A Spiritual and Practical Journey to Help Those In Need: Sergio Diaz
Throughout his life and legal career, Sergio Diaz has devoted his time, skills, and soul to helping those in need. A man moved by social justice concerns, he has found ways to help the developmentally disabled live better lives, help unrepresented litigants be empowered to represent themselves in an intimidating legal system, and tend to the spiritual needs of those in prison at Folsom State Prison. His life is rife with examples of his desire to help others live better lives; however, he is a truly humble man. When told he was going to be the recipient of the Voluntary Legal Services Program’s June Black Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year Award for 2018, he was genuinely surprised. He shouldn’t be.
Diaz has been a longtime volunteer at the Lawyers in the Library program that is a joint project of the Sacramento County Public Law Library and VLSP. Each Monday night, unrepresented litigants are able to get a free 20-minute appointment with an attorney to discuss their legal issues. Diaz has been doing this monthly since 2010. Since his retirement from state service in 2013, he has volunteered twice a month for this project.
Diaz finds his work at the library to be gratifying. His library patrons are people who do not have the means to access the legal system with the assistance of a lawyer. Diaz says that the key to his success is to help the patrons leave the library with something that they can do immediately to improve their situation. He is not always able to provide the legal answers the patrons are hoping for, but they take the news from Diaz very well.
Diaz moved to the Sacramento area at a young age from Los Angeles and, before that, from Mexico. He attended St. Francis grammar school, Christian Brothers High School, and UC Davis. He obtained his JD from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Eleanor, have two adult children, both of whom are nurses. Eleanor and Sergio have one grandchild.
Diaz had a diverse legal career. His longest position was as counsel for the state Department of Developmental Services. This agency provides services and supports to persons with developmental disabilities. The range of legal issues that came up in this position was very broad and included such legal areas as civil rights, employment, criminal, public benefits, probate and conservatorship law—really all areas of life and law that people with developmental disabilities had issues with.
After his retirement in 2013, Diaz enrolled in the Catholic Church’s deacon program. At the end of this five-year program, Diaz was an ordained as a deacon. In this capacity, Diaz has engaged in charitable volunteer work at such places as hospitals, Juvenile Hall and the Youth Authority, and he has tutored children from underprivileged homes. He found his niche, however, with two projects. The first is called “Bridges to Life,” which is a restorative project at Folsom Prison. Prisoners, all of whom have significant (if not life) sentences, do such things as write letters of apology to their victims and to their own families. Diaz also participates in a three-day prison ministry program where the goal is to have the men bring spirituality into their lives. In talking with Sergio about this work, one is impressed with the deep meaning and satisfaction that his participation with this program brings to him.
The staff and patrons at VLSP are grateful to Sergio Diaz for his ongoing commitment to access to justice for the indigent in the Sacramento area and for helping all whom he guides to a better life, and congratulate him on his well-deserved award.
by Vicki Jacobs