The Barristers' Committee of the Santa Clara County Bar Association was thrilled yesterday to present Mariel Block with the 2016 Barrister of the Year Award. Ms. Block's award was presented by the Hon. Carol Overton who spoke of the the contributions Mariel has made to the local legal community. Among the criteria to be selected for Barrister of the Year, the awardee, "must have demonstrated professional skill and judgement significantly beyond that expected for a lawyer with his or his experience level."
Ms. Block graduated from UC Berkeley magna cum laude in 2008 and from University of Michigan Law School in December 2011. She was admitted to the California Bar in June 2012. Throughout her education and career, Ms. Block has shown a strong commitment to public interest law. She has clerked at the ACLU in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, Illinois and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana. From March 2013 to August 2014, she worked as a staff attorney defending low income clients in unlawful detainer proceedings in Sacramento County. In September 2014, Ms. Block was hired as the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program Staff Attorney and has been serving in that role since that time.
Ms. Block is an extremely knowledgeable, tenacious, resourceful, creative and zealous advocate. During the last year and a half, she has devoted tremendous energy and talent to making the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program what it is today. Every Friday, she coordinates the Law Foundation’s eviction clinic, providing support to our 68 volunteer lawyers serving low income tenants in Santa Clara County. She also provides support to pro bono attorneys who take on unlawful detainer cases for ongoing representation and handles her very own case load. The growth of the Program under her lead has been remarkable – in 2014, the clinic provided representation to 295 tenants, 7 of whom received full scope representation. In 2015, the Program provided representation to 373 clients, 60 of whom received ongoing representation throughout the eviction process. Beyond the numbers, Ms. Block’s fierce advocacy and guidance has resulted in some truly amazing outcomes on behalf of low income tenants in our county.
Ms. Block plays a critical part in pro bono work in our county, though she has a supporting role. Since starting as the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Housing Program Staff Attorney, she has trained and provided technical assistance to over 200 volunteers at our weekly housing clinic and provided support to 45 private attorneys who represented low income tenants in UD proceedings on a pro bono basis.
Ms. Block has been active in the Santa Clara County Legal Services Community. She regularly participates with the local Housing Task Force, which meets regularly to discuss and address issues facing low income tenants in our community. As one of the few tenant attorneys in our county, she has also been active in providing comments to the Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force at the State level.