1993 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award Honoree
The 1993 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award is presented to Edie Sussman, a Santa Rosa attorney at our annual dinner.
Ms. Sussman graduated from law school at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and began her legal career with Napa County Public Defender Office in 1984. In 1985, she joined the staff of California Rural Legal Assistance in Santa Rosa. While there, she worked in the area of welfare rights, health care for undocumented workers, migrant education and habitability of housing for farm workers. At CRLA, she won the largest judgment in the United States up to that time for inhuman living conditions for farm workers in Valencia v. Rassmussen. In that case she represented three farm worker families who were forced to live in a rat infested converted chicken coop.
In 1987 she left CRLA to start her own practice, which emphasizes habitability of housing cases. In her practice, she only represents tenants and over one-third of her cases are pro-bono (no legal fees are charged).
In private practice she has won two separate $1 million verdicts against slumlords over the conditions of the housing. In one of the cases, after the lawsuit began, criminal charges were also brought against the landlord who was then forced to live in their own housing unit with an ankle monitor for 45 days as part of the sentence.
She has used the proceeds from the first verdict to set up a scholarship fund at Southwestern Law School to aid low-income Hispanic students and is in the process of setting up a similar scholarship fund at Empire Law School in Santa Rosa with the proceeds from the second verdict.
Her tireless devotion to provide access to the courts for the poor was recognized by the State Bar of California, which awarded her the prestigious 1992 Manuel Wiley Award For Pro-Bono Legal Services.