January 2, 2020
Mark W. Welsh, Esq.
Northeast New Jersey Legal Services
Many NNJLS staff have devoted their professional lives to the cause of “equal justice for all.” Mark W. Welsh, a staff attorney in the NNJLS Bergen County office, is one of them. Mark specializes in representing low-income tenants who face losing their housing and their housing subsidies and has been “fighting the good fight” for many years. He joined NNJLS in February 2006, but before that he served low-income communities in Warren and Monmouth Counties. Mark has devoted his 26 year career to making New Jersey a more just place to live.
Mark states that he has seen a number of changes to the affordable housing landscape over the years. The housing market in Northeast New Jersey has become more expensive with limited access to quality, affordable housing. He believes that the region is really a “landlord market” which makes it difficult for low-income individuals with families to afford decent shelter. Even those with housing subsidies cannot find apartments since many landlords do not accept housing subsidies. Mark also observes that older clients and seniors face a more difficult time transitioning after a major life event, whether it's losing a house to foreclosure, the death of a spouse, or serious medical issue.
It may seem like Mark’s work is never finished, but when he isn’t spending time with his NNJLS “family,” he is spending it with his actual family: his wife of 36 years, two daughters, one son-in-law, four grandchildren, three dogs, and a pet bird. He is also known to enjoy a good book with nonfiction being his top choice. On a personal note, Mark recalls an especially difficult time when he suffered a serious leg fracture. He found it remarkable how the staff at NNJLS supported him while he was out recuperating as well as during his readjustment period when he was back in the office. Mark is truly grateful for the support he received from NNJLS. For legal services attorneys, the case load never stops, but for Mark, NNJLS was there to help him in a time of need so he could put his energy toward recovering. He sees this support as representative of NNJLS staff as a whole and he believes that NNJLS has some of the best attorneys in New Jersey working in the firm’s areas of legal practice such as housing, public benefits, consumer, and family law. Mark appreciates his fellow NNJLS colleagues as dedicated professionals who spend their careers ensuring equal access to justice for clients. For NNJLS’s new attorneys, Mark believes NNJLS is a great place for them to become the best attorneys they can be.
NNJLS is very fortunate to have such dedicated professionals like Mark who come to work every day seeking to secure justice for his clients. NNJLS is incredibly grateful to him and his many colleagues for their years of dedicated service. It is the “Marks” of the world with their tireless dedication, professionalism, and compassion that make this a better, fairer, and more just place to live.
Our Previous Spotlight Honorees
April 17, 2019
Linda D. Foster, Esq.
Office of the Federal Public Defender
On February 27, in a ceremony surrounded by family and friends, Linda D. Foster, Esq., member of the NNJLS Board of Directors, received the Woman of Substance Award from Seton Hall School of Law. The award is given to "women attorneys who exemplify what it means to be a successful, empowered, and strong Seton Hall lawyer." While calling the award a "sweet surprise," Ms. Foster reflected on the path that led her to this honor. Through a career full of solid preparation, championing her strong inner voice, and remembering that confidence is a choice, Ms. Foster relishes the opportunity to be a cheerleader: for her clients, for other women lawyers, and for herself. For those that know Ms. Foster, this award should come as no surprise; on more than one occasion, a judge has inadvertently called her "Linda Carter" (alluding to actress Lynda Carter's portrayal of "Wonder Woman").
Ms. Foster is currently an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Newark, N.J., where she represents indigent clients charged with federal offenses. Before joining the Office of the Federal Public Defender in 2003, she was an attorney with the Hudson County Public Defender’s Office.
Ms. Foster is also committed to contributing to the broader legal community. She is Vice-President of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, where she has been an active trustee member for nine years, and will become president next year. She has also served on the Board of Directors for Northeast New Jersey Legal Services since 1999. She is a member of the Federal Bar Association and Hudson County Bar Association. Ms. Foster received her B.A. from Smith College and her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall School of Law.
February 11, 2019
Jack Jay Wind, Esq.
Of Counsel, Margulies Wind and the firm of Schumann Hanlon Margulies
Jack Jay Wind, President of the NNJLS Board of Directors, recently received the 2018 Hudson County Bar Association Professional Practitioner of the Year Award. Mr. Wind is Of Counsel with the firm of Margulies Wind and the firm of Schumann Hanlon Margulies; he was admitted to practice in New Jersey in 1977 and is admitted before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Wind is a member of the Hudson County Bar Association and a founding member of the Hudson-Bergen Inn of Transactional Counsel. Mr. Wind became President of the Board of Directors for Hudson County Legal Services in 2002 and, upon its expansion in 2003 to encompass Bergen and Passaic Counties, Northeast New Jersey Legal Services; he continues to serve as Board President.
Mr. Wind has also served the county and state legal community as Secretary of the Supreme Court of New Jersey District VI, Hudson County, Ethics Committee, having served in that capacity for a total of 29 years. In 1999, he was cited by the Hudson County Bar Association for his then ten year service. Mr. Wind served as an adjunct faculty member at Upsala College and has participated as a lecturer and panel member in the area of ethics and professionalism for Skills and Methods, The Hudson Inn of Court, as well as for the Hudson County Bar Association CLE program.
Mr. Wind was born in Hudson County and raised in Bergen County. After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, he continued his education in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving his Juris Doctor cum laude from Suffolk University Law School in 1977.
November 30, 2018
Georgene Sfraga-Panza, Esq.
Georgene Sfraga-Panza, NNJLS pro bono in-house attorney, always knew she wanted to make a difference in the world with her law degree, and luckily for NNJLS staff and clients, she pursued her dream. For ten years, Georgene has dedicated almost every Tuesday to guiding financially unstable NNJLS clients through the process of filing for a divorce as well as providing legal advice on other family matters such as child support and custody.
During Georgene’s extensive career at New York Life Insurance she earned an MBA and a law degree at night. While she was a Vice President for Individual Policies Services and not practicing law at New York Life, she knew that when she retired she wanted to use her law degree to help those in need.
In 2008, she found NNJLS and never looked back: finding a role that balanced the need for flexibility during her retirement with a meaningful experience, Georgene knew NNJLS was the right place to be.
Georgene knows that if not for her, many of the clients with whom she works would not receive help; that knowledge keeps her motivated. According to Georgene, “It’s not hard to help them and it makes a huge difference.” In fact, during her time at NNJLS, Georgene has given guidance and advice to over 500 clients.
When Georgene isn’t dedicating her time to NNJLS, you can find her on the beach, playing with her grandson, at tap dance lessons, or learning how to speak Italian. NNJLS is extremely grateful for Georgene’s commitment to pro bono and for all the individuals who generously contribute their time to NNJLS clients throughout the year.
September 25, 2018
Carolina Curbelo, Esq.
The Law Office of Carolina T. Curbelo, LLC
For NNJLS pro bono attorney Carolina Curbelo, life comes full circle. Growing up as a daughter of Cuban refugees, Carolina heard the many stories of struggle and assimilation that her parents and grandparents had in the United States. This upbringing provided Carolina with the foundation to become a zealous advocate for clients not only navigating the U.S. immigration system, but also the social, cultural, and linguistic norms of an entirely new country.
After opening her own law practice in 2015, Carolina sent an email to NNJLS’s Private Attorney Involvement (pro bono) program. Since her email, Carolina has gone on to volunteer countless hours and represent several NNJLS clients. Most recently, Carolina represented a client who became a U.S. Citizen in June. If that weren’t enough, Carolina helped another NNJLS client with the renewal of his green card.
Why does Carolina volunteer at NNJLS? Because in New Jersey, there is a huge need for bilingual attorneys as well as attorneys that have experience and training in cultural competencies of the state’s increasingly diverse population. Carolina adds that volunteering at NNJLS gives her a personal connection with the cause and offers great fulfillment and enrichment of life in ways that one won’t even anticipate. For anyone wondering whether they should volunteer, Carolina says to do it. The reward of volunteering is seeing a client smile and being grateful for helping them navigate a complex immigration process.
For Carolina, her story provides a narrative for those attorneys who are passionate in helping immigrants achieve their American Dream. For NNJLS, Carolina, like many of our dedicated pro bono attorneys, provides the organization with the ability and expertise to better serve our diverse community. NNJLS is grateful to Carolina for her email all those years ago.
Carolina graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and received her Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School. During law school, Carolina participated in moot court and won honors in the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition.
When Carolina isn’t managing her law practice or volunteering at NNJLS, she enjoys skiing, jogging, Netflix binges, and most importantly, spending time with her husband and two children.