NLSP mourns the passing of Judge Patricia Wald

NLSP is greatly saddened by the passing of long-time friend and distinguished NLSP alumna -- The Honorable Patricia M. Wald.  Judge Wald will be remembered in the coming days for her prowess as a jurist, a trailblazer and staunch advocate for human rights and for her many decades of service to the legal profession and community.  We here remember that in 1968, Judge Wald joined the Neighborhood Legal Services Program as a staff attorney in our Law Reform Unit. During her tenure in the  Law Reform Unit, she challenged the court’s failure to waive divorce fees for indigent women and led the team that successfully argued before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “that financial barrier[s] were effectively an unconstitutional denial of access to the courts.” Washington Post Obituary of Judge Wald.  Today, that case, Harris v. Harris; 424 F.2d 806 (D.C. Cir. 1970), remains a staple of every legal services lawyer’s litigation reference book regarding in forma pauperis eligibility.  

Beyond her days at NLSP, Judge Wald served in many notable positions – Assistant Attorney General (under the Carter Administration),; Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (appointed in 1979),; Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1986-1991), and the US Judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1999 – 2002) - just to name a few.  She also received countless awards and accolades for her work.  In 2013, she was awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama. Judge Wald remained a strong supporter and proud alum of NLSP throughout the years.  Her enduring, indomitable spirit will be sorely missed by all - especially those of us in the legal services community.

Here are some of Judge Wald's own words on the subject of the role of legal services attorneys and civil legal aid.

Judge Wald's "Ten Admonitions for Legal Services Advocates" speech at a Legal Services Training in 1992


 If you have recollections or tributes you would like to share of Judge Wald either from her time on the DC Circuit or from her time at NLSP please click here to email them to NLSP. We would be happy to post some of your stories of Judge Wald’s impact on our community.



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