In memory: Karen Detamore

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We are sad to announce that MLTF Secretary and Steering Committee Member, Karen Detamore passed away yesterday.

In honor of her legacy, we are sharing this remembrance shared by the Philadelphia NLG Chapter:

Friends, as many of you have heard, our dearest friend, mentor and inspiration, Karen Detamore, died yesterday. This comes as a surprise to her family and to many of us, who had spoken with her recently about all the things she hoped and planned to be active in during this summer and beyond.

There will not be a service right now, probably a life celebration later in the summer. The family is happy to hear from friends and are at home right now. Karen had a lifetime commitment to the NLG, and the family is encouraging contributions to the NLG in her memory.

With the encouragement of Karen’s family, we will go forward with our plans for the NLG Philly fundraiser tomorrow night, and hope to see Harold and others there. The event will celebrate the NLG’s 75th anniversary and the history of our chapter, especially the contributions of local members, including, of course, a special tribute to Karen. The details are below (and attached) along with a brief summary of Karen’s fantastic work for social justice. We hope to see you all tomorrow!

Thursday May 3 (6-8pm)
William Way Community Center, Philadelphia Room
1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA

ABOUT KAREN DETAMORE

Karen Detamore, a member of the National Lawyers Guild for nearly 38 years, fought for the civil and legal rights of the downtrodden and
underrepresented her entire life. As a legal worker and lawyer, Karen consistently led an inspiring and successful life, devoted in service to the oppressed.

Karen joined the NLG in 1973 as a legal worker and continued as an active legal worker member until becoming a law student at Rutgers-Camden in 1979 and an attorney in 1983. From 1973 to 1976, Karen worked as a legal worker for Philadelphians for Equal Justice, an organization which was formed to assist victims of police misconduct and to educate the public about the problem. Within the NLG in that period, Karen also volunteered as part of the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee in South Dakota. She then worked from 1976-77 as a staff member for the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Project in Japan, providing legal assistance for individual service members. From 1978-79, she was the director of the NLG related Paralegal Studies Program of the Free Law School, a one year training program for public interest paralegal jobs. After law school, Karen worked from 1983-1989 as an attorney in private practice, serving veterans and military service members. From 1983 to 1984, she also worked as the Director of the Free Law School, now re-named “Legal Awareness Workshops.” While continuing her part-time private practice, in 1987 she became the National Coordinator for the Criminal Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

For over 20 years from 1989 through mid-2009, Karen was Executive Director of Friends of Farmworkers, a statewide legal services organization providing legal representation and education to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. FOF has protected thousands of farm workers, defending them on issues related to their employment and their ability to organize. FOF has become an important and powerful legal advocacy group thanks in major part to Karen’s vision, dedication, intelligence, and strategy. She was forced to step down from her position at FOF in 2009 because of health issues.

While at FOF, Karen served as President of the Farmworker Project Group, a national organization representing the directors and managing attorneys of farmworker legal services programs, and represented farmworker programs as the chair of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association farmworker law section and as a representative to NLADA’s Civil Policy Group.

Karen has had a strong presence in Pennsylvania legal aid organizations and local and state bar associations. She served for two years as a member of the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. She served for more than 10 years as President of the Pennsylvania Project Directors Corporation (an association of directors of all Pennsylvania legal services programs). Karen was one of the key leaders of the Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association for the past 20 years and assumed numerous leadership roles within the Philadelphia Bar Association. She served as the chair of the Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and as an elected member of its Board of Governors.

Karen has been honored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, and the Peggy Browning Fund for her ongoing work in public interest law. Last year the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild honored Karen for her years of service and went on to create the Karen Detamore Lifetime Achievement Award, to honor those whose lifetime of work parallels Karen’s many accomplishments and the values she always fought for.

MaryCatherine  Roper
Staff  Attorney
ACLU  of Pennsylvania