E-communication from the Hispanic National Bar Association
2016 HNBA National Awards Recipients

August 2, 2016

Washington, D.C. – The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) is proud to announce its list of honorees for the HNBA National Annual Awards to be presented during its 41st Annual Convention at the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile Hotel in Chicago, Illinois from September 7-10, 2016.
The Annual Convention is the HNBA's signature annual event with a portfolio of programs, activities, and events for professional and career development, as well as opportunities for community service.  This year's convention promises to be the largest gathering of Latino lawyers, judges, law students, and legal professionals from throughout the United States.  We thank our local affiliate, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, for its participation in the planning of this convention.
“The theme of this year’s Annual Convention is ‘Empowering Leaders,’ and we are proud to recognize the accomplishments of an extraordinary group of Latino leaders, who work tirelessly to better our communities and profession,” said Robert T. Maldonado, HNBA National President.  “We honor those who serve as exemplary role models to us all.  We thank you all for your dedication and service.  The world is a better place because of you.  The leadership you exhibit empowers each of us to be better leaders.”

The awards will be distributed during the HNBA National Awards Reception on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at the Chicago Cultural Center.


The 2016 HNBA National Award Recipients are:
HNBA "Lifetime Achievement" Award

Henry Solano, Partner, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dickler LLP 
Denver, CO

Henry Solano is a Partner with Wilson Elser specializing in complex commercial, employment-labor litigation, and white collar defense.  During four decades, from Colorado’s sugar beet fields to our highest court and returning in 2017 to Colorado’s two poorest counties as District Attorney, Henry has advocated for justice in the Hispanic and broader communities.  He has moved from poverty lawyer for migrant workers to obtaining punitive damages for undocumented immigrants against a vigilante rancher to representing 14 Latin American countries challenging Arizona's anti-immigrant laws, where the US Supreme Court cited his amici brief in its opinion. Henry has served as an Assistant Colorado Attorney General, Colorado’s United States Attorney during the Oklahoma City Bombing trial in Denver, the U.S. Department of Labor Solicitor, MALDEF’s President & General Counsel, Executive Director of the Colorado Departments of Corrections, Institutions and Regulatory Agencies, Acting Secretary of Labor, and as a faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  He is Vice Chair of the Southern Poverty Law Center and former Board Member of the National Hispanic Leadership Institute and the National Latino Children’s Institute.

HNBA "Latina Judge of the Year" Award

Hon. Esther Salas
U.S. District Court Judge, District of New Jersey
Newark, NJ

The Honorable Esther Salas, U.S.D.J., was appointed by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as the first Latina to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey as Magistrate Judge for the United States District of the District of New Jersey in November 2006 and as United States District Judge in June 2011.

Judge Salas is a proud 1994 graduate of the Minority Student Program of Rutgers Law School, Newark and a 1991 graduate of the Educational Opportunity Fund Program from Rutgers College, New Brunswick.  During law school, Judge Salas was Vice-President of the Association of Latin American Students and a Minority Student Program Representative.  After receiving her Juris Doctorate, Judge Salas served as a law clerk to the Hon. Eugene J. Codey, Jr. of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County; an Associate at Garces & Grabler, P.C.; and almost ten years as an Assistant Federal Public Defender.   She served as former president of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and the Hispanic Bar Foundation of New Jersey; the Governor’s Hispanic Advisory Council for Policy Development, the New Jersey Supreme Court Committees on Minority Concerns and Women in the Court, the Committee on Pro Se Litigation for the District of New Jersey.  Since the inception of the HBA-NJ American Dream Pipeline Program in 2013, Judge Salas has opened the doors to her chambers to allow high school students to meet her and engage in dialogue and have an opportunity to witness firsthand how justice is served in federal court.  Judge Salas’ commitment has been recognized by Rutgers Law School Distinguished Alumna Award, Seton Hall University School of Law, Women’s Law Forum, Woman of Substance Award, Tri-County Scholarship Fund Honor of Service, the New Jersey Women Lawyers' Association, Women’s Initiative and Leaders in the Law Award, and the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, Hispanic Heritage Award.

HNBA "Latino Judge of the Year" Award

Hon. Rubén Castillo, Chief District Judge, Northern District of Illinois
Chicago, IL

Chief Judge Rubén Castillo received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Loyola University, Chicago in 1976 and his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1979.  He was born in Chicago and was the first member of his family to graduate from college. Upon graduating from Northwestern, Chief Judge Castillo joined Jenner & Block LLP as an associate attorney, becoming the first Hispanic lawyer at the firm.  He worked at Jenner & Block for five years, litigating both civil and criminal matters before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois in 1984.  As a prosecutor, he received numerous awards including the Department of Justice Special Achievement Award and special commendations for exemplary work from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United States Customs Service.
In 1988, Chief Judge Castillo left the U.S. Attorney's Office to become the director and regional counsel for the Chicago office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).   In 1991, he returned to private practice as a partner at the Chicago law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  On January 27, 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated him to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois as an Article III federal judge.  In 1999, his many years of experience with the criminal justice system were called upon when he was appointed by President Clinton to be the vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.  Chief Judge Castillo was the first Hispanic judge appointed to the Sentencing Commission since its creation in 1985.  In 2004, President George W. Bush reappointed him to a final term on the Sentencing Commission, which ended in 2010.  In 2012, his fellow judges in the Seventh Circuit designated him to serve as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States Courts, the policy-making body of the federal court system.  Chief Judge Castillo has taught trial advocacy at Northwestern University Law School for more than 20 years, and has received four teaching awards from Northwestern, including the 2012 award as Outstanding Adjunct Professor.
HNBA "Latina Attorney of the Year" Award

Camelia M. Valdes, Prosecutor, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office
Paterson, NJ

Camelia M. Valdes is the Passaic County Prosecutor.  When Ms. Valdes was appointed on May 16, 2009 by Governor Jon S. Corzine, reappointed on June 15, 2015 by Governor Chris Christie, and confirmed by the New Jersey State Legislature, she became the first Latina county prosecutor in the State of New Jersey, the first woman prosecutor in Passaic County, and the first lead prosecutor of Dominican ancestry in the United States.  As the chief law enforcement official in Passaic County, Ms. Valdes is responsible for the management of approximately 185 assistant prosecutors, detectives, victim advocates and support staff, a $19.2 million office budget, and the oversight of 16 municipal police departments, the police departments of William Paterson and Montclair State Universities, and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department.

Ms. Valdes is a career prosecutor.  She served as a Municipal Prosecutor in the City of Newark, a Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.  Her experience has ranged from investigating and prosecuting municipal offenses to complex federal crimes that included human trafficking, health care fraud, financial offenses, and violent crimes.  Ms. Valdes is extensively involved in bar associations and community service work.  Born to Dominican parents in the Bronx and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Ms. Valdes is a product of the Newark Public Schools.  She received her undergraduate degree in sociology from Seton Hall University in 1993, her law degree from Rutgers Law School-Newark in 1996, and her LL.M. in Trial Advocacy from Temple University in May 2001.  As the proud mother of two beautiful autistic girls, Isabela and Elsa, ages 11 and 9, Ms. Valdes endeavors to raise awareness about autism and special needs education. 

HNBA "Latino Attorney of the Year" Award

Frank F. Martinez, Vice President, Legal Affairs, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Inc.
New York, NY

Frank F. Martinez is the Vice President of Legal Affairs at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Inc. serving as U.S. employment law counsel for the LVMH Group.  He has also served as V.P., Legal & Business Affairs at BMG Music, Interim V.P. and AGC at L’Oréal USA and interim counsel at MetLife and Pitney Bowes.  Prior to joining LVMH, Frank maintained a solo employment law practice in New York representing individuals and management. Originally from West Covina, California, Frank graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1995 and holds a B.M. and M.M. in Voice Performance from Indiana University, Bloomington and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Frank began law practice in San Francisco at Littler Mendelson and was also an associate at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati in Silicon Valley and at Proskauer Rose in New York.  Frank served on the Board of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York from 2012 to 2014 and is a past member of the LGBT Rights and Labor and Employment Committees of New York City Bar Association.  He is a member of both the New York and California bars.
HNBA "Regional President of the Year" Award

Maria C. Dantes Sanchez, Regional General Attorney at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
Miami, FL

Maria C. Dantes Sanchez is the Regional General Attorney at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company where she oversees the Field Legal operation for the Southern Midwest Region.  She has been with Liberty Mutual for over thirty years and has extensive experience involving insurance defense litigation and law office management.  Prior to joining Liberty Mutual, she worked for the Department of Justice as an Assistant General Attorney.  Ms. Dantes Sanchez received her Juris Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University School of Law, where she served on the Law Review.  She received her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida International University.
Ms. Dantes Sanchez served as Region VIII’s HNBA President for 2015-2016, and she is the incoming HNBA Vice President of Regions and Affiliates.  She is the founder of the HNBA South Florida Mentoring Program, established in 2005, and the recipient of several awards for her dedication and support of Hispanic Law Students.

HNBA "Pro Bono Attorney of the Year" Award

Osvaldo Garcia, Associate, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
New York, NY

Osvaldo Garcia, an associate in the Private Client Group at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, is the founder and current Director of the Cadwalader Black and Latino Association Immigration Clinic.  Osvaldo launched the clinic in 2015, turning it into a successful and crucial source of assistance both for attorneys and pro bono clients.  The Immigration Clinic serves as an internal support network meant to increase attorney awareness, knowledge, and engagement of immigration matters. Osvaldo’s passion for pro bono work and immigration law in particular is shaped by his own experiences as a Cuban immigrant.  In addition to his clinic work, he serves as counsel for a young Salvadorian immigrant applying for Special Juvenile Immigration Status.  Osvaldo received his B.A. from Florida International University, and his J.D. from Cornell Law School.

HNBA "Corporate Partner of the Year" Award

MassMutual Financial Group
Springfield, MA

Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policy owners.  The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policy owners consistently since the 1860s.  With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities.  In addition, the company’s strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.

Thanks to the remarkable support of the MassMutual Financial Group and its members, the HNBA, through the HNBA/MassMutual strategic partnership, launched the Su Negocio program, which is aimed to empower Latino small business owners through motivation, education, access, and networking.  The program includes prominent keynote speakers, informational tracks for both startups and established businesses, and networking receptions.  In addition to the HNBA and MassMutual leadership, the program features representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE.  The Su Negocio Program is a great example of what MassMutual is doing to make a difference and to help Latinos succeed.  The MassMutual team has tirelessly worked to help the Association fulfill its commitment to serve not only Latino legal professionals but the whole Latino community, through legal, financial, and educational literacy initiatives.

HNBA "Affiliate of the Year" Award

Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey
Newark, NJ

Founded in 1980, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (HBA-NJ) represents the interests of Hispanic attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students within the New Jersey legal community.  Dedicated to the professional development of its membership and to serving the Hispanic community at large, the HBA-NJ had a dynamic year in 2016, replete with vibrant initiatives and programming.  The HBA-NJ awarded $65,000 in scholarships to 13 Latino students.  It had a robust CLE program, including the 15th Annual Sun, Surf & Seminars Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The HBA-NJ also boasts an active mentorship program, pairing individual attorneys with Latino law students and mentoring high school students through the HBA-NJ Pipeline Program.  Further, the HBA-NJ offers community education initiatives throughout the year in an effort to educate the Latino community about their legal rights.  Finally, the HBA-NJ has a dynamic Young Lawyers Committee that operates a Summer of Service Program where attorneys engage in community service in various statewide Latino communities. 

HNBA "Law Student Organization of the Year" Award

The Chicano/Latino Law Students Association, Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

The Chicano/Latino Law Students' Association (CLLSA) of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is a robust student organization formed in 1985.  The goal of CLLSA is to promote and encourage the education of the Latino law student, and to inform the legal community of the unique needs of the Latino community.  To this end, CLLSA partners with many community organizations, such as the Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association, to provide its members with career perspectives, mentorship opportunities, law firm visits, and other tools for law school success. CLLSA’s signature event, the Fajita Cook-off, brings together hundreds of attorneys, law students, and community partners every year to fund raise money for its traditional book scholarships.  This year, CLLSA hosted the 30th Annual Fajita Cook-off and was able to gift over $3,500 in the form of book scholarships to its members. 


About the Hispanic National Bar Association
The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) is an incorporated, not-for-profit, national membership association that represents the interests of Hispanic attorneys, judges, law professors, legal assistants, law students, and legal professionals in the United States and its territories.  Since 1972, the HNBA has acted as a force for positive change within the legal profession by creating opportunities for Hispanic lawyers and by helping generations of lawyers to succeed.  The HNBA has also effectively advocated on issues of importance to the national Hispanic community.  While we are proud of our accomplishments, we are mindful that our mission is as vital today as it was four decades ago, especially as the U.S. Hispanic population continues to grow.  For more information, please visit
Copyright © 2016 Hispanic National Bar Association, All rights reserved.