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National Lawyers Guild chapter honors 2 Wayne Law students, alumnus

February 3, 2014

DETROIT – Wayne State University Law School students Eliza Qualls Perez Facio of Dearborn and Nicholas Klaus of Ferndale were named Outstanding Law Students of the Year by the National Lawyers Guild’s Detroit and Michigan Chapter.

The students and alumnus Chokwe Lumumba, class of 1975, were honored Saturday, Jan. 25, at the chapter’s 75th annual dinner. Lumumba, mayor of Jackson, Miss., was represented at the dinner by his daughter, Rukia Lumumba.

Facio, a third-year student, grew up in southwest Detroit and developed a passion for racial and social justice at an early age, learning from her Mexican immigrant family. She joined the National Lawyers Guild in 2000, when she served as an intern with its Immigrant Justice Project. Her work there convinced her to go to law school, she said.

In her first year at Wayne Law, working with Professor Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, she helped found the Keith Students for Civil Rights and create its programming. She also is active with the Wayne Law student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Hispanic Law Students Association and American Civil Liberties Union Metro Detroit Branch board, on which she serves as president.

This semester, Facio is working under the supervision of Wayne Law Distinguished Jurist in Residence Marilyn Kelly to further the former justice’s Access to Justice mission, which Facio said is the most fulfilling legal work she’s done during her time in law school. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social sciences form Marygrove College.

“My goal is to spend my life encouraging grassroots leadership, furthering civil rights and access to justice for marginalized communities,” Facio said.

Klaus, a second-year student, is active with the National Lawyers Guild local chapter and is serving the group as a member of its election monitoring delegation in El Salvador until Tuesday, Feb. 4. The national election was Sunday, Feb. 2.

Delegation members, after comprehensive training, met with election officials and human rights defenders to hear their concerns about any obstacles to free and fair elections. They received official accreditation as international observers from El Salvador’s electoral authority. On Election Day, the delegates were present at the polls from the time they opened until they closed.

The National Lawyers Guild chapter, in honoring Klaus, cited his work rebuilding and strengthening Wayne Law’s student chapter of the guild; the student chapter has become an active organization for social justice on campus. For Klaus, the group was a perfect fit for his calling as a social justice activist.

“Having done a tour as a plumber before earning a bachelor’s (at WSU) in creative writing, I entered Wayne Law in 2012 with a contingent of law students hungry to do work in social justice,” he said. “Having learned a bit about the guild prior to entering Wayne, I felt that I had finally found my people.”

According to the guild’s Detroit and Michigan Chapter website: “The National Lawyers Guild is an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization which shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.”

Klaus puts it this way: “People before property.”

Lumumba, who grew up in Detroit and was elected in July to the Jackson mayor’s post with 85 percent of the vote, is a longtime civil rights activist.

He was a founder and leader of the controversial Republic of New Afrika in the early 1970s. He moved to Mississippi and later returned to Detroit, where he attended Wayne Law and practiced law for several years. In 1988, he moved back to Mississippi, where he continued to be active in the civil rights movement and the community in later decades, defending many high-profile, controversial activists in court

Photos attached:

Eliza Qualls Perez Facio
Nicholas Klaus
Chokwe Lumumba