The ACLU of Southern California is proud to announce that Executive Director Hector Villagra has been chosen Attorney of the Year by the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County.
“The Attorney of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding attorney who has made a significant contribution to the legal community and has enhanced the quality of life for the Latino community,” said Jose Gonzalez, president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County.
Villagra joined the ACLU of Southern California in 2005 and launched its Orange County office. During his tenure at the ACLU/SC, Villagra has built an impressive record in civil rights litigation. His legal work has helped define the city and region on key issues such as workers’ rights, the free exercise of religion, and immigrants’ rights. He won dismissal of a lawsuit aimed at getting rid of the LAPD’s Special Order 40, which prohibits officers from using immigration status to initiate investigations and helps encourage immigrants to cooperate with police in solving crime.
In another high–profile case, Villagra was instrumental in helping protect a Buddhist congregation's First Amendment rights to free religious exercise after the city of Garden Grove denied the Quan Am Temple's request for a building permit. The ACLU/SC filed suit against the city in 2006, and later helped secure an agreement that ultimately allowed the group to build.
“I am humbled by this recognition,” said Villagra. “But I cannot accept this award without acknowledging the people who paved the road that led me to this point in my life. My parents gave me a precious gift. They gave me the opportunity to choose a career, and I wanted my career to honor this gift--by being of service to others, by working to ensure that others could enjoy the opportunities to which they are legally and morally entitled.”
Previous recipients of this award include Federico Sayre, an Orange County leading civil rights/litigation attorney, Robert Cohen, general counsel of the Legal Aid Society, Wylie Aitken, a renowned complex litigation attorney, among others.
Villagra will accept his award on March 3 at Disney’s Grand California Hotel at 7:00 p.m. in Anaheim, California.