Meet Kim Skaggs '93, 2003 Moritz Public Service Award Winner
|Dean Rogers with Kim Skaggs '93|
Since July 2000, Kim has served as the executive director of the Equal Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio, created to handle cases that the Legal Services Corporation cannot, by mandate, handle -- class actions, cases involving attorney fees, and representing non-U.S. citizens. The goal, according to the group's mission statement, is to defend and advocate for the rights of indigent, minority, and other disadvantaged Ohioans.
"We fill in the gap, the cases that fall through the cracks," Kim says. "Our mission is to do impact work. I find this so much more satisfying and rewarding than traditional legal work. There are so many people with no voice in the legal system." The range of cases the Foundation handles includes predatory lending, consumer rights, civil rights, human services, and public benefits.
When Kim became executive director, it was under the assumption that she would organize and run the office in addition to fundraising work. Old habits are hard to break though. Kim says that although she originally planned to avoid having a caseload, she typically has around four to five cases at a time.
In her three years on the job, she's doubled the staff. Currently she oversees two full-time lawyers, an Equal Justice Works fellow, a part-time support person and, in the summer, volunteer clerks from Moritz. "Oh, I love the students," she says. "They were such a help."
Of the many cases she is proud to have handled, Kim says one standout was a case involving five elderly women victimized in a predatory loan scam. The lender said "We'll crush you, you little public interest group." The result was a settlement that allowed the women to keep their homes and collect damages.
In another case, Kim and the Foundation reached a $6-million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against Level Propane Gases, Inc., one of the largest independent propane distributors to residential customers in the nation. "She is a tireless advocate for people who are underserved by the courts," says co-worker Paul G. Wilkins ‘02, who, along with the Hon. R. Guy Cole, Jr., the Hon. John D. Holschuh, and Assistant Federal Public Defender Steven S. Nolder, nominated Kim for the award. "She could have worked anywhere she wanted to but she consistently chose to serve."
Wilkins said Kim and the Foundation have helped many groups, including immigrants, welfare recipients, the elderly and children.
"Every time I hear about Kim, she's doing something interesting," says Mary Beth Beazley, Associate Professor of Law and Director of Legal Writing, who had Kim as a student. "She's so hard-working and diligent." Long-time friend Jeff Kapp '93 agrees. "The clients she serves are lucky to have someone that committed to public service," he says. "It reflects the type of person she is."
|Kim Skaggs with the Hon. John D. Holschuh of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, for whom she clerked.|
Prior to joining the Foundation, Kim served as senior law clerk to The Honorable R. Guy Cole, Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; as assistant federal public defender in the Southern District of Ohio; and as law clerk to The Honorable John D. Holschuh, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
"I'm thrilled and surprised (about the service award)," Kim says. "I've met so many great people who do this kind of work. I feel honored to be recognized for this. I hope I deserve it."
The Public Service Award recognizes an individual whose public interest career exemplifies a commitment to promote and provide access to the legal system. The award presentation coincided with the College's Public Service Day and the inaugural program in the 2003-2004 Woodside Speaker Series, which features speakers addressing various public interest issues. In addition to students, all Moritz alumni engaged in government and public service positions as well as alumni whose practices involve significant pro bono representation were invited to attend.