In observance of Latinx Heritage Month, UW Law Library celebrates the accomplishments of members of the Latinx community in the legal profession.
Ayuda Legal Huracán María (Legal Aid Hurricane Maria)
Formed following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, ALHM was organized as a free legal service initiative that provided accessible legal support to low-income communities impacted by the natural disaster. The initiative, among other things, deployed legal brigades and drafted a disaster manual for attorneys. ALHM’s larger parent organization, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, continues on today, with Ariadna Godreau-Aubert as executive director. They continue to promote legal empowerment through support and education, including in the face of COVID-19.
Gidget Gabriela Benitez
Legislative Assistant, U.S. House of Representatives
A 2016 graduate of Washington College of Law at American University, Gidget Gabriela Benitez serves as a Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a legislative assistant, she has developed and advanced three legislative proposals, analyzed legislation, and communicated with constituents in the areas of health care, housing, transportation, education, and labor. Previously, she was a Law Graduate Fellow of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where she clerked in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and served as a legislative assistant in the office of Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Rebecca Cameron Valcq
Commissioner and Chairperson, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
A graduate of Drake University and Marquette University Law School, Rebecca Cameron Valcq was appointed in 2019 to serve a six year term as Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, and a two year term as Chair. Prior to her appointment to the PSC, Cameron Valcq’s legal practice focused on regulatory and energy law, including 14 years as in-house regulatory counsel at We Energies and one year as partner at Quarles & Brady, LLP.
Judge, City of Milwaukee Municipal Court
Phil Chavez earned both his B.A. and J.D. at University of Wisconsin, and was a member of the 1994 Rose Bowl-winning Badger football team. He is currently serving his third term as judge on the Milwaukee Municipal Court, and served as presiding judge from 2012 to 2017. Previously, he was elected municipal judge in the village of Mt. Horeb for two terms. Through his involvement in Stand Down Madison, he provides community court for homeless and indigent veterans. He also volunteers as a high school football coach and has sat on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics-Wisconsin for more than 9 years.
Reynaldo Guerra Garza
Federal Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Reynaldo Guerra Garza was nominated to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas by President Kennedy in 1961. His 1972 decision in Medrano v. Allee struck down laws used by Texas Rangers to break up United Farm Workers strikes. He declined President Carter’s 1976 offer to be nominated as Attorney General, preferring to remain part of the federal judiciary in South Texas. In 1979, President Carter nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Garza’s father inspired his deep belief in the importance of education. He served on his local school board and multiple statewide education committees in Texas, and has several elementary schools named for him.
Managing Attorney, Community Immigration Law Center
As Managing Attorney at the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC), Aissa Olivarez focuses on deportation defense, representing detained non-citizens facing removal proceedings. A 2016 graduate of University of Wisconsin Law School, Olivarez participated in the Immigrant Justice Clinic and the Defenders Project during her time in law school. She was also active in the Student Bar Association and served as president of the Latinx Law Student Association. Before beginning her work with CILC, she worked at the Pro Bono Asylum Representation Children’s Project (ProBAR), representing unaccompanied minor children placed in removal proceedings.
Manuel Ruiz, Jr.
Attorney and Social Activist
Manuel Ruiz, Jr. was born in Los Angeles to parents who had immigrated from Mexico. A 1930 graduate of USC Gould School of Law, he opened his own law practice after white law firms refused to hire him. In Buck v. California, he represented taxicab drivers before the United States Supreme Court in 1952. Throughout his career, he was active in organizations working on poverty, education, political action, legal aid, and cross-cultural understanding, and was appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1970. In addition to authoring many articles and speeches, he wrote a book, Mexican American Legal Heritage in the Southwest.
María Asunción Sandoval de Zarco
Attorney and Women’s Advocate
María Asunción Sandoval de Zarco was the first woman to practice law in Mexico, earning her law degree from the Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia in 1898. Her thesis concerned constitutional law and individual rights. In her first case, she successfully defended a woman accused of homicide. In 1904, she became a managing director of La Mujer Mexicana, a monthly feminist scientific and literary magazine. In the same year she became a founding member of the Sociedad Protectora de la Mujer (Society for the Protection of Women), which was dedicated to “the physical, intellectual and moral improvement of women, the cultivation of science, fine arts and industry, and mutual assistance of the members of the society.”
Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States
Born in New York, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 2009. She graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School. As a U.S. District Court judge, her ruling in Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee, Inc. ended the 1994 Major League Baseball strike. As a Supreme Court Justice, she ruled in the majority for Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all states, and in cases which upheld the Affordable Care Act. She dissented from the majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld the rights of corporations in campaign finance.