San Francisco associate Camila Tapernoux is the 2022 recipient of Morrison Foerster’s Kathi Pugh Award for Pro Bono Service.
A litigation associate who has been at the firm for eight years, Camila has participated in a wide variety of pro bono matters, consistently volunteering for clinics and full-scope matters on topics including voting rights, civil rights, criminal defense, immigration, domestic violence, and housing.
Camila enjoys embracing the challenges she faces in her pro bono work. Even as a junior associate, she volunteered with only a few days’ notice to defend a tenant’s deposition in an eviction case, and offered to defend a staff member of a veterans’ organization against a frivolous temporary restraining order.
“Pro bono work has always been one of the most meaningful aspects of my career, and I’m so grateful to be at a firm that supports this work so wholeheartedly,” Camila said. “This past year in particular, I was especially heartened by the opportunity to work on a number of reproductive rights matters with colleagues working passionately and tirelessly in that area.”
The range of Camila’s pro bono matters is a testament to her eagerness to offer help wherever it is needed. She has worked with the Prison Law Office to investigate gender discrimination in California prisons, filed for trademarks for nonprofit organizations, assisted the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of an incarcerated individual seeking parole, and represented a family whose son was murdered in prison. In the past year alone, Camila has participated in Legal Aid of Marin’s Community Court program seeking alternative sentences for unhoused individuals who received “quality of life” citations, prepared forms to seek name and gender marker changes for a client referred by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, supervised summer associates in domestic violence legal research for the nonprofit FreeFrom, and advised a client through MoFo’s Black Venture Accelerator program.
Camila was also a key member of a team that represented several unhoused individuals in preparation for a trial that sought to overturn their awards of damages in small claims court due to the City of San Francisco’s destruction of their property. And, in a matter referred by the Equal Rights Advocates Network to End Sexual Violence in Education, Camila is continuing to represent a college student who filed a Title IX complaint of sexual assault by another student. Having assisted the student throughout the investigation, Camila will also represent the student in an upcoming hearing.
The winner of the Kathi Pugh Award directs a $10,000 contribution to a legal services organization of their choice, jointly funded by Morrison Foerster and The Morrison Foerster Foundation. Camila has chosen the firm’s longtime pro bono partner Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland to receive this contribution. Centro Legal is a legal services agency that protects and advances the rights of low-income, immigrant, Black, and Latinx communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. Camila has volunteered at the agency’s immigration clinics, and said she is “humbled to have the opportunity this year to select Centro Legal de la Raza to receive the funds from this award.”
“Centro Legal is deeply appreciative of this generous donation,” said Monique Berlanga, the group’s executive director. “Our Immigrants' Rights clients have benefited greatly from the pro bono support of Morrison Foerster attorneys. By hosting legal clinics, you expand our capacity to serve our community. Through pro bono client representation, you offer asylum seekers the invaluable opportunity to benefit from MoFo's legal expertise. Thank you to Camila for choosing Centro Legal to receive this donation, and thank you to MoFo for your steadfast support of Centro Legal's work.”
This is the ninth annual Kathi Pugh Award. The firm’s prior honorees include Washington, D.C. associate Chris Gloria, New York of counsel Tushna Gamadia, London associate Mercedes Samavi, New York of counsel Adam Hunt, Washington, D.C. partner Natalie Fleming Nolen, San Francisco partner Alfredo Silva, and former MoFo attorneys Christian Andreu-von Euw and Ruth Borenstein.
The Kathi Pugh Award was established by MoFo in 2013, when Kathi Pugh retired after two decades of running the firm’s pro bono program. It recognizes the values, enthusiasm, and compassion that Kathi brought to the pro bono program, and celebrates the remarkable ways that lawyers like Camila proudly carry out Kathi’s pro bono legacy.