This month, BayLegal’s Bob Capistrano has been honored with the LAAC (Legal Aid Association of California) 2019 Award of Merit for Outstanding Legal Services Attorney. The award honors those who have demonstrated commitment to the delivery of legal services to the poor, litigated cases that had a significant impact on legal services clients, and worked to increase client access to legal services.
Bob has dedicated his entire career – spanning more than 40 years – to providing legal services to improve the lives of low income people. His commitment to delivering high quality legal services is evident in everything he does, and his excellent advocacy skills have resulted in profound benefits to individuals and entire communities; vindicating the rights of tens of thousands of under-represented people.
Bob has litigated cases – and supervised litigation — in all of Bay Area Legal Aid’s practice areas. His wide-ranging expertise has been an asset to the entire the legal services community, and he has written extensively on topics of particular concern to poverty lawyers. To name just a few articles, in 2010, the Clearinghouse Review published, Making the Fair Hearing More Fair, 44 Clearinghouse Review 96 (July–Aug. 2010), an article that focused on the minimal requirements for a fair hearing under state and federal due process. See also, Enforcing Federal Rights: The Law of Section 1983 (Part 1) (Sept.-Oct. 1999); Enforcing Federal Rights: The Law of Section 1983 (Part 2) (Nov.-Dec. 1999); and Using Section 1983 to Raise Constitutional Claims in Garden-Variety Cases (March – April, 2005). Bob also authored and periodically updated the sections of the Federal Practice Manual on litigating using 42 USC § 1983.
Additionally, Bob has devoted significant time and energy to building the capacity of the next generation of legal services lawyers. Bob has been on the faculty for the Affirmative Litigation Training sponsored by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. He is a regular presenter at the Practicing Law Institute’s trainings on “Effective Written Advocacy” and has co-authored the materials for that training. Bob has also conducted numerous trainings for BayLegal attorneys, and other legal aid and pro bono advocates on such topics as: writ petitions, procedural due process, the law of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, access to federal courts in general, and various aspects of legal ethics. Currently, Bob is delivering an ongoing multi-part litigation series covering all aspects of civil litigation from inception of the case through writs and appeals, and drafted a 145 page manual for the series.
Bob graduated from UC Hastings College of Law in 1976. Immediately thereafter, in January 1977, he began working at the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation. He worked at SFNLAF until it merged with sister agencies to become Bay Area Legal Aid, and he has remained at BayLegal ever since – as a staff attorney, a Director of Advocacy and Training, a Managing attorney, and a Senior Litigation Counsel.
Finally, Bob is a person of exemplary character. His dedication to low income clients and communities is grounded in deeply held values of equality and justice that are palpable in his every interaction. Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of – and keen interest in – poverty law make him the “go to” person for any question an advocate might have about almost any legal services matter. We’ve never known Bob to turn down a request for assistance; even with requests made at the last minute, late at night, or over the weekend, Bob always jumps in with a response and helpful information. He is kind and positive. He is extremely respectful, and always thoughtful. And on top of that, Bob is a lot of fun – he enjoys a good laugh, and is a warm addition to any gathering.
Bob’s character and life work has immeasurably enriched the lives of low income Californians, and the broader legal services community. We are delighted that his outstanding career has been duly recognized with this award.