2011 Public Lawyer of the Year: Richard Winnie

Richard WinnieThe California State Bar’s Public Law Section is both pleased and saddened to announce the winner of the 2011 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year Award – longtime Alameda County Counsel Richard Winnie, who passed away after a long illness March 28, 2011.

Winnie, who had held the post of County Counsel since 1998, will be honored at a reception during the State Bar’s Annual Meeting Sept. 15-18 in Long Beach, Calif. The Public Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes Winnie as an exceptional lawyer who dedicated a significant portion of his career to public service. Award recipients are lawyers who represent the highest level of professional and ethical standards and who are inspirational advocates for the public interest.

“He epitomized what we all want from our public servants,” Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson told the Oakland Tribune. “He had the skills to be in private practice, but chose to be in the public sector.”

Before becoming County Counsel, Winnie practiced public law with the Oakland firm of Wendel Rosen Black & Dean (1993-1998) and with the San Francisco firm Jacobs Spotswood Ryken & Winnie (1987-1993). He previously served as Oakland City Attorney from 1981 to 1987 and also worked in the City Attorney’s offices for Berkeley (1977-1979) and Santa Rosa (1979-1981).

Winnie also advised numerous foreign governments in the establishment of new economic and governmental institutions throughout his career. He worked closely with the High and the Intermediate Peoples Courts of Dalian, China to develop methods of resolving commercial disputes involving foreigners; he advised the government of Armenia in its transition from a Soviet republic to an independent nation with a market economy; he served as a legal advisor for local government issues for the Republics of Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina; he served as Senior Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Local Self Government for the government of Albania; and he advised international organizations on the development of local government institutions in Kazakhstan, Surinam and the West Bank/Gaza Strip.

Closer to home, Winnie also volunteered his time with local civic organizations. He served as a commissioner on the Oakland Housing Authority, chairing the board from 1999 to 2004. He also served on the boards of directors of the Alameda/Contra Costa Transit District Retirement System and the California County Counsels’ Association, among other boards. He was the founder and served eleven years as president of the Merritt Community Capital Corporation, the nation’s second largest non-profit housing equity fund, and he chaired AnewAmerica Community Corporation, an organization that provides technical assistance and other support to new immigrants in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.

Winnie began his government career in 1971 as a policy analyst for the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., where he authored and co-authored several books on municipal government. He received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Humboldt State University; a Master’s Degree, with honors, from the University of California, Berkeley; and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco.

The Public Lawyer of the Year Award is named after recently retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who traditionally spoke at the award ceremony and introduced the year’s winner.

“Each year this award goes to an extraordinary individual for outstanding service to the public,” George said at the 2010 awards ceremony. “By celebrating the contributions and career of a single attorney, we also recognize the power of the law in serving the public interest, and honor the fundamental values of the legal profession.”