2014 Alumni Award Winners

Jeff JacobsonJeff Jacobson, Class of 1998
Jeff Jacobson is the founding principal of the Jacobson Law Firm where his practice includes employment law, commercial litigation and criminal defense. Jeff began his legal career as a Deputy County Attorney and Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in Tucson. As an AUSA, Jeff was honored as Prosecutor of the Year by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Southern Arizona Chapter and also received the Outstanding Prosecutor award from the United States Border Patrol, Tucson Sector.

Through his career, Jeff has tried more than 50 jury trials and more than 300 bench trials and has briefed and argued appeals before the Ninth, Tenth and Federal Circuits of the United States Courts of Appeals and in Arizona state courts. He has also appeared numerous times on television as a legal analyst.

In response to the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Jeff co-founded the Wills for Heroes Foundation, a non-profit organization providing support and services to first responders. Since then, Wills for Heroes programs in 28 states have provided more than 50,000 estate planning documents for first responders. Jeff has received a number of honors for his leadership of Arizona’s Wills for Heroes program, including the State Bar of Arizona Member of the Year award, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney, and by the Phoenix Fire Department and the United Phoenix Firefighter’s Association for contributing over 100 pro bono hours to Arizona first responders. In 2011, Jeff received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Gold Level) from President Obama’s Council on Service and Civic Participation for his efforts on behalf of America’s first responders.

Melissa TynerMelissa Tyner, Class of 2009
Melissa A. Tyner has devoted herself to issues affecting veterans and people with disabilities. In August of 2009, she founded the first legal clinic in the nation to provide legal aid to homeless female veterans at the Inner City Law Center (ICLC). In this role, Melissa has also expanded ICLC practice to include other areas of law relevant to disabled veterans including discharge upgrades, expungement of minor criminal offenses, ticket clearing, and various other matters.

To date, the ICLC Homeless Veterans Project secured more than $1.3 million in retroactive benefits for veterans. Melissa leads monthly legal clinics for veterans at five area homeless shelters. ICLC has served as a national model for providing veteran services. Melissa has also partnered with medical service providers and homeless shelters to provide legal services and she has reached out to law firms to leverage the talent and resources of attorneys to help secure more benefits for veterans. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, and several other media outlets. She is the recipient of the 2013 California Young Lawyer’s Association’s Jack Berman Award of Achievement.

Maureen van StoneMaureen van Stone, Class of 2005
Maureen van Stone is the Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) and the founding director of Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law). Project HEAL is Maryland’s only comprehensive medical-legal partnership, which provides advocacy and legal services to low-income families and children with disabilities who receive services at KKI. Maureen is also a core director for Kennedy Krieger Institute’s new Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education and is adjunct faculty at Towson University.

Prior to law school, Maureen worked as a clinician in the Neurobehavioral Unit in the Department of Behavioral Psychology at KKI for six years. Maureen is a graduate of the Leadership Maryland Class of 2012 and received the following awards from Maryland’s business and legal newspaper, The Daily Record: 2013 Top 100 Women award, 2012 Leadership in Law award, and 2011 Leading Women award. Maureen earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Southern California and her master’s degree in developmental psychology at The Johns Hopkins University.

Honorable Martha E. BellingerHon. Martha E. Bellinger, Class of 1982
Hon. Martha E. Bellinger served on the Los Angeles Superior Court as both a commissioner and judge for over 20 years. She retired July 31, 2011, as supervising judge of the East District delinquency courts. She also served as an adjunct professor of law at La Verne University College of Law for 18 years. She is currently a noted mediator and arbitrator.

Judge Bellinger is the recipient of numerous community service awards during her time on the bench, and has been a frequent public speaker concerning children and the law. She was an early leader in equal rights for the LGBT community and was given an award for this work by the Gay and Lesbian Bar Association of Los Angeles County. She is a published author of several law review articles as well as a bench guide for delinquency court judges.

Before entering the legal profession, Judge Bellinger served as an ordained parish minister in the United Methodist Church. Her educational background includes a B.A. from Syracuse University, divinity studies at Princeton Theological School of Theology and a Master of Theology degree from Boston University School of Theology. Judge Bellinger has published a book entitled From Robe To Robe, which chronicles her journey from the ordained ministry to Whittier Law School and later onto the Superior Court bench in 1991.

Professor Patricia LearyProfessor Patricia Leary
Professor Leary began her law career in Florida as a judicial clerk, legal writing teacher, and director of a legal policy clinic. She moved to California after receiving a Masters degree in Law from Columbia University and has been teaching at Whittier Law School since 1992.

As a Distinguished Teaching Professor, Professor Leary sees her life’s work as student-centered, both inside and outside of the classroom. She is deeply committed to teaching students to think clearly and critically about law, to helping students to refine the art of legal reasoning and analysis, and to encouraging students to navigate with joy and purpose the life changing experience of law school.

Professor Leary is also actively involved in the life of the campus community. She devotes a great deal of her time to coaching students in appellate advocacy, and serving as faculty advisor to numerous student organizations. In 1999, she helped to found On Common Ground, a student organization that annually produces a series of events designed to raise awareness of multiple social and legal issues including race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Professor Leary has been honored eight times by students as the Whittier Law School “Teacher of the Year.”