2022 – Nicole Smith
Nicole Smith has a longstanding commitment to serving those who typically lack access to the justice system. Nicole graduated from Washington University School of Law in 2019, but her commitment to public interest law began while she was still in law school. She interned at the Missouri Public Defender’s Office, the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender, and the ACLU of Illinois. She also volunteered as a hotline operator for the ACLU’s Judicial Bypass Project and as a domestic violence court monitor in St. Louis County.
Nicole is passionate, dedicated, and a strong advocate. Justice Mary Mikva, in recalling Nicole’s time as a clerk in her chambers, stated that there were times when Nicole was able to convince her and even other justices to reconsider their positions on certain cases by showing how certain evidence could be interpreted in a different light.
As a staff attorney at Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), Nicole works on a project funded by the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program for the Safe and Thriving Communities Initiative, hosted by the Cook County Justice Advisory Council. This program focuses on providing services to youth to prevent gun and domestic violence. A large part of her work is providing direct legal services and education for young adults in the southern suburbs of Cook County. One example of the many exemplary things Nicole has been able to do while at CLGA is successfully petition judges to seal and expunge the criminal and juvenile records of multiple clients in contested proceedings. Her current supervisor praised Nicole’s empathy for her clients and the communities that CGLA seeks to serve.
Nicole truly embodies the character and commitment to public interest that the Anderson Fellowship seeks to reward. As this year’s recipient of the Anderson Fellowship, Nicole will be able to continue her excellent work at CGLA, serving communities in Chicago that are often overlooked by the legal system.