May Day Brings New Advocacy Director

Aurora Martin

On May Day 2015, Columbia Legal Services started another exciting chapter of Working for Justice with our new Advocacy Director Jerri Katzerman!

Prior to joining CLS today, Jerri was part of senior leadership at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) based out of Montgomery, Alabama. She served as the Deputy Legal Director of the Children at Risk team (one of four projects), guiding their education and juvenile justice reform efforts. In that position, Jerri had managed SPLC’s largest multi-state advocacy team comprised of over 30 staff in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

She has a wealth of experience juggling the management, mentoring, litigation support, and advocacy coaching of dynamic and talented teams. Jerri has served as a trainer with various advocacy organizations including NLADA, and will continue to serve on national civil rights task forces and new networks on behalf of CLS as well.

She has spent many years directly advocating for the rights of children with disabilities -- first with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, then later with the Arizona and Native American protection and advocacy systems. Jerri previously served as a law clerk to the late John M. Roll in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and earned her law degree summa cum laude from the University of Arizona where she served as Executive Note Editor of the Law Review. And, she is already a member of the Washington State Bar Association!

We are so fortunate to have Jerri as she will bring her experience and diversity of connections from around the country to further build upon CLS’s many advocacy achievements.

I want to say how grateful I am to outgoing Advocacy Director of Counsel John Midgley for… well, everything. There are not enough words, never enough time and as he and many of you know it has been an emotional time saying goodbye.  John has been an incredible leader and partner, a cornerstone in the program for nearly 40 years working at all levels, ensuring that CLS remains resilient.

As I steward CLS’s future with new and amazing people like Jerri in leadership along with all CLS staff, board, interns, and volunteers, I see a now sharper and reinvigorated program – a CLS that is poised to build upon the legacy of powerful advocacy. 

On May Day, at a time when national economic recovery and growth have been declared, unemployment at an all-time low since the Great Recession, and massive cranes dot the skylines of Puget Sound signaling a renaissance for some in our state, but not for all, our work for justice remains ever more challenging.

May Day marks a time when we not only honor our brothers and sisters in labor, but also those who work for justice the world over. It is a time when we must shine the light of hope brighter to recognize the injustice that persists from the fields and prisons set in rural isolation, to shining hope in the streets of our sprawling urban centers which manifest the condition of inhumane transiency for those who have the least. It is a time when we can no longer accept the maddening cycle of racialized poverty and the insidious tools of punishment and self-loathing imposed disproportionately by race and mostly on those in poverty. It is a day of reckoning when we bear witness with our allies to the many conditions of injustice and use our advocacy to not only fix, but also (re)build a better future in honor of the people we serve, a future for which we all long.

Please join me in welcoming Jerri Katzerman as she takes her first step as one of us and stands with CLS  and the rest of our community on May Day.