Lawyers from Massachusetts, Oregon, and Maryland earn ‘Rising Star’ awards
SEATTLE — In recognition of her contributions to the practice of consumer law, New Mexico attorney Karen Meyers accepted the National Consumer Law Center’s 2022 Vern Countryman Award. The prestigious annual honor recognizes an attorney whose special contributions to consumer law have strengthened and affirmed the rights of low-income and other vulnerable consumers.
Meyers received the award at NCLC’s Consumer Rights Litigation Conference in Seattle, where NCLC also recognized three attorneys who have been in practice for 15 years or fewer with its Rising Star Award. The recipients of the 2022 Rising Star awards are:
Colin Harnsgate, senior staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project in Boston;
Kathleen Hyland, assistant attorney general in the Maryland Office of the Attorney General; and
Kelly Jones, solo practitioner from Portland, Ore.
Karen Meyers, a consumer protection lawyer for more than 40 years, served as director of the Consumer Protection Division of the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, where in 2014 she won a landmark case against two predatory lenders making loans with APRs as high as 1,500 percent. She successfully argued that the rates violated the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act. Eight years later, she and a coalition of advocates persuaded the New Mexico legislature to impose a 36% interest rate cap on installment loans over $500. Earlier, Meyers served as executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Albuquerque, where she expanded access to civil legal services for New Mexicans with low incomes. In 2015, she joined the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as deputy enforcement director for policy and strategy. When she returned to New Mexico in 2018, Meyers created Albuquerque’s Consumer Financial Protection Initiative.
“Karen’s decades of work to protect vulnerable New Mexicans is inspiring and important,” said Rich Dubois, executive director of NCLC. “Karen has shown a remarkable ability to advance consumer justice locally and nationally through legislation, regulation, and litigation. Known for her persistence, intellect, and kindness, Karen has protected thousands of low-income consumers and inspired a generation of advocates.”
Colin Harnsgate was recognized with the Rising Star award for his work as senior staff attorney in Bankruptcy and Consumer Units at the Volunteer Lawyers Project in Boston, where he focuses on debt collection, eviction defense, and affirmative consumer litigation. He was recently appointed to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, which seeks to improve access to justice for people unable to afford an attorney for critical civil legal needs.
Kathleen Hyland, assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, has served as president of the board of directors of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition and as Maryland state chair of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. She has championed critical consumer protection legislation, drafting legislation to expand exemptions for bank garnishments and advocating for debt protection and student loan bills.
Oregon solo practitioner Kelly Jones has helped obtain millions of dollars in relief for injured Oregonians in federal and state court, in both individual and class action litigation. The central focus of his practice has been on consumer protection, civil rights, and class action litigation, representing Oregonians who have been injured by the unlawful conduct of banks, debt collectors, landlords, retailers, and employers.
The awards were presented at the National Consumer Law Center’s 30th Annual Consumer Rights Litigation Conference, in Seattle, on Nov. 12. Speaking at the awards ceremony was U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.). She praised the work of consumer lawyers to achieve economic justice for low-income people and to advance a fair and equitable society for everyone.
Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center has worked for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people in the United States through its expertise in policy analysis and advocacy, publications, litigation, expert witness services, and training.
The Consumer Rights Litigation Conference is the largest and most comprehensive educational conference for consumer attorneys in the nation.
The Vern Countryman Award is presented each year to a legal services or other public interest attorney whose special contributions to the practice of consumer law have strengthened and affirmed the rights of low-income Americans. Since the first award was presented in 1990, it has become the preeminent honor for consumer attorneys.