Sign In
  • InsideTrack
  • November 05, 2014

    Pro Bono Spotlight: Margaret Maroney on “How Fidel Castro Led Me to My Pro Bono Calling”

    Margaret MaroneyNov. 5, 2014 – Madison attorney Margaret Maroney’s interest in immigration law piqued while an appellate state public defender. Now retired, she represents people who fear persecution in their home countries and helps others with applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. “I make a difference,” she says.

    What Kind of Pro Bono Work Are You Doing?

    I’m a volunteer with the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC) at Christ Presbyterian Church and Jewish Social Services in Madison. I help clients with asylum applications and applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. For asylum, the person has to show that he or she was persecuted or fears persecution in the home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. So, I investigate the facts, assemble the evidence, draft the application, write an informal brief and attend the interview at the Asylum Office in Chicago.

    Why Did You Choose Immigration Law?

    My work as an appellate state public defender introduced me to immigration law. In 1980, thousands of Cubans fled Fidel Castro's Cuba to the United States in small boats from the Port of Mariel. The U.S. government sought to return any Marielito, like my client, who ended up in a Wisconsin prison. A committee of pro bono attorneys, including me, represented Marielitos in deportation proceedings.

    After I retired from the State Public Defender's office in November 2009, I wanted first to travel to New Zealand and South Africa. Then I decided do what many retirees do, volunteer.

    An article about CILC reminded me that I enjoyed my glimpse of immigration law years ago. I audited an immigration law course taught at UW Law School by Quarles & Brady attorney Grant Sovern and began volunteering at the CILC clinics. To date, I have represented six people in asylum proceedings and many people in applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA).

    The State Bar Pro Bono Initiative supports my pro bono work by reimbursing me for copying, postage, and travel to Chicago for the asylum cases.  My pro bono work is flexible. Now I plan to continue volunteering at the walk-in clinic and work with Jewish Social Services in a workshop setting completing DACA applications.

    What Do You Get Out of Volunteering?

    It has introduced me to a completely new group of people: lawyers and nonlawyers who work with the immigrants amongst us and the immigrants who want to remain in the United States. I have met people who have strong legal claims but no money to hire a lawyer. I make a difference. Retirement gives me time to travel, to read, to visit friends and family, and to provide pro bono representation. One of these days I hope to travel to Cuba and visit the Port of Mariel, the genesis of my encore career in immigration law.

    About the State Bar Pro Bono Initiative

    The State Bar Pro Bono Initiative is a statewide-coordinated program to support, recognize, and increase lawyers’ volunteer legal efforts. In collaboration with the judiciary, legal services providers, and local bar organizations, the initiative works to improve public access to the legal system by promoting solutions that eliminate barriers to effective access to the civil justice system.

    The Pro Bono Initiative, developed by the Legal Assistance Committee and approved by the Board of Governors in May 2004, has been a steady source of State Bar support for pro bono in Wisconsin. In addition to startup grants, it also encompasses a number of member benefits such as free malpractice insurance coverage for volunteer service in State Bar-sponsored pro bono projects and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses that members incur handling pro bono cases (filing fees, mileage, copying, etc.).

    Find out more about how to volunteer and the benefits available at

Join the conversation! Log in to comment.

News & Pubs Search

Format: MM/DD/YYYY