By Rita Lord
On September 30, 2013, Daniel Idzikowski became the new executive director at Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW). A graduate of Marquette Law School, he has spent his career working for social justice organizations, including the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (APPALRED), Legal Services of Northeastern Wisconsin, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Catholic Charities. He also served as Assistant Dean for Public Service at Marquette Law School, as vice-chair of the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee, and as a member of the Milwaukee County Community Justice Council along with the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
Dan attributes his dedication to social justice to his Jesuit education at Marquette High School, Georgetown University and Marquette Law School, where he learned to appreciate the need to help others. After law school, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and worked at APPALRED, an organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income people in east and south central Kentucky. “The founder and director of APPALRED, John Rosenberg, saw the law as a means to empower people, especially those who live in a culture of poverty. He made me want to continue that work,” Dan said.
He described his passion as twofold. The first is creating conditions that equalize opportunity and power, particularly for those who are disadvantaged. “DRW was very attractive to me because it is dedicated to just that,” he said. “I want to stand with and empower individuals to exercise their rights and be included in society. That’s what justice is — having an equal voice, even when society tells them they are not equal.” The second is promoting collaboration, bringing together different parties to effect change.
When asked to discuss the greatest needs of social justice organizations, Dan said that funding is always an issue because adequate resources are needed to maximize access to the court system, the legislature and government processes. “Funding allows us to give the fullest representation to those people who need it,” he said. He noted that changes in efficiencies in the court system itself would also be a move in the right direction.