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Dec. 10, 2020

Margaret Morrow leaving Public Counsel, search is on for replacement

Morrow said the pro bono firm “would be best served by having new leadership that can bring fresh eyes to the many challenges low-income communities and communities of color face today and will face moving forward.”

After five years as president and CEO of Public Counsel, Margaret Morrow will be stepping down early next year once her replacement is appointed, she announced Wednesday.

Morrow delivered the news in a letter to the pro bono law firm’s supporters and contacts. She indicated she had shared her decision to step down with the firm’s staff and board of directors earlier this fall.

“It’s truly bittersweet,” said Morrow in an email Wednesday. “I love Public Counsel and I love all the good that its amazing team of advocates does in the community. I’ve made many good friends and colleagues at Public Counsel as well, and I will miss seeing them and interacting with them on a daily basis.”

“But I think this is a good time in the organization’s history for a transition to occur and I’m excited to see what Public Counsel will be able to accomplish in the next 50 years to lift up the community. Public Counsel is stronger than it has ever been and a new leader will have a solid foundation upon which to build.”

The former federal judge in the Central District of California said the decision to step down was a deeply personal one “born of a recognition that we are at a pivotal moment in our country’s history and that to play the kind of role it wants and needs to play in transforming systems and institutions, and working to eliminate systemic racism and inequality, Public Counsel would be best served by having new leadership that can bring fresh eyes to the many challenges low-income communities and communities of color face today and will face moving forward.”

Morrow was appointed to lead Public Counsel in 2016 following her retirement from the bench. She was appointed to the U.S. district court by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

During her 18-year career on the bench, she presided over both a criminal and civil calendar, built and oversaw the Central District’s alternative dispute resolution program and led the effort to build a new federal courthouse in Los Angeles.

Prior to her appointment, she was a partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP in Los Angeles.

Although Morrow said she has yet to decide what her next steps will be following her departure, she said she will take time to consider what lies ahead after realizing that during the 47 years of her legal career, she has never taken any days off between jobs.

“Knowing myself, however, I doubt this break will last very long,” she added. “I intend to stay involved in justice and equity issues, perhaps assisting nonprofits make a difference in our community, but expect I will explore a variety of options.”

Public Counsel has hired executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. to conduct a national hunt for Morrow’s replacement.

“Leaving the bench to run a nonprofit is not a typical career decision, but it has been a richly rewarding one,” Morrow said. “Getting to be part of the fight for civil rights, justice and equity has been the honor of a lifetime. Each day, Public Counsel’s tenacious advocates stand up for what’s right, and fight to help our clients achieve the brighter, more stable future they deserve. Even on the most challenging days, being part of that fight — even a small part — was a dream come true. I believe and hope I’m leaving the organization well positioned for its next 50 years of delivering justice, opportunity and hope to those who need it most.”

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Kamila Knaudt

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kamila_knaudt@dailyjournal.com

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