Angela Ciolfi ’03 Will Lead Legal Aid Justice Center
Angela Ciolfi ’03, a champion for the rights of the indigent and a lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Law, has been named executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center.
The nonprofit center, which began in Charlottesville more than 50 years ago as a venture spurred by UVA Law students, is dedicated to serving the legal needs of low-income Virginians through individual representation, group and class litigation, community organizing, policy advocacy and media relations.
Ciolfi, who will assume her new role Dec. 15, is currently LAJC’s director of litigation and advocacy. She will succeed Mary Bauer ’90, who recently returned to the Southern Poverty Law Center to lead its Immigrant Justice Project as deputy legal director.
“LAJC has become a real juggernaut of justice, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of its staff, past and present,” Ciolfi said. “I see our unique partnership with the Law School as part of the secret to our success, and I look forward to continue working with students and faculty to fight systems that perpetuate poverty and racial injustice.”
LAJC is a hub for UVA Law students who volunteer pro bono on a range of projects. The center’s attorneys lead or co-teach several of UVA Law’s clinics and supervise student volunteers. Ciolfi, who has led the Child Advocacy Clinic in the past, helped start the Consumer Law Clinic and the new Civil Rights Clinic, which will launch in the spring.
Ciolfi previously served as legal director of JustChildren, an LAJC program that focuses on improving Virginia’s public education, juvenile justice and foster care systems. Her work for the program earned her the Oliver White Hill Award from the Virginia State Bar in 2003 as a student and the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2010.
A graduate of the College of William & Mary and a native of Warrenton, Virginia, Ciolfi joined LAJC as a Powell Fellow in 2004 after clerking for U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay. At UVA Law she was a member of the Virginia Law Review, was elected to the Raven Society and Order of the Coif, and won the Trial Advocacy Award, James C. Slaughter Honor Award, the Linda Fairstein Public Service Fellowship and the Pro Bono Award. She also worked as a research assistant for and later co-taught a seminar on special education law with then-professor Jim Ryan ’92, an expert on law and educational opportunity who now serves as UVA’s president.
Ciolfi received the 2017 Virginia Legal Aid Award by the Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Committee for her work advocating for children’s issues throughout the commonwealth. Her recent work includes advocating against Virginia’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses when residents owe court fines they cannot afford to pay.
She has also litigated significant cases in the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her successful fight in 2012-14 to require public schools to publish suspension and expulsion data broken down by race, gender and disability and roll back zero-tolerance laws set the stage for much of LAJC’s school-to-prison pipeline work since then, according to the center’s press release.
“It’s wonderful and inspiring to see Angela take the helm at the Legal Aid Justice Center,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. “From when she began working there as a UVA Law Powell Fellow to her most recent role leading the center’s litigation and advocacy efforts, she has focused her career on improving the lives of Virginians in need of legal assistance. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our decades-long partnership.”
When the center, originally known as the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society, was incorporated in 1967, it was the first legal aid referral system for the indigent in the Charlottesville area. The organization now has offices in Falls Church, Petersburg and Richmond. In 2017, the Law School received LAJC’s inaugural Champion of Justice Award, which recognizes those who make a significant contribution to justice for all in Virginia over an extended period.