The UC Berkeley School of Law and UC Office of General Counsel announced Wednesday the first recipient of the Christopher M. Patti Legal Fellowship, which was created in recognition of Patti’s life and work at UC Berkeley.
Patti served as the chief campus counsel for seven years and was “deeply committed” to issues of equity and diversity before he died from a bicycling accident in August 2017. Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said this fellowship is a “wonderful way” to preserve Patti’s legacy.
The fellowship, which will begin Sept. 10, allows a recent Berkeley Law graduate interested in public service to work at the Office of General Counsel and UC Berkeley’s Office of Legal Affairs for one year, according to a press release provided by Berkeley Law spokesperson Michael Bazeley.
“Chris Patti was a terrific lawyer, a great campus counsel and a wonderful person,” Chemerinsky said. “I’m thrilled that the law school together with the university counsel’s office is co-sponsoring this fellowship in his name and in his memory.”
Melissa Montenegro, the first recipient of the fellowship, graduated from Berkeley Law in 2018 with an interest in social justice work. She said this fellowship will provide her with many opportunities, including the ability to learn about nonprofit and public entities, and the challenges they face.
Montenegro’s “varied experience” and “strong commitment to social justice” were some assets noted in the press release regarding her selection. She also demonstrated a drive to ensure that justice is “more accessible to vulnerable populations and underrepresented minorities,” according to the press release.
Montenegro said she learned that Patti was adamant about advancing constitutional issues — free speech and civil rights issues, in particular — and that she is excited to work more on these matters.
In addition to serving as chief campus counsel, Patti was a member of the Office of General Counsel for more than 27 years. Some of his primary interests relating to constitutional law included ensuring access to higher education for all underrepresented minorities and the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights, according to a press release.
“I can think of no better way than this fellowship to honor and celebrate Chris Patti’s memory and legacy,” said Chancellor Carol Christ in a statement. “On behalf of the campus administration, I want to congratulate Melissa and thank all who worked to establish this moving tribute to a wonderful, and sorely missed colleague.”