Augsburg News

News Archives - 1999

Augsburg College alum Sothea Phea Poch receives legal service award

Oct. 07, 1999

Augsburg College alum Sothea Phea Poch (1990), who graduated from the Hamline University Law School in May, was one of three individuals recently honored by the Minnesota State Bar Association for his efforts in providing legal services to the disadvantaged.

Sothea received a 1998-99 Bernard P. Becker Award from the Minnesota State Bar Association at its Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 17. The Becker Awards are presented each year for work that exemplifies the dedication and commitment to helping poor people that marked the career of the late Bernard Becker, who was a renowned legal aid attorney, law professor and magistrate judge.

This year Sothea earned the Volunteer Law Student Award while Legal Services Staff Awards were presented to Michael Hagedorn and Sandra Moore.

In May, Sothea became the first Cambodian graduate of a Minnesota law school. Over the last three years, he volunteered 1,500 hours of service to the Immigration and Citizenship Project of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. His hours of service included assisting managing attorney Glenda Potter with 17 complicated political asylum cases, as well as scores of cases assisting both Hmong and Cambodian persons in becoming United States citizens.

Bruce Beneke, executive director of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), worked with Sothea for six years (1990-96).

Beneke wrote the following of Sothea in nominating him for the Becker award: "Facing significant language barriers and other hurdles in law school, Sothea remained so dedicated, determined and disciplined that he's limited himself to one and two hours of sleep most weekday nights during the school years (all the while) being a volunteer to the low-income refugee community, always making time to show kindness'to so many others."

Beneke also wrote: "We at SMRLS feel tremendously fortunate that a person of Sothea¹s strong character, great dedication and outstanding record of service will continue to work with low-income persons as part of SMRLS.

"In my 28 years of legal service, I have had the honor of working with hundreds of law students, many of whom have gone on to outstanding legal services careers. In my judgment, none is more deserving of this award than Sothea Phea Poch." Sothea came to Augsburg with only three years of formal education and no formal training in English, yet graduated from Augsburg with a 3.3 grade point average (4.0 scale) by dedicating himself to a rigorous program of study that included just two or three hours of sleep each night.

For more information about the Bernard P. Becker awards, contact Janet Leach at the Minnesota State Bar Association at (612) 278-6309.