The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged Committee has conferred its annual Bernard P. Becker awards for outstanding legal work for low-income clients. The awards were presented to the 2018 honorees at the MSBA Assembly meeting in Minneapolis on April 20, 2018.
Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the MSBA was able to name two recipients of the Legacy of Excellence Award this year.
- Advocate: Ruth Ruch, Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota
- Law Student: Mimi Levin, University of St. Thomas
- Emerging Leader: Anne Applebaum, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
- Legacy of Excellence: Gerald Kaluzny, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services;
Irene Opsahl, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
“The MSBA recognizes the commitment of Minnesota attorneys and staff who work zealously to provide justice for low-income people in our communities,” said MSBA President Sonia Miller-Van Oort. “We are very pleased to honor five people who have demonstrated exemplary service.”
Ruth Ruch, Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota (LSNM)
Ruth has held many positions in her 20 years at LSNM, currently serving as Attorney-Client Coordinator, Executive Assistant and Legal Secretary. “Loved by clients and employees alike, Ruth understands the needs of legal services clients, and the critical staff and organizational support required to make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged,” said LSNM Executive Director Anne Hoefgen.
Mimi Levin, University of St. Thomas
Mimi, now a second-year law student at the University of St. Thomas, worked at the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) as an extern for credit last summer and continues to serve as an active volunteer. Mimi volunteers weekly at a family law clinic, anticipates and solves problems, and takes on additional duties, such as training other volunteers, thus freeing up time for VLN staff.
Anne Applebaum, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM)
Anne has served as ILCM’s Pro Bono Director since 2012, providing trainings and mentorship for ICLM’s volunteer attorneys. Anne has also expanded ILCM’s partnerships with law firms and corporate counsel, expanded the number of volunteer attorneys, created new opportunities for volunteer attorneys in additional areas of immigration law, and responded quickly and effectively to changing demands in law, policy and practice.
Legacy of Excellence
Gerald Kaluzny, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS)
Retiring later this year, Gerry has spent his entire legal career providing direct services to low-income clients and is currently a supervising attorney in the SMRLS metro Housing Law Unit. Gerry maintains a high case load, trains and mentors new lawyers and law students, oversees three of SMRLS’s grants, was instrumental in the formation of the Ramsey County Housing Court, and participates in the Second Judicial District’s Housing Court Work Group.
Irene Opsahl, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA)
Recently retired, Irene spent the majority of her legal career working in legal aid to protect children. She became the supervising attorney of MMLA’s Youth Law Project in 1994, representing abused and neglected children, at-risk youth, and young survivors of human trafficking. While providing legal representation, Irene demonstrated compassion and gave personalized service to children and youth.
Congratulations to the 2018 award winners!