2014 – Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle Fitzsimmons, 2014 Sun Times Fellowship recipient

Michelle Fitzsimmons began her legal career at the Rock Island office of Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS), where she continues to work today. Since 2007, Michelle has represented low-income clients in a broad range of civil legal matters, including evictions, orders of protection, public benefits denials, divorce, and custody/visitation matters. Because the three attorneys in PSLS’ Rock Island office serve four counties, Michelle has had to master the full range of civil legal issues that are commonly encountered by low-income communities. In addition to her sizeable caseload, Michelle serves as PSLS’ Housing Task Force Co-Chair, providing substantive law trainings to attorneys and social service agencies as well as housing law guidance and support to her colleagues. During Michelle’s impressive tenure at PSLS, she has also spearheaded and implemented a successful court-based Volunteer Lawyer Courthouse Project in Rock Island County, through which volunteer attorneys assist low-income tenants facing wrongful evictions. Additionally, Michelle developed an internship program for her office and has taken a leadership role in establishing a Racial Justice Task Force. On top of all this, Michelle assists in managing the day-to-day operations of the Rock Island office.

Notably, Michelle began her work at PSLS as a volunteer while in college, and it was that experience that solidified her plan to attend law school and become a public interest attorney. She graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with a concentration in Health Law and Environmental & Natural Resource Law. During law school, Michelle continued to gain valuable experience in the public interest sector through several internships, ultimately returning to PSLS. Michelle has proven to be an invaluable asset to PSLS, and she has helped to ensure access to justice for thousands of people from vastly underserved communities.

As a result of her extraordinary efforts and accomplishments advocating for low-income individuals, Michelle was awarded a CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowship in 2014, a financial award that will help meet her law school loan obligations. “I am eternally grateful for this prestigious fellowship award and the financial support it has given to allow me to continue doing what I love. Maya Angelou once said, ‘When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.’ I truly feel blessed to have been selected for this award and, again, thank you.”