José Padilla

Honorary Degrees

San Diego State University

José Padilla is the executive director of the state-wide nonprofit law firm California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). For decades, the firm has been committed to advancing access to public education for all children in California and protecting the rights of essential workers, particularly farmworkers. CRLA addresses the legal needs of farmworkers in the areas of employment, housing and public benefits. CRLA's work also has benefited K-12 students by addressing issues such as school discipline, suspensions and expulsions, bilingual education, migrant education, special education and LGBTQ student rights.


A powerful role model for rural Mexican-American youth, Mr. Padilla is the grandson of farmworkers from the Imperial Valley and he attended Imperial Valley public schools. He earned a bachelor's degree from Stanford University and went on to earn his law degree from University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He has dedicated the last 35 years to working for CRLA.

Mr. Padilla is the vice-chair of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council and serves on the National Legal Aid & Defender Association's Board of Directors, where he served as board chair in 2008. He testified before President Bill Clinton's Commission on Race, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and various legislative bodies addressing issues of voting and language rights. Mr. Padilla received the San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition's Award of Excellence, the California La Raza Lawyers Association's Cruz Reynoso Community Service Award and, in 2000, he was selected for Stanford University's Alumni Multicultural Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was  named a visiting mentor for Stanford University's Haas Center for Public Service, and selected to give the Sixteenth Annual Ernesto Galarza Stanford Commemorative Lecture. In 2001 and 2007, the LA/SF Daily Journal selected him as one of the “100 Influential Lawyers in California." He was named one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States" by Hispanic Business Magazine (October 2006). The Mexican government awarded him the prestigious Ohtli Award at the 2003 Hispanic National Bar Conference for his service to Mexican citizens in the United States.

In recognition of his significant achievements and strong advocacy on behalf of Latinx youth, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon José Padilla the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.