evidence of past medical damages for the purpose of reducing a third party’s liability to the beneficiary. In 2008, Senator Corbett authored the historic ADA bill (SB 1608), a bill to address the Riverside courts problem (SB 1630), and was instrumental on countless tort and consumer bills, including AB 1945 (DeLaTorre), which regulates HMO rescissions to benefit all Californians. Her legacy of working to ensure justice for all Californians makes her Consumer Attorneys of California’s 2008 Senator of the Year.
 

Consumer Advocates of the Year

Catherine Blakemore
Protection and Advocacy, Inc.

Teresa Favuzzi
CA Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Margaret Johnson
Protection and Advocacy, Inc.

Marty Omoto
CA Disability Community Action Network
 
This year, CAOC is pleased to honor Ms. Blakemore, Ms. Favuzzi, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Omoto as our consumer advocates of the year. Each has an inspirational track record of dedication and advocacy on behalf of Californians with disabilities which, in and of itself, justifies this award. However, in 2008, each of these advocates went further, putting in countless hours (and criticism sometimes from within the community) to create an historic legislative disability package, SB 1608 (Corbett), which was signed into law by the Governor. SB 1608 creates a new California Commission on Disability Access, improves educational training of design professionals, and creates new legal procedures which address the abuse of a few attorneys who did not use the law to seek compliance. SB 1608 was the product of two years of negotiations and its passage ensures that business interests will not place another ADA initiative on the California ballot. This package only came together through the legal brilliance of Ms. Johnson and Ms. Blakemore, the effective efforts to inform the community by Ms. Favuzzi and Mr. Omoto, and the dedication of all our honorees. We thank and congratulate them for being the 2008 Consumer Advocates of the Year.
 

Robert E. Cartwright, Sr. Award
R. Rex Parris
 
This award honors excellence and dedication to teaching trial advocacy in California’s courtrooms and among the public. Mr. Parris has extensive experience, a long resume of organizational participation, and a proven dedication to Consumer Attorneys of California and those we represent. Mr. Parris has been a leader in CAOC’s educational programs and has traveled around the state in an effort to provide quality education programs to our members. His program on how to relate to jurors, particularly jurors in conservative or small counties, has been insightful and helpful to so many CAOC members. His efforts have greatly assisted our members in developing better trial skills. A special thank you to Mr. Parris for helping make the CAOC educational program truly one of the best.
 

Marvin E. Lewis Award
Gary M. Paul
 
The Marvin E. Lewis award honors guidance, loyalty, and dedication and no person is more deserving than Gary Paul. The official biography will tell you that Mr. Paul is with the Law Firm of Waters & Kraus, where he specializes in toxic torts, product liability and professional negligence. He received his law degree from Loyola University and is the Co-Author of the California Tort Practice Guide. But those of us who know Mr. Paul readily admit that what truly stands out about him is the depth of his commitment to his clients and our causes, his capacity to form deep and lasting friendships, and his quick smile and witty humor. He has received numerous accolades and is a CAOC Past-President who continues guiding others in the profession. Mr. Paul will continue to guide, now as a leader in the American Association for Justice, where he will soon be President. He is a true champion of justice of the civil justice system and inspires us all.
 

Edward I. Pollock Award
Elizabeth J. Cabraser
 
The Edward I. Pollock Award recognizes years of dedication and effectiveness to the causes and ideals of consumer attorneys and we are honored to give this award to Ms. Cabraser. Ms. Cabraser has over 30 years experience representing plaintiffs in mass tort, discrimination, and civil rights litigation. Ms. Cabraser’s cases have helped consumers injured by defective drugs and products such as Vioxx, Fen-Phen, Baycol and Celebrex. She successfully represented smokers and recovered billions of dollars in health care costs for the State and the Attorney General. She has served as court-appointed lead counsel in over 80 federal multidistrict coordinated proceedings and has participated in nine nationwide class actions trials for securities fraud, product liability, mass accident and consumer cases in both state and federal courts. Ms. Cabraser has been repeatedly named as one of the National Law Journal’s “50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America,” and one of its “Top Ten Women Litigators.” California is a safer state because of the efforts of Ms. Cabraser and we are pleased to give her this special award.
 

Street Fighter of the Year
Scott C. Glovsky
Law Offices of Scott C. Glovsky
Smith v. Doe Insurance Company
 
When Janell Smith was admitted to the hospital, she weighed 68 pounds and needed a feeding tube to keep her alive. She was 26 years old. 
 
After three weeks of treatment for severe anorexia, her insurance company pulled the plug on her hospitalization. This was despite her “unlimited” hospital coverage for anorexia and the fact that she was too underweight for outpatient treatment. Five days after her discharge, she committed suicide.
 
Suicide is an all-too-common outcome for those suffering from anorexia, which has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. One in ten anorexics die from their disease and up to 10 million women and girls are afflicted with eating disorders like anorexia.
 
Despite the severity of this epidemic, insurance companies are systematically pressuring hospitals to discharge patients with severe, and often fatal, eating disorders.
 
Janell’s parents courageously told their horror story to others through media outlets like Anderson Cooper 360, The Early Show and People magazine in the hopes they could prevent someone else’s daughter from suffering a similar fate.
 
The settlement of this case will allow Janell’s parents to continue their efforts to fight this deadly disease. The work of attorneys like Scott Glovsky will keep other young women from being victimized by their insurance companies.
 

Consumer Attorney of the Year
Warren R. Paboojian
Baradat, Edwards & Paboojian
Stacy Johnson-Klein v. the Board of Trustees of the California State University
 

Stacy Johnson-Klein was the head women’s basketball coach at Fresno State University. Under her tenure, the Lady Bulldogs had their first winning season in five years; fundraising for the program was up 20%; and, season ticket holders jumped from 66 to 4,000. But when she complained about funding inequities for female athletes, she was fired in retaliation. 
 
Stacy fought back, and with her attorney, wound up winning the largest Title IX verdict in history. 
 
It wasn’t easy. Fresno State undertook a campaign to discredit Stacy – even publishing 380 pages of confidential documents on its website. The defendants claimed to have a paper trail justifying the firing and submitted over 10,000 documents in support. The costs incurred were significant in the contingency case and since the defendant was a governmental agency, there would be no punitive damages available. 
 
The case received unprecedented media coverage – making national news several times. It was on the front page of the local paper 35 times. Fresno’s State Senator, Dean Florez, held hearings on enforcing Title IX. 
 
After a nine week trial, the jury only deliberated four hours and delivered unanimous decisions on nine separate counts – all in favor of the plaintiff. Fresno State was ordered to pay past economic damages, future economic damages, past noneconomic damages and future noneconomic damages. 
 
Since the lawsuit, Fresno State has acknowledged problems with its treatment of women athletes and coaches. Most importantly, the case prompted colleges and universities nationwide to reevaluate their compliance of Title IX.  

Lifetime Achievement Award
Gerry Spence

This award goes to an accomplished attorney who has demonstrated an uncommon dedication to his/her clients and is committed to improving the legal profession through mentorship and consistent leadership.

We are honored to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Gerry Spence, a “country lawyer” who has won the high profile cases that many attorneys would have shied away from.  This recognition of Mr. Spence for “Lifetime Achievement” does not represent a quiet withdraw into retirement – Mr. Spence continues to express his outstanding commitment to the cause of justice by imparting his wisdom to other attorneys through his trial lawyers college.  Gerry Spence has been a true inspiration to all and we thank him.