Lisa J. Krisher, litigation director of Georgia Legal Services Program, has been awarded the Kutak-Dodds Prize by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. The prestigious Kutak-Dodds Prize annually honors a public interest attorney who has “significantly contributed to the human dignity and quality of life of individuals unable to afford legal representation.” It comes with a $10,000 check.
The Kutak-Dodds Prize will be presented to Krisher on Sept. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. at a dinner at which NLADA will also present awards to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to Senior Vice President and General Counsel for UPS Teri Plummer McClure.
A 1978 graduate of Antioch School of Law in Washington D.C., Krisher came directly to GLSP to begin her career. She became litigation director in 1990. A resident of Augusta, Krisher supervises high-impact litigation and other advocacy initiatives by attorneys at GLSP, a non-profit law firm representing low-income Georgians in civil matters in 154 counties outside the metro-Atlanta area. With ten regional offices around the state, GLSP’s mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for residents of rural and small-town Georgia. Some of GLSP’s funding comes through the Legal Services Corporation.
GLSP Executive Director Phyllis Holmen said Krisher deserves the nationally recognized honor “for her personal vision and commitment; her work to meet client needs under the most challenging circumstances; her innovative solutions to barriers to the delivery of legal services to the poor in the rural south; and the statewide and national impact of her work as an advocate, leader, supervisor, teacher, and role model, all done in the context of a rural southern state with entrenched generational poverty and ongoing civil rights issues.”
Holmen continued, “It has been my personal privilege and delight to work with Lisa for these many years, and I am grateful for all she has done for justice in Georgia and fighting for equality, opportunity, and the elimination of poverty.”
Krisher played a key role in developing GLSP’s Farmworker Rights Division, nationally recognized as one of the best legal-aid programs for itinerant agricultural workers, of whom Georgia has about 100,000, many still working in unsafe and abusive conditions. The Division has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars of back wages for workers, improved working conditions and secured better labor practices on the part of growers.
She also spearheaded GLSP’s effort to serve non-English speaking clients by developing a crew of Spanish-speaking attorneys across the state, as well as a Spanish intake line for GLSP, so clients with limited English may tell their stories in their native language and be understood. She has also guided efforts by GLSP to make sure interpreters are available in all legal proceedings, including those that don’t happen in a courtroom. (GLSP is prohibited from representing undocumented persons.)
And, filing federal civil rights complaints and pressing state-level administrators, Krisher forced change by the state of Georgia in how food stamp fraud cases are prosecuted, ultimately changing the way the state pursues those cases. The state had been scheduling more than 100 hearings a day in which food stamp recipients were threatened with criminal prosecution if they did not sign waivers of their rights and agreements to pay back the amount they had received in food stamps. Most of the recipients had done nothing more than buy food at the only store within walking distance of their homes. In one major case involving hundreds of recipients, the grocer was ultimately prosecuted rather than the recipients, thanks to GLSP’s efforts.
In 1997, Krisher was awarded the Dan Bradley Award from the State Bar of Georgia, recognizing her dedication, accomplishments and contributions to the cause of justice for all.