“I have been privileged to devote my entire professional life to litigating for consumer and economic justice. I began my legal career with legal aid in New Mexico 44 years ago and quickly began concentrating on combating the rising epidemic of debt collection abuses. At about that same time Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the essential weapon that at long last gave, and continues to give, consumers and advocates the tools to effectively curtail the overreaching and abusive practices that are the hallmarks of the debt collection industry. I started in consumer law only by chance, but I never left it because I knew that legal aid was the vehicle through which to advance social justice and improving consumer and economic opportunity.
In a mere two decades, the national legislative landscape advanced from a Dark Age to a relative Age of Reason and Hope. I am pleased that I was able to participate during those initial decades in developing and increasing the nascent consumer rights litigation movement that evolved from the FDCPA. And I have continued to be invigorated and rewarded by my later work at the federal appellate level once the structure and models were in place to facilitate even greater advancements in our cause.
I fondly remember the first NCLC conference that I went to in the 70s where I discovered that there were many others who believed in the power of consumer litigation to fight for those in need. As a Legal Services Corporation national support center, NCLC was already an essential fixture in our practice. I, along with the entire consumer law community, relied on the early versions of the NCLC manuals and other material that we typically ordered by telephone and that then had to be copied and mailed to us. None of us could have successfully functioned as a legal aid or consumer attorney in the 70s without NCLC’s help and expertise.
After the Reagan-era cuts to Legal Services, NCLC was one of the few national support centers that continued — and not only survived, but thrived. It is difficult to imagine a successful consumer litigation practice without NCLC’s acclaimed manuals and now its phenomenal internet digital library. NCLC has embodied the reality that we all need to stick together and work together, and the successes that we have enjoyed have come at least in part due to that camaraderie. It’s a sentiment that continues today, and it’s one of the things that makes me most proud to be a member of this community.
The future of consumer law is being built right now. Just as I was drawn to public interest law during the anti-war and civil rights movements that dominated the 60s and 70s, future lawyers are now being influenced by today’s economic and social justice movements. While I am confident that these future lawyers will pursue a range of public interest practices, I have full faith in the future of our community because the new generation of public-spirited attorneys will also discover that consumer and economic justice is an effective antidote to virtually every other form of social injustice. I am optimistic for that future knowing that our community welcomes new ideas and contributors — and because I know that they will continue to be led and fed by NCLC, which has proven time and time again that it will stand as the quintessential resource and inspiration for all.”