From the Multnomah Lawyer: Susan Rossiter: Dedicating Her Retirement to Pro Bono Services

This month’s Pro Bono Spotlight features OSB Active Pro Bono Status Member, Susan Rossiter. Sue is originally from Chicago, having earned her bachelor’s degree at Wellesley in Massachusetts. After college, Sue began her career in public service by joining VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). Her VISTA assignment brought her across the country to central California working with the probation department. That work inspired her to go to law school. As she and a friend explored law schools, Sue was able to visit Willamette University and liked the fact that the school was located right in the heart of the state capitol.

At Willamette University College of Law, Sue originally thought she would focus on criminal law, but soon found herself studying under Professor Carlton Snow and studying public sector labor. Following law school, Sue worked for the Oregon Education Association, was a hearings officer for the Employment Relations Board, and then transitioned to working in immigration law. Sue then returned to employment law and worked on the Oregon Employment Appeals Board, serving as the board chair from 2014-17.

While practicing immigration law, Sue was inspired by the generosity of other Oregon immigration lawyers providing pro bono representation to the underserved. Their work inspired her to begin and continue pro bono work throughout her career. Sue provided pro bono representation to asylum seekers, including representing Haitian refugees in the 1990s and in 2015, traveled to detention centers in Texas to provide pro bono immigration support to those from Honduras, El
Salvador and Guatemala. 

Since then, Sue has retired, but elected to maintain Active Pro Bono Status through the OSB. This unique form of membership allows attorneys to remain members of the bar at a much lower rate with PLF coverage so long as the attorney provides pro bono services to one of the organizations on the bar’s approved list. Sue provides her pro bono services to the Senior Law Project and El Programa Hispano Católico.

Senior Law Project
The Senior Law Project (SLP) is a free legal service offered by the Portland Regional Office of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, with funding from the Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services Department. SLP attorneys help seniors in the community with a variety of legal issues in 30-minute consultation sessions and may continue with representation depending on the nature of the issue and if the senior qualifies for low-income aid. The volunteer attorneys go to senior centers throughout Multnomah County. In 2018 alone, SLP opened 911 cases and volunteers dedicated hundreds of hours to helping seniors. Sue explains that her work there each month includes a refreshingly wide variety of legal issues - from the sale of puppies, to understanding a letter from an insurance company, to landlord tenant issues and estate planning. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Low Income Tax Clinic at El Programa Hispano Católico
El Programa Hispano Católico offers a Low Income Tax Clinic (LITC) that provides free year-round advocacy and education about the tax system to low income families. The LITC also serves clients with disputes with the IRS by representing them directly before the IRS. Sue volunteers here twice a week and primarily helps clients with tax debt issues and obtaining individual tax identification numbers (ITIN) for those who are ineligible to receive a social security number. Even though Sue did not practice tax law during her career, she explained that the resources and people at the LITC helped her learn everything she needed to know quickly and effectively. 

The YLS would like to thank Sue for all the time and hard work she has given to the legal community.

If you are retired or considering retiring and still want to help serve our community, contact the OSB to learn more about Active Pro Bono Status.

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