JHP Public Service Alumni Award

2022 JHP Award Reception group photo of JHP Fellows with Honoree Ashley Williams

The Public Service Program has the privilege to recognize the outstanding recent graduates of Southwestern Law School who have shown extraordinary commitment and demonstrated leadership in utilizing their professional lives and careers to substantially improve the lives of those in need.

Recognizing and honoring the trailblazers among us is critical in sustaining our commitment to helping underserved communities and causes. Southwestern's Judge Harry Pregerson Public Service Alumni Award honors our alumni whose professional lives and careers reflect the values of the late Harry Pregerson.

The Award’s purpose is to inspire successive generations of students to remain dedicated to the belief that they can make a substantial contribution, even in the early years of their careers.

Candidates are evaluated by a committee named by the Dean with selected honorees recognized at Southwestern’s annual award presentation:

  1. Yeison Soto Valdez '18

    2023 JHP Public Service Alumni Award Honoree

    ​​Yeison Soto-Valdez headshot

    Yeison Soto Valdez is a Staff Attorney at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ), where he represents survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in their immigration matters. Mr. Soto Valdez’ decision to work with the immigrant community stems from his personal experience as an immigrant, after immigrating to the United States when he was 7-years-old.

    Growing up undocumented, Mr. Soto Valdez faced the same barriers that his clients face as undocumented immigrants. After learning that his parents had fallen victim to notario fraud and finding some stability in the United States after he was granted DACA, Mr. Soto Valdez decided to attend law school to help his community. Mr. Soto Valdez graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a B.A. in Political Science. He earned his J.D. from Southwestern Law School with a concentration in Public Interest Law.

    Mr. Soto Valdez was actively involved as a student at Southwestern serving as president of the Immigration Law Students Association, on the Board of the Southwestern Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and co-president of Tax Law Society directing the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site at Southwestern in addition to clerking for various non-profit organizations providing legal services to immigrants and in Southwestern’s Immigration Law Clinic, Community Lawyering Clinic, and Appellate Litigation Clinic. As a student, Mr. Soto Valdez has been recognized by Public Counsel with the Helen and Morgan Chu Public Interest Prize and by Southwestern’s Public Interest Law Faculty Committee with the Woolverton Family Public Interest Award.

    As a staff attorney with LACLJ, Mr. Soto Valdez has represented numerous survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking with affirmative petitions such as: U-Visas, T-Visas, VAWA, adjustment of status, asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status as well as advocating for children and survivors in removal proceedings and in bond hearings. Mr. Soto Valdez is also actively engaged in community outreach to immigrant communities conducting know‐your‐rights presentations to educate immigrants on immigration remedies as well as community awareness on notario fraud.

    Mr. Soto Valdez continues to represent and serve his community as a Board Member for the Legal Aid Association of California and is a member of the Immigration Committee of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

    After more than 20-years of living in the United States, Mr. Soto Valdez became a naturalized citizen and he continues to volunteer on weekends to help lawful permanent residents apply for citizenship.

  2. Ashley D. Williams '17

    2022 JHP Public Service Alumni Award Honoree

    Ashley Williams headshot in circle

    Ashley D. Williams was born a product of rape and raised in the foster care system. She lived in 36 placements, with MacLaren Hall being the first of many, and attended 26 schools by the time she turned eighteen.

    Ashley attended Dorsey High School, where she was enrolled in the Law Magnet Program. While at Dorsey, she participated in the Los Angeles County Superior Court (LASC) Teen Court Diversion program, UCLA Street Law, and Young Lawyers. Upon graduating, she was honored with the dedication of the “Ashley Williams Computer Center” at Dorsey High School.

    Ashley went on to attend UCLA, where she co-founded the Bruin Guardian Scholars Program, which assists former foster youth in navigating the university system. She was a UCLA Law Fellow, McNair Scholar, Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar, and a Justice Corps Graduate Fellow.

    She then attended Southwestern Law School, where she returned to the LASC Teen Court Diversion Program as a mentor, participated in the Associate for Corporate Counsel Diversity Pipeline Program, the Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles Mentorship Program, and Southwestern’s Children’s Rights and Street Law Clinics, continuing her community activism and leadership work while honing her legal skills.

    Following law school studies, Ashley served as a judicial extern with Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then as a Congressional Intern for U.S. Representative Karen Bass. Guided by her experiences in foster care, Ashley drafted a policy report presented at a congressional briefing titled, “Fostering a Culture of Silence: The Need to Improve Reporting of Sexual Abuse in Foster Care.”

    In April 2019, Ashley’s mother’s decades-long struggle with addiction ended her mother’s life. Since May 2019, she has worked at Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers, Inc., representing parents like her own mother, many of whose children are in foster care. She has gained experience all over the courthouse, guided by her unique perspectives and insights into the child welfare system as well as her professional experiences and achievements. Ashley is currently assigned to the Dedicated to Restoration through Empowerment and Advocacy (DREAM) Court, a specialized courtroom serving children and youth who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

    Ashley’s commitment to public service and advocacy has been recognized with a multitude of awards from Sidley Austin LLP, Southwestern Law’s Public Interest Law Faculty Committee, California Change Lawyers, the Langston Bar Association, the Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles Foundation, the Los Angeles County Public Service Distinction Award, the Hon. Justice Vaino Hassan Spencer Scholarship, the Justice Arleigh Woods Scholarship, and many more.  In 2022, Ashley was awarded a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition of Outstanding and Invaluable Service and nominated for the 2022 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's Angel of the Year by U.S. Representative Karen Bass due to Ashley’s extensive record of child welfare advocacy. Recently, Ashley was named as Outstanding New Lawyer by the National Association of Counsel for Children and selected to present as a Faculty Member at the National Child Welfare Law Conference.

    Ashley considers herself a successful product of the dependency system and aims to one-day sit as a judge serving in the courts of juvenile dependency and delinquency law.

  3.  Andres Holguin-Flores '15

    Inaugural JHP Public Service Alumni Award Honoree

    AAndrés Holguin-Flores headshot in circlendrés Holguin-Flores is a staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), where he leads national class action suits challenging employment discrimination and civil rights violations of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, and Latinos.

    Mr. Holguin-Flores graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with dual undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Chicana and Chicano Studies. He earned his J.D. at Southwestern Law School.  As a law student, he was active in leadership positions on campus, including Southwestern’s Public Interest Law Committee, and his law clerk experiences included clerking for the Immigration Law Clinic at Southwestern, serving as a judicial extern to the Honorable Terry J. Hatter, Jr. of the U.S. Central District Court for the District of California, and externships with Inner City Law Center, MALDEF, and the ACLU of Southern California. 

    Upon law school graduation, Mr. Holguin-Flores clerked for the Honorable Terry J. Hatter, Jr. and the Honorable Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  After completing his postgraduate clerkships, Mr. Holguin-Flores went on to begin his work in impact litigation and immigrant rights policy advocacy with MALDEF handling all phases of civil rights litigation, including investigation, discovery, depositions, settlement, and appeals in the representation of individuals throughout the United States.

  4. Karina Godoy '15

    Inaugural JHP Public Service Alumni Award Honoree

    Karina Godoy '15 headshot in circleProfessor Godoy is an associate attorney at JML Law, where her practice focuses on representing employees in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, wage and hour, whistleblowing, wrongful termination, labor disputes, and personal injury cases. Professor Godoy handles all phases of litigation, including vetting clients, discovery, depositions, mediation, trials, and pre and post-trial motions. Professor Godoy has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer - Rising Star” by the publishers of Los Angeles Magazine for 2019 and 2020.

    Professor Godoy graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in History, a B.A. in Political Science, and a minor in Sociology from the University of Southern California, completing her honors thesis for both of her B.A. degrees. She earned her J.D. from Southwestern Law School. While in law school, she was active on campus and served as an editor for the Journal of International Media & Entertainment Law, received recognition for her commitment to academic excellence graduating in the top 10% of her class, and was recognized on the Dean’s List, and received Witkin Award for Labor Law. She volunteered over 500 hours of pro bono work at various legal non-profits and received the Dean’s Merit Scholarship, the ABTL Public Service award, the Wildman/Schumacher Scholarship, and many other accolades for her achievements. Her externship experience includes taking part in Southwestern Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic, serving as a judicial extern for the Honorable Terry J. Hatter, Jr., as well as externships with EEOC and Bet Tzedek’s Wage and Hour Clinic.

    After completing her law degree, Professor Godoy served as an ABOTA Fellow, working at a defense firm prior to focusing her practice on representing employees through all stages of litigation. Professor Godoy continues to be an active volunteer with Bet Tzedek’s Workers’ Rights Clinic, as well as taking on other pro bono cases. Professor Godoy is also involved in several legal organizations and serves as the Vice-Chair for the Workers Outreach Committee and the Treasurer for the Whittier Bar Association.