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  • December 18, 2019

    Pro Bono Spotlight: A 'Sacred Duty' for Odanah Lawyer

    Pro bono work "is a sacred duty and critical for the maintenance of our democracy," says Philomena Kebec. Meet the Odanah lawyer who not only assists pro bono clients through Wisconsin Judicare, but finds time to help fellow members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

    Jeff Brown

    Philomena Kebec

    Dec. 18, 2019 – Meet Philomena Kebec – a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who is a policy analyst and attorney with the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission in Odanah. The commission is an intertribal natural resource agency of 11 Ojibwe tribes that assists its member tribes in matters involving their off-reservation treaty rights.

    Kebec also assists Bad River in carrying out a harm reduction/syringe services program to support HIV and overdose prevention. Previously, she worked as an attorney for the Bad River Band and the Indian Law Resource Center on environmental justice and human rights matters.

    She also finds time to volunteer to help pro bono clients through Wisconsin Judicare.

    Learn more about Kebec as she answers questions about her pro bono work.

    Why Do You Do Pro Bono Work?

    I believe strongly that attorneys have an obligation to support access to justice for people of limited means. This is a sacred duty and critical for the maintenance of our democracy.

    Jeff BrownJeff Brown, Harvard 1989, is manager of the State Bar Pro Bono Program, liaison to the Legal Assistance Committee, and staff for the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6177.

    Without representation, many people will lose their cases right out of the gate, even with a decent set of facts on their side. As someone who cherishes the ideal of equality before the law, it’s empowering for me to be able to change that equation and provide Wisconsin Judicare-eligible clients with an opportunity to meaningfully engage in legal processes.

    What Types of Pro Bono Work Do You Do?

    My favorite types of cases are housing eviction cases. I mainly represent Native American litigants in tribal court, but I sometimes work on housing cases in county courts and other types of civil cases.

    What’s Your Most Memorable Pro Bono Moment?

    That’s a hard question. I really love the pro bono work and celebrate every victory.

    On the other side, losing is hard, because a loss in housing court has such a significant impact on people of limited means.

    Last spring I had the privilege of representing an elder from one of our Ojibwe communities. During the trial, he testified about his life as a veteran in poor health and why he sought out public housing on his reservation. He told the court that he came home to die. He made such an impression that the court ordered us to settle the case right there and refused to issue an eviction order.

    Know a Member We Should Highlight for Pro Bono Service? Tell Us!

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is proud to salute members who make a personal commitment to providing access to justice for low-income Wisconsin residents.

    Do you know a member who should be highlighted for pro bono service? Contact Pro Bono Coordinator Jeff Brown at (608) 250-6177 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6177.

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