Foundation for Justice


Foundation for Justice

Awarded to legal service providers who have devoted expertise and time to changing the justice system to promote access and opportunity for those most vulnerable.

Nominations are due March 1st and are to include the individual's name; firm if applicable; address & other contact information; the award for which they are being nominated and contact information of the nominators; a summary of their characteristics, experiences, and service that qualifies them for the award; and support letters from others may be included. The nomination packets should be sent to The Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, ATTN: Kevin S. Ruegg, 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 210, Phoenix, AZ 85016 or email to [email protected]

Awards Acknowledged in conjunction with the Foundation participation in the annual Arizona State Bar Convention.

2020 Awardee


Michele Mirto

Michele has spent over twenty-five years (starting right out of law school) coordinating and expanding the reach and delivery of pro bono legal services.    She was Director at Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program where she devoted her time and expertise to building what is considered one of the best Volunteer Lawyer Programs in the country. 

After 22 years with Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Michele believed there was a need in Pima County for volunteer legal services that were not tied to the restrictions of government funding.  She founded Step Up to Justice to assist more Arizonans with their legal needs by matching them with pro bono help.

SU2J has also expanded its services to include a Housing Outreach Mentoring and Education Program providing legal assistance to families facing discriminatory housing actions and evictions, predatory lending protection, and debt relief. With the James E.  Rogers College of Law, Michele’s organization also offers its Renter Education for Neighborhoods and Tenants workshops places where individuals can benefit from qualified advice on tenant practices.

She is invested in providing quality legal services to the poor and working poor in her community and has devoted her professional life to the development of innovative delivery models.

2019 Awardee


Judith Dworkin

Judy is listed by Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America®, and her leadership of her firm's Indian Law practice has earned "Band 1" status in "Native American Law - Arizona" by London-based Chambers and Partners.

She is admitted to the Navajo Nation Bar and has practiced before the Courts of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, San Carlos Apache Tribe and Navajo Nation.

In 2017, Ms. Dworkin, a board member of DNA People’s Legal Services, devoted countless hours to assisting to a crisis the agency faced.  She chaired DNA’s Compliance Committee, which had been formed to help the agency.  Judy understood that DNA was a crucial component to Arizonan access to justice and thus took ownership of getting the agency out of the crisis.  She met with partners from around the state and even with staff from the Legal Services Corporation.  Her efforts have directly resulted in many lives being made better through DNA.

2018 Awardee


Hon. Robert Gottsfield

Judge Gottsfield served the public as a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge for 35 years and still continues to do so, despite being retired. With a specific interest in ‘access to justice’ issues regarding veterans, he has made initiatives to cater to this populations’ needs. At times certain needs of individuals go unmet, however Judge Robert, post-retirement, has attempted to prevent this by garnering a competent group of lawyers to provide legal services during those instances. In general, he is successful in providing solutions to countless Arizona veterans struggling with legal problems. Through the Andre House, he created a program that assists veterans with legal proceedings as they attempt to get their lives in order. His provision of pro bono services demonstrates his compassion and dedication to the public.

He is a liaison to the State Bar’s Military Legal Assistance Advisory Council and ensure that services are being provided across the board for veterans in legal matters. In 2012, he was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was awarded the James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award. And in 2017, he received the Award of Special merit from the Arizona State Bar Association. His humility, conscientiousness, and dedication are clear in his strong efforts with Andre House and St. Joseph the Worker, as well as his countless years of service.

2017 Awardee


Steve Hirsch

Much of Steve’s contributions were “behind the scenes;” however, his voice and wise, practical counsel often made the critical difference in advancing the cause at issue.  His efforts to advance access to justice - both as past-President of the Bar Foundation and in his capacity as a member of the State Bar Board of Governors - were consistent, unrelenting and positive.  He served as Co-Chair of the Access to Justice Commissions Pro Bono workgroup and despite Steve’s recent illness, he was adamant about staying involved and, in fact, requested that he be reappointed to the Commission.

Steve was a respected and beloved member of the Arizona legal community and community at large precisely for the way he so generously gave of his time and talents. Steve was known to deliver just the right story or quip with just the right tenor and timing. He will be remembered by all who knew him as one who never backed down from a challenge yet always shared his grace and lightheartedness in leading others through challenging times or opportunities with a "can do" spirit.

Past Awardees

Hon. Gerald Strick

Snell & Wilmer, LLP

Anne Ronan

Ellen S. Katz

Gary Restaino

John Bouma

Elvera Anselmo

Mike Valder

Comm. Frederic Dardis

Keith Perkins

Hon. Colin Campbell

Inaugural 2005 award
Justice Scot Bales


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