Montclair Resident Receives Community Vision Award at Volunteer Lawyers for Justice 20th Anniversary Gala

Newark, NJ – Montclair Resident Karen Sacks, founding Executive Director of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, was honored at the organizations 20th anniversary celebration, along with former U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, and Merck & Co., Inc. (VLJ) drew 600 supporters on Oct. 20 to its annual Arts & Eats for Justice virtual gala, raising $700,000 to continue its mission of ensuring access to justice for people experiencing poverty.

Karen Sacks

Celebrating its 20 anniversary, VLJ has grown into a pro bono powerhouse impacting the lives of tens of thousands of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. Three honorees were recognized for their contributions to the cause of justice: former U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Merck & Co., Inc., and Karen Sacks, VLJ’s founding executive director.

Sacks was presented with the Community Vision Award, saying “Spending a year creating VLJ in 2000 with a group of visionaries and serving as Founding Executive Director for 16 years is and always will be my professional and personal pride of joy.

“When we first conceived of this organization we hoped but could not have imagined that we would be celebrating VLJ’s 20th Anniversary with hundreds of volunteers and supporters. VLJ has impacted the lives of tens of thousands and I am so proud to have played an integral role. I congratulate VLJ on 20 extraordinary years and am so grateful to receive its 2021 Community Vision Award,” she added.

The Partner in Justice award went to Merck & Co., Inc., VLJ’s longest-standing corporate partner, which first volunteered to provide essential legal services to victims of 9/11. Since then, Merck’s partnership with VLJ has grown and the corporation now sets the national standard for corporate pro bono volunteerism.

The Partner in Justice Award was accepted by Merck Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Jennifer Zachary, who said, “We love that we have been able to partner with VLJ to help people truly access justice. Merck is one of the world’s first companies to have an in-house pro bono program. The thousands of hours we’ve dedicated to providing legal assistance to communities throughout the world wouldn’t be possible without partners like VLJ.”

The Champion of Justice Award went to Loretta E. Lynch, who served as U.S. Attorney General from 2015-2017 and is now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Her tenure as Attorney General was marked by a commitment to civil rights, community policing, and a reduction in the collateral consequences of having a criminal record. Lynch said, “The work that VLJ does is important because it deals with making the promise of America real for those who only seem to bear the burdens of America. For 20 years VLJ has been a guide for so many facing housing, food, and economic insecurity. I thank Volunteer Lawyers for Justice for the work that it has done and the work it continues to do, and thank them for the Champion in Justice Award.”

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