The American Bar Association will honor Susan J. Horwitz, supervising attorney for the Education Law Project at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, with its Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. The ABA Commission on Disability Rights selected Horwitz for her leadership and advocacy on behalf of children and adults with disabilities.
Created in 1999, the award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer with congenital connective tissue disorder who was a leader in the disability rights movement. The award, co-sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Co., will be presented at the Commission’s Lawyers with Disabilities Reception on Monday, Aug. 6, from 5-7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus Hall GH, East Tower, Ballroom Level.
“I can think of no one who deserves this award more than Susan,” said Robert T. Gonzales, chair of the commission. “Her innovative and tireless advocacy, leadership, and commitment exemplify the values espoused by Paul Hearne. She has pioneered the integration of education advocacy into disability rights work and is a role model for every lawyer and advocate in the field.”
Horwitz joined The Legal Aid Society nearly 30 years ago, and has devoted her career to representing individuals with disabilities. For almost two decades, she represented children and adults in their efforts to procure or maintain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Recognizing a significant need for education advocacy among the families she served through Legal Aid’s disability rights practice, she strategized, fundraised, recruited talent, built coalitions, and succeeded in filling that gap. She created the Education Law Project, envisioning collaboration between attorneys and social workers in order to provide a holistic model that focuses on remediating the destructive effects of poverty, trauma, and unmet educational needs.
Among her many accomplishments, Horwitz spearheaded a medical-legal partnership with a leading mental health clinic to provide education advocacy to students with significant emotional disabilities. She also created a Pro Bono program with the American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where attorneys from AIG take on special education cases under her supervision. As a leading member of the New York City Education Law Task Force, Horwitz advocates for improvements and more effective programs within the Department of Education for students with disabilities and special education needs.