Fiertz Family Donates 100,000 Dollars to VLS for Poverty Law Services
July 16, 2012
Alden Fiertz has given $100,000 to strengthen the social justice partnership between Vermont Law School's South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC) and the Upper Valley Haven, which provide a range of legal, housing, food and other services to needy families.
The two institutions have had an informal partnership for years, but the Fiertz family's donation will allow the SRLC to expand its free legal services for people in poverty.
Fiertz made the donation in memory of his wife, Beverly Fowle Fiertz '86, who received her JD degree when she was 55, making her VLS's oldest graduate at the time. She worked as a student clinician at the SRLC and, after graduation, for Vermont Legal Aid before opening a law practice in South Woodstock with a focus on serving low-income victims of domestic abuse. She died at age 78 in 2010.
Dean Jeff Shields and Professor Maryann Zavez, a SRLC staff attorney, said the Fiertz family's donation will help the clinic and its staff attorneys and student clinicians to better represent families who can't afford a lawyer.
"The partnership between the SRLC and the Haven gives law students an opportunity to understand ever more quickly and directly the array of issues facing people in poverty and to develop ever more sharply the skills and knowledge to improve lives," Zavez said.
"This generous gift will improve access to justice for many Vermonters who need assistance with issues such as children's rights, immigration, family law, housing, welfare and unemployment, health care, Social Security, consumer protection, bankruptcy, contracts, wills, and statutory civil rights," Shields said.
"Bev was struck by the limited access to justice for many in poverty in this country, so she went to law school to be able to make a difference," said Sara Kobylenski, the executive director of the Haven, which is in White River Junction.
After his wife's death, Alden Fiertz began to work with the Haven around the issues that were important in her life -- community, social justice, legal services for people in poverty and expressive arts for inner growth. The social justice focus led to an informal partnership between the SRLC and the Haven, where Alden Fiertz sponsors the Beverly Fowle Fiertz Community Center. Also known as Bev's House, it will be open to the public for a dedication ceremony from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5. Shields will participate in the event.
"The SRLC and the Haven have had an informal connection for years, but this new, formal partnership will give the Haven access to legal consultation and representation for more people in poverty in our shared geography," Kobylenski said.
The SRLC, along with VLS's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, provide millions of dollars annually in free legal services to individuals, families and community groups. The clinics are housed in the school's new Center for Legal Services in South Royalton. Under the guidance of experienced staff attorneys, SRLC student clinicians represent clients in state and federal court and administrative hearings. They develop court cases from start to finish, from interviewing and counseling clients; conducting negotiation, research, case and statutory analysis, and discovery; to writing briefs and motions, preparing the case, and presenting at trial.