Antoinette Balta (JD ’06, LL.M ’11) has many titles – attorney, business owner, JAG Officer, mother, and lecturer – but thanks to The Orange County Register she can now add “influential person” to the list.
The Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law JD and LL.M. alumna was recognized by the newspaper recently as one of 2016’s “100 Most Influential People in Orange County” for her work as co-founder of Santa Ana’s Veterans Legal Institute. Balta and fellow co-founder Dwight Stirling (also recognized on the list) created the public interest law firm for low-income veterans in 2014. Since then, the organization has helped roughly 2,000 local veterans with everything from disability benefits and discharge upgrades to evictions and child custody matters. The Veterans Legal Institute also regularly hosts free legal clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and interns.
Balta began her legal career as a staff attorney with the Public Law Center but found her inspiration to start the Veterans Legal Institute after discovering a lack of organizations dedicated solely to legal services for veterans. “I thought civilian military programs were great, but I began to see a huge gap in military-specific legal services and resources,” Balta said. “I knew the demand was out there.”
Balta will be honored for her public service at the Fowler School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation’s (PILF) annual gala dinner and silent auction on March 30. Balta will receive the PILF Award for Excellence in Public Service and will be co-honored with Honorable Kathleen O’Leary, Presiding Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, who will receive the M. Katherine Baird Darmer Commitment to Public Service Award. PILF supports summer scholarships for students dedicated to pursuing unpaid and volunteer positions in the public interest field.