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Justice Maria Rivera Named Alum of the Year

December 10, 2010

California Court of Appeal Justice Maria P. Rivera ’74 was named the 2010 USF School of Law Alumna of the Year on Dec. 1 during the law school’s annual Holiday Luncheon.

Justice Maria Rivera '74

“When I first told Maria that she was our choice to be alumnus of the year, she reacted with surprise and modesty,” Dean Jeffrey Brand told the nearly 200 people who gathered in the Crown Room of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel to honor Rivera. “She was grateful and honored, but she also told me not to forget that she was one of many and that surely there were others more deserving. These reactions are emblematic of Maria Rivera—a great justice who works tirelessly for the common good which she would far prefer to celebrate than any individual honor she might achieve.”

Rivera was appointed to California’s First District Court of Appeal, Division Four in 2002. Prior to her appointment she served in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County, where she was elected to the bench in 1996. She has also been active in judicial education programs in the areas of civil, appellate, and family law.

Rivera began her legal career at Morrison & Foerster in the litigation department. She then served as a deputy district attorney and an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco before joining Van Voorhis & Skaggs, which later merged with Bingham McCutchen. Rivera was a partner and of counsel with McCutchen until 1996.

Justice Maria Rivera '74 (right) is presented the Alumna of the Year Award by Dean Jeffrey Brand (left) and Denise Trani-Morris '86 (center).

Rivera was born and raised in Visalia, in the Central Valley. She received a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in 1970 from Smith College in Massachusetts, and a Juris Doctorate magna cum laude in 1974 from USF.

In accepting the award, Rivera began by thanking her law school study group (“I could never have stayed sane without you,” she said) as well as her fellow justices, her staff, her family, and the law school.

“USF has done far more for me than I could ever do for USF,” she said. “I could never have excelled at other law schools where I might have been eligible because those law schools did not value developing and nurturing a student community and they did not value collaboration over competition as USF does.”

“Secondly I’m proud to say that USF awarded to me a minority scholarship. Without that scholarship could never have gone to law school. I would never have discovered my love for the law and I would never have become a judge. There are still people who suggest that diversity in the legal profession isn’t really that important. Fortunately USF…think(s) otherwise.”

Justice Martkin Jenkins '80 (left) and Justice Maria Rivera '74 (right)

Rivera’s colleague and fellow USF School of Law graduate and California Court of Appeal Justice Martin Jenkins ’80 toasted Rivera, calling her the epitome of a USF School of Law graduate.

“Jesuit education is one that stands for academic excellence and service to the community and as you’ve heard today, everything that Maria does manifests those values and those character traits,” he said. “I am privileged to call you a friend and a colleague.”

The Holiday Luncheon was sponsored by Miller Sabino & Lee, Inc. Legal Placement Services; Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery; The Arns Law Firm; Hanson Bridgett, LLP; Kaye Moser Hierbaum, LLP; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; Liuzzi, Murphy & Solomon, LLP; and Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, LLP.