Consumer Watchdog held its 15th annual "Rage for Justice" event in Beverly Hills on Saturday, honoring activists and litigators at the forefront of public interest and consumer protection issues.
Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP partner Niall P. McCarthy was presented with the Lifetime Legal Achievement Award.
"I've always loved being a plaintiffs' lawyer. The basic job of a plaintiffs' lawyer is to lift people up in times of crisis," McCarthy told the gathering. "I have a simple request for everyone in the room, no matter your background or profession: Find a cause you believe in, pick a fight, and never ever stop fighting."
A top lawyer in the state, McCarthy has handled several high-profile consumer fraud cases throughout his career and is a former president of the Consumer Attorneys of California. He serves on the judicial nominee evaluation committee for Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California.
"It's been an honor to work with Niall in all of my capacities and watch his growth and continued success," Padilla said in a video. The senator added that McCarthy has been invaluable in helping him "rebuild" the federal bench to reflect the nation's diversity. McCarthy "truly is a voice for the voiceless and a moral leader who stands up for those too often underserved and overlooked," Padilla said.
Environmentalist and Los Angeles resident Nalleli Cobo was recognized as the "Activist of the Year" for her grassroots organizing efforts against urban oil extraction. Cobo's advocacy led to former state senator Lena Gonzalez introducing Senate Bill 556 in February.
This legislation, co-sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, proposes holding gas and oil companies liable if an elderly person or child has respiratory ailments, a person experiences a high-risk pregnancy, or if a person is diagnosed with cancer and these people reside within a specified proximity of a gas facility.
"I fight so my story doesn't become somebody else's survival story," Cobo, who said she started suffering from health problems at 9 and was diagnosed with cancer at 19, said during her speech. "I believe everyone has the right to breathe clean air regardless of their age, gender, socioeconomic status, or ZIP code."