Credit long overdue

I'm finally getting to this story that kind of got buried around election time, but it really shouldn't be.

One of the most effective advocates in the State House is my friend and colleague Laura Ziegler. She's worked for many years as a paralegal, representing New Yorkers in involuntary mental health cases, and she's lived in Vermont for years, spending time at the Legislature on mental health issues, completely on her own.

Laura's general method of operation is to spend hours reading bills, court precedents from other jurisdictions, scholarly articles, and then use what she's read, together with her great memory of the law and her powers of analysis to bug the professional advocates and lobbyists in the building and let us know what we're missing, why what we're missing is important, and why we have to pay more attention to somem overlooked issue.

I think she realizes that her attentions are sometimes inconvenient to the people she's trying to talk to, but she also knows, as to the people who know her in the State House, that she's pretty much always right. 

Laura's not the kind of person who gets a lot of recognition or appreciation, but that changed this year. On November 10, at its annual meeting, the Vermont chapter of the ACLU honored her with their David W. Curtis Civil Liberties Award.

Here's the citation:

 The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont

presents its Thirtieth Annual David W. Curtis Civil Liberties Award to

Laura Ziegler

 for protecting the rights of psychiatric survivors and people with disabilities and for her steadfast commitment to government accountability.

 Laura Ziegler has been a tireless, self-appointed advocate for citizens who are frequently marginalized and unheard in our society. For them, she simply seeks a measure of justice. In her advocacy work, Laura often clashes with public officials. She files many public records requests to learn the details of government actions. She attends public meetings to understand and follow difficult issues, often reminding participants of past actions they did or did not take. She complains when she feels the open meeting law is being violated. But she also expresses appreciation for a good law passed or a bad one defeated. A society could ask for no better public citizen, and we are proud to honor Laura with our David Curtis Civil Liberties Award.

 November 10, 2012

Montpelier, Vermont

I can't think of anyone more deserving of this recognition. 

2 thoughts on “Credit long overdue

  1. I was at that ACLU annual meeting and saw the presentation. Laura Ziegler (whom I have never met) struck me as being both modest and outspoken. It looked like that to her the recognition wasn’t so much about her as about the task, and why weren’t we all paying this kind of attention to these issues.

    Thanks, Jack, for spotlighting this award and Laura’s amazing work.


    The word liberal comes from the word free. We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

  2. There are simply not enough advocates available to assist the extremely vulnerable amongst us, such as the elderly, disabled & those who suffer from psychiatric conditions as well as the continuous onslaught of violations of even their basic human rights & quality of life.

    Nice to hear some good news once in a while.    

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