McGeorge School of Law

2004 Grad Fernandes Wins Prestigious Award

November 18, 2010

Sonia Fernandes

Sonia Fernandes, '04

Sonia Fernandes, '04, was rewarded for her outstanding work as staff counsel for the California Department of Managed Health Care and wide-ranging community activities with one of the State Bar of California's most prestigious awards recently.

Fernandes was named the recipient of the 2010 Jack Berman Award of Achievement on September 25, 2010, at the State Bar convention in Monterey. Brett Jolley, '00, the president of the California Young Lawyers Association presented the award to Fernandes. She is the first McGeorge graduate so honored with the award that is named for the late Jack Berman, a San Francisco attorney known for his commitment to pro bono legal assistance.

"The award has given me an opportunity to reflect upon my decisions and to reflect upon the persons and experiences that have influenced them," Fernandes said." And I'm truly grateful to all the fabulous mentors I've had along the way who have encouraged me to pursue a career in the law."

One of those mentors was Professor John Myers, whose Juvenile Law course she took while in law school. "That class solidified my interests in child-welfare law, and his advice was instrumental in my decision to begin my legal career at Sacramento Child Advocates, Inc., and in my subsequent work," she said.

Fernandes' many accomplishments in your young career are truly extraordinary. At the Department of Managed Care, she led an investigation into one of California's largest health plans that resulted in retroactive payments of $470,000 in denied claims and a 2009 settlement involving a $2.5 million penalty.

In the community, her work to protect women and children spans multiple organizations and projects. As a board member of Women Lawyers of Sacramento, she played a major role in creating the WLS Ad Hoc Child Protection Committee and has chaired it since its inception in 2008. Fernandes focused the committee on raising awareness of troubling issues within the Sacramento County Child Protection Services and on providing more aid to children in the foster care system. She also is active in My Sister's House, Operation Protect and Defend, the Asian-Pacific Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Associations. And she finds time to mentor law students at McGeorge on the importance of — yes, public service.

A native of the Fiji Islands, Fernandes grew up in South San Francisco and received her undergraduate degree at San Jose State.