Lawyers from Washington, D.C., New York, and Florida earn ‘Rising Star’ awards
CHICAGO — In recognition of her contributions to the practice of consumer law, Seattle attorney Beth Terrell accepted the National Consumer Law Center’s 2023 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.
Beth Terrell is a member of the Terrell Marshall Law Group and litigates complex consumer class actions in federal and state courts to protect people and communities from abusive and deceptive debt collection, predatory lending, wage theft, and discrimination.
“Beth is eminently deserving of this award, which recognizes her visionary work not only in aiding consumers, but also in elevating the consumer law profession,” said Rich Dubois, executive director of NCLC. “While leading complex class actions and lobbying for legislative change to protect vulnerable consumers, Beth has mentored a new generation of practitioners and helped shape a consumer law bar that is more welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable. Her career is far from over, but the impact of her litigation and leadership have already laid the foundation for an enduring legacy.”
The National Consumer Law Center presented the award at its 31st annual Consumer Rights Litigation Conference in Chicago, on October 28, where three attorneys who have been in practice for 15 years or fewer were also recognized with NCLC’s Rising Star Award. The recipients of the 2023 Rising Star awards are:
Ariel Levinson-Waldman of Tzedek DC;
Jessica Ranucci of New York Legal Assistance Group; and
Annie Rodriguez of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
Ariel Levinson-Waldman is founding president and director-counsel of Tzedek DC, a public interest center headquartered at the University of the District of Columbia. Under his leadership, Tzedek DC has provided free legal help to more than 2,000 D.C. households facing debt collection, consumer, or credit problems. In 2016, Ariel was appointed by Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. In 2020, he was appointed by D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby to the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, and in 2021 he was elected Co-chair of the D.C. Consortium of Legal Services.
Jessica Ranucci is a supervising attorney in the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Special Litigation Unit, which focuses on federal court class actions benefitting low-income consumers. She has successfully litigated cases related to student loans, predatory for-profit schools, and debt collection with multi-million dollar judgments. She has served on two U.S. Department of Education negotiated rulemaking committees as a representative of legal aid organizations representing student loan borrowers. She led a successful campaign to close the predatory New York City School ASA College and win financial relief for students after its closure, and maintains a caseload of student loan clients and supervises other NYLAG staff advising clients with student loan issues.
Annie Rodriguez is a staff attorney in the Housing and Consumer Unit at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in Florida, focusing on preserving homeownership for people with low incomes and protecting low-income people with medical debt. Her work has included mortgage and reverse mortgage foreclosure and servicing claims, debt defense, auto sales and finance, consumer counterclaims in residential evictions, as well as claims under the Florida FDCPA analog. She was instrumental in achieving a favorable settlement in a Fair Credit Billing Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act case against a major bank involving alleged fraudulent credit card usage perpetrated against her clients resulting in unauthorized charges to their credit accounts.
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.
The Rising Star Award is presented annually by the National Consumer Law Center’s Partners Council to one or more attorneys in practice for 15 years or less who have made major contributions to consumer law within the past two years by trying or settling a case of great success and significance.