By Christina Jackson
Soft-spoken but fierce in pursuing justice, Patty Mullahy Fugere is a force in the legal community. Patty has served as Executive Director of Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless for over 26 years, and she fights hard for her clients. She co-founded the Clinic based on a simple mantra: “If you see something wrong, don’t just complain, try to work for a solution.”
Under Patty’s leadership, the Clinic blends individual representation with systemic advocacy. The Clinic has handled approximately 30,000 individual cases—helping people get shelter, join waiting lists for housing, secure disability assistance, and clear up debt. Patty and her team also direct hundreds of volunteer lawyers, who leave their firm or government office and meet clients at intake sites like Miriam’s Kitchen, N Street Village, and Unity Health Care Clinic. Lawyers can serve their communities either full time or in their spare time, Patty explains: “I felt that doing this work at the Legal Clinic was a powerful way for me to live out my values and to show my kids that one way you can use your gifts to serve others is through your professional choices. It can be a full-time commitment, as I was so fortunate to be able to do, or an avocation, as hundreds of DC lawyers have done as Legal Clinic volunteers.”
Beyond leading the Clinic, Patty serves our community in several other ways. She sits on the DC Access to Justice Commission, the Steering Committee of the Fair Budget Coalition, and the advisory board of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. She serves on the boards of the Homeless Children’s Platyime Project and NETWORK Advocates and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. She helped create the DC Consortium of Legal Providers Community Listening Project. And she co-teaches a course on homelessness, poverty, and legal advocacy at Georgetown Law.
Unsurprisingly, just about everyone agrees that Patty is amazing! She has received, among other awards, the D.C. Bar‘s William J. Brennan, Jr. Award for service in the public interest; the D.C. Bar Foundation‘s Jerrold Scoutt Prize; and, from the District Alliance for Safe Housing, the Keystone Award for Leadership in the Development of Safe Housing for Victims of Domestic Violence. And Legal Aid has named her a Servant of Justice.
Patty is everything you’d want in an advocate; many people call her a saint. We, for our part, are honored to recognize Patty with our 2017 Presidents Award for Public Service.
Learn more about Patty and the other award recipients at our 2017 Awards Ceremony.
Christina Jackson (@CJacksonWCL) is our Deputy Director.