The 2021 Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Pro Bono Award: Elizabeth Murphy

If you looked at Elizabeth Murphy’s resume, you would learn she is a partner at Alston & Bird where she serves as Chair of the Commercial Real Estate Lending and Servicing Team. What you would not see is that she has represented fourteen immigrant children escaping brutal violence in Central America, volunteering over two hundred hours in the last five years, to ensure they are safe with their families in the United States and have a path toward residency and citizenship.  

For her endeavors, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to grant Elizabeth Murphy our 2021 Pro Bono Award.  

Elizabeth Murphy

Murphy champions pro bono representation for children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)–a status granted to immigrant minors who have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by a parent. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is the primary source of legal representation for these children in North Carolina and there are far more children in need of representation than we can assist without pro bono help. 

Murphy’s first SIJS case left a lasting impact on her and her client’s life. She represented a little girl from Central America who came to live with her mother in search of better opportunities. Thought to have a learning disability, she did not receive an adequate education in her home country. However, after attending a local Charlotte-Mecklenburg school, her family learned she only suffered from hearing loss. The child was given hearing aids and the proper tools to succeed. Without Murphy’s representation, she could have been deported.  

“She was written off. All it took was a little bit of the resources we have in this country to give her a better life to make sure she stays with her parent. The most menial benefits of a hearing test and a doctor changed her life forever. Being a meaningful part of her life is everything. It’s amazingly fulfilling to help do those cases and help those children. It’s so easy to see why we need to do this work.” 

With the surge of immigration at the Southern border, The Advocacy Center anticipates an increase of children in need of SIJS. As the coordinator for her firm’s Safe Child Immigrant Project, Murphy has been key in recruiting others at Alston & Bird to take on SIJS cases. Overall, the firm has represented twenty-two immigrant children. Any NC licensed attorney can learn to represent SIJS children at The Advocacy Center’s upcoming CLE on June 15th.  

Murphy says “it’s so easy to see why we need to do this work. I get to go to court and make sure a child can stay with his family and get a fantastic education.” 

Expanding the scope of her pro bono commitment, Murphy recently became a Charlotte Triage Champion for The Advocacy Center’s new Driver’s License Restoration Project. In this role, she recruits attorneys from Charlotte law firms and corporations to be trained and take on license restoration cases, increasing clients’ access to transportation, employment and education.  

“It shows the privilege of our legal education by giving just a couple of hours, we can help get someone their driver’s license back which immediately improves their economic outlook.  They get their life back, they can drive to work.” 

Her advice for those new to the legal profession or pro bono work? “No matter who you are, you can still do pro bono. No matter what your skill set is, no matter what your specialty is, there is still pro bono for you to do and you can still do it well. You just need to give what you can give.” 

Our volunteers are critical to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s mission to pursue justice for those in need. Murphy is a role model for the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partnership in Mecklenburg County, enabling us to serve more people in need, to narrow the Justice Gap, and to build a stronger, more just community for us all. Elizabeth, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and our clients thank you for your volunteerism and commitment to access to justice. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s call for Artist Qualifications for Purchase or Creation of New Work for our Building

Call Summary 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is requesting qualifications from emerging visual artists age 21+ local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region to create or sell art of any medium relevant to our mission for our new building at 5535 Albemarle Road, Charlotte NC. Qualifications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until May 2nd, 2021 at 5pm. Artists interested in the project should apply by that date. The project must start after July 1st, 2021 and be complete by June 30th, 2022 (fiscal year 2022). The Advocacy Center has $15,000-$25,000 available depending on grant funding for multiple projects from different artists or collectives. Artists who are Black, Indigenous, Latino, people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and artists who come from low-income backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply.  


Meghan Rankins, Development and Pro Bono Associate 


Phone Number: 980-202-7347 

Project Description 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is searching for artists to commission new work or purchase artworks of any medium including but not limited to murals, photography, painting, etc. that align with our mission below for our new building. Artists can submit qualifications individually or partner with other local creatives.  

The Advocacy Center’s mission and vision statements are: 

Our mission is to pursue justice for those in need. 

Our vision is to build a just community where all people are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs of safety, security, and stability. 

In addition to reflecting our mission and vision statements, the selected proposals should encompass the following themes: 

  • Inclusivity and Welcomeness 
  • Justice for all in our community 
  • Hope and inspiration 
  • Diversity of our client base and community 
    • Including Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and low-income individuals and families 
  • Intersectionality of Identity 
  • Ending Poverty 
  • Racial Equity 

These artworks should represent the respect and esteem that The Advocacy Center’s staff and clients deserve—bridging gaps to address complex community issues such as access to healthcare, housing, and opportunity. 

About Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps people in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region who cannot afford legal services, but desperately need them. Without legal representation in civil matters, thousands of families can lose access to financial security, healthcare, housing and opportunity. 

The impact goes far beyond our neighbors in need. It affects our entire community. 

Since 1967, our staff and pro bono attorneys have provided comprehensive civil legal services for our region’s low-income residents. We accomplish our mission through a variety of advocacy strategies, including individual advice and representation, community education and outreach, representation of groups, self-help remedies, collaboration with other agencies, community economic development, legislative and administrative advocacy, and impact litigation. 

The need is everywhere. 

That’s why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here. 

  • We were formed in 1967 as a part of the War on Poverty and are the oldest legal services program in North Carolina.  
  • We serve 3,500 families each year facing a crisis of safety, shelter, health or income. More than 300,000 people in our region are eligible for our services and in need of legal assistance but are unable to afford private lawyers. 
  • We are the largest provider of legal assistance in Mecklenburg County improving access to healthcare for low-income and vulnerable populations. 
  • We are the largest non-profit provider of representation in the Charlotte immigration court in all of North and South Carolina. 
  • We advocate on behalf of clients, resulting in policy changes at the local and national level. 

When people with severe illnesses need healthcare coverage — 
When homeowners are on the brink of foreclosure — 
When disabled veterans cannot obtain their benefits — 
When domestic violence victims seek protective orders — 
When immigrants are in danger of exploitation — 

There is a place to turn. 
A place that has served for more than 50 years as a beacon of hope and a tireless champion for our diverse and growing population. 
A place where legal staff and volunteer attorneys and advocates fight to protect the fundamental rights of all. 

Justice lives here. 

Learn more about our services and programs here.  

Art Location Description 

Artwork could be displayed around or inside of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s new building at 5535 Albemarle Road, Charlotte NC. The building is in East Charlotte near Central Avenue. The city of Charlotte’s greenway will eventually extend near the site. The Advocacy Center chose this location because of its proximity to our clients, particularly the Latino and immigrant community in Charlotte. See linked plans for dimensions and more details.  

The building’s exterior has excellent opportunities for art. The exterior has stretches of brick wall between large windows for murals. The largest wall faces an open green space that will be landscaped and used for casual collaborative working, meeting, and presentation space. The campus also has two plazas ideal for outdoor art display. Murals and other exterior art will be seen primarily by The Advocacy Center’s staff, clients, board of directors, other legal professionals, and nonprofit community partners who visit or work in the campus. The campus exterior is viewable from Albemarle Road in the Fall and Winter, but trees block the view of the buildings in the Spring and Summer.  

Due to the design of the building and ample usage of glass walls, the interior has minimal wall space but still has good opportunities for display, particularly in our client-facing spaces downstairs including reception, the client waiting room, and interview rooms. Wall space in the interview rooms will be shared with teleconferencing technology. Upstairs will be accessible by staff only and has some wall space around “spine walls” as shown in the attached design. Windows wrap the exterior of the building and office fronts are glass. Materials used should be able to withstand substantial light exposure. 

View the exterior and floor plans of our building here. Potential display dimensions can be found here. We welcome ideas for creative usage of space that would allow for other display options outside of those marked.


Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has currently allocated $15,000 toward the commission or purchase of artwork. The Advocacy Center may select multiple artworks or invest in a singular proposal depending on quality, creativity, and cost. Budget would include purchase of existing artwork and/or total cost of creating new work including artists’ fees, materials, and installation.  

Artist Eligibility 

Artists selected for this project should:  

  • Be over the age of 21 
  • Emerging artists preferred, but not required 
  • Artists who are local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region preferred, but not required 
  • Artists who are Black, Indigenous, Latino, people of color, immigrants, women, disabled people, LGBTQ+, veterans, and artists who come from low-income backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply. 
  • Can be single applicants or part of an artist team or collective 

Art Criteria  

Successful artwork should: 

  • Follow thematic guidelines listed above 
  • Be appropriate for a non-profit, professional office 
  • Use durable and affordable materials that can withstand weathering and light exposure (art chosen will be a permanent installation) 
  • Be completed the project in fiscal year 2022 
  • Support the mission of our organization 

Application Requirements 

To apply, please submit the following to Meghan Rankins at by May 2nd, 2021 at 5pm. 

  • Artist Bio and Resume/CV. 
  • 3-4 examples of your artwork aligned with our mission and vision statements that are currently available for purchase. Please include title, dimensions, creation year, media, material and retail price. 
  • Alternatively, artists can submit existing examples of work that would serve as inspiration for a new proposal. Proposal should include details about concept, material, proposed dimension, and full budget to execute proposed work. 
  • A few paragraphs commenting on your ideas for the space, medium of art you would use, estimate price of the commission, and plans to involve the community of Charlotte in your piece. If you are proposing a new work, please outline any experience you have had with public art commissions 
  • Links to your website and/or social media handles 

Selection process 

Submissions will be evaluated by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Art Committee. Artists interested in the project should apply by May 2nd, 2021. Submissions will be evaluated by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Art Committee and selected artists will be notified by the end of May. Selected artists will be invited to the new building to see the space and opportunities for artwork. 

Selection Criteria 

Submissions will be selected based on the following criteria: 

  • Representation of the desired goals and themes of the artworks 
  • Interpretation of mission and clarity of concept 
  • Creativity and originality in interpreting mission. 
  • Consideration of the scope and criteria of the project 
  • Quality of the artwork and proposal 
  • Approximated cost of commission/artwork 
  • Priority given to emerging artists 
  • Priority given to artists local to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region 

Project Timeline 

Projects should begin after July 1st, 2021 and be complete by June 30th, 2022, but ideally be completed during Fall of 2021 when The Advocacy Center staff will move into the new building.  

Sources for Additional Information/Questions 

If you have additional questions, email Meghan Rankins at 

Learn more about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at  

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Anti-Racist Reading List

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we believe that ALL people should have access to legal assistance and resources that ensure stability and promote opportunity. We fight for equal justice under the law every day. Racial justice and equity are inherent to this work. 

During the Black Lives Matter protests over last summer, The Advocacy Center staff compiled a list of books, articles, and podcast that had contributed to our own learning of anti-racism, racial oppression, and inequities in the United States. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we would like to share that list with you so that as a community we can continue our own education. Today is a day of reflection on how far we have come and how much further we have to go to reach true equality in our nation.


Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is….A Lot”  by Shenequa Golding 

The 1619 Project (New York Times) 

Lynch Law in All its Phases” by Ida B. Wells

The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” by Audre Lord

The Combahee River Collective Statement

Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead)” by Holiday Phillips 


“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo 

“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi 

“Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt  

“Raising White Kids” by Jennifer Harvey  

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo  

“The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement” by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris  

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson 

“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin 

“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge 

“They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement” by Wesley Lowery 

“Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall 

“Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by bell hooks 

“Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People” by Ben Crump 

“From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans” by John Hope Franklin  

“The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and William Barber II 

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi 

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander 

“Woman, Race and Class” by Angela Davis  

Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis 

“The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein 

“Scenes of Subjection” by Saidiya Hartman 

“When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele 

“Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Every Day Resistance in the Plantation south” by Stephanie Camp

“Counting Descent” by Clint Smith

For kids: 

“The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz 

“Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester 

“The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism” by Pat Thomas 

Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” by Bobbi Jane Kates 

“Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard 

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers 

“Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia 

“Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes 

“Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” by Jennifer Harvey 

“Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family” by Bedford F. Palmer 

“A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret Holmes 

“Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi 

For teens:  

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas 

“Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson 

“This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand 

“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson 

“Dear White People” by Justin Simien 

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead 

2021 Access to Justice Champions

We are grateful for those who are leading the way to fund our COVID-19 effort to ensure safety, stability, and security for all during these uncertain times. Your support enables us to continue this important work and adapt to meet our community’s needs. Despite the challenges that this year has placed upon us, we know we can count on you.

These donors have contributed at the leadership level of $1,000 or more to the 2021 Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina and bringing over our $500,000 goal.

Mecklenburg Access to Justice Champions sticker

John Mitchell and Linda MacDonald Aberman

John A. Fagg

T. Hal Clarke

Christopher and Anne Lam

Lisa Howell

Heather and Chris Culp

Paul R. Kinny

Mary Mandeville and Kirk Keever

Heloise C. Merrill

Bank of America Corporation

David Sobul

Jason and Jennifer Schubert

Alston & Bird

Brian Hayles

David and Lyn Batty

Julian and Amy Wright

Robert and Christy Hancock

Brett and Julie A. Durham

Christine and Trevor Hoke

Stephen Luke Largess

John and Meredith Jeffries

Emily Kern and Mark Metz

Robert L. Mendenhall

D. Blaine and Ann Morgan Sanders

Sean and Jacqueline Jones 

Angela H. Zimmern

Robert and Caroline Sink

Alice Richey and David Pitser

Paul and Julia Steffens

James R. Cass

Jonathan Ferry

Patricia F. Hosmer

Peter and Anne Covington

Catherine and Jeffrey Barnes

Redding Jones, PLLC

David B. Whelpley

Stewart and Anna McQueen

Porter Durham

Allen and Jennie Robertson

Jared and Courtney Mobley

George & Deb Hanna

Lisbeth B. Schorr

The McIntosh Law Firm

Jared and Courtney Mobley

Shawn McGrath

Troutman Pepper

Robert and Alicia Hahn

Matthew Robertson

Garland and Katherine Cassada

John Allison

Mark and Kimberly Calloway

Michael and Amanda Finlon

Robert and Laurie Fisher

Sara Higgins and Ray Owens

Jane and Milburn Ratteree

James and Mary Lou Babb

John Grupp

Edward T. Hinson Jr.

Margaret and Harrison Marshall

Pender R. McElroy

Dechert LLP

John Wester

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

Greer Walker LLP

Scott and LouAnn Vaughn

Brian Barger

Naho Kobayashi

Karl Horn

Peter J. McGrath, Jr.

Mark and Michelle Nebrig

Douglas W. and Tere Ey

Steven N. Cohen

Corby and James William Anderson

Mark Gosnell

Katten Muchin Rosenman

Leslee Daugherty and Roger Gilmartin

Kevin and Elizabeth Murphy

Nelson Mullins

John N. Suhr

Lisa and Ken L. Miller

Cory and Katherine Hohnbaum


Timika Shafeek-Horton

Keith F. Oberkfell

L. Cameron Caudle

Lincoln Derr

Mark Busch

W. Scott and Sharon Dove

Jessica and Burgin Hardin

J. Michael Booe and Rebecca Henderson

Jonathan P. Goldberg

Luther T. Moore

Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owen, PLLC

W. Todd & Debbie Stillerman

Kate Wellman

Sean and Jacqueline Jones

S. Benjamin Pleune

Allie Lin & Joseph Thomas

Bryon Mulligan

William C. Sloane Mayberry

Cynthia Siemasko

Bruce M. Steen

Nancy Black Norelli

McGuire Woods

My Trung Ngo

Holland and Knight

Richard Worf

Martin Brackett

Mayer Brown

Duke Energy

Nicholas Harris

Charles Alex Castle

Mayer Brown LLP

James and Mary Lou Babb

John Mitchel Aberman

Russel and Sally Robinson

Mark and Lindsay Merritt

Jameson P Wells

Alexis Iffert

John G. McDonald

Richard W. Viola

David A. Franchina

Douglass Jarrell

Matthew DeRuyter

A. Todd Brown

J. William and Susan Porter

Raj and Carter Natarajan

Charles McBrayer Sasser

Jocelyn Graham McLaughlin

Robert and Ann Cramer

Edward T. Hinson, Jr.

James Ewing

Naho Kobayashi

Staci E Rosche

David B Whelpley

Rakesh Gopalan

Brentford Martin

Katherine S Holliday

Keith Smith

Russell F Sizemore

*Donors as of March 19th, 2021*

Want to become an Access to Justice Champion? Make a contribution to be recognized as a leader of our COVID-19 effort.

Find out how.

The 2020 Election

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy logo


The 2020 election has been certainly unprecedented. Although ballots have already been cast in North Carolina and across the nation, we understand that we likely will not know the outcome of the election for days to come. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy recognizes and is grateful to activists and organizations that have mobilized the American public to exercise their right to vote.

North Carolinians voted early and by mail in record numbers with over four and a half million people voting absentee this season. Whether you voted in person or by mail, thank you for voting and for your commitment during this election. 

While we wait to hear who the next President Elect and our state representatives will be, we hope that you and your family can take some time to rest, reflect, and regroup. Anxieties are particularly high during elections and have been worsened by the global COVID-19 pandemic. We have endured an exhausting election year. 

The fight for justice for all does not end at the ballot box. We must continue to hold our representatives accountable for the pressing needs of our communities during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue to take action: 

  • Regularly contact your state and federal representatives to encourage them to pass legislation that extends pandemic relief efforts and expands social safety nets for your neighbors.  
  • Get involved and volunteer with local organizations; you can learn about volunteer opportunities at The Advocacy Center here.  
  • Support and, if you are able, join those who are working for racial equity.  

Let this election become your call to action and the start, if not continuation, of your commitment to access to affordable housing, food and financial security, health insurance, and justice.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will be here to serve our community regardless of election results. We continue to advocate for the safety, security and stability of low-income families, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, veterans, and immigrants through civil legal aid. As the economic and legal repercussions of this pandemic unfold, The Advocacy Center will continue to adapt to meet urgent needs.

We are here, we are working, and we are listening.


The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 

Executive Director, Ken Schorr, Recognized by NC Justice Center with Lifetime Achievement Award

Congratulations, Ken!

We are immensely proud to announce that our executive director, Ken Schorr, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Carolina Justice Center as a part of their 2020 Defenders of Justice ceremony this past weekend. The Justice Center recognized him “for his decades of leadership in legal services, as he tirelessly defended the interests of underrepresented North Carolinians.”  

Ken Schorr, Executive Director

Ken has had the privilege of advocating for low-income people in Little Rock, Phoenix, Dallas, and Charlotte for the duration of his career. Dedicated to those he serves, Ken has fought with the principle that legal aid lawyers must have the same undiluted loyalty to their clients and the same high level of competence as private lawyers.  

Access to legal services “is only a part” of justice for all. “We also need the political and economic systems to work to end poverty and racism, and to do that we need to work beyond the legal system,” Ken underscored in his acceptance speech.  

“Low income people need lawyers, they need advocates, and they need them to be able to use the full range of advocacy tools to promote and protect the rights of all low-income people. We must be able to do this for each individual client and to change systems adversely affecting all low-income people. It is a part of how we will end poverty, and racism, for everyone in our community.” 

Ken served as Litigation Director of Community Legal Services in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1979 to 1983 and as Executive Director of Legal Services of North Texas in Dallas, Texas, from 1983 to 1987. A native of Washington, D.C., he received a B.A. degree from Brandeis University in 1973, a J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1975 and an M.S. Degree in organization development from the American University School of Public Affairs and the NTL Institute in 2002. Ken has served as the director of The Advocacy Center since 1988. 

Ken is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, a Special Advisor to and former member of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, and has served on the boards of local, state and national nonprofits, including the N.C. Justice Center, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Uptown Men’s Shelter, United Way of Central Carolinas, North Carolina Legal Services Resource Center, Texas Legal Services Resource Center, National Legal Aid and Defender Association and NLADA Service Corporation. 

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Ken is known for his engagement with all staff, new and old, work on community and programmatic collaborations, staunch advocacy and support in all areas of our work, and his tie-dye shirt at the annual staff BBQ.  

Thank you, Ken, for your leadership, service, and unyielding commitment to justice for all people.  

In Memory of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Notorious RBG.”

. . .

We are deeply saddened by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a champion for justice during her 27 years on the Court, and she has been the leading voice for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality throughout her tenure. She will be dearly missed as one of our nation and our legal field’s most consistent and principled voices for justice for all. She dedicated her career to the causes that drive both our organization and members of our staff.  

  • Ginsburg graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1959, tied for first in her class, but then had difficulty finding employment because of her gender.  
  • She held a US District Court clerkship and conducted research on Swedish civil procedure (for which she learned to speak Swedish),  became a Professor at Rutgers Law School, and then  was told that she would be paid less than her male colleagues.  

In 1972 she became the first woman tenured professor at Columbia Law School. She also co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, becoming General Counsel in 1973 and arguing six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976. She won five of the six. Working as Thurgood Marshall had done in race discrimination cases, she devised an incremental legal strategy, challenging specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory. She demonstrated that gender discrimination was harmful to us all. 

In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  

And in 1993 to the US Supreme Court, becoming the second female Justice in US history confirmed by the US Senate on a vote of 96 to 3.  

We admire Justice Ginsburg  for her keen intellect, her determination in the face of injustice, and for her eloquence in majority and in dissent. She was personally close to people who agreed with her and with many who did not, notably Antonin Scalia.  Her powerful marriage and commitment to family have become a motivating example of how to succeed and strike a balance as a devoted spouse and mother and a tireless professional simultaneously.  

She was an inspiration for her own family as well. Both her daughter, Jane Ginsberg, and granddaughter, Clara Spera, went on to law school. Clara currently works at the ACLU advocating to expand reproductive care for low-income women. Spera notes that “no one has guided and inspired me more than my grandmother.” 

 Late in her life, Ginsburg became a cultural icon.  Younger generations, many of our staff members included, followed “Notorious RBG’s” footsteps and legacy to law school and the fight for justice.  

Justice Ginsburg’s  activism as a lawyer and Justice paved the way for much of the Advocacy Center’s work today, including, for example, her fierce advocacy for equal protection with respect to the Social Security Act and her continued support for the Affordable Care Act.  

We will not lose sight of the enduring legacy Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind, and we should embrace her determination to work toward opportunity and justice. 

As her death came during the celebration of Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, I  recall her words during services of that celebration years ago,  

“We are taught to do right, to love mercy, do justice, not because there’s going to be any reward in heaven or punishment in hell. We live righteously because that’s how people should live.”   

Justice Ginsburg passed on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, saved for the most righteous of people signifying she was given the full measure of the year. Justice Ginsburg gave to all of us the full measure of herself and for that we are all truly blessed. 

That is her legacy. She lived each day righteously, in pursuit of equality and justice for all, not for any accolades, but because it was the right and just thing to do. And in this she set perhaps the greatest example of all, that each of us, no matter our position or stature, can pursue these ideals in our own lives, “because that’s how people should live.”  

May we all live up to her challenge. May her memory be an inspiration


Ken Schorr, Executive Director