On June 18, Pfizer Inc. hosted a New York City reception honoring Equal Justice Works' Patrons and current Fellows. Equal Justice Works is an internationally recognized organization that provides support for qualifying legal projects at nonprofit, public interest organizations. Its mission is to create a just society by mobilizing young lawyers committed to equal justice. Members provide critically needed legal assistance on a broad range of issues to low-income and underserved communities. The Equal Justice Works Fellowships Program creates partnerships among public interest lawyers, nonprofit organizations, law firm/corporate sponsors and other donors in order to afford underrepresented populations effective access to the justice system.
Throughout the evening, current participants shared their Fellowship experiences. Carmen Maria Rey, an Equal Justice Works Fellow working with the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families' Center for Battered Women's Legal Services, spoke of Maria, an undocumented worker living in New York City, who had been the victim of domestic violence for over eight years. Her husband forbade her to learn English, use the telephone, work outside the home - and especially to become documented. Her plight came to the attention of Ms. Rey, who helped Maria find the courage to leave her husband and enter a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Maria later sought Ms. Rey's assistance in becoming a U.S. citizen. "Without Equal Justice Works," Ms. Rey noted, "many attorneys like me would not be able to work with non-profit organizations that do such important work. The contributions from Pfizer and all other Equal Justice Works patrons are invaluable, not only to the Equal Justice Works Fellows, but especially, the most vulnerable and at-risk of New York City's citizens."
Carmen later shared a humorous anecdote illustrating Maria's success: "A few months ago, I called Maria to make sure she had begun the tax-filing process. Unlike most of us, who wait for the last possible moment, Maria had already filed her taxes. She was so excited to fulfill this obligation because it represented her American citizenship; something she had worked so hard to obtain."
Anastasia D. Kelly, chair of the Equal Justice Works board of directors and AIG vice president and general counsel, closed the evening by emphasizing the contributions of Equal Justice Works investors. "Equal Justice Works is the largest post-graduate fellowship program in the United States. The support of patron law firms and legal departments, including those of AIG and Pfizer, has made it possible for Equal Justice Works to expand the availability of legal representation in underserved communities both nationally and internationally."