"…Two roads diverged in
a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
By Nicole Bowman
uring the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University, said, "Jesus tells us that we can only find greatness, nobility and recognition in the service of others…. [T]hat you earn in life according to what you give and the manner in which you give it." Father O'Connell urged his listeners to "'Sow bountifully,' as St. Paul tells us. Be generous not only in what you provide, but how you provide it. Those who come to us in need - no matter how small - are not burdens or distractions but the reason we are here. In fact, their needs are our responsibility."
Catholic University prides itself on being a service-oriented institution and its law school is no exception. With over 25 percent of the class of 2000 going into government and public service, the law school year after year demonstrates its commitment to servant-leadership - to, if you will, the very noble prospect of finding oneself by giving oneself to others. This is not to say that we are not justifiably proud of the members of our community pursuing careers as captains of industry or with the most prestigious law firms in the land. We most definitely are, since they too, contribute greatly to the health of our republic and the families that depend upon a fair observance of the rule of law in matters ranging from commerce to adoption to the incorporation of a new business.
Yet, our alumni who have chosen government and public service often do so at some considerable and extraordinary personal sacrifice, and in doing so - to paraphrase Robert Frost - they "have made all the difference" in countless lives for the good. What follows are just a few examples. There are many more, and we hope that you will tell us of your own good works and those of others in the months and years ahead. For now, here are some notable, but generally unsung, individual profiles. Following the profiles, is a report of the encouragement for public service from the Chief Justice of New Mexico to the Class of 2001 and a profile of the powerful lay service organization of the Catholic church - the Knights of Columbus, which has played and instrumental part in the life and spirit of this law school.
Class of '87
|"All people should be entitled to a fair and equal shake at justice. That is why I chose public interest law."
Betsy Soule is a supervising attorney with South Middlesex Legal Services in Framingham, Mass. She primarily practices elder law and supervises the benefits unit, but also works on domestic violence cases. On a day-to-day basis, Soule handles housing cases, benefits cases, domestic relations cases, bankruptcies, post-divorce issues, elder abuse cases, nursing home transfer and discharge cases, and drafting durable powers of attorney, health care proxies, and will codicils.
In addition to casework and supervision, she is actively involved in community education and outreach primarily to senior citizens and service providers who work with senior citizens.
CUA Lawyer: When you came to CUA law school did you intend to practice public interest law?
Soule: When I came to law school, I thought that I wanted to be an international lawyer. I knew nothing about public interest law or legal services at that time. During my second year of law school, I took what we called "the clinic" which is now the general practice clinic at Columbus Community Legal Services. Someone had recommended it to me but I didn't know a lot about it. That clinic totally changed my career path. I spent two semesters at the clinic and represented a number of clients, predominantly in domestic relations cases which involved domestic abuse.
At the clinic, we worked hard and it was really like a family. I remember during my first semester there when I was a second year, you had to team up with a third year student if your case involved going to court because you had to be third year to be certified to appear in court. I didn't know any of the third year's at the clinic but I approached another student and asked her if she would team up with me. I don't know how thrilled she was about it at the time, but Mary Anne Charron and I have been good friends ever since. We won the case too!
CUA Lawyer: Did you have any mentors?
Soule: I worked under the supervision of two women who I consider to be outstanding teachers and advocates, Ellen Scully and Catherine Klein. Professor Scully became my mentor and to this day, we are in touch and I will sometimes call her to toss around ideas on a case. Now we are peers and that gives me great pleasure. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to be a legal services lawyer. There was no doubt in my mind. I remember Ellen telling me that I should get a job doing something to tide me over but not to give up, that I would find a job in legal services. She was right, I did. I worked in a department store selling men's clothing for six months and then saw an ad for a job as an elder law attorney at South Middlesex Legal Services. I interviewed for the job and was offered it within a month. I went to work there in March 1988 and have been there ever since.
CUA Lawyer: Why did you choose public interest law?
Soule: Equal access to justice is such an important and fundamental concept, which is often ignored. The system of justice is intimidating to most average people who are not familiar with it. The clients that we serve in legal services face a variety of barriers in addition to their legal problem. They are poor, they may be homeless, they may be victims of domestic abuse, they may struggle with mental illness, addictions and other disabilities, or they may be elderly and physically or mentally impaired. Now, on top of that, they have a legal problem and they cannot afford to pay an attorney. All people should be entitled to a fair and equal shake at justice. That is why I chose public interest law. Our clients need help and we are the only way, the last chance they have to get it.
CUA Lawyer: Would you ever consider working for a firm?
Soule: I could not imagine myself working in a big firm. You may be doing a lot of transactional work, maybe dealing with some clients, but not really doing the work that at the end of the day you say to yourself, "I made a difference in this person's life." The client contact, the ability to assist real people with real problems is very powerful. I love difficult problems and I love having to use creativity to craft solutions.
Public interest work, either civilly in legal services or as a public defender on the criminal side, is such important work. It gives everyone in the system a more equal playing field.
CUA Lawyer: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Soule: The biggest reward is the ability to make a difference in the life of a person who may not otherwise have gotten help or the result that they wanted. It may mean ensuring that somebody has a place to live, that they have benefits to which they are entitled so that they can exist, that they have the medical care that they need by making sure that they have the medical insurance to which they are entitled, that a victim of violence is safe from his/her batterer and that the children are safe. Maybe in the big scheme of things, these sound like simple, fundamental things, but to our clients, they can mean the difference between life and death.
So many people we see are dealing with such adversity that you know there is no way that they could navigate the system on their own. You can tell that they would have either given up or not had the ability to articulate their position in such a way that they would succeed. When mentally ill people are denied social security benefits and the denial letter says that they are not disabled and can work, many of them say, "okay, they must know what they are talking about" and not do anything about it. When a landlord sends a person a notice saying that they have to leave their apartment in 30 days, many take it at face value, not knowing that the landlord has to go through a court process and only a judge can order a person to leave. Without assistance, that person may become homeless. These are examples of why public interest work is so important. Although it is tough and hard work, I find it most fulfilling.
CUA Lawyer: What are the least rewarding aspects of your job?
Soule: The volume of work can become overwhelming at times. My typical caseload is around 60-70 cases. They are not always all active at the same time, but it can be tough at times.
I would be lying if I didn't say that the salary could be a real issue for people doing this type of work. When I started there in 1988, I made $19,000 per year. After 13 years, I am over the $50,000 mark. Unlike the private sector, legal services funding is derived from federal and state appropriations, grants and money from the United Way and other private foundations. It can be frustrating to think about how much more money my colleagues in the private sector are making. We start our attorneys at $32,000 now; some of the major downtown Boston firms begin new associates at anywhere between $110,000-$150,000 a year. I remember thinking it was difficult to make a $200/a month loan payment when I first got out of school. Now, new graduates have amazing debt burdens in excess of $100,000 and not many can afford to work in legal services, which is a challenge in terms of recruiting and retaining good staff. My executive director often says, somewhat in jest, but really more seriously, that lawyers and poor people are not the best combination to pitch when you are looking for funding.
CUA Lawyer: Do you have to turn people away?
Soule: Yes. Another difficult aspect of the job is having to say no to people who want your help. Saying no not because they are not eligible for your services and not because they don't have a legal problem which is a priority for the office, but for the single reason that we do not have enough staff resources to meet the need. We did a survey in legal services in Massachusetts several years ago in which we learned that we turn away three out of five people who ask for help simply because we don't have the resources to help them. Pretty appalling.
Class of '76
|"I became a public defender because I wanted to work to help people in trouble and who had few to stand for them. As a Catholic, I felt it important to help those in most need, those at the bottom. That's what Jesus taught."
Ed Monahan has been an assistant public advocate with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) since 1976, and he directs its statewide education and development program. In his 20 years of public defender work, Monahan has been an appellate attorney and chief of the trial services branch. He represents capital clients at trial, appeal and post-conviction levels. He has been editor of The Advocate, DPA's journal of research and education, since 1984, a charter board member of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, past-chair of the Kentucky Bar Association's Criminal Law Section and Vice-Chair of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's (NLADA) Training Section. Monahan is also the recipient of the 1998 Gideon Award.
CUA Lawyer: What did you do after law school?
Monahan: After law school, I began as a Kentucky public defender doing criminal appeals from cases tried across Kentucky. My first oral argument was before the Kentucky Supreme Court in Wallace Boyd v. Commonwealth, 550 S.W.2d 507 (Ky. 1977), a capital case that I took over from a public defender who left the office. The case was reversed because of Gregg v. Georgia. I can still remember moments of that argument. In the early 1980s, I led the trial services in Kentucky for a year and a half and then I worked to develop an education program for our new and experienced Kentucky public defenders. I now serve as the deputy for the statewide public defender program working with the public advocate in legislative and strategic planning for our statewide system. Since 1996, Kentucky has gone from 46 counties covered by full-time public defenders to 108 counties.
CUA Lawyer: Why did you decide to become a public defender?
Monahan: I became a public defender because I wanted to work to help people in trouble and who had few to stand up for them. As a Catholic, I felt it important to help those in most need, those at the bottom. That's what Jesus taught. My mom and dad throughout my life taught me that the reason for living was to help others. My dad died in September of this year and two days before he died he reminded me of that.
CUA Lawyer: What is a typical day like for you?
Monahan: Public defender work is not for the tame of heart and it does not offer much immediate satisfaction. But representing indigents accused of or convicted of a crime does provide constant opportunities for deciding to believe things will be better over the long haul. My day is full of problems that need solving. I am constantly saying to others and myself, let's see this seemingly intractable problem as an opportunity. Each day, I make countless choices of whether to act in hope or in despair. Representing the accused and working in a department of more than 200 lawyers with resources less than desired presents days full of challenges.
CUA Lawyer: What has been most rewarding about your job?
Monahan: Working to help clients feel like they had an attorney who cared about them, respected them as humans, and who fought for them persuasively. One of the most important responsibilities I have had is to help evidence the humanity of my clients to the people making decisions about their liberty or life.
I find it satisfying to have been a part of creating a statewide public defender program that values clients,
promotes continuous learning and improving, and seeks to provide professional service at ahigh level despite limited resources and high
I'm also particularly pleased to have developed a quality program of education for Kentucky public defender litigators and leaders. Our most significant education and development program is our litigation institute where we educate our defenders for a week each fall on persuasive litigation through brainstorming, theory of the case, storytelling and litigation
skills via a practice format that has coaches from Kentucky and beyond. This program is the soul of our Kentucky defender program.
CUA Lawyer: What have you learned from your mentors?
Monahan: One of the highlights of my professional career has been the opportunity to learn from saints. It has been profoundly satisfying for me to work with and learn from masters of litigation and persuasion, like Ernie Lewis, Mark Olive, Steve Bright, Lee Norton and Steve Rench. Each of these are not focused on themselves or advancing their self-interest but instead they are professionals who see injustices and work with integrity to make the world less unjust for individual clients and for defender delivery systems. Learning mastery of the profession from them has been priceless.
CUA Lawyer: What has been the most difficult?
Monahan: I find it hard to deal with egos, my own and others; adversariness, my own and others; and people who are problem-creators rather than problem-solvers.
CUA Lawyer: Often Lawyers do not choose to join the public arena because of financial
reasons. Was that ever an issue with you?
Monahan: I've become rich in uncommon ways. I am in my 26th year of being a public defender. I am not financially rich from being a public defender but I am rich in ways more meaningful than money or status because of who I have worked with and who I have worked for.
CUA Lawyer: What do you consider your greatest legal achievement?
Monahan: I do not really have any great legal achievements. I do have profound satisfaction with a lot of what I have been involved with. Probably the most satisfying is persevering in public defender work with enthusiasm for two and a half decades. But I have many others I am proud of.
I have done a number of capital cases at trial, on appeal and in federal court. Litigating them over many, many years with the hope of a good resolution has been particularly satisfying.
Along with Burr Travis, I represented Paul Kordenbrock at trial in 1981 and heard a jury sentence him to death. I vividly remember that moment. Later, I argued Paul's case before the En Banc federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990 and enjoyed the Court's granting the Writ after 10 years of Paul being on death row improperly Kordenbrock v. Scroggy, 919 F.2d 1091 (6th Cir. 1990)(en banc).
With a valued colleague, Ernie Lewis, from whom I have learned more about being a lawyer than any other person, I enjoyed the privilege of representing Eugene Gall, Jr. since being assigned his appeal in 1978 through his reversal by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2000 after Gene being improperly on death row for 22 years Eugene Gall, Jr. v. Parker, 231 F.3d 265 (6th Cir. 2000).
Through my years as a Kentucky public defender, I have worked through litigation and education to get indigent clients funds for experts. I enjoyed successfully litigating that issue before the Kentucky Supreme Court to a unanimous opinion in Binion v. Commonwealth, 891 S.W.2d 383 (Ky. 1995).
CUA Lawyer: How did CUA law school prepare and encourage you for this type of work?
Monahan: The law school had a dean, E.Clinton Bamberger, who let all know by who he recruited as students, who the faculty were, and what he did prior to coming to Catholic that helping people in trouble, especially those on the margins, was the law's highest calling. I had teachers like Florence Roisman who taught me to care about serving the real legal needs of people. Many of the faculty taught me what professional lawyering was. My clinic experience was very helpful to me in beginning to learn how to apply the law to help a person. Law Review taught me the importance of preciseness, form that advanced the persuasion and concepts that withstood the test of time.
I knew what was important in the law when I left law school.
Class of ' 81
Executive Director of OPAE
"I love getting up in the morning to go to work."
Dave Rinebolt became Executive Director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE) in April 1996. OPAE is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of low-income, residential, small business and nonprofit consumers and policy makers' energy issues in Ohio. He works closely with consumers, community action agencies, housing agencies, economic development groups, housing authorities, social service agencies, brokers, utilities and others to develop market-based solutions to reducing energy costs for Ohio consumers. He represents OPAE before the Public Utilities Commission and the General Assembly, working to promote affordable energy policies for low and moderate income customers.
CUA Lawyer: What is a typical day like for you?
Rinebolt: There really isn't a typical day, which is one of the charms of this job. I usually start by playing with my kids - they're 10 months and almost 4 - before I head in. The rest of the day is pretty typical for any lawyer/lobbyist: review the e-mail, check the trade press, and track whatever legislation and regulatory dockets we are involved in. Then it's researching and drafting pleadings, grant proposals, reports or whatever is going on. If the General Assembly is in session or a case is up at the (Public Utilities) Commission, I head off to Columbus for meetings or hearings. During the heart of the deregulation debate, which lasted three years, I did about one speech a week to community groups around the state, explaining the issues. I probably enjoyed that the most. Now we are in the process of establishing an energy buyers cooperative called SOAR Energy that will let members buy natural gas and green power, along with energy efficient products and services. It's like setting up a utility without wires or pipes. I'm getting a real education in commercial transactions. Guess I should have paid more attention in Dean Rohner's class.
CUA Lawyer: Why did you choose to pursue a career in public interest?
Rinebolt: There are three reasons I chose to be involved in public interest work. Vatican II and everything else happening in the 1960s that had a big impact on the Sisters of Charity who taught me in grade school. They made us very conscious of the civil rights struggle, the breadth of the poverty problem in this, the richest nation in the world, and the importance of the political process in producing institutional change. They also demonstrated through their actions that individuals could make a difference.
The second major influence was my father. He served as a fighter pilot in World War II, and later as county prosecutor and a judge. He made me aware of the importance of public service and the critical impact it could have on people's lives.
Finally, I think I just like working for people or causes that aren't adequately represented in the system. Low-income families are very vulnerable, particularly when it comes to essential energy services.
CUA Lawyer: What interested you about being involved with energy and natural resources?
Rinebolt: Consumer and environmental perspectives need to be effectively represented in the legislative and regulatory arenas. A couple years ago, I faced a choice between going to a more established firm to lobby for businesses or to work for people and causes I believe in. I chose the latter and have never regretted it. I love getting up in the morning to go to work.
I wound up concentrating in the energy and natural resources fields after being exposed to the issues. Because of its location, CUA allowed me to experience all types of legal careers. The professors at CUA during my time there were also very public policy oriented. I interned with the Center for National Policy Review and got exposed established figures in the civil rights and low-income advocacy community. I became interested in the confluence of legislation and regulatory policy during a stint as a paralegal specialist with the Department of the Interior. That experience eventually led to working for the then Governor of Minnesota, Rudy Perpich in his Washington Office. Energy issues were hot in the early 1980s and I just continued on from there.
CUA Lawyer: How does deregulation affect low-income families?
Rinebolt: Deregulation, while generally viewed as a failure because of the California debacle, has actually been pretty good for low-income families. All but one or two of the states that have passed legislation included new programs for low-income families as a part of the deregulation statute. There is a great network of advocates across the country that has led the fight.
Here in Ohio, we put the Percentage Income Payment Plan (PIPP), a program that lets low-income customers pay a percentage of income to stay connected, in statute. The program had previously been a creature of a public utilities commission emergency order; fairly shaky legal ground. We also added $15 million per year for a new targeted energy efficiency and consumer education program.
You know, deregulation is really about large industrial customers being able to buy power at wholesale. The leverage low-income advocates have is that it is tough for big industrials to take on the utilities, another big business, without including something for the little guy. Low-income programs are something that brings consumer-oriented legislators into the fold to support deregulation. It is a situation we advocates have exploited very successfully. However, I would caution folks in low cost states to oppose deregulation. I think momentum has shifted and until we get wholesale electricity markets functioning effectively, efforts to introduce retail competition in states that haven't made the change should be put on hold.
CUA Lawyer: What has been the most challenging aspect of your job?
Rinebolt: Molding the community action agencies and other nonprofits that make up my membership into a functioning lobbying organization was a major challenge. Also, effectively participating in time and resource intensive regulatory and legislative activities is always a problem. When you have limited resources you have to work smarter and more efficiently; you can't just churn out paper like they do in big firms with deep pockets clients. And, fundraising is always a challenge. Nurturing relationships with foundations and trying to find stop gap funding when an issue comes out of nowhere and has to be dealt with is probably the most frustrating part of the job.
CUA Lawyer: What have been the rewards?
Rinebolt: The rewards are great. Having legislators tell me that my members, who jointly lobbied for deregulation with business interests, were the most effective citizen lobbyists they had seen was a wonderful feeling. And then hearing from the crews who do weatherization how much the clients appreciate the work we do makes it seem all worthwhile. It has also been rewarding to be viewed by the General Assembly and the Executive Branch as players in the process. I'm proud that low-income and environmental interests have a seat at the table were energy policy is determined in Ohio.
Peggy Phillips Love
Class of '88
Ethics Counselor/General Law
Peggy Phillips Love has been with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since September 1989 and has held positions in the Office of Congressional Affairs, and the Preparedness, Training and Exercises Directorate. Since December 1998, she has been with the Office of General Counsel and currently serves as the Senior Ethics Counselor/General Law Attorney. Love directed the national interagency effort at FEMA Headquarters responding to declared disasters as the Deputy Director/ Director of an Emergency Support Team from 1995-2001 and has served in the Virgin Islands following Hurricane Marilyn as a member of FEMA's Emergency Response Team (ERT-N). Before joining FEMA, she served as chief of congressional affairs for the Air Force surgeon general. Prior to that, she worked for two members of Congress and served on a joint congressional committee.
CUA Lawyer: What is your position function at FEMA?
Love: I am responsible for managing FEMA's ethics program. I advise and counsel senior officials on highly sensitive matters such as conflict of interest, acceptance and disposal of gifts, complex financial disclosure compliance programs, and other general law issues including fiscal law, appropriations law and the Federal Labor Relations Act (FLRA). I also represent the agency before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
CUA Lawyer: Why did you choose to go into public service?
Love: Years ago, a friend referred me to the employment office on Capitol Hill. I was offered the first job I interviewed for. I enjoyed being involved in the legislative process and continued working on the Hill while attending undergraduate school in the evening.
After graduation, I accepted a position as chief of congressional affairs for the Air Force surgeon general. A few months later, I started law school in the evening. I continued to be involved with the legislative process from the executive branch. I also researched and replied to medical inquiries received from members of Congress, many of which were potential tort claims against the government.
Upon graduation from law school, it was a difficult decision whether or not to continue with public service. There were many positives to remaining with public service. I enjoyed the various positions I held, the opportunities to be innovative and creative, the responsibility and generally being part of the public service. On the negative side, there is minimal support staff. To me it was obvious that the positives outweighed the negatives.
I accepted a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and am grateful for the many challenges and opportunities that have come my way. As a lawyer, I have become known as the agency's ethics expert. I was directly responsible for overhauling the agency's ethics program; researching and responding to complex sensitive inquiries involving senior officials; and reviewing financial disclosure forms for potential Presidential nominees. I have also been directly involved with the passage of major legislation impacting the National Flood Insurance Program, repealing outdated regulations, and representing the Agency before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
CUA Lawyer: In light of September 11, how has your job changed?
Love: In light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, my job has changed in the types of cases and legal issues that I am asked to research and respond to.
On September 11, I was representing FEMA at the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Annual Ethics Conference in Norfolk, VA. When the plenary speaker was being introduced, we were told there was an emergency in New York and we would be informed of additional information as it became available. Within the hour, we all learned of the terrorist attacks and the conference was cancelled. There were hundreds of people from all over the country at this conference. I was immediately asked to provide any available information including the road conditions from Norfolk to the
Washington, D.C. area; the
availability of public transportation, details of
the attacks, etc. I made contact with our Emergency Support Team (EST) at FEMA Headquarters and became the spokesperson for FEMA at the Conference.
CUA Lawyer: Since the relief effort began, what type of issues do you deal with?
Love: I have been asked to provide legal opinions on issues directly pertaining to the incidents. For example, a hotel in New York offered to give a senior FEMA official a complimentary room during their official visit following the terrorist attacks in appreciation for the work FEMA was doing. This may seem like a nice gesture, but it is a violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct that applys to federal employees. FEMA, however, has separate gift acceptance authority which provides some leeway to accept such offers.
FEMA has been offered numerous gifts from large corporations to assist in the disaster recovery efforts. They range from bottled water to cell phones, to debris removal equipment. Such offers are appreciated but can become a logistical nightmare and a violation of the gift acceptance authorities. It may be tempting to accept an offer from a corporation who wanted to donate cell phones for disaster workers in New York. However, one needs to determine who will receive the phones - government workers? Contractors? Temporary hires? Who will keep track of the phones? Who will pay for the set up costs? Who will pay for the phone bills? What happens if the phone is used for making a personal long distance call? Etc., etc.
In addition to the event specific issues, I still receive the typical legal issues to respond to such as can an employee go to work for a FEMA contractor without violating the post employment restrictions; can a FEMA employee serve on the board of directors of an organization without violating the conflict of interest standards; and can a contractor provide lunch for a select group of FEMA employees.
CUA Lawyer: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Love: As the senior ethics counselor and alternate designated agency ethics official (DAEO) for FEMA, I found it challenging to manage and overhaul the agency's ethics program with scarce resources. I am always concerned that an article may appear on the top page of the local paper about some FEMA employee violating the Standards of Conduct.
CUA Lawyer: What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
Love: The most rewarding aspect has been when I was informed recently that FEMA was receiving an award from the Office of Government Ethics for significant improvements made in the ethics program.
Sister Maureen Kelleher
Class of '84
Florida Immigrant Advocacy
"I believe we are called to care for the 'alien' in our midst, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, whatever. Our suffering from the terrorist's heinous acts of September 11, in my belief system, do not change the basic truth that we are a nation of immigrants and must continue to welcome those who seek life here."
After graduating from law school in 1984, Sister Maureen Kelleher began practicing immigration law, largely doing political asylum claims. She chose to locate in Immokalee, Florida because of the large immigrant farm worker population. In the 1990s she represented several hundred Haitians, who had fled their country after the coup in 1991, in their political asylum claims. In 1996, she and three other attorneys created a non-profit corporation, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and has since worked on over 6,000 cases.
CUA Lawyer: Why did you create the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center?
Kelleher: Since 1984, I have working with predominantly migrant farm workers in rural southwest Florida. At first I was doing employment and housing issues, but learned that the lasting remedy for many of my clients was to get them legal immigration status. Not only could they come out of the shadows and patterns of exploitation, but then their earnings sent home as money orders could help family members survive in such places as Mexico, Haiti and Guatemala. When Congress restricted legal service funding for the representation of only certain foreign nationals, I along with three other attorneys started a new non-profit law center, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center with offices in Miami, Fort Pierce and Immokalee. Through political asylum, family visas, the amnesty law of 1986, the recent changes in 1997 and 1998 laws affecting Guatemalans and Haitians, our office in Immokalee has been able to get legal residency for hundreds of clients and then their wives and children.
CUA Lawyer: How has your work changed since the creation of the center?
Kelleher: My work has expanded to do representation for abused
immigrant spouses/children of U.S. Citizens or legal permanent residents,
unaccompanied children, indefinite detainees held by INS, as well as those in deportation proceedings who have meritorious defenses. While the majority of my clients come from countries already mentioned, I recently have represented clients from many other countries such as Syria, Albania, China, Uzbekistan, Romania, Russia, India and Angola. I love the immigration practice since the clients' stories are so compelling; their country conditions, fascinating. However, in many cases I face horror stories of persecution and torture.
Why did you decide to attend law school?
Kelleher: I had chosen to go to law school in the early 1980s just
because I learned of such violence. The U.S. was seeing thousands of victims of war and violence arrive from places like Guatemala, Haiti and El
Salvador. I heard several of these accounts while in D.C. working. I went to law school because in the 1970s I saw how important law is for poor people. I worked at NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby and grew familiar with the impact federal laws and regulations had on people I cared about. Catholic Law School had a prior general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service teaching immigration law and with my interest in applicants for political asylum from Central America and Haiti, I chose Sam Bernsen's course and loved it.
CUA Lawyer: How have you combined your faith and the practice of law?
Kelleher: As a Catholic sister, a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, I believe we are called to care for the "alien" in our midst, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, whatever. Our suffering from the terrorist's heinous acts of September 11, in my belief system, do not change the basic truth that we are a nation of immigrants and must continue to welcome those who seek life here.
CUA Lawyer: In light of September 11 how do you see the practice of immigration law changing?
Kelleher: Clearly we need intelligence to weed out those who would come to murder or do genocidal acts. But the U.S. needs new Americans not only for their energy, enthusiasm, gifts, differences, and hard work ethic, but also for the expansion they bring to our own national identity and imagination as to how incredibly diverse, strong, and vibrant is the human spirit. Beneath our spacious skies and purple mountains majesty lurks an isolationist self-sufficiency, which can make us arrogant. The immigrants I know and their indomitable struggle and commitment to seeking a better life here shake my complacency and keep me humble and very grateful for these United States.
Christie J. Jacobs
Class of '90
Director of IRS Indian Tribal
Christie Jacobs was appointed in early 2000 as the first director of the Indian Tribal Governments Office at the Internal Revenue Service. She is committed to working in partnership with tribal nations to ensure that the IRS operates within a government-to-government relationship with Indian tribal governments. Prior to her appointment as director, Jacobs served as a member of the modernization team that designed the new Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service. Her efforts on the team were focused on the creation of an IRS office dedicated to serving the needs of Indian tribal governments.
CUA Lawyer: Describe your occupation?
Jacobs: I occupy a very unique and interesting position as the director of the Indian Tribal Governments Office at the IRS. My office has nationwide responsibility for all federal tax matters related to tribal governments. We also are charged with ensuring that the IRS interacts with tribes on a government-to-government basis, as is required of all federal agencies. Our overall goal is to work in partnership with tribal governments, tribal associations, and other federal agencies to cooperatively meet the needs of both the Indian tribal governments and the federal government and to simplify the tax administration process. We produce and deliver customized education and outreach programs, tax publications and forms, and a website, in addition to conducting the traditional audits associated with the IRS.
CUA Lawyer: Why was the office created?
Jacobs: The office was created only about 2 years ago as part of a massive restructuring of the entire agency to be more customer focused. Tribes were very generous in giving the IRS input about how the agency could structure itself to better understand and meet their specialized needs. We have staff located throughout Indian country whose sole purpose is to assist tribes in meeting their federal tax responsibilities. In my job as director, I am involved in every aspect of our operations including strategic and program planning, consulting with tribal leaders, interacting with leaders and staff on the Hill, training employees and making speeches.
CUA Lawyer: What are your goals as director of the IRS Office of Indian Tribal Governments?
Jacobs: Our goals for this office are to ensure that the tax laws are applied and enforced fairly with regard to the tribes, with a focus on their unique status as sovereigns, as well as to provide excellent customer service. For our programs to succeed, we have to build a certain trust level within Indian country. That is really done each day as our staff and leadership interacts directly with the staff and leadership of the tribes to build those relationships. Those interactions are really among the most rewarding aspects of my job.
CUA Lawyer: What issues do you face?
Jacobs: The issues we encounter are a unique mix of federal Indian law and federal tax law. People who practice in this area often say that you can learn the entire tax code working with an Indian tribe. When you factor in the unique status of the tribes, various treaty provisions, and other federal statutes, it really makes for a dynamic field to work in. While the tribes themselves are not subject to federal income tax, they do have employment tax and other obligations just as states do. Many people in this country just aren't aware that tribes function like any other government and provide a wide range of services to their members including such things as police and fire protection, water, roads, courts, health care and recreation. They administer federal programs and grants, and in some places they are a major source of employment for non-Indians in their area. All of these activities can raise federal tax issues when they are performed by any government, including a tribe.
CUA Lawyer: How did you get to this point in your career?
Jacobs: I feel extremely fortunate to have found such an interesting and creative niche in the federal tax world. I had no idea in law school that I would be working with tribes. I went to law school planning to specialize in tax and planning to begin my career as a tax attorney at the IRS Chief Counsel's Office. I was even a summer intern at the IRS during law school. It was common then to complete your four year commitment to the agency and then move on to private practice. However, the work was too rewarding for me to want to leave when that point came. I also felt that leaving the government would require me to give up a certain quality of life by, for example, having to work extensive hours at a firm. It was merely by chance that some of the initial issues involving tribes came in to my branch and were assigned to me. Over the years, I became the subject matter expert in the tribal tax area. I also did extensive work in the bankruptcy area and was on an ABA committee related to that. I'm no longer on the legal side of the IRS, but having that technical background really contributes to my effectiveness in my current position.
CUA Lawyer: Why do you enjoy working in public service?
Jacobs: One thing that I have found to be true in my career with a federal agency is that I was given difficult, high profile issues to grapple with right away. Friends in private practice had to wait much longer for those opportunities. In addition, due to working in Washington D.C., much of what I have worked on has been national in scope. That really gave me a feeling of making a significant contribution in my daily work as an attorney.