Siegler Honored with Ruth Goldman Award

Meredith Heagney
Law School Office of Communications
June 11, 2014

Professor Alison Siegler, Founder and Director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic, will be honored today with the Ruth Goldman Award from the American Constitution Society Chicago Lawyer Chapter. The award, named for the late Ruth Goldman, ’47, honors those who advance the state of women in the legal profession and the goals of the organization.

“I was completely stunned. I had no idea I was in the running for this,” Siegler said. “I always go to the annual ACS awards luncheon, and I always find it really inspirational because the recipients have so much passion. I hope I can galvanize other people to do important work too, to help poor people and the voiceless.” 

Siegler was chosen for her tireless federal criminal defense work and her dedicated work with students, said Amy Gardner, Dean of Students and Chicago Lawyer Chapter Board of Advisors Member. Gardner had the original idea to start an award for women and to name it for Goldman, whom Gardner considered a friend and a “great role model.” She will present the award to Siegler at the Legal Legends Luncheon at the Union League Club of Chicago. The lunch also will honor three area lawyers as “legal legends,” including alumnus Judson H. Miner, ’67, and David Axelrod will speak.

Goldman, who was a staff attorney to the Legal Aid Department of the Jewish Family and Community Service, among other roles, played a pivotal role of the founding of the ACS chapter in Chicago in 2003. She died in 2008, at age 87, months after seeing the award in her name established.

Siegler is a worthy recipient of an award in Goldman’s name, Gardner said. “Alison has done so many things so well, and like Ruth, puts a great deal of effort into being a role model. She’s also simply an excellent lawyer.” Siegler, now Associate Clinical Professor of Law, was recently promoted to the position of Clinical Professor of Law, beginning July 1.

Professor Geof Stone, Co-Chair of the Chicago chapter, called Siegler “an extraordinary force for good in the criminal justice system. She is a major player in issues of criminal justice reform and the clinic, which she founded, is the nation's only legal clinic solely devoted to representing indigent defendants charged with federal felonies.”

Siegler’s fellow clinical professor, Maria Woltjen, earned the Ruth Goldman Award last year for her work in the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She described her colleague as “a force. Students flock to her clinic, where they gain excellent experience representing indigent clients before the federal bench. Alison is sought out as a mentor, especially by young women in law school.”

Mishan Wroe, ’13, can attest to that. She worked in Siegler’s clinic for four quarters, and Siegler is the faculty advisor for the Domestic Violence Project, which Wroe founded to offer pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence. She said Siegler works doggedly to show the judge and prosecutor that her clients are real human beings worthy of fairness and respect, and that she doesn’t rest until oral arguments and written briefs are as persuasive as possible. Siegler treats each individual case as critically important, and then also advocates for change in the criminal justice system through academic articles and amicus briefs, Wroe said.

“It is impossible to overstate Professor Siegler’s passion for her work. She is passionate about her clients, about her students, and about working to make a more just and fair criminal system,” Wroe said. “She has seemingly endless energy and it is impossible not to be inspired and energized by working alongside her.”

Wroe added that Siegler is a personal inspiration not just because of her legal talents but because she is a mother and very open with her students about the struggles and rewards of parenting while working such a demanding schedule.

“She’s a particularly tremendous asset for women at the Law School both because she leads by example and because she is always willing to explore new ways to help diversify the profession, particularly at its highest levels,” Wroe said.

“She goes above and beyond to help students achieve their goals, whether it is a federal clerkship, a position at a firm, a grant for research, publication of a paper, or a position as a public defender. Professor Siegler writes letters, makes phone calls, edits drafts of papers, and gives endless encouragement and support. She is a passionate educator and mentor as well as a passionate defender. Her students are lucky to have her, as are her clients.”

Alison Siegler
Geoffrey R. Stone
Maria Woltjen