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Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award

The Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award recognizes a lawyer who demonstrates a selfless, lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, both inside and outside the field of law.

​​Michelle Velasquez

Michelle Velasquez, managing attorney at Civitas Law Group, is this year’s award recipient. She concentrates her practice on criminal, family, and immigration cases, and according to her nominator, Hon. Jean Kies of Branch 45 of the Milwaukee Circuit Court, Attorney Velasquez is “always serving her community, both locally and at the border.”

Attorney Velasquez began her professional career in social work, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 2002. She served as a case manager, advocating for abused and neglected children in Milwaukee County. She went on to attend law school at Marquette University and spent ten years advocating for low-income clients in various public service roles, including as an Assistant State Public Defender, both in Wisconsin and internationally. She has appeared before the Wisconsin Supreme Court three times.

In 2016, Attorney Velasquez co-founded Civitas Law Group, Inc., a nonprofit law firm in Milwaukee that provides representation using a sliding-scale fee model. Recently, Attorney Velasquez partnered with Voces de la Frontera to establish a free family and criminal law clinic for their members, and she’s currently working to replicate the clinic at a nearby church during their food pantry once a month. Traveling to help others in need seems to be a routine aspect of Attorney’s Velasquez’s work.

In 2017, she worked with community organizations and the Mexican Consulate to help renew approximately sixty people’s DACA status. In spring 2018, she traveled south to Texas to provide legal screening and information to women and children seeking asylum. More recently, she crossed the border to Tijuana, Mexico to help pro-se asylum seekers complete applications. Locally in the U.S., Attorney Velasquez splits her time frequenting a mobile legal clinic, coaching high school students for mock trial competitions, and serving as the President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association, as a member of the Appellate Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and as a board member of the Milwaukee Chapter of the ACLU.

In short, the letter to nominate Attorney Velasquez was so jam packed with accomplishments and activities, that it seems she must never sit still! It’s hard to believe that she is working within the same 24-hour-a-day time constraint as everyone else. Even without listing all that she does for her community on a daily basis, it’s evident that Attorney Velasquez demonstrates a “selfless” use of her time and talents and is the epitome of a dedicated public servant.

Watch the presentation of the Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award