2008 Recipients

You are here

Where presented : 
Exemplar Award Dinner
Recipient(s) name: 
Charles F. Elsesser, Jr., Florida Legal Services, Inc., and Eileen Hirsch, State of Wisconsin Office of The State Public Defender
Reason for selection of recipient(s): 

Elsesser has spent most of the last 33 years as an advocate for low-income people covering a wide swath of legal issues, from affordable housing to welfare. After earning his law degree from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1971, Elsesser joined California Rural Legal Assistance as a staff attorney representing clients on a range of litigation issues, including government benefits, healthcare and housing. From 1974 to 1984, he served as senior counsel and directing attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and in 1984, he opened a private law office and primarily dealt with civil rights litigation. From 1986 to 1989, he returned to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles as director of litigation, where he had oversight for all major litigation in the program. And, for the three years following, Elsesser worked in government as an expert on affordable housing, both on the Senate Rules Committee of the California State Senate and then for the city of Santa Monica. In 1992, he joined Legal Services of Greater Miami as senior attorney, where he worked on litigation related to affordable housing and homelessness. Since 1997, he has served as senior litigation attorney with Florida Legal Services, Inc., where he represents community organizations in complex and class action litigation in federal court involving housing and disaster-related issues, as well as naturalization and public benefits.

Eileen Hirsch has been championing the rights of juveniles in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system since her career in law started. After getting her law degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1977, she joined the Youth Policy and Law Center in Madison, Wis. and served as a staff attorney from 1978 to 1982 and was promoted to associate director in 1982. In this position, she worked in training, technical assistance and policy advocacy for children in the juvenile justice system. In 1986, she joined the Wisconsin State Public Defender and has held several positions since that time, including chief legal counsel and deputy state public defender. She was promoted to her current position as the assistant state public defender of the appellate division in 1995. In her current position she leads a staff that provides representation in all public defender staff-assigned juvenile appeal cases in the state, through which she has argued nine cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with successful results in seven.

“Ms. Hirsch’s record of achievement in the courtroom stretches back to the beginning of her career as an advocate,” said her nominator Janice Pasaba. “Even in those formative stages of her career, she initiated successful actions to improve conditions of confinement for juveniles.”