Sunday, March 12, 2017

Human Rights Lawyer Paul Hoffman To Be Honored


Prof. Francisco Rivera contributes this piece.

Paul Hoffman, one of the leading human rights lawyers in the United States who has successfully litigated to hold human rights violators accountable, to reduce unlawful police or government surveillance, and to protect freedom of expression, is the 2017 recipient of the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara Law.

The award will be presented at a ceremony on March 20th at Santa Clara University’s Adobe Lodge, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, California. 

Paul Hoffman has been involved in many of the most important cases brought under the Alien Tort Image1Statute (“ATS”), including the cases brought against Ferdinand Marcos and against corporate defendants including Exxon, Chevron, IBM, Ford, and many others. He argued the Sosa v Alvarzez-Machain and Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has argued ATS cases in the D.C., Second, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits and in many District Courts.

From 1984 to 1994, Paul was the Legal Direction of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. He was lead counsel in Coalition Against Police Abuse v. Board of Police Commissioners, which challenged unlawful surveillance of community activists by the Los Angeles Police Department, and in Wilkinson v. FBI (a challenge to the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation against the National Committee to Abolish HUAC). In 1984, he received the Clarence Darrow Award for outstanding First Amendment advocacy for my work in the police spying cases.

Since 1994, he has been in private practice, and since 1999 he has been a partner in Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP. His practice focuses on constitutional and civil rights litigation, including First Amendment, discrimination and privacy litigation, civil and criminal appeals anad international human rights litigtion. He has been named one of the 100 most influential attorneys in California by the Daily Journal.

Paul was an Associate Professor at Southwestern University School of Law Los Angeles, California from August 1981 to July 1984, where he was also the Co-Director (with Stanley Fleishman) of a clinical program on the rights of the disabled and elderly. He is currently the Director of the International Human Rights Litigation Clinic at UC Irvine School of Law where he also teaches in the Civil Rights Litigation and Appellate Litigation Clinics. In the past, he has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, USC Law School, Loyola Law School, and Southwestern University School of Law.

He has long been active in Amnesty International, including serving as the Chair of Amnesty International-USA’s Board twice and serving as the Chair of AI’s International Executive Committee from 2002-2004. He is also the co-founder of the Center for Justice and Accountability.

He is the author of numerous articles on civil and human rights subjects and is the co-author of an International Human Rights casebook. He has appeared at dozens of conferences on civil and human rights topics over the years.

He is a 1976 graduate of New York University School of Law and received a M.S. degree in 1973 from The London School of Economics and Political Science. He received his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1972.

The Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize, an annual award and monetary prize presented by Santa Clara Law, recognizes a member of the legal community who has used his or her skills, knowledge, and abilities to correct an injustice in a significant manner. The hope of the donors is that the Prize will not only give the public a higher regard for the legal profession but will also be an inspiration within the legal profession and a recognition of the good work of so many. Selection criteria include the innovative nature and sustainability of the programs the individual has implemented, the courage and self-sacrifice required, the number of people benefited, and any other indications that the recipient is committed in both heart and mind to alleviating injustice and inequity. For more information on present and past winners, or to nominate someone for a future prize, see here.


  • 2016: Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
  • 2015: Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.
  • 2014: Hossam Bahgat, founder and former executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
  • 2013: Chen Guangcheng, Chinese civil rights lawyer and activist who fought for women’s rights in rural China.
  • 2012: Almudena Bernabeu, attorney with The Center for Justice & Accountability, a nonprofit human rights law firm based in San Francisco.
  • 2011: Paul Van Zyl, former executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co-founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and CEO of PeaceVentures.
  • 2010: Shadi Sadr, Iranian lawyer who launched the “End Stoning Forever” campaign as well as a legal center for women called Raahi.
  • 2009: Mario Joseph, human rights lawyer in Haiti and managing attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.
  • 2008: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama.

If you are interested in attending, you may register here.

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