2012 Howard B. Eisenberg Distinguished Service Award
Attorney, Wisconsin Judicare, Wausau
Elizabeth Buchl Corbett’s 27-year legal career has been characterized by her zeal in representation of clients and her understanding and compassion for the disadvantaged, especially disabled persons. After receiving her J.D. from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1985, she began her career as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow, the first and only staff attorney with Northwest Minnesota Legal Services, a Judicare program serving the northern 23 counties in Minnesota.
Attorney Corbett moved to Wisconsin in 1989, where she became Deputy Director of Wisconsin Judicare, Inc. and supervisor of its Civil Unit attorneys. She concentrated her efforts on representing individual clients with pressing legal concerns, including domestic violence, family income maintenance, housing needs, and access to special education and medical care. Her approach to clients’ problems was always holistic, and her advocacy did not stop on the steps out of the courthouse.
In her role of administrator of the Civil Unit of Judicare, she became a mentor to new staff attorneys and a resource for private attorneys who participated in the Judicare program. She organized annual Continuing Legal Education programs and prepared manuals on civil poverty law subjects that were advocacy tools for staff and private attorneys alike.
Attorney Corbett became the Interim Executive Director of Judicare in January 1997, at the time when it seemed likely all Legal Services Corporation funding, the major source of income to the program, could be eliminated. She weathered the storm by obtaining grant money from United Ways and other funders, and in August of 1997 turned over the program to a new director. She remained at Judicare as Deputy Director and Staff Attorney until December 2004, leaving to develop a private practice.
She returned to the program on a limited basis in 2008, representing Judicare clients in Social Security/ Supplemental Security disability cases and assisting clients with disability and unemployment questions. Her expertise in disability cases resulted in favorable decisions for many clients who had been denied benefits for years.
Attorney Corbett devotes much of her time to her community. She served a term as President of the Marathon County Bar Association, and was the co-chair of the Marathon County Bar Law Day Committee. She has also been active in the State Bar, as a past member of the Public Interest Section Board of Directors, and presently a member of the Elderly Law, Family Law and General Practice sections. In 1999 she received an Outstanding Legal Services Pro Bono Publico Award from the Wisconsin Legal Services programs. She is also active in her church, Marathon County Hockey Association, Wausau Youth Baseball, and the Wausau Pro Musica women’s choir.