2008 Public Lawyer of the Year: Jeff Thom

The Public Law Section named Jeff Thom as the 2008 Public Lawyer of the Year. He was presented the award during a reception during the State Bar of California Annual Meeting in Monterey.

Biographical Statement of Jeff Thom

Jeff Thom has dedicated his career to working in the public sector and, despite being blind since birth, he has never let his disability stand in the way of his personal commitment to public service.

Jeff ThomAfter graduating from Stanford Law School in 1978, Mr. Thom’s first job was as a disabled rights attorney for what is now called the Disability Rights Law Center. There, he represented clients in a number of administrative hearings before the Social Security Administration.

In 1979, Mr. Thom joined the Office of Legislative Counsel in Sacramento where his work involves drafting legislation and writing legal opinions for members of the Legislature. Mr. Thom has handled some highly complex and important legal issues during his tenure in the Office in such diverse areas as state and local government, health, human services, public safety, and labor and employment. In particular, Mr. Thom helped draft major Medi-Cal Reform legislation in 1982 and the Greater Avenues for Independence Act in 1985.

Public Lawyer of the Year ReceptionWhen Proposition 187, an initiative measure limiting services for illegal aliens, qualified for the ballot, Mr. Thom prepared a comprehensive legal analysis regarding its validity. More recently, Mr. Thom was involved in preparing legislation related to HIV/AIDS confidentiality, and in helping craft the comprehensive welfare reform legislation known as the Thompson-Maddy-Ducheny-Ashburn Welfare-to-Work Act of 1997.

Based on his extensive knowledge in these areas, Mr. Thom’s expertise is frequently sought by legislative members and their staffs. Currently, he supervises the section of the office that handles health and care facilities, Medi-Cal, public health, public social services and workers’ compensation.

Jeff Thom with Public Law Section officersOutside the office, Mr. Thom is similarly committed to public service. For the last 30 years, he has been a member of various organizations that promote the rights of the disabled. Since 2003, he has been the President of the California Council of the Blind, an organization that has worked on behalf of a variety of issues of importance to persons who are blind or have low vision, including pedestrian safety, “talking” ATMs, and tactile point-of-sale machines in retail stores. He is currently the chair of the City of Sacramento Disabilities Advisory Commission (2005-) which, among other things, was successful in promoting the city’s adoption of a taxicab ordinance requiring a percentage of taxicabs to be wheelchair accessible. Mr. Thom is also currently a board member of both the American Council of the Blind (2006- ) and the American foundation for the Blind (2007- ), and he is past president of Sierra Regional Ski for Light (2000-04).

The Public Law Section Executive Committee believes that Mr. Thom’s distinguished record of professional service to the public, both as an attorney and as a civic leader, exemplifies what it is to be a public lawyer.