This year at the Delaware State Bar Association’s annual Christopher W. White Distinguished Access to Justice Awards Breakfast, former DVLS and CLASI law clerk, avid CCJ volunteer , and Morris James associate, Wilson Gualpa, was awarded the Christopher White Pro Bono Achievement Award. Wilson was presented this award by CLASI’s Deputy Director, Laura Graham:
Before turning to Wilson’s work and achievements that led to him receiving this award, I’d like to remind all of us who Chris White was, and his life’s work. I had the short-lived, but distinct, privilege of working with Chris during my first 5 years at Community Legal Aid Society. As CLASI’s executive director, and as a lifelong CLASI attorney, Chris tirelessly advocated for access to justice for vulnerable Delawareans. His passion was housing, and ensuring access to safe affordable housing for all Delawareans. Even while he served as CLASI’s executive director, Chris would pitch in on eviction cases when we were short-handed, representing clients in JP Court. Many of these clients faced multiple difficulties and barriers in their lives – they were not just facing eviction and homelessness, but they were managing their struggles with poverty, substance use disorders, or domestic violence victimization – and Chris was patient, kind, and worked tirelessly with his clients to ensure that they were zealously represented in court, that their voices were heard, and that they understood the Court process.
Wilson, even though he is a young attorney, lives in the spirit of, and practices in the mold of, Chris White. Wilson spent his 1L summer as a law clerk at Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, working with survivors of domestic violence on Protection From Abuse and Custody matters, and he spent his 2L summer as a law clerk at CLASI, working with immigrant survivors of crime on U Visas, VAWA petitions, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. While serving as a law clerk at CLASI, Wilson showed maturity and patience when working with clients; he demonstrated his commitment to the work on behalf of these clients, not only by going above and beyond to ensure good outcomes in their cases, but also by the hours he committed to their cases.
After graduating from law school in 2015, in the subsequent short 5 years as an attorney, Wilson has taken numerous cases pro bono. And to be clear: Wilson accepts, without hesitation, the pro bono cases that are really difficult to place. These cases are for: clients who speak Spanish, clients who are survivors of multiple traumas, clients with complicated and lengthy custody cases, clients with looming immigration deadlines, and clients who have poverty and employment barriers which may require after-hours or weekend appointments to work on their cases. It’s not because Jacki Chacona of Delaware Volunteer Legal Services (DVLS) and I are persistent with pro bono case placement, or because he simply can’t say no to us – Wilson takes these cases because he genuinely cares about low-income, vulnerable Delawareans, and whole-heartedly believes in our clients’ unfettered right to access justice.
Wilson has also demonstrated his commitment to social justice outside of his many pro bono cases. He has volunteered to attend community education events and “Know Your Rights” sessions with DVLS and CLASI – all of which are after business hours or on weekends – to provide Spanish interpretation for community members who may need it. As the chair of the Multicultural Judges and Lawyers Section of DSBA, Wilson not only advocates for members of the bar to not only engage in pro bono work – both direct services and systemic advocacy – representing vulnerable Delawareans, but he also advocates for proactive, concrete steps that will lead to a diverse Delaware bench and bar.
Wilson: thank you for lawyering daily in the spirit of Chris White, and representing Delaware’s most vulnerable clients. Please join me in congratulating Wilson Gualpa, the 2020 recipient of the Christopher White Pro Bono Achievement Award.
The Combined Campaign for Justice team, along with our colleagues at CLASI, DVLS, and LSCD, are so grateful for the work that Wilson Gualpa does on behalf of Delaware’s most vulnerable communities. We extend our warmest congratulations to Wilson, for a very well-deserved award. Wilson accepted his award with the following sentiments:
I am truly honored and humbled to receive the 2020 Christopher White Access to Justice Achievement Award. The fact that this award is being presented by Laura, the Deputy Director of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) is an added honor. Laura along with Jacki Chacona from Delaware Volunteer Legal Services (DVLS), are both a big reason why I am accepting this award today. Trust me, the pro-bono work I do pales in comparison to the public service legal work Laura and Jacki do for the community on a daily basis. They along with the great staff and attorneys of organizations like CLASI, DVLS, Legal Service Corporation of Delaware (LSCD). provide all the resources and support that makes providing pro-bono services to the community as seamless as possible.
For me the willingness and desire to give back to the community has been instilled in me since I was a child. For that I have my parents, Ana and Agustin Gualpa to thank. They are the best parents my brothers, Christopher and Jorge, and I could have ever asked for. They keep us grounded and remind us that the more we achieve the bigger the obligation and better position we are in helping the community. Mami y Papi les amo mucho. ¡Gracias por todo lo que hacen por mi y mis hermonos!
I would also like to thank my staff and colleagues at Morris James. My paralegals and legal secretaries that treat all my pro-bono cases and clients with the same utmost professionalism and respect as any of our cases. The Partners in my department that have the confidence in me to manage my caseload and allow me to take on the amount of pro-bono work that I do. I want to especially thank the support of Susan Ament who like Jacki and Laura is a big reason why I am here today. Thank you Susan for all your support and especially for all the pro-bono work you do in representing numerous children as their Guardian Ad-Litem.
Finally, to my fellow colleagues and members of the Bar, the community needs us now more than ever! These unprecedented times has created a significant need for pro-bono services. I challenge all the lawyers here today to find a way to help the community who needs it. Whether it be helping, the vulnerable population of seniors with drafting wills and/or advanced healthcare directives to mediating the numerous landlord/tenant cases entering our court system as a result of the [COVID-19] pandemic we are battling. There are many pro-bono projects in need of your help. In addition, make sure to donate to the Delaware Combined Campaign for Justice which help fund access to justice organizations like CLASI, DVLS, and LSCD. Find your way that you can help!
Once again, I am truly honored and humbled by this award. Thank you to the awards committee and the DSBA for putting this fantastic event together. Thank you.