Equality Committee Multnomah Lawyer Articles

May 2007 Multnomah Lawyer article

In Memoriam - Michael Muniz

By Linda Meng, City Attorney's Office and Equality Committee member

On April 3, the Oregon Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution 11 in memoriam to Michael Muniz, 1952-2006. The resolution was sponsored by more than 40 members of the Legislature. It expressed "appreciation for Michael T. Muniz's legacy of commitment and devotion to his community and his life's work on behalf of many Oregonians and the State of Oregon." The resolution recognizes Michael as a respected practitioner in immigration law "dedicated to serving those less fortunate and sharing his expertise with colleagues and law students."

Michael Muniz earned his BA in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1978. He began his legal career as an attorney for Oregon Legal Services, representing farm worker and immigrant communities as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Law fellow. He was director of the farm worker programs at both Oregon Legal Services and the Immigration Project at California Rural Legal Assistance.

In 1990 he went into private practice, where he specialized in and devoted himself to immigration law. Michael taught Immigration Law as an adjunct professor at both the U of O and Lewis & Clark law schools. He was a consulting attorney to the Mexican Consulate in Portland. In 2005 he was awarded the Gerald H. Robinson Excellency in Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association in recognition of this outstanding and tireless advocacy of immigrant rights.

Michael and his wife Lydia were founding members of Scholarships for Oregon Latinos, helping provide post-secondary educational opportunities for bilingual students in the Salem area.

Michael was described by Chief Justice Paul De Muniz as "a person who walked his talk." According to the Chief Justice "For Michael, being a lawyer was not a job - it was a calling."

His friend Danny Santos described him as "tireless in his commitment to justice for all...What separated Michael from the norm, was his compassion, his passion, his commitment and his advocacy for those less fortunate, those in poverty, the farm workers and the immigrant population." One of his former law partners described to the Legislature Michael's generosity with his time - with other lawyers who sought his advice and insights, and with the community as an advocate and a mentor.

The stories shared by Michael's friends, family and those he touched in the community are stories of a man who gave his many talents, his skills and above all his time generously and unstintingly.

The author thanks Danny Santos for providing material for this article.