José Padilla

José Padilla

José Padilla spent more than four decades with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), retiring in 2022. He served as Executive Director of the organization for 38 years (1984-2022). José received his BA from Stanford in 1974 before attending Boalt Hall School of Law, U. C. Berkeley. After graduation in 1978, he started what became a 43-year legal career with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) Inc., advocating for the rights of California’s farm worker and rural communities living in poverty.

As Director, José worked to ensure that the rural poor are represented in the legislative arena by a strong lobbying arm devoted to issues of special concern to rural communities. Under his leadership, CRLA has also taken a prominent role to outreach new burgeoning rural communities, creating the Indigenous Farm Worker Project, to address the need of the indigenous workers from southern Mexico who have joined the migrant stream. Most importantly, during José’s tenure, CRLA has continued to pursue impact litigation and develop special projects of critical importance to farm workers, indigenous communities, and, most recently, dairy workers.

José is the recipient of a number of awards and recognitions, including but not limited to: the Cesar Chavez Legacy Award (2021); the Ohtli Award from the Mexican government (2003); election to Board Chairperson, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (2008); recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Chapman University (2005). He has also testified in front of Congress as well as various Presidential Commissions and other legislative bodies. In 2011, José received a nomination to the California Supreme Court from the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

Guest Appearances
March 26, 2024

Lessons from Decades of Legal Aid Leadership 

Former legal aid program directors discuss their lessons learned and current concerns on Talk Justice. Jon Asher, former executive director of Colorado Legal Services with 51 years in civil legal aid work,...