At the 2015 Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference, six awards were announced for outstanding contributions in the areas of civil justice, public interest law and pro bono work. The award winners were announced by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Legal Assistance Committee and Public Interest Law Section. Formal presentation of the awards will take place during the Member Recognition Celebration at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting & Conference on June 25 in Lake Geneva.
Andy DeClercq, with Boardman & Clark LLP, Madison, was awarded the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award. Colleagues described DeClercq as a “quiet, unsung advocate for the rights of others. He does not seek accolades for himself, but is more than deserving of them. His continued commitment to pro bono so early in his career is a testament to his character.” DeClercq has accepted several pro bono appointments by the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in prisoner civil rights cases, which involved a large time commitment.
Gass Weber Mullins LLC, Milwaukee, was honored as the Pro Bono Organization of the Year. The law firm was nominated by State Public Defender Kelli Thompson for its “willingness to donate substantial attorney time and firm resources to challenging and unpopular legal causes.” Thompson stated, “The vast majority of public defender cases are not extremely visible. They essentially pass through the justice system without much notice. Nevertheless, they are immensely important to the indigent, uneducated, distressed people caught up in them. Gass Weber Mullins’ readiness to quietly, yet steadily, take on the unglamorous cases — to the tune of many hundreds of volunteers hours — is worthy of recognition.”
Lisa Clay Foley, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin, Milwaukee, will receive the Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award. Foley has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, to volunteerism, to helping others, and to working to help the community at large. Coworkers described her as “a model of commitment, diligence and professionalism,” and “an advocate who demonstrates compassion for clients and affirms their dignity while maintaining the professionalism needed to secure justice.”
Donn Lind, with Legal Action of Wisconsin, was given the Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award. In their nomination letters, Lind’s colleagues describe him as patient and empathetic with clients, dedicated, selfless, a teacher and a mentor. He brings a “selfless style to his advocacy for low income clients.” “Donn possesses a selfless nature and natural inclination to assist those with less experience.”
Amelia Maxfield received the Outstanding Public Interest Law Student Award– University of Wisconsin Law School. Colleagues and friends said Maxfield is “smart, creative, inquisitive and self-directed” with an “impressive ability to grasp complicated policy and legal concepts quickly… and translate them into language that non-experts can understand.” “Her passion about issues impacting low-income Wisconsinites shone through in her work.”
Nicole Ostrowski was received the Outstanding Public Interest Law Student Award– Marquette University Law School. She has completed more than 100 hours of pro bono legal work. Colleagues and friends point out that Ostrowski demonstrates “commitment to public service, energy to work for a better world, depth of involvement and leadership of her peers.” They also cite “her contribution to the community, her influence on the culture of pro bono, her endless commitment to the giving of her skill and knowledge freely, and her depth of public interest involvement.”