Elisabeth Hieber ’19 Named as a 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Elisabeth Hieber, a May 2019 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law, has been selected as a 2019 Equal Justice Works fellow. During their two-year fellowship, Hieber will establish mobile legal clinics to provide LGBT elders legal assistance with housing and estate planning. Hieber’s fellowship is sponsored by PepsiCo and is hosted by the Center for Disability and Elder Law.

Elisabeth Hieber ’19 has been selected as a 2019 Equal Justice Works fellow.
Elisabeth Hieber ’19 has been selected as a 2019 Equal Justice Works fellow.

“I have always been interested in elder law and advocating for older adults,” says Hieber. “But as a gay, nonbinary member of the LGBT community, I also understood that advocacy is especially necessary for individuals experiencing intersectional marginalization because of age, ability, sexuality, and gender identity and expression, leading me to create a resource specifically for the elders of the LGBT community.”

Hieber will establish mobile legal clinics at LGBT-supportive organizations to provide culturally responsive legal services, including assistance with estate-planning documents and representation in state court proceedings related to housing, eviction, and landlord-tenant disputes. Additionally, Hieber will develop a pro bono initiative to recruit volunteer attorneys to help LGBT elders complete advance directives and power-of-attorney documents. Finally, Hieber will develop and implement an interactive educational campaign to provide LGBT elders with a space to discuss and access information about legal issues common in the LGBT community. 

“Because many LGBT elders have experienced lifetimes of discrimination and formative development characterized by criminalization of their identity, leading to social, health, and financial disparities compared to non-LGBT elders, LGBT elders are more likely to rely on public service providers and legal aid organizations for support as they age,” explains Hieber. “However, because many of these supports are not trained to provide care that is culturally responsive to these experiences, LGBT elders are more likely to experience invalidation when accessing support, and are more likely to therefore avoid seeking support.”

Most recently, Hieber was a legal intern at the Center for Disability and Elder Law. They were inspired to work in public interest law after watching their younger brother, Alan, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, navigate obstacles in schools, public accommodations, and health care. 

“Alan taught me that advocacy, and especially self-advocacy, is necessary to overcome barriers to equitable access to education, support, and care,” says Hieber.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, Hieber spent two years working at the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office in Cincinnati. “I firmly believe that advocacy that is dedicated to dismantling marginalization of individuals and communities is always in the public interest,” says Hieber. 

Through the law school's Legal Externship Program, Hieber clerked for the Office of the Illinois Attorney General and worked at the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. At Chicago-Kent, they were a fellow at the law school’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States and earned a J.D. certificate in Public Interest Law. As secretary of the Chicago-Kent Lambdas, Hieber spearheaded an initiative with Lambdas president Tobias Rodriguez to create gender-neutral restrooms on the concourse level of the law school. 

Hieber grew up in Georgia and Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. After the fellowship is over, they would like to continue advocating for the rights of LGBT elders. 

“I would love to secure funding and continue to provide this resource for as long as possible,” Hieber says. “I am also really interested in legislative advocacy and policy development, so I would be interested in trying to incorporate that as a part of my position in the future.”