2023 Distinguished Alumni Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors an Equal Justice Works Alum who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to public interest, service, and community throughout their career.
President and CEO, Bet Tzedek
Diego Cartagena has focused his entire legal career on addressing issues of access to justice. As a former Equal Justice Works Fellow and Teen Advocate with The Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice’s Teen LA project, Diego helped give low-income teen mothers and fathers a voice in court by providing them with legal advocacy and outreach in the areas of family and immigration law. Diego then went on to serve as Pro Bono Director for The Alliance for Children’s Rights, while simultaneously serving as the agency’s Probate Legal Guardianship Program Director.
Diego joined Bet Tzedek in 2012 as Director of Pro Bono Programs and was promoted to Vice President Pro Bono in 2015. Under his leadership, Bet Tzedek increased clinic participation opportunities for both law firms and in-house legal department volunteers. He also guided the building of Bet Tzedek’s Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) program, capitalizing Bet Tzedek’s organizational expertise in guardianship law. After witnessing the need for comprehensive legal services for small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities, he launched the Small Business Legal Academies in 2016. In 2017, Diego became Bet Tzedek’s Vice President of Legal Programs. Under his leadership, Bet Tzedek launched a number of the organization’s flagship programs including Preventing and Ending Homelessness Project, Bet Tzedek’s Rapid Response: Family Preparedness program, the Harbor UCLA Medical-Legal Partnership, and the SSI Advocacy Project.
Diego is a “Double Bruin,” having received his BA in American Literature and Culture from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) and his J.D. from UCLA’s School of Law, where he concentrated on Critical Race Studies.
Diego currently serves as a board member of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Civil Council, and the Justice in Aging Board of Directors. He is also a member of the California Access to Justice Legal Aid Funding Committee. In 2019, he delivered the opening remarks at the 2019 Equal Justice Works annual fellowship convening and was a panelist at the USC Real Estate Law and Pro Bono Forum and served on numerous NLADA/Equal Justice Conference panels. In 2017, he delivered the keynote at O’Melveny & Myers Warren Christopher Scholarship Awards, a scholarship program that honors senior partner Warren Christopher by recognizing rising academic stars in low-income and minority communities with college scholarships.
Learn more about Diego’s commitment to public service here.