Bar News - March 23, 2007
Bar Foundation News: Pro Bono Program’s Champagne Named 2007 Kirby Award Recipient
By: Susan Noon, Program and Communications Director, NH Bar Foundation
A panel of five judges, representing the state courts, selected Attorney Joceline D. Champagne to receive the 2007 Robert E. Kirby Award. Champagne, admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1999, coordinates the NH Pro Bono Referral Program’s Taxpayer Project and eviction defense “SWAT” team efforts.
The panel, Hon. John T. Broderick, Hon. Steven McAuliffe, Hon. Michael Sullivan, and Hon. James J. Barry, Hon. David King, selected Champagne from among six nominees. The award recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the attributes of the late Bob Kirby, a lawyer renowned for his excellent advocacy, civility, and good humor. When Bob died at the age of 35 in 1996, his colleagues established the Robert E. Kirby Award at the Bar Foundation in his memory. The Kirby Award will be presented to Champagne at the Bar Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Dinner on May 10, 2007, at C.R. Sparks in Bedford.
“I was overwhelmed to hear I’d been selected to receive the Kirby Award,” Champagne said. “I didn’t know Attorney Kirby personally, but have heard wonderful things about him. I understand he was a devoted father, son, and brother, as well as a lawyer who cared about his clients and loved the law. Family is also very important to me, as well as helping others through my profession. It is an amazing honor to receive this award in his memory.”
“Joceline is the first person to come to mind when I thought of the criteria for this award,” wrote Attorney Catherine E. Shanelaris, of Shanelaris & Schirch in Nashua. “She is first and foremost a genuinely kind, honest, and decent person which makes her an attorney of extraordinary purpose and dedication. “…I admire her strength of character, loyalty, and serious commitment to improving the lives of others.”
Although she grew up learning about the law from family members in the legal profession, Champagne did not settle on law school immediately after graduating from Providence College. She had many interests and felt fortunate that her parents, Hon. Norman E. and Mrs. Jocelyne Champagne, always supported her career choices. Prepared by a degree in psychology, she chose to serve as a domestic violence advocate with the Americorps Victim Assistance Program in New Hampshire. During her first year assigned to a crisis center in Manchester, she worked mostly with shelter staff and victims who were working to rebuild their lives after escaping violent relationships. In her second year, she became a district court advocate, helping anyone who needed assistance obtaining a domestic violence restraining order at the Nashua District Court. It became very clear to Champagne that supporting an individual at a crucial time in the court proceedings had a direct impact on the outcome. In many cases, she felt it was perhaps the first time anyone had taken this person’s side and helped her stand on her own and obtain needed protection for herself and her children. She realized that with a law degree, she could help many people. She enrolled at the University of Maine School of Law and earned her J.D. in May 1999.
Upon graduation, Champagne was hired by the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office and worked as an assistant county attorney from 1999-2002, prosecuting misdemeanor and felony offenses, including cases involving domestic violence. In September 2002, she joined Cronin & Bisson in Manchester and worked in private practice until 2006. While at Cronin & Bisson, she represented clients in various civil matters and developed a concentration in matters involving condominiums, from development to disputes between associations and homeowners.
Champagne began working for the NH Pro Bono Referral Program in January 2006. As the Low-Income Taxpayer Coordinator she helps low-income taxpayers with federal tax controversies. The controversies include Earned Income Tax Credit audits, Social Security levies, and innocent spouse claims. She also coordinates Pro Bono’s “SWAT” (Swift Working Attorneys for Tenants) team, which is a panel of attorneys willing to take cases on short notice to prevent unlawful evictions. “We carefully screen the facts of the cases and determine viable defenses before we ask a lawyer to provide pro bono assistance,” she says. “I never ask an attorney to take a case I wouldn’t be willing to take myself.”
Other distinguished members of the legal community to receive the Kirby Award from the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, include: Mary Ann Dempsey (2006), Mary E. Tenn (2005), Kelly A. Ayotte (2004), Jennifer L. Parent (2003), John T. Pendleton (2002), Joseph N. LaPlante (2000), James J. Tenn, Jr. (1999), Diane Murphy Quinlan (1998), Mark E. Howard (1997), and John P. Kacavas (1996).