PORTLAND, Maine — A woman who has spent the past 25 years providing legal services to Maine’s poor will be honored by the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation next week.
The foundation is the not-for-profit arm of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, based in Portland.
Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, will be presented with the 2010 Justice Louis Scolnik Award at a dinner on Thursday, May 6, at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport.
“It’s obviously an incredible honor to be associated with the great Maine lawyers who have been past recipients of the Scolnik Award,” Heald said Tuesday in an e-mail. “However, I think this year’s award properly should be seen as an affirmation of the work being done every day by all of the staff and volunteers at Pine Tree and at Maine’s other legal aid programs, who work tirelessly to make sure that Maine lives up to our pledge of justice for all.”
As head of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Heald has helped expand access to justice for traditionally disadvantaged groups including Native Americans and young people, Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said in press release. “For more than two decades, she has worked collaboratively to im-prove Maine’s civil justice system and she has passionately and consistently focused attention on the actual consequences of poverty in the lives of Maine residents.
“Nan Heald’s commitment to justice and improving legal access for all Mainers is extraordinary,” Bellows added. “We honor Heald for her work to improve Maine’s civil justice system, expanding access to justice for everyone.”
Heald has been instrumental in expanding Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s 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 the organization’s websites, www.ptla.org, www.helpmelaw.org, and www.kidslegal.org, which have garnered national recognition.
“Maine is a better place because of Nan Heald’s efforts,” Bellows said. “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.”
Heald began her career at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in 1985 as a staff attorney. Before that, she worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and in private practice in Portland.
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 Judicial Court Justice Louis Scolnik, who was a founder and the first president of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.