On September 27, 2012, the Riverside County Bar Association presented Daniel Hantman with the E. Aurora Hughes Meritorious Award for Service. The first time I met Dan was in January 1996, when he spoke at the RCBA “Bridging the Gap” program. Bridging the Gap educates new attorneys on various practice areas in the law. Dan had just finished giving a presentation on representing clients who are trying to obtain benefits from the Social Security Administration. I was struck by Dan’s knowledge of this area of law and his commitment to his clients. Dan has been advocating for seniors and disabled individuals for over 30 years. Dan chose a line of work that fit with his personal commitment to assist the most vulnerable in our society. Dan traces his passion for helping others to his strong family.
Dan is a native Californian – born and raised in Los Angeles. He has two older brothers, Joseph Hantman and David Hantman, and a younger sister, Elizabeth Rudzinski. His parents, Jacob Hantman and Marcia (Levenson) Hantman, reared their children to be involved and to give back to the community. From early childhood, Dan wanted to be an attorney. Dan fondly recalls the seeds of the profession being planted when his father took him to observe court proceedings as a young child. To reach his goal, Dan attended UCLA for his first three years of his undergraduate education and then transferred to UC Berkeley for his final year, majoring in political science.
Before Dan entered the challenging world of law school, he decided to obtain some real-life experience by spending two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Dan was assigned to Thailand, where he learned to speak fluent Thai while he taught English as a second language to high school students. Dan enjoyed his stay in Thailand so much that he wanted to stay an additional year. Although there were no openings with the Peace Corps, he was employed by the American University Alumni Association Language Center as a Provincial Officer, and ultimately his additional year stretched out to six years.
In this position, Dan was instrumental in establishing 11 centers throughout Thailand for teaching English as a second language. Today, many of the Thai people speak English. While in Thailand, Dan was devoted to the community and understood the Thai way of thinking and living. When Dan was about to leave the country, one of his Thai “mothers” affectionately wrote, “No matter how far away Dan is, he will always be remembered by his many Thai friends whom he called mothers, sisters and brothers.”
Dan came back to Southern California and attended the University of San Fernando Valley College of Law. After Dan’s graduation, retired Judge Ronald Taylor, who was then the director of Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS), hired him. At ICLS, he specialized in elder law. In 1984, Dan went into the private sector with a general civil practice. Gradually, his practice evolved into the specialty of representing clients who have been denied benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Dan has always found time to give something back to the legal community. He served on the RCBA Board of Directors for nine years and was President of the RCBA in 2007. He has also been a very active member of RCBA committees and sections, including Mock Trial, Lawyer Referral Service, Continuing Legal Education, Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law, Family Law, Juvenile Law, and Environmental Law. Dan has helped organize Bridging the Gap programs and brown-bag MCLE seminars. He is a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee. Dan has also served as judge pro tem for the Small Claims and Juvenile Divisions of the Riverside County Superior Court. In 2005, Dan was honored by the Riverside Opportunity Center with the Golden Legal Eagle Award for his outstanding contributions to the legal community.
Dan has also been very active in the wider Riverside community. Dan has been a board member of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce and served as the Downtown Division President from 1995 to 1996. He is the Chambers’ official “way-finder” (i.e., human directional sign) for most events and is an avid volunteer for Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful. Dan and his longtime companion, Marcia Gilman, adopted a stretch of Central Avenue in the Canyon Crest area and strive to keep it clear of litter. Dan also walks throughout downtown Riverside with a special stick for grabbing litter so he can help keep all of Riverside beautiful. In 2005, Dan was honored with the Iron Eyes Cody Award for exceptional leadership in raising public awareness about litter prevention and roadside and community beautification. The Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful Advisory Board issued a press release, which stated, “Wherever there is a need, Dan can be found volunteering, leading the way, cheering and encouraging others to take personal responsibility for the environment.”
Dan is a 15-year member of the Coalition for Common Ground, which is an organization that promotes diversity in the Inland Empire. Dan is also the chair of the Airport Commission and past chair of the Mission Inn Docent Council. Dan serves on the Mission Inn Foundation and on the International Relations Council of Riverside. In addition, Dan is past chair of the World Affairs Council. In 1998, Dan and Marcia traveled with Mayor Ronald Loveridge’s Sister City Group to Korea and India to promote business, education and cultural relations. In July 2012, Dan and Marcia traveled to Ensenada, Mexico to meet with artists in that community.
When he is not working in the legal profession or promoting Riverside, Dan loves to travel for fun. He has visited almost every country in Europe and East Asia. Dan has also traveled to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and twice to Cuba for social security workshops. While in Tanzania, Dan climbed 19,335.6 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in seven days and went on a safari. In Amman, Jordan, Dan participated in an archeological dig with Dr. Larry Geraty, former president of La Sierra University. In March and April of 2012, Dan and Marcia traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
Dan has found living and working in Riverside to be a very rewarding experience. I believe we all have benefited from Dan’s dedication and commitment to the Riverside County Bar Association and our local community. The RCBA was very proud to honor Dan with the E. Aurora Hughes Meritorious Award for Service.