On May 16 The Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation presented the 2010 Justice Louis Scolnik Award to our own Nan Heald, Executive Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
The Scolnik Award, established in 1989, honors members of Maine's legal community who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the protection of civil liberties. The award is named for former Maine Supreme Court Justice Louis Scolnik. Justice Scolnik was a founder and the first president of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
“Nan Heald's commitment to justice and improving legal access for all Mainers is extraordinary,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “We honor Heald for her work to improve Maine's civil justice system, expanding access to justice for everyone.”
Nan is remembered in Maine's Native communities for her work early in her career at Pine Tree to help secure federal recognition for the Aroostook Band of Micmacs. As a result of Nan's work and the work of many others, the Micmacs became a federally recognized tribe in 1991.
As Executive Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Heald has helped expand access to justice for traditionally disadvantaged groups including Native Americans and young people. For over two decades, she has worked to improve Maine's civil justice system and she has passionately and consistently focused attention on the effects of poverty in the lives of Maine residents.
Nan has been instrumental in expanding PTLA legal services to include IRS tax disputes, housing discrimination, foreclosure assistance services with a focus on predatory lending, and in developing KIDS LEGAL, the first statewide children's legal services project in Maine.
Where legal aid and pro bono services are lacking, Heald has actively promoted the need for expanded self-help resources, including the development of user-friendly legal education materials and other self-help tools in a wide range of topics on PTLA's nationally acclaimed websites, including www.ptla.org, www.helpmelaw.org, and www.kidslegal.org.
“Maine is a better place because of Nan Heald's efforts,” says Bellows. “She has engaged the public in an ongoing dialogue about the legal needs of the poor and encouraged new levels of support for legal services to meet those needs.”