Monika Kalra Varma '00 to receive Distinguished Alumna Award

Monika Kalra Varma ’00 will receive King Hall’s 2021 Distinguished Alumna Award at the Celebrating King Hall virtual event March 15. Bestowed by the Alumni Association board of directors, the annual alumni award honors UC Davis Law graduates who have demonstrated extraordinary post-graduate achievements in the legal profession or in service to society.

Varma, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, has dedicated her career to human rights and social justice work.

Varma leads LCCRSF – one of the oldest civil rights institutions on the West Coast – in its mission to dismantle systems of oppression and racism and build an equitable and just society. Formed in 1968 to bridge the legal community and the civil rights movement, LCCSRF has a rich history of advancing the rights of people of color, immigrants, refugees and low-income individuals. Varma is leading the organization to a number of victories, including the repeal of an unconstitutional loitering ordinance in Oakland, a federal court ruling protecting immigrant youth in California, and the legalization of public banking in California.

Before assuming her current role in 2017, Varma spent five years as executive director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. The largest provider of pro bono legal services in the District of Columbia, the center serves 20,000 individuals, nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

Before that, Varma directed the Center for Human Rights at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. At the RFK Center, Varma advanced movements to ensure a right to health in Haiti; end untouchability in India; rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina; increase access to justice in Chad, and stop modern-day slave-labor conditions faced by migrant farm workers in Florida. 

Soon after graduating from UC Davis Law, Varma worked as an associate legal officer with the office of the prosecutor at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Her trial team secured the tribunal’s first conviction of the crime of terror against General Stanislav Galic, the Serb military commander in Sarajevo from 1992-94.

Varma is the recipient of the 2016 South Asian Bar Association of North America’s Public Interest Achievement Award and the 2019 Northern California South Asian Bar Association’s Public Interest Award. 

Professor Katherine Florey, recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Teaching Award, also will be honored at the Celebrating King Hall event, as will Rising Alumnus Award winner Errol Dauis ’11.

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