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Lauren I. Scholnick

Attorney

Lauren Scholnick has championed equal protection, civil rights, and due process for her entire life. She got her first taste for fighting for the underdog in elementary school when she organized her classmates against lunchroom tyranny. After witnessing one too many girls being commanded to leave the prime lunchroom table in favor of a more popular girl, Lauren instigated an insurrection. She convinced her classmates to rally together, beat the popular kids to the lunchroom, and take over the prime spot. Shortly thereafter, equality was the rule of law in her suburban Chicago elementary school.

Lauren continued to foster her belief that the most satisfying work comes from fighting for the disenfranchised. In her first post-college job, as a staffer with the Illinois Senate, Lauren was able to institute reforms to guarantee an annual cost of living increase for senior citizens on state assistance. She was also instrumental in implementing a series of public hearings on education reform in Chicago's public school system. Lauren then moved on to two new challenges: working for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME") as its Legislative Director in the Illinois capitol, and later attending law school. During her first year of law school, Lauren proved that she was not afraid to fight for workers' rights even if it required her to face down her law school professors. She organized the law school clerical staff and helped them and the rest of the staff at the University of Illinois secure a collective bargaining agreement, which provided yearly raises and better benefits.

After graduating from law school, Lauren headed to Utah to clerk for Judge Gregory K. Orme where she confronted equal protection and due process issues from the unique perspective of behind the bench. Then, she once again went to work for a clear underdog by becoming campaign manager for Jim Bradley, a Democrat running for Utah Governor against the wildly popular Republican incumbent, Mike Leavitt. While Lauren appreciated both appellate review of civil rights issues and electoral politics, she knew that she needed to be on the front lines of advocating for those who needed it most, which led to her next position as Director of Development at Utah Legal Services. Faced with Congress' drastic cuts to the Legal Services' budget, Lauren created and spearheaded the "And Justice For All" campaign, a collaborative effort of Utah's three legal services providers, to raise funds for civil legal services for the disenfranchised. Thanks to her efforts, the "And Justice For All" campaign is in its 11th year of successfully raising money to ensure equal access to justice for all of Utah's citizens.

Lauren returned to her roots in the labor movement by practicing employment law with a medium-sized Utah firm before she and her partner opened a boutique firm specializing in labor and employment law on behalf of employees. For the last seven years, instead of implementing large-scale reforms via legislation or union organizing, Lauren's practice has focused on reforming the law through individual cases and seeking out justice for her clients. She has been the driving force behind numerous civil rights decisions and jury verdicts. A few of her more notable achievements include:

  • Successfully appealing an important racial harassment case resulting in a published appeals decision that contains numerous favorable holdings for employees facing a hostile work environment. Tademy v. Union Pacific Corp., 520 F.3d 1149 (10th Cir. 2008).
  • Obtaining Utah's largest Title VII jury verdict ($2,500,000 for emotional distress) for her client who had been raped by her supervisor. Parker v. Olympus Healthcare Center, 2:00 CV-626 (D. Utah 2002).
  • Establishing that a cause of action for wrongful termination exists for Utah employees who are discharged from their employment in retaliation for filing workers' compensation claims. Touchard v. La-Z-Boy, Inc., 148 P.3d 945 (Utah 2006).
  • Representing a transgendered employee under the Price Waterhouse theory that people who do not conform to gender stereotypes have a cause of action under Title VII & the Equal Protection clause. Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority, 502 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir. 2007).
  • Establishing that employees must be paid for pre-shift activities when those activities are required for the job. Land, et al. v. EG&G, Case No. 2:04-CV-00479, Order on Partial Summary Judgment (Benson, J., D. Utah, March 26, 2007).
  • Making clear that police detention of witnesses without probable cause or consent violates the Fourth Amendment. Walker v. City of Orem, 451 F.3d 1139 (10th Cir. 2007).

In addition to these legal achievements, Lauren has a strong commitment to pro bono work and volunteerism. She spends over 100 hours per year on pro bono cases, and in 2004, she was named Utah's Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year. For the last 10 years, Lauren has been a supervising attorney for the Guadalupe Street Law Project, where people who cannot afford legal services can seek advice from law students and attorneys. She also chaired the Major Gifts Committee for the Community Legal Center and she currently sits on the board of Utah Legal Services and the Utah Association for Justice. Lauren also somehow finds time to donate countless hours each legislative session lobbying the Utah Legislature on important civil rights issues such as lowering the number of employees required to be covered under the Utah Antidiscrimination Act.

Lauren's devotion to civil rights and equality is simply contagious. All of the people that work at Lauren's firm, from the lawyers, to the law clerks to the legal assistants, devote time to pro bono work and other community activities. Her firm, which is the largest plaintiffs' employment law firm in Utah and Idaho, also has a strong commitment to promoting equal access to justice, and contributes to the Impact Fund, the Community Legal Center, and recently, an in-depth study on the retention of women lawyers in Utah firms.

Lauren is one of those unique people who promotes equality and justice in nearly all she does and who has inspired many law students and new lawyers to do the same.

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