2010 Recipient

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Where presented : 
NLADA Annual Conference
Recipient(s) name: 
Josefina Pontoja-Oquendo,
Recipient organization: 
Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc
Recipient organization state: 
Puerto Rico
Reason for selection of recipient(s): 

For 30 years, Josefina Pantoja-Oquendo has served as a staff attorney for Puerto Rico Legal Services, dedicating almost all of her years of practice to serving indigent people and communities. Active in a variety of groups that advocate for human rights, she has dedicated herself to training parents of children with disabilities as advocates for their children.

Pantoja-Oquendo’s legal achievements began in 1974 as an attorney with the Consumer Affairs Department of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. She joined Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc. (PRLS) in 1977, beginning her journey with the Carolina Direct Service Office, transferring shortly thereafter to the Environmental Rights Division and then the Support Center. Pantoja-Oquendo was a member of the legal team that represented plaintiffs in a class action (Rosa Lydia Velez v. Department of Education) seeking implementation of the Education for the Handicapped Act on behalf of indigent education students, pushing the effort to bring the Puerto Rico Department of Education into compliance with its legal and moral obligation to provide adequate special education services for this population.

Pantoja-Oquendo’s dedication to a number of causes has been recognized by a variety of groups, including that Puerto Rican Defense and Education Fund in NY; the Puerto Rican Bar Association’s Women Commission and by the Women’s Advocate Office.