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Mae Quinn

Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center

quinn-maeMae Quinn was the first in her family to go to college.

She left home at 17, worked full time to put herself through school, and “because of the kindness and grace of others” earned her law license.

“Given my background, seeing a lot of what I saw in my own family and in my own community, I just had a deep desire from early on to stand up for those who are frequently marginalized, who don’t have resources, whose voices aren’t heard,” she said.

Originally, she thought that would mean working with victims of domestic violence. But in law school, when she was working in her first case in a legal clinic, she had to represent an alleged batterer.

“I saw things are sometimes more complicated than they seem at first blush,” she said. “Even people accused of not so great things deserve to have someone with them in their corner.”

She’s spent her career representing those who needed someone in their corner. She has been a public interest lawyer and litigator for approximately 20 years.

Since August, she has been the director of the St. Louis office of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center. Before that, she was a law professor at Washington University, where she was also the director of the juvenile law and justice clinic.

“Mae brought a wealth of experience to Wash U Law and our clinics as a seasoned practitioner serving indigent and criminal defendants,” Wash U Law Dean Nancy Staudt said.

Quinn said she loved working with students, and she is continuing to do so at the Justice Center.

The center has had law clerks from Wash U, Saint Louis University and several other law schools and started offering an internship this semester that is bringing in more college students. The center works with high school students as well.

“I love every day,” she said. “I’m putting in long hours, putting in weekends and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The center is busy on a number of fronts, she said.

In December, the center filed an amicus brief relating to death penalty litigation and “the lack of support for attorneys trying to support the rights of clients.” The center is representing National Legal Aid and the National Association of Public Defenders in “expressing their views about the skewed system in Missouri.”

The center also continues its involvement in juvenile life without parole cases, Quinn said. While the U.S. Supreme Court said juveniles may not be sentenced to life without parole, there are still a number of Missouri inmates sentenced before the ruling that the center is helping represent.

The justice center also sued the parole board recently over a client with hepatitis C who was not receiving proper treatment, Quinn said.

“That case, if decided in his favor, could save taxpayers a lot of money by letting him go into his family’s care and die with dignity, and not on the dime of the prison system,” she said.

Quinn’s passion is clear in her description of every case. When asked if any one case stands out as the greatest achievement of her legal career, Quinn said she couldn’t pick just one.

“Every single time is a tremendous blessing,” she said.

Staudt described Quinn as a “fierce advocate for her clients.”

“As a legal champion, she zealously represents some of Missouri’s most underserved and vulnerable populations,” she said.