When Rick Parker (JD 72) introduces himself, he always says, “I work at the Public Defender’s Office.” It never occurs to him to say he is the Public Defender for the Eighth Circuit.
He works out of cramped offices built in 1888 and has the responsibility of defending almost 20,000 accused indigent residents in six North Central Florida counties. In his spare time, he has amassed a better coaching record than Steve Spurrier in his six years of coaching Pop Warner football (51-8), and now he is the “white hat” referee on football fields from Gainesville to the Georgia border. He is a lecturer at the law school and has served as president of the Florida Public Defender Association four times.
As his wife likes to say, 31 years ago he left a lucrative private practice law firm in Miami, where he had the potential to own a yacht, to move to Gainesville and own a canoe. She is tremendously proud of him.
Rick Parker is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of UF Law’s 17,000 alumni who serve the public and their interests … social justice, children’s rights, environmental protection, advocacy for low-income people, immigration rights, fair housing, civil liberties, the list goes on and on.
From day one, UF Law encourages students to address the need for equal access to justice by creating opportunities for public interest and pro bono work. For instance, after the first week of classes, students are expected to spend the weekend helping at a prearranged activity such as painting a Habitat for Humanity house. Over the course of three years guest speakers, conferences, internships and ongoing community and pro bono services (such as the volunteer income tax assistance and school mentoring programs) strengthen the habit of undertaking endeavors that truly, as cliché as it may sound, make a difference.
Once out in the working world, with huge school loans to be repaid and families to raise, UF Law alumni provide powerful services for those without power. They work for the government, represent clients at legal aid societies, lobby Congress for nonprofit organizations, serve as in-house counsel for grassroots organizations, and more. They practice virtually every kind of law from criminal defense and prosecution, to administrative law, to creating policy and legislation, and even civil litigation.
They are alumni like Kevin McCarty (JD 84), Florida’s Insurance Commissioner, who is responsible for the regulation and oversight of more than 3,700 insurance entities. And Thomas Falkinburg (JD 93), a senior general attorney with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, who watches over equal opportunities for students and employees of educational institutions. And Jeffrey Neiman (JD 01), a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice who recently indicted a $3 billion securities fraud case in Ohio.
As Andrew M. Fussner (JD 99), vice president of estate settlement for the American Heart Association, said, “I absolutely love my job. Not only do I get to go home at the end of every day knowing that I’m making a difference in the fight against our nation’s number one killer — heart disease and stroke — but I also get to handle some of the most interesting probate cases.”
Megan Wall (JD 91), managing attorney of St. Johns County Legal Aid, said she became a lawyer only because she would gain the tools to improve the lives of others. As someone who sees on a daily basis the overwhelming need for assistance and as head of the Pro Bono Program in St. Johns County, she requests that each lawyer in her county step forward in some way, whether it’s through pro bono or community service work.
“It’s up to every lawyer, not just those who work full-time in poverty law, to help others have access to justice. Lawyers have the keys to the courthouse, and no one can gain access without us,” she said. “Many drops fill the well.”
What follows is a glimpse into the lives of just a few of the UF Law men and women who chose public interest law as their life’s work.
Is the Grass Greener in Iraq?
Dean L. Lynch (JD 96), Major, United States Army, Litigation Attorney, Civilian Personnel Litigation Branch, U.S. Army Legal Services Agency
As an attorney in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG), since graduating from UF Law, I have enjoyed my time immensely, but like everyone, I often find myself asking whether the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the fence.
I have wondered if I wouldn’t enjoy another sort of practice, in a stable location, with predictability and the possibility of greater pay. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt down-right envious of friends who have made partner in successful firms. I know they are doing great work and are assets to their communities, and I fear that I may be missing out somehow.
However, when I look at what I have experienced in the past 10 years, I have a hard time believing that I could find another legal job that would give me the same truly unique opportunities. My wife and I have had the chance to live in Panama for two years, where we could literally look out the window and see ships going through the locks of the Panama Canal; Puerto Rico for one year, where I had a chance to surf some famous “insider” surf spots; and Germany for three years, where we skied and snowboarded in the Alps and I watched Lance Armstrong win a couple of Tours de France as I sat in the back of my truck in the French countryside.
Professionally, I have served as a legal assistance attorney, administrative law attorney, labor counselor, prosecutor and defense counsel. I’ve been fortunate enough to handle a good number of trials for both the government and individual clients, including defending murder cases.
While these opportunities have been rewarding, I didn’t realize what I truly value most about being an Army attorney until I had the opportunity to reflect upon my recent year-long deployment to Tikrit, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. During that time I was the principal legal adviser to an infantry commander, his staff and his subordinate commanders on issues pertaining to the law of war, rules of engagement, detainee operations and human rights matters. I also had the opportunity to work with governmental officials and judges from the Salah Ad Din Province to promote adherence to the rule of law and support functioning democratic institutions at the local and provincial levels.
Despite the fact that 14 to 16 hour non-stop days were the norm, the varied nature of my duties and sense of urgency, that only service in a combat zone can impart, caused time to simply fly by. One minute I would find myself sitting in the brigade’s Tactical Operations Center (TOC) intently monitoring live video footage from an unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle, and the next I would be loading into an armored vehicle with several of my paralegal-trained soldiers, headed for a meeting with a Provincial Judge. Sitting in those meetings, talking to Iraqi officials while sipping freshly brewed Chai tea, I often thought, “what would Professor Winston Nagan (from my International Law class) think if he saw me now?” I know that he would relish that opportunity to sit in those meetings, and I like to think he also would be proud.
Looking back on my time in Iraq, it is clear to me that I remain an Army attorney because I am honored to work for our amazingly talented and dedicated soldiers. After seeing them in action, and seeing first-hand how they embody the term “selfless service,” I can’t imagine a more noble and worthwhile legal career. I also realize I have come to love being an Army officer, a “soldier who happens to be a lawyer” and who has a sense of purpose. The pay is sufficient, and perks like living in Europe have been nice, but they aren’t enough to outweigh things like missing your son’s first birthday and being away from your family for a year.
I’ve realized that it comes down to people, pure and simple.
David J. White (JD 86), Regional Director The Ocean Conservancy, St. Petersburg , Fla.
As a graduate student in wildlife ecology at the University of Florida in the early ’80s, David White soon realized that natural resources management was based more on politics and economics than sound science and a solid understanding of how natural systems function. His growing awareness that changes would have to be put in place at the policy level to protect the natural world led him back to UF to pursue a law degree.
“I wanted to be an advocate for sustainable management of wildlife and their habitats,” White said. “It’s about the sustainable use of natural resources and ensuring that we bequeath to our children a world we would want to inhabit.”
After finishing law school and working as a public interest environmental lawyer for 15 years, White took on his present role as director of The Ocean Conservancy’s South Atlantic office in 2000. As a director, White advocates for expanded use of marine zoning and ecosystem-based management in Florida, the Southeast Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. The conservancy’s goal in the area is sustainable management of marine wildlife populations and conservation of important marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, fish spawning areas, estuaries and other nearshore coastal habitats.
Despite considerable obstacles, White has helped put several protective policies in place, including a 2001 action that created the largest, fully protected marine ecological reserve in North America in the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West.
Though the conservancy is working hard to raise public awareness and build support for policy changes that will protect our oceans, the picture is bleak, according to White. Over-fishing, global climate change and habitat destruction continue to threaten marine resources, while pollution from sewage discharge, nutrients from agriculture and urban storm water, and atmospheric “greenhouse gasses” are changing the chemistry of the oceans.
“In the last 10 years, 80 percent of the coastal reefs in the Caribbean basin have been destroyed,” White said. “And in just the past few decades, 90 percent of large predatory ocean fish are gone. We’ve also managed to impair 75 percent of America’s estuaries. Take Silver Springs — it’s turning green and no longer meets state water quality standards. We’ve managed to turn our ground water into a pollutant.
We need to drastically rethink the way we manage our oceans and marine resources.”
• Helped establish the Tortuga Ecological Reserve in the Dry Tortugas, the largest fully protected marine ecological reserve in North America
• Board of directors of the Florida Wildlife Federation for almost 20 years, advising them on environmental and legal issues
• Board of directors of the Everglades Law Center (a public interest law firm at Shepard Broad Law Center, Nova Southeastern University), advising them on legal issues
Rutledge Hutson (JD 86), Senior Staff Attorney Center for Law and Social Policy, Washington, D.C.
Helping to secure stable, healthy living situations for children has long been the focal point of Rutledge Hutson’s legal career. As a senior staff attorney at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) in Washington, D.C., since 1999, with two years at the Children’s Defense Fund in between, Hutson strives to implement government policy changes to aid at-risk children and families.
“I do policy work in the child welfare area at the state and federal level, especially for children who have been abused and neglected,” Hutson said. “Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society and they don’t have a voice in our political system. I try to give voice to their interests.”
As an attorney in CLASP’s child welfare division, one of Hutson’s key projects has been finding ways for child welfare agencies and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to work in harmony to assist families and ensure a comprehensive range of services that low-income children and their parents need.
“CLASP has long focused on welfare policy and how to get adults successfully into the workforce,” she said. “I’ve brought along an additional vantage point that examines the connection between adult success in the workforce and a healthy family life, since problems parents have at work can sometimes have a negative impact on their home life. We also need to look at untreated mental health disorders, substance abuse, undiagnosed learning disabilities and domestic violence, often the underlying causes of parents’ struggles at home and in the workplace.”
The passage of the 1996 welfare law focused on getting people to work, but without speaking to many of the obstacles they faced, according to Hutson.
“Say a child has been placed in foster care and the welfare agency sends the mother to parenting classes,” she said. “Then a welfare plan from a different agency requires the parent to do job searches at the same time — it’s a rock and a hard place.
She can’t do both plans. So the question remains — how do we give low income families the tools to address their varying obligations?”
Integrating systems so that they are more seamless is the goal to work toward, Hutson said.
“I have tried to get all the agencies to work together to make sure that what is available is coordinated in a way that serves peoples’ needs,” Hutson said.
• Senior staff attorney, Center for Law and Social Policy, Washington, D.C., 1999-2004 and February 2006-present
• Deputy director, Child Welfare and Mental Health, Children’s Defense Fund, Washington D.C., March 2004-February 2006
• Volunteer caseworker, Georgia Council on Child Abuse, Atlanta, Ga., February 1997-January 1999
David J. Utter (JD 89) (pictured on p. 15), Director and Co-founder, Juvenile Justice Program of Louisiana, New Orleans, La.
Juvenile offenders in Louisiana are now being dealt a far better hand by a state justice system that had long been exacerbating their problems rather than remediating them, thanks to David Utter’s efforts as director and co-founder of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, which opened its doors in 1997.
The passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act in 2003, the culmination of Utter’s efforts, along with two other project co-founders, to reform Louisiana’s juvenile justice system, has been nationally recognized as one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation of its kind to pass in any state in years. It earned Utter the Ford Foundation and Advocacy Institute’s 2005 Leadership for a Changing World Award.
Since the reform act became law in 2003, the number of incarcerated juveniles in Louisiana has dropped from 1,900 to 500, a statistic that makes Utter, understandably, proud.
“The Juvenile Justice Reform Act changed the face of justice in the state as it committed the state to change its policy on justice,” Utter said.
“Our work to bring about the closing of the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth in 2004, championed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco in her campaign, began the general shift toward reducing the juvenile prison population in the state,” Utter said. “Fifty years of research shows the incarceration of juveniles only hurts them.”
Utter’s odyssey in public service began in earnest just after law school when he moved back to Atlanta, where he had done his undergraduate degree at Emory University. After a few months at ACLU of Georgia, Utter went to work at the Southern Center for Human Rights, under the tutelage of Stephen B. Bright, the world-renowned advocate for the incarcerated poor.
“I had the good fortune of landing a place at his office, representing people incarcerated in prisons and jails,” Utter said. “He’s my mentor, the most important thing for a public interest lawyer.”
Utter next worked for a year as a sole practitioner in New Orleans representing the rights of incarcerated individuals before co-founding the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center in 1993, which specialized in systemic challenges to the adequacy of funding in indigent defense work.
Utter’s move to advocating full-time on behalf of incarcerated juveniles, with the founding of the Juvenile Justice Project of
Louisiana, was spearheaded by the 1997 Human Rights Watch and U.S. Department of Justice reports on the “unspeakable violence and brutality” in Louisiana’s juvenile prisons. It will remain his core mission as a lawyer until the futility of incarcerating juvenile offenders is understood and eliminated, he said. However, these days Utter and his staff, who are based in New Orleans, are still struggling with post Katrina fallout.
“The day-to-day things that one takes for granted just aren’t there or are much harder,” Utter said. “For example, of 15 or 16 staff at JJPL pre-Katrina, we lost about 25 or 30 percent of those folks. They decided it wasn’t safe to come back to New Orleans. So there is as much work, if not more, to do with fewer people.”
• Leadership for a Changing World Award from Ford Foundation, 2005
• Those Who Dared to Care about Kids Award from Louisiana Council of Jewish Women, 2004
• Distinguished Attorney of the Year Award from Louisiana State Bar Association, 2003
LAWYERS IN NEED
Bonnie Allen (JD 84), President/CEO, International, Center for Healing and the Law, (Affiliated with the Fetzer Institute), Kalamazoo, Mich.
Bonnie Allen’s commitment to public service has led her on a path from the courtroom to the classroom, leaving her law practice behind to instead offer counseling to fellow practitioners in need of reflection and renewal.
As president and CEO of the International Center for Healing and the Law in Kalamazoo, Mich., since 2004, Allen spearheads an organization that provides educational programs to lawyers, judges and other members of the legal community, offering them opportunities to step back and reflect upon the deeper meaning of their professions.
“Finding my way to social justice issues was the first big piece of discovering my true north as a lawyer,” Allen said. “But despite this step forward, another thing was eating at me — my inner self asking, ‘What does it mean to be an authentic person?’ I was looking for a way to integrate personal and professional authenticity.”
That’s what led Allen to change her focus from ministering to needy clients as a public service lawyer for more than a decade to addressing the needs of those providing the legal services. An important step along the way in Allen’s newly evolving path was her completion in 1999 of a master’s degree in theological studies with a focus on ethics and society at the Garrett- Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
Founded in 2002, the Center for Healing and the Law promotes a legal profession dedicated to peace and healing in society on three different levels: personal, institutional and community.
The center’s personal renewal retreats, increasingly requested by clients around the country, presently make up the largest segment of the center’s programs.
Many law professionals are struggling with a conflict between their personal values and the demands placed on them in their professional roles, Allen explained.
“The personal retreats provide space for individuals in crisis or at a professional crossroad to reexamine their directions and explore the deeper dimensions of their vocational calling, ethics and professionalism, as well as the deeper meanings of life,” Allen said.
The center’s institutional healing workshops strive to narrow the gap between institutional values purporting to serve the common good and market-driven realities that frequently undermine lawyers’ integrity, according to Allen. The center’s third component — community healing workshops — seeks to promote law as a vehicle for healing communities. To that end, the healing center is developing programs that facilitate “inside-out” community building, social justice and conflict transformation.
Last summer the center’s healing workshops were put to the test in post-Katrina Mississippi, where Allen stayed for an extended period ministering to the needs of recovering communities.
• Executive director, Just Neighbors Immigrant Ministry, Arlington, Va., 2003-2004
• Director of Outreach and Community Support, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Washington, D.C., 1995-2003
• Director, American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono, Chicago, Ill., 1995-1998
Turhan E. Robinson (JD 93), Assistant Attorney General Department of Human Resources Baltimore, Md.
Turhan Robinson has always viewed public service as the “noblest labor available to empower the poor, disabled, children, sick and to protect those most vulnerable.”
It was his fellowship in the Center for Governmental Responsibility under Professor Jon Mills, however, that encouraged him to actually practice in the public sector. It was the right decision.
“I have received immense satisfaction and rewards in service to the public,” he says of a career that has taken him from Tallahassee to Thailand.
Robinson points to one particularly satisfying role in which the secretary of the Army appointed him in July 2001 as his civilian aide to advise and support Army leaders across the country.
“I’ve used this position to support the soldier and seek employment for soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and ease their transition from military service,” he said of the non-compensated position.
Bosnia and Estonia benefited from his expertise when he was named to the Governor’s Partners for Peace Delegation to assist the business and legal communities and when he served on a committee to revise court procedures in Bosnia-Herzegovina to prosecute the more than 13,000 war criminals from the civil war.
He makes his living as a senior assistant attorney general in Maryland’s Department of Human Resources.
“We try to maximize the personal independence of Maryland’s citizens in economic and social matters. I’m responsible for review of all procurement transactions and all contract litigation for the department,” he said. In the past year, that means he has approved 732 contracts valued at more than $564 million. Robinson also is counsel to the Governor’s Commissions on Migratory and Seasonal Farm Labor, Asia-Pacific Affairs, Hispanic Affairs and the Maryland Commission for Women.
His service has not gone unnoticed. His awards include the Exceptional Service (Attorney of the Year)Award and the Public Service Award by the Attorney General, and the Valued Hours Award for Community Service by the Fullwood Foundation.
• Retired major in the U.S. Army, 1990
• National Board of Directors, ACLU, 1996-2004
• Chief of Contracts at Martin Marietta, responsible for more than $11 billion of missiles, weapons and electric-optic systems
Giving a Voice to the Voiceless
Jena Matzen (JD 94), Self-employed, Durham, NC
I came to law school to gain a louder voice. I already had some successes under my belt — cuttingedge advocacy on behalf of tropical rainforests, indigenous peoples, and South Florida native plant communities — and I’d honed my leadership skills by participating in a five-month expedition to the Amazon and by co-owning and running a South Florida environmental services company. These experiences whetted my appetite for more, for something I had wanted since I was a child growing up in the great outdoors of Colorado — to be a lawyer, working for the voiceless.
While at UF Law, I researched indigenous peoples/Native American civil and environmental rights while working with Tom Ankersen in the Center for Governmental Responsibility (CGR) on his Mesoamerican Biodiversity Legal Project, and while interning with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as a CGR Public Service Law Fellow.
The impact of Hurricane Andrew (which struck at the start of my second year, devastating my hometown of Goulds) on the Everglades migrant labor camp inspired me to pursue a summer clerkship at Farmworkers Legal Services of North Carolina (FLSNC). I found the work to be wonderfully compelling and satisfying, offering a work-life balance that supported my new status as a single parent of a young son.
After graduation, despite opportunities to work in Mexico and Colombia, I returned to North Carolina to work as a staff attorney with FLSNC, and later with the Immigrant’s Legal Assistance Project of the N.C. Justice Center. I engaged in policy advocacy and handled individual cases and class action litigation on behalf of immigrant workers and limited English proficient students in employment, civil rights, benefits and immigration cases. The work was stressful and at times infuriating, but I knew I was making the kind of difference I always wanted to make.
The expertise I gained led me to serve on numerous boards and commissions, to advise non-profit funders, legislators and policy-makers, and to work as a consultant for Human Rights Watch. I also co founded a Latino community resource center (www.elcentrolatino.org), which has served thousands since opening its doors in 2000.
I returned to international work in 2002 when I traveled to Colombia with Witness for Peace, a human rights group working in Latin America. Our purpose was to witness the impact of U.S. drug policy (which is causing terrible environmental and human rights tragedies); to meet and speak with numerous governmental officials, human and environmental rights activists, religious leaders, farmers, and indigenous representatives; and then to come home and talk about it.
Upon my return from this revelatory, humbling and at times terrifying experience, I gave numerous presentations and appeared in several local newspapers to discuss what I learned and saw. I spent the last three and a half years as an adjunct clinical professor, teaching, supervising and mentoring students in the University of North Carolina School of Law’s Externship Program.
Overall, I have had a wonderful career as a lawyer in the public sector. It has allowed me to do meaningful work and have a fantastic family life with my husband and three children.
Thomas K. Emswiler (LLMT 95), General Counsel, Federal Retirement Thrift, Investment Board, Washington, D.C.
As general counsel of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Thomas K. Emswiler is responsible for administering the Thrift Savings Plan, a 401(k)-like plan of $190 billion for 3.6 million federal employees and members of the uniformed services. This is just one of the important public interest initiatives he has been responsible for in his 23-year career.
The September 11 attack, however, showed him a completely new side of public service.
For one dramatic month, Emswiler was in charge of round-theclock legal operations at the Department of Defense Center, which was set up to support family members of the victims of the attack on the Pentagon.
“The emergency nature of the mission required us to build this center from scratch,” he said. “We needed experienced attorneys with expertise in probate, estate planning and estate administration issues.”
Due to the limited number of active duty attorneys with these specialized skills, he staffed the office with expert Army reserve attorneys and augmented with a team of Coast Guard attorneys. The sheer numbers from the operation were astounding: approximately 110 attorneys and paralegals in the local area worked on a pro bono basis to address 278 individual legal issues and work with 94 casualty assistance officers.
“The staff frequently provided legal support to other agency staffs in the center on such issues as benefit entitlements, social security benefits, military and civilian pensions, and retirement benefits counseling,” he said. “Procedures were also put in place for long-term legal assistance to support the families.”
Emswiler’s leadership was recognized when the Department of Defense awarded him the Joint Services Commendation Medal and the American Bar Association (Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel) awarded him the Legal Assistance Distinguished Service Award.
At the time of the attack, Emswiler had served as an Army judge advocate for 18 years. In his last assignment before retiring in 2003, he served as the executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council and was responsible for all tax matters relating to members of the Armed Forces.
“I drafted and staffed several legislative proposals that were enacted by Congress that benefited service members and their families,” he said. This included the Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003, Public Law 104-117, and a tax exclusion initiative that benefited military personnel in the Afghanistan combat zone. For this work he was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal.
• Army Judge Advocate for 20 years, retiring in 2003 with the rank of lieutenant colonel
• Legal adviser, Pentagon Family Assistance Center, Arlington, Va., September 12, 2001–October 12, 2001
• Executive director, Armed Forces Tax Council, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 1998–December 2002
MAKING PUBLIC INTEREST INTERESTING
Steve Brady (JD 77), Regional Legal Adviser, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
For the past 30 years I have served as an assistant public defender, prosecutor and legal adviser for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The different and always interesting issues I encountered daily in the practice of criminal law more than made up for the lack of financial awards. For instance:
• Two years after graduation I successfully argued to the Florida Supreme Court (State v. Keaton, 371 SO.2D 86, fla. 1979) that the obscene telephone call statute violated the right to free speech. Relying on a lesson learned during one of the few lucid moments I had in Professor Robert Mann’s Constitutional Law class, I was able to convince the trial judge to dismiss the case.
• One of my male clients was charged with an obscure City of Orlando ordinance that made it illegal for a man to dress like a woman. He showed up for trial in male attire, but I immediately sent him home to change into his drag outfit since he really looked much better as a female (and that was his preferred clothing). We had no chance of winning the case, so I thought we might as well have some fun with the jury. He was convicted, but the ordinance was ruled unconstitutional on appeal.
• Even as a prosecutor I strove to maintain my sense of humor. I charged a defendant with resisting arrest when he struggled with Bruno, a police dog that was attempting to apprehend him. When asked by a newspaper reporter, I indicated that I might call Bruno to the witness stand. I told the surprised reporter that I would ask the dog how the defendant treated him and Bruno would reply “ruff.”
• Of course, many of my cases were very serious. I obtained a first-degree murder conviction against serial killer Gerald Stano for the murder of a woman in Seminole County.
• I handled the infamous case of the “Pied Piper of Longwood,” who was charged with molesting numerous children in his neighborhood. By then I considered myself to be a tough, seasoned prosecutor. But the testimony of one of the victims was so distressing that I had a difficult time leading her through it. When she finally finished and the judge ordered a break, I barely made it to the bathroom before I broke down in tears. Fortunately, the defendant was found guilty.
Because of wins like these, I not only became a bit cocky but perhaps even complacent. Back then we did not have an intake division, so I would file my own cases. In one, I filed sexual battery charges based solely on the word of a child victim, which led to the arrest of the foster parent.
It wasn’t until later I found out the police failed to provide me with crucial evidence that indicated the child had made the whole thing up. I immediately “nolle prossed” the case, but that did very little to restore the reputation and dignity of the man I had charged. That was the lowest point of my career.
In 1985 I was offered the position of regional legal adviser for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. My goal at that time — and it remains the same today — was to provide zealous legal assistance to my agents but at the same time make sure that constitutional standards are adhered to.
Here is a good example of that: Our Tampa agents were investigating a murder we believed was committed by a couple who were dating each other. Unable to obtain sufficient evidence to make an arrest, the agents asked several months later if they could get a wiretap order in an effort to catch the couple discussing the crime. Because of the freshness issue, a wiretap would be unconstitutional. But we did not give up. Instead, we came up with an ingenious plan and received authorization for the wiretap.
Once we had the wire in place, two of our agents confronted the female at work and told her we had reason to believe she was involved in the murder. As soon as they left the business, she was immediately on the telephone to her boyfriend telling him the cops knew about their involvement in the murder and for him to get out of town. The entire interception took 19 seconds and probably holds the record for the world’s shortest wiretap. They were arrested and the male, Richard Anderson, is currently on death row.
As you can see, I’ve experienced success, failure, had a few laughs and shed some tears throughout my career. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride that I wouldn’t have exchanged for anything.
However, I never wavered in my belief that I was a servant to the citizens of the State of Florida, and I always tried my best not to let them down.
Pam Crone (JD 91), Contract Lobbyist, Legislative Consulting Services, Seattle, Wash.
Unemployment insurance law, particularly as it intersects with the rights of domestic violence and stalking victims, has been Pam Crone’s mission in one form or another since her first days as an attorney. Crone has served as director of the state of Washington’s Unemployment Law Project, as a staff attorney for the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle, and as an unemployment insurance law educator at the University of Washington Law School.
Ultimately, it was Crone’s devotion to reforming unemployment insurance law and, in particular, advocating on behalf of victims of domestic violence and stalking that eventually led her to give up her law practice in 2002 and become a contract lobbyist.
“I loved direct service and working with people,” Crone said, referring to her law practice. “It has a huge impact on individuals’ lives. But I felt I could effect more systemic change and thereby help many more people by working to change the law in my role as a lobbyist.”
And Crone has done just that. One of her proudest achievements in her six years as a lobbyist was aiding in the passage of House Bill 1248 by the Washington State Legislature in 2002, which secured unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence and stalking.
Before House Bill 1248 passed, victims of domestic violence and stalking were often forced to leave their jobs and homes to protect themselves and their children. They were very vulnerable, as they weren’t eligible for unemployment compensation and were thrust into poverty, Crone said.
In fact, in the four years since House Bill 1248 became law, 1,120 women in Washington state have received previously denied unemployment benefits, Crone said.
“That bill’s passage fueled my passion,” Crone said. “It helps so many women get safe, as it provides an economic lifeline for them. It made me feel, ‘You can do this and effect real change.’”
• Protection for abortion clinics and others from losing insurance when the injured person or organization is the victim of arson or malicious mischief. Legislation passed in 2006
• Protections for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in rental housing. Allows leases to be legally broken in order for women to move to safer locations. Legislation passed in 2004
• Unemployment insurance for victims of domestic violence and stalking. Legislation passed in 2002
Finding the Value in Public Interest
“Where is this man’s public defender?” the judge barked from the bench. The demand was made even though I stood at the bar with my client.
“I represent Mr. Nelson, your honor,” I said, for the third time.
The county judge eyed me suspiciously, and then decreed, “You can’t be a public defender. Your clothes match.”
This was a less than subtle introduction to the fact that attorneys who serve in the public’s interest are often viewed at best as fashion-challenged oddballs, and at worst as godless infidels bent on our society’s demise.
Since graduating from UF in 1991, I have served as an assistant public defender, assistant dean for Student Affairs at the UF Levin College of Law, director of the Cumberland Public Interest Project at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, director of Legal Advocacy at the YWCA of Central Alabama, and currently as a special circuit judge and senior trial referee in the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama.
While survey after survey reports high levels of job dissatisfaction, substance abuse and depression amongst attorneys, I continue to love my work and wonder why more people don’t seek to serve in the public’s interest.
Unfortunately, the answer to this question has less to do with fashion sense and more to do with income. As the director of a public interest project at a small, private law school, I cajoled future graduates to apply for public interest positions only to be met with the same response: ”I can’t afford to work there.”
Historically, private sector positions have paid more than public service. Recently, this salary gap has widened. In 1991, the median starting salary for a private practice position was $50,000. In 2001, it was $90,000 — an 80 percent increase. In 1991, the median starting salary for a federal government position was $31,500. In 2001, it was $45,000 — a 43 percent increase. In 1991, the median starting salary for a public interest position was $25,500. In 2001, it was $35,000 — a 37 percent increase.
This salary differential only grows as attorneys rise in seniority. The median salary for a fifth-year associate in 2002 was $115,000, while 61 percent of public interest lawyers with five years of experience were making less than $45,000.
The realities of debt make the persistently low salaries and lack of earning potential associated with public service seem even more bleak. According to the Access Group, between 1993 and 2000, the median law student educational debt increased 59 percent to $84,000. During that same eight-year period, the median tuition at private law schools increased 48 percent while the median tuition at state law schools increased 76 percent.
Why should we care that a law student who wishes to pursue a public interest career can’t afford to?
In 2001, 32.9 million people lived below the federal poverty level. Low-income individuals and families face legal problems associated with their most basic needs — food, housing, health care, personal safety and education. Yet, attorneys trained and able to assist them are in short supply.
The federal government’s role in representing the nation in its regulation, policy development and oversight responsibilities demands the most skilled attorneys. A talented and committed federal workforce is tantamount to a high-performing government that earns and retains the confidence of the American people.
The good news is, as educational debt prevents more attorneys from taking and remaining in public interest and government jobs, more entities are creating possibly the most viable solution to the problem: loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). Generally speaking, an LRAP is when an employer or a law school directly pays or forgives educational debt if a person takes a public interest position and commits to a term of service.
At this point, few employers (including the federal government, which has the authority to provide repayment incentives) are using LRAPs to recruit, retain or impact the quality of the workforce. As of October 2002, 56 law schools had LRAPs. However, 70 percent of the total LRAP monies were disbursed by six schools.
What can the alumni do? We can create a generously funded, school-based LRAP at UF with reasonable eligibility requirements.
Alumni who are concerned with public interest/public service law can raise funds for the LRAP or scholarships. We can encourage aggressive implementation of LRAPs in federal agencies. We can remember that when provided with decent salaries … we can be very snappy dressers.
Francoise Hartley Horn (JD 91), Family Court, Birmingham, Ala.