June 2020 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month

Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal voluntarism.  The award is a distinct honor.  Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.

Deana Champagne is the June 2020 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient.  

Deana was born and raised in California.  While serving in the military, she lived in a number of places, including Germany.  She enjoyed the history and culture there, as well as the people and the food.  She attended the University of West Los Angeles School of Law and passed the California bar in 2004.  She practiced for several years there, working with CalPAP (California Parole Advocacy Program) and with the State of California representing individuals serving life sentences. 

After living in California for several years, Deana and her family moved to San Tan Valley, Arizona in 2013.  She has worked as a Public Defender for the Colorado Indian Tribe and as a Special Assistant Prosecutor for the Ak-Chin Indian Community.  For four years, she held the position of VP Justice System at Arizona Complete Health.  She currently practices Bankruptcy and Family Law at the Law Office of Deana Champagne.  The qualities she admires most in a lawyer are civility and honesty, and the ability to follow through in advocating for a client while not taking things personally.  Her career high point was when she was a public defender for a case where the client insisted on a trial, despite the evidence the state would introduce.  At trial, the victim alleged that the defendant sharpened a machete in front of her.  Deana noticed that the machete had not been sharpened in quite some time and successfully argued that all charges be dismissed.

If Deana had not become a lawyer, she would have been a medical doctor. As a high school student, she had strong grades and an interest in the medical field.  When she expressed to her high school counselor her goal of becoming a doctor, she was told this was not a realistic career for women.  Discouraged, Deana instead enlisted in the Army.  During college, she initially pursued a BSN at Chico State University.  Her mother is a retired nurse and her sister is a nurse.  After taking courses in political science and business, which she enjoyed, she earned a B.A. in Business Administration and decided to attend law school.  Her motto is “If it’s meant to be, it will be.”  She tries not to go against the grain in life, and instead accepts things and makes the best of them.  

Deana is a committed volunteer in the legal community.  While in California, she volunteered at the Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino.  At SALA VLP, she has taught Divorce Clinics.  She is also volunteering with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project where she represents juveniles.  She enjoys giving back to the community and helping those who are struggling financially or who are part of underserved populations.  She finds the most rewarding aspect of volunteering is the satisfaction that comes from helping people, and the good feeling that it brings to be able to give back.   

Deana has two sons: Justin is an electrical engineering student at UofA, and Lane lives in Washington state.  She loves to read, and her favorite books are the Harry Potter Series.  Although she does not currently have pets, she had two labs who were very dear to her that passed away.  Nothing cheers her up like spending time with her husband, Gordon.  They met while serving in the military and were married in 1985.  According to Deana, they laugh a lot and their life together keeps getting better with age.  Her real-life hero is her sister, Sandi, who has always been a rock for her and their two brothers.  Throughout their lives, even as adults, they’ve had Sandi’s support through challenging times.  

Deana enjoys hiking and snowboarding.  She also does woodworking.  Her most recent project is a large dining room table.  What some of her colleagues may not know about her is that she has a pilot’s license and buying a small plane is on her bucket list.  She completed flight training when she lived on Big Bear Mountain, CA.  Her commute was 1.5 hours and she noticed that the runways would be clear when the roads were not.  Though she never flew to work, she considered the possibility!