Supporting Talented Attorneys in Public Interest
Fellowships awarded to legal aid attorneys and a scholarship to a law student allow them to pursue meaningful careers in public service and continue serving the most vulnerable
On October 14, the CBF presented the 2015 CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowships to five legal aid attorneys and the 2015 CBF Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship to a law student who plans to pursue a career in public service. These programs aim to help alleviate financial concerns and make it more manageable for these exceptional attorneys to continue their careers in legal aid. In doing so, the CBF helps ensure that the most vulnerable people in our community have access to the protections of our justice system.
First awarded in 2007, the CBF annually awards five Sun-Times Fellowships to legal aid or public interest law attorneys who demonstrate a commitment to public interest work, academic achievement in law school, and outstanding character and integrity. This fellowship addresses a crisis facing lawyers in our community who are increasingly finding that a career in legal aid and public interest law is simply untenable from an economic standpoint. Lawyers graduating today typically have mortgage-sized law school debt while working for relatively modest salaries at pro bono and legal aid organizations.
Through a generous $2 million cy pres award from a case involving the Chicago Sun-Times, the CBF was able to create these fellowships to provide significant loan repayment assistance to those who need it most. The Sun-Times Fellows will each receive $20,000 in loan repayment assistance over five years to help them continue their careers in legal aid.
This year’s recipients of the Sun-Times Fellowship are:
- RocÃo AlcÃ¡ntar, National Immigrant Justice Center
Depaul University College of Law, J.D. 2010
- Jose Alonso, LAF
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2007
- Cynthia Cornelius, Cabrini Green Legal Aid
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2012
- Liz Ptacek, Domestic Violence Legal Clinic
University of Chicago Law School, J.D. 2010
- Marisa Wiesman, Prairie State Legal Service
University of Minnesota Law School, J.D. 2006
Each of the five fellowship recipients provides vital services to low-income and disadvantaged members of our community. RocÃo AlcÃ¡ntar ensures that vulnerable immigrant populations without access to legal services receive the assistance they need. Jose Alonso provides outreach and representation to vulnerable migrant and seasonal agricultural workers across the state.
Cynthia Cornelius assists individuals to expunge or seal their criminal records or otherwise obtain the certificates necessary to remove barriers to employment and other basic rights so they can gain a second chance at life. Liz Ptacek’s representation and advocacy help to ensure the safety of victims of domestic violence and make the Domestic Violence Courthouse more responsive to the needs of these vulnerable clients. Marisa Wiesman increases access to justice for thousands of people from vastly underserved communities in more than 30 Illinois counties by coordinating pro bono services and developing new initiatives to expand her organization’s reach.
These exceptional attorneys have made significant financial sacrifices to serve the people in our community who are in most critical need of the protections of the justice system, said David Mann, Chair of the Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowship Selection Committee. The CBF Sun-Times Fellowship aims to help alleviate some of these financial concerns and make it more manageable for these dedicated attorneys to continue their careers in legal aid.
Upon receiving her fellowship, RocÃo AlcÃ¡ntar, a supervising attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, remarked, “I am so fortunate to be part of a legal community that recognizes the importance of supporting public interest attorneys who with passion and dedication work tirelessly to bring justice to all.
The CBF Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship has been awarded annually since 2004 to an incoming first-year law student attending one of the nine Illinois law schools. The Scholarship was made possible through the generous financial contribution of the late Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz. Throughout his distinguished life and career, Judge Marovitz was a firm believer that financial need should not be a bar to dedicated young students who want to pursue careers in public service. For nearly a century, Judge Marovitz consistently demonstrated his commitment to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through a variety of charitable activities. Prior to his death in 2001, Judge Marovitz ensured that this legacy would continue by establishing funding for a number of charitable initiatives, including the CBF Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship.
The CBF has awarded the 2015 Marovitz Scholarship to Julie Holdener, a first-year law student at the University of Illinois College of Law. Holdener will receive $40,000 in financial assistance payable over her law school career, which will help ease the financial burden of law school and enable her to pursue a career in public service.
Julie impressed the Selection Committee with her passion, scholastic and extracurricular achievements, and remarkable record of public service, commented Andy Marovitz, Chair of the CBF Marovitz Scholarship Selection Committee. Her dedication to serving people in need is unparalleled, and we have no doubt that she will be a tremendous asset to Chicago’s legal aid community.
Upon receiving the Scholarship, Julie shared, The Marovitz Scholarship makes my dream of practicing public interest law far more attainable. I am grateful for the financial assistance and also for the time, insight, and opportunities from established members of the public interest world. I have even more motivation to work in this field and pay it forward.