The Common Good of Justice
By Alison Grimes | Photography provided by Julio Urrutia
Julio Urrutia remembers watching movies like “Leave It To Beaver” and shows like “Father Knows Best” when he was growing up. The characters had every hair combed neatly in place. They wore crisp suits and shirts with matching ties. They lived in big houses surrounded by bright green grass and white picket fences.
Having moved from Puerto Rico to the projects in the Bronx when he was 9 months old, these picture-perfect stories were foreign to him.
This juxtaposition influenced Julio as a child, but not nearly as much as a series of assignments in fourth and fifth grades. The teacher asked the students for a weekly oral presentation on a current event from The New York Times. For most students, this was surely a difficult under – taking. For Julio — a boy raised in a Spanish-speaking household — it was quite the challenge.
But the knowledge Julio took away from those classes was more than just the presentations. His teacher also introduced him to the women’s suffrage move – ment, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe and more. Those lessons opened his eyes to civil rights leaders and movements that would influence his interest in justice and the common good.
Fast forward more than 15 years: Julio earned a degree from Rutgers University School of Law, and met the woman of his dreams. The couple married and moved to Syracuse, where Julio began his career in law.
Within the first year, visions from “Leave It To Beaver” — the television-perfect, once unfamiliar lifestyle — began to become more of a reality for Julio and his wife. They agreed Syracuse was a great place to raise a family. That first year in the area, they had a son, and decided to call the city home.
Syracuse was good for his career, too. Julio accepted a job at Hiscock Legal Aid Society.
“I was able to advance my career sooner, as opposed to if I had stayed downstate,” he explained.
The longer the couple stayed in Syracuse, the more Julio became involved in the community. He joined a number of organizations, like the Spanish Action League, Catholic Charities, Onondaga County Health Advisory Board and Syracuse City School District, just to name a few.
“In my own small way, I wanted to be able to make a difference,” Julio said. “When you’re younger, you want to change the world. But as you get older, you start with one person, one case, one trial, etc.”
Julio became intrigued by the democratic process of a trial, and was inspired to get involved with trial work. He went on to advance his career as a serious personal injury attorney, while remaining an activist.
As a father, husband and community organizer, Julio works tirelessly for his family, clients and community. Driven by faith, culture, integrity, compassion and adversity, Julio has developed well-rounded confidence, grounded by a sound sense of humility.
Today, Julio works with Stanley Law Offices and remains an active community member.
Those rights activists who influenced him in grade school still play a role in his life now. Julio owns a copy of the three versions of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, and wishes to continue learning and serving until he takes his last breath. SWM
This article was provided by the CNY Latino newspaper, the only Hispanic-oriented publication in Central New York. The Spanish version of this article can be read in the June edition of CNY Latino, in both the traditional paper version and the digital format at cnylatinonewspaper.com.