A past president of the Guild, law professor, and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the legal system and institutions of Cuba, Debra Evenson represented the finest tradition of a People’s lawyer.
Debra was an American legal expert on Cuba, a practicing lawyer, and an educator. She was president of the National Lawyers Guild from 1988 until 1991. During the McCarthy era, Guild membership dwindled to a few hundred. She was part of the generation of young lawyers and law students that revived it in the late 60s and early 70s, combining political passion to combat injustice and exploitation with outstanding legal skills.
Debra also was a founding board member of the Sugar Law Center and remained on the Board until her death. Her work as a board member was instrumental in helping the Sugar Law Center defend the rights of working people in plant closing cases and the Center’s other important work.
She left DePaul University in 1992, and joined the New York City law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman. With the firm, Evenson represented the Cuban government, supporting Cuban sovereignty. She was also licensed to practice law in Cuba, where she worked with high government officials and civilians. From 1996-2001, Evenson was president of the Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services (ILSA) headquartered in Bogota, Columbia. During her tenure as president, ILSA organized important conferences related to legal services and human rights in Latin America, Asia and Africa and expanded its collaboration with human rights lawyers in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Debra died in Chicago on August 17, 2011, continuing to teach us through her grace and resilience confronting cancer. She was awarded the Kinoy Award for that year. She will be deeply missed.
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