San Francisco Administrative Office
José R. Padilla was born and raised in the Imperial Valley, of parents who came from farmworker families. He attended Stanford University in the early 1970s when many Latino students felt the social obligation to give back to the communities that raised them. José received his BA from Stanford in 1974. Deciding that he could best serve his community through legal advocacy, José attended Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley. After graduation in 1978, he started what has become a 35 year legal career with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) Inc., advocating for the rights of California’s farm worker and rural poverty communities. He has been married for 30 years to Deborah Escobedo, a youth law attorney in San Francisco. In 2005, he received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Chapman University.
José co-drafted AB 1382, California’s Migrant Education law that continues to address the special educational needs of the state’s migrant children. He also helped to form a low-income credit union, a bilingual community radio station (Radio Sin Fronteras), and an immigration center that assisted Central American refugees with political asylum applications. During José’s tenure, CRLA has seen its service population grow to over 48,000 annually, while also pursuing impact litigation and developing special projects of critical importance to farmworkers, Indigenous communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and dairy workers.
José is the Vice-Chair of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and serves on the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Board of Directors, where he served as Board Chair in 2008.
José testified before President Clinton’s Commission on Race, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and various legislative bodies addressing issues of voting and language rights. José has received the San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition’s Award of Excellence, the California La Raza Lawyers Association’s Cruz Reynoso Community Service Award, and in 2000 he was selected for Stanford’s Alumni Multicultural Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was both selected as a Visiting Mentor for the Stanford Haas Center for Public Service and selected to give the Sixteenth Annual Ernesto Galarza Stanford Commemorative Lecture. In 2001 and 2007, the LA/SF Daily Journal selected him as one of the “100 Influential Lawyers in California.” José has also testified before Congress (March 2004) in defense of CRLA’s controversial advocacy. He was named one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States” by Hispanic Business Magazine (October 2006). The Mexican government awarded him the prestigious Ohtli Award at the 2003 Hispanic National Bar Conference (September 2003) for his services to Mexican citizens in the United States. In 2011, José’s name was submitted to Governor Brown by the California Latino Legislative Caucus as a potential California Supreme Court Nominee.