January 19, 2021—Today, following a nationwide search, the board of the directors of the Public Interest Law Center announced that Brenda L. Marrero will lead the organization as its next executive director.
Marrero comes to the Law Center having spent her career as a public interest lawyer. After representing clients as a staff attorney in the Aging and Disabilities and SSI Units of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Marrero became CLS’s Deputy Director of Operations and Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer and continued her work in the SSI Unit as its Managing Attorney. In her leadership position, she gained extensive experience managing effective teams, budget planning, and executing cultural change and organizational vision around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Marrero will become the second women to lead the Law Center and the first person of color to do so.
Marrero has served as the Chair of the Public Interest Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, as a current board member of Justice at Work, and as a current board member and past secretary of the Hispanic Bar Association. Brenda is also a new member of The Forum of Executive Women, a Philadelphia-based group dedicated to elevating women leaders in the region. She holds a JD from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law.
“Brenda’s experience and skills will place the Law Center in a strong position to address the immense challenges our city and our nation face today,” said Law Center board chair Ellen S. Friedell. “In this moment, the barriers our communities face in the pursuit of justice are clear: persistent poverty and disinvestment, centuries of racial discrimination and segregation, a society that often fails to provide the most basic public goods, and threats to the foundations of our democracy. We have full confidence that Brenda will provide visionary leadership for the Law Center in its next chapter.”
“I am beyond thrilled, and so humbled, to be the next Executive Director of the Law Center,” Marrero said. “As a Latina immigrant woman, I am very privileged to be where I am today, and I want to thank the Board and staff for putting their faith in me to lead them in the next exciting chapter for the Law Center. It is also very special to me that, as a woman of color, I have the opportunity to diversify leadership at the Executive Director level within our family of Philadelphia public interest organizations.”
The Public Interest Law Center was founded in 1969 as a Philadelphia affiliate of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Its mission is to use high-impact legal strategies to advance the civil, social, and economic rights of communities in the Philadelphia region facing discrimination, inequality, and poverty.
Throughout the Law Center’s history, it has focused on helping people break down barriers to the fundamental resources they need to build their lives—safe housing, quality education, a job with dignity, and healthy neighborhoods. In its over five-decade history, the Law Center and its clients have achieved milestone victories, including the case that established that students with disabilities have a right to receive a free public education
Recently, the Law Center has represented voters fighting the Trump campaign’s efforts to nullify their votes; launched a new organization, Renters United Philadelphia, to support tenants collectively asserting and expanding their rights; represented detainees in Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center in an ongoing class action case demanding protection from COVID-19; and represented Pennsylvanians who have lost loved ones in shootings in an ongoing challenge to state firearm preemption laws, which have blocked local municipalities from taking action to stop gun violence.
“I look forward to providing meaningful and engaged leadership to the dedicated and amazing staff, Board and external partners in furthering the mission, vision and values we all hold so dearly.”
“This is a trailblazing organization,” Marrero said. “The work of public interest legal services is critical and necessary to advance racial justice and racial equity in our client communities. I look forward to providing meaningful and engaged leadership to the dedicated and amazing staff, Board and external partners in furthering the mission, vision and values we all hold so dearly.”
The change in leadership follows the departure of current executive director Jennifer R. Clarke, who will be stepping down after a 15-year tenure marked by landmark litigation achievements, expansion and increased diversity of the board and staff, and enhanced financial stability for the organization. Under her leadership, the Law Center successfully took on partisan gerrymandering, striking down Pennsylvania’s 2011 U.S. Congressional District map; launched a new challenge to the state’s unfair and inadequate system of public education; and secured a settlement in a Medicaid case in Florida providing increased healthcare access to 1.9 million children, among other efforts.
“This has been the job of a lifetime, and I am proud of where the Law Center stands today,” said Clarke. “I look forward to the Law Center’s future under Brenda’s leadership with great anticipation and confidence. She is just the right person for this time and place.”
The board of directors selected Marrero after a nationwide search guided by the search firm Isaacson Miller.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the members of the succession committee for their hard work and dedication and to the entire board and staff for all their support and thoughtful consideration during the search process,” said Law Center board vice-chair and succession committee chair Ellen Meriwether.