Mary Novrocki

The Project

When victims of domestic violence make the decision to leave their batterer, they often find themselves in the position of representing themselves in divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, these victims are usually the least able to represent themselves. My project seeks to increase the pool of pro bono attorneys willing to directly represent these victims – through networking, community outreach and attorney training. I am also looking at the mediation process as it relates to conflicted couples.

The Inspiration

The Project

I will work with Wayne Law’s Disability Law Clinic to develop a medical-legal partnership with the Karmanos Cancer Center focused on the legal needs of low-income cancer patients such as health insurance, disability benefits and end-of-life decision-making. The partnership will provide training to prepare future lawyers, social workers and nurses by collaborating with several professional schools located at Wayne State such as the Schools of Social Work, Nursing and Medicine.

The Inspiration

The Project

Kimberly’s Boots on the Ground Veterans Justice Project brought together veterans, attorneys, health care and social services providers, and the larger community to identify and address the civil legal needs of veterans and their families.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 165,000 veterans reside in the Central Northeast Ohio region served by Community Legal Aid Services (CLAS)—nearly 10 percent of the population. The CLAS service area includes the cities of Akron, Canton, and Youngstown, but also includes the rural counties of Wayne and Columbiana at the northern end of Appalachia. Economic recession and loss of manufacturing jobs have resulted in high rates of poverty, unemployment, and home foreclosure. Many veterans—especially those with service-related physical or mental disabilities—need advocates to help them obtain veterans or public benefits and address other legal issues as they reintegrate into the community. It is essential to reach out to veterans, educate them about their rights, and inform them of services at their disposal.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Kimberly has:

  • Expanded access to civil legal services for Veterans and their families
  • Developed collaborations with Veterans Treatment Courts, VA facilities, and community partners to increase awareness of veterans civil legal needs
  • Assisted with development of Veterans Legal Clinics at local VA facilities

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Kimberly will continue her work increasing access to civil legal services for veterans in the Central Northeast Ohio area as a Staff Attorney at Community Legal Aid Services.

The Project

Erin worked to protect children in Detroit and Flint from home-based environmental health hazards by providing legal counseling and representation to affected families and advocating for policy that advances environmental justice.

For many residents of Detroit and Flint, their home is a hazard to their health. Home-based environmental health hazards include lead paint on the walls of older homes and lack of access to clean drinking water due to lead contamination and water service shutoffs. Many of the homes that contain environmental health hazards are the homes of children, who are especially vulnerable to the life-long health impacts these hazards cause. Because these hazards disproportionately affect children in low-income communities of color, whose voices have typically been excluded from the process of creating and enforcing the standards meant to prevent such harms, the health impacts pose a significant environmental justice issue that is not being adequately addressed by regulators, policymakers, or the legal community.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Erin:

  • Drafted a request for a declaratory ruling from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services seeking a moratorium on water shutoffs and a requirement that public water systems restore service to all Michigan residents so that residents could wash their hands regularly and avoid leaving home to access water, critical actions for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus
  • Co-authored a report establishing the legal validity of income-based water rates in Michigan
  • Helped draft an amicus curiae brief in support of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and its defense of the newly revised Lead and Copper Rule, which was challenged by several water systems and municipalities–the rule was upheld in the Michigan Court of Claims
  • In partnership with several community organizations advocating for drinking water quality and water affordability, developed a legal services referral system to more effectively connect with and provide legal services to Detroit residents facing water service shutoffs and water contamination issues

Next Steps

Erin remains at her host organization, the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, as a staff attorney. She continues to provide direct legal services, community education, and policy support to address home-based environmental health hazards and other environmental justice issues in Michigan.


Michigan Law Gives Utilities Authority to End Water Shutoffs

Protecting Children from Home-based Environmental Health Hazards

'Natural' choice: Wayne Law graduate is a Fellow at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center