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May 12, 2017

Angela Ciolfi Receives Legal Aid Award from Virginia State Bar

Angela A. Ciolfi, litigation director at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, is the recipient of the Virginia Legal Aid Award for 2017. Ciolfi is the first lawyer to win both the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award, in 2003 when she was a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the Legal Aid Award.

Mary Bauer, executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, nominated Ciolfi for the award. “Angela stands out for her strong commitment to our clients, her sharp analytical abilities, and her unusually strong work ethic. She is one of the smartest, hardest working, most courageous and effective children’s rights advocates and public interest lawyers that I know,” Bauer wrote.

Ciolfi’s involvement with legislative and legal matters affecting children is extensive. She has been a leader in the effort to stop the automatic suspension of drivers licenses for failure to pay legal costs; she fought to end the use of suspensions as a penalty for truancy; she secured legislation requiring the publication of disciplinary data desegregated by race, disability, and gender, bringing hidden disciplinary disparities out into the open.

Ciolfi’s work with the McAuliffe Administration led to the “Classrooms not Courtrooms” initiative. Subsequently, a law was passed that eliminated a statutory requirement that all state grant-funded school resource officers “enforce school board rules and codes of student conduct.” She has fought proposed cuts to public education funding and she persuaded the Virginia Board of Education to make Virginia the first state to add graduation rate benchmarks to its accountability system for schools.

In addition to her legislative work, Ciolfi has represented multiple children in the juvenile justice system and has been a strong advocate for the JustChildren Program.

UVa Professor of Law Leslie Kendrick wrote, “It is clear to me that Angela could do anything, anywhere. With the hours she works and the leadership she shows, at a firm she would be clear partnership material. With the knowledge and communication skills she has, she could teach full-time and win every teaching award on the books. She has had other opportunities to do other things. She has made a conscious decision: legal aid is her calling. This is where she wants to be. And we are all better off for it.”

James E. Ryan, dean of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote that, “Angela perfectly embodies the values, skills, and talents this award is meant to celebrate: innovation, creativity, passion, courage, excellence, impact, and, above all, an unwavering and unbroken commitment to her clients and to the public interest.”

The Legal Aid Award recognizes lawyers employed by legal aid societies licensed by the VSB. Recipients are chosen for their advocacy, quality of service, and impact beyond their service area. Ciolfi will receive the award on June 16 at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach. 

Her acceptance speech may be found here.

Updated: Jun 20, 2017

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