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Law student honored for tireless social justice efforts

Loyola press release - April 15, 2010

Nikki Demetria Thanos, a third-year College of Law student at Loyola University New Orleans, is the recipient of the 2010 Working in the Public Interest Student Achievement Award, presented by the student-led WIPI group at the University of Georgia School of Law.

The award is given to current law students who, through their work in public interest, made a significant difference in the lives of the indigent or under-served, without compensation for their efforts. The award was announced at a ceremony on Feb. 27 in Atlanta, Ga., during the WIPI annual conference.

Thanos, who is in the top 10 percent of her class, is currently the research assistant to assistant clinical professor Davida Finger, where she provides legal support and assists in the development of fair housing, immigration, civil rights and workplace violation cases through legal research and community outreach. Thanos is also a student practitioner in Loyola’s Immigration Clinic in the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, where she provides direct client assistance, files pleadings and prepares correspondence. At Loyola, she founded an anti-racism working group and has organized students to understand race and the law. From 2007-09, she served as president of the Loyola chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and was a volunteer with the New Orleans Wage Claim Clinic.

Alison McCray, also a third year law student, nominated Thanos for the award.

“Nikki’s work in the public interest passionately embodies the beliefs that there is no single-issue struggle in our world and that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said McCrary in her nomination for Thanos. “Her work crosses borders, breaks through traditional boundaries of legal advocacy and inspires and encourages us to love the work that we do.”

Outside of Loyola, Thanos coordinates a city-wide network of Spanish-English interpreters and ensures immigrant clients have professional interpretation. She recently authored “A Handbook for Social Justice Activists Thinking About Law School,” a book that incorporates interviews with 30 current and recently-graduated law students working in public interest.

Last summer, she was the recipient of an Ella Baker Fellowship at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. From 2006-07, she was the Oregon director for the Jefferson Center for Education and Research in Portland, where she catalyzed community actions through one-on-one and group leadership trainings on issues including contingent worker/immigrant rights, school resources for Hispanic youth, faith and social action, anti-racism and poor people’s history. She has also volunteered at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in the housing unit and helped to staff a weekly clinic at River Gardens, a public housing development in New Orleans. She drafted policy briefs and lobbying resources for U.S. Congressional allies and grassroots leaders on the failures of a U.S. fumigation policy in Colombia and the need to reduce U.S. military aid to Latin America.

WIPI’s annual public interest law conference held at the University of Georgia School of Law seeks to bring together eminent practitioners in their respective fields, students, and faculty from the southeast to discuss practical approaches to lawyering which can promote social justice and human rights for all. The conference seeks to highlight dynamic, creative ways to combat social injustice through the vehicle of the law.

For more information on WIPI, contact David Smythe, executive director at david.smythe0@gmail.com.

For more information on the College of Law, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888 or jshields@loyno.edu.