Jill Meinhardt '07 Recognized for Extraordinary Commitment to Public Service
Since beginning law school, Jill Meinhardt ‘07 has spent countless hours on pro bono legal and advocacy work. She has been involved with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Columbus (CASA) as a guardian ad litem for four children with developmental disabilities who have been bounced from foster home to foster home. She has also served as a surrogate parent for children in the Columbus Public School system who are wards of the state, and in that capacity, assured that the best interests of the children were served in the school setting. She has undertaken leadership roles at the Moritz College of Law as well: she is currently the executive editor and director of the Pro Bono Research Group (PBRG) and is serving her second term as president of the student organization Advocates for Children.
Jill received national recognition for her dedication to public service when she was named the 2006 first runner-up for the NALP/PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award. The award is given by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) and the Public Service Law Network Worldwide (PSLawNet) to students in recognition of the extracurricular commitment they have made to law-related public service projects or organizations and the impact they have had on their fellow students, the school, and the community. One of Jill’s professors, Ruth Colker, says, “Jill’s commitment to justice is lifelong and it is only fitting to note her accomplishments at this early point in her legal career.” At her May 2007 graduation, Jill will receive one of the Moritz College of Law’s most prestigious public service awards: designation as a Public Service Fellow with the Dean's Highest Honors. This award is given to students who accumulate 450 or more hours of volunteer legal service.
Jill is currently the president of two student organizations at Moritz Law, and both organizations have soared under Jill’s leadership. Advocates for Children (AFC) is a group that strives to bring attention to the legal issues and obstacles facing children today. During Jill’s two terms as president, AFC sponsored career-related panels for students, worked with Career Services to publish a Child Law Resource booklet, and raised money to provide Christmas gifts for low-income families which Jill selected. PBRG is the only law school organization in Ohio that provides free legal research and writing to legal aid attorneys throughout the state. By partnering with Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA), the state support center for legal service providers, PBRG serves legal service regions in all 88 counties of Ohio. As president, Jill actively recruited research fellows and is reaching out to even more attorneys who can use the research skills of OSU law students.
As a CASA volunteer since 2004, Jill was appointed guardian ad litem for four siblings, all with developmental disabilities, now aged eight, six, three, and two. The children are entangled in the legal system due to severe neglect by their parents. Soon after beginning her work with CASA, Jill started her first year of law school. Despite many other responsibilities, Jill excelled as a CASA volunteer. The volunteer director of CASA, Jessica Lane, explained Jill’s work this way: “From the first day she was assigned, Jill worked on this case with zeal unmatched. She literally put the well-being of these four children before her own. She visited the children in foster care, at school, and with their parents; she attended court hearings and talked with caseworkers, teachers, and doctors; she arranged for the children to have all their needs met and exceeded; she weathered a several day trial and was subject to brutal cross-examination about the children and her role. Month after month, she donated countless hours. Through it all, she never lost sight of the fact that she held the power to change the lives of four important children.”
Director for Public Interest and Public Service Programs Cybele Smith wrote the winning nomination letter. Cybele wrote, “Jill’s commitment has not only touched, but literally changed, lives for the better for her CASA family, the Legal Aid attorneys in all 88 counties of Ohio, the underserved clients in those Legal Aid offices, and inspired her classmates as well.”
Those who have met Jill look forward to seeing her work make an impact
on the children of her community. We are proud to recognize this passionate
advocate, who is a dedicated servant of children and the community, and
an inspirational leader.