Lillian Johnson Award

Lillian O. Johnson Career Achievement Award

The Lillian Johnson Career Achievement Award is a non-annual award presented to advocates who have spent a significant portion of their career dedicated to access to justice.  The Award recognizes the rare advocates who have impacted not only individual clients in need, but also the system of justice.

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.

Submit Nomination
Learn more about the luncheon where our awardees will be recongized!

2023 Awardee


Patricia Gerrich

Patricia (Pat) Gerrich was the Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Program for 24 years before retiring this year, where she assisted numerous clients, mentored many attorneys and staff and initiated many innovative pro bono programs. 

Before she became Director of VLP, Pat was Executive Director of The Arc of Arizona for 7 years and did legislative advocacy work on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and supported 24 local organizations advocating for people with disabilities and their families. Prior to that, Pat was staff attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and advocated for children and adults with developmental disabilities, people with mental health issues, vulnerable adults living in boarding homes, and homeless people.  

Pat was honored in 1999 as the Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year by the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals and in 2001 as one of the 100 Women and Minority Lawyers in Arizona. In 2002, she received the Legal Access Award of the Arizona Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. In 2006, Pat received the State Bar of Arizona Sharon A. Fullmer Legal Aid Attorney of the Year Award. In 2010, she received the first Justice for All Award from the Sandra Day OConnor College of Law at Arizona State University. In 2013, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Maricopa County Bar Association. She also was honored in 2013 by the William E. Morris Institute for Justice for her dedication and service on behalf of low income Arizonans and persons with disabilities.

Her impact on the Arizona community is immeasurable. 


Inaugural Awardee


Ellen S. Katz

Since 1980, when Ellen Katz received her law degree from Washington University, she has devoted her expertise and time to changing the justice system to promote access and opportunity for those most vulnerable. Since moving to Arizona she has worked with a broad spectrum of legal advocacy organizations, including Southern Arizona Legal Aid, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Civil Rights Division at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. She has now devoted over nine years to public advocacy with the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, where she remains a resource for other legal aid providers as well as an impact litigator in her own right.

Through Ellen’s advocacy the system for those most vulnerable has advanced in numerous areas. Ellen’s representation of the poverty population is extensive. In addition to her focus of ensuring our judicial system is always aware of the needs of those who cannot afford representation, Ellen’s representation of the public strengthens the justice system by giving large number of people access through her advocacy on their behalf.



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