Published March 8, 2007
The Emory School of Law Public Interest Committee (EPIC) gave its 2007 “Unsung Hero” Inspiration Award to Susan H. Colussy, program director for immigration services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Inc. The award was presented Feb. 13, during the group’s annual award celebration.
EPIC, a student-led group at Emory School of Law, aims to further the highest service in the field of public interest law. Students pursuing careers in public interest law find their ideals in the rights and laws that protect social justice and vulnerable populations. Commitment to public service in this realm of juris prudence, especially protecting those without a voice and those in need, is the ideal and theme for the award winners chosen for the 2007 EPIC award.
Colussy has served Catholic Charities for 21 dedicated years. Her passion for practicing immigration law is inspired by the needs of the unfortunate in society who are unheard, helpless foreign children sold into modern-day slavery, victims of torture and trafficking, and vulnerable individuals in need of protection. A true champion of justice and defender of equal rights, Colussy is an example to aspiring graduate students at Emory School of Law and has thus been honored with this year’s inspiration award.
She began practicing at Catholic Charities when the organization was the only pro bono provider in the four-state region of the Atlanta Immigration Court. She began programs that still operate to serve abused spouses and children of citizens or residents. She also obtained funds from the State Bar Foundation to begin service for aliens detained by the immigration service and unable to afford counsel. Last year over 800 detainees had contact with that service. She began a program of “rights presentations” and representation for children in immigration service custody, which has just been selected for an Equal Justice fellowship. Her most recent effort is the launching of the Atlanta Bar Asylum Project, a pro bono project of some of Atlanta’s largest law firms, currently housed at Catholic Charities. Her staff also provides asylum representation for clients of the Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors.
Colussy has served formally as a mentor to students from the clinical programs of Georgia’s law schools, teaching them the intricacies of Immigration Law. She has also been a highly valued member of the immigration bar in Atlanta, serving on numerous committees. She is also frequently asked to serve as a speaker at local and national events on immigration matters and has been a conference presenter at national meetings of the American Immigration Lawyer’s association and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
In 2006 Colussy received the 2006 Liberty Bell Award for outstanding service to the community by strengthening the American system of freedom under the law during the annual Atlanta Bar Association Award Breakfast. This award gives public recognition to men and women, also non-lawyers, for outstanding service in promoting a better understanding of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Colussy has been honored with other awards during her career, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Sam Williamson Mentor Award for outstanding efforts and excellent counsel to immigration attorneys by providing mentoring assistance. In 2002, she was awarded the Phoenix Award by Mayor Shirley Franklin for 17 years of dedicated service working for Catholic Charities, practicing immigration law for the benefit of those most in need and the most vulnerable in the Metro Atlanta communities.
Catholic Charities (formerly called Catholic Social Services, Inc.) is the social service agency of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and North Georgia. In September 2003, the agency celebrated 50 years of service to over one million people, serving all clients regardless of religion or background, especially those most in need and most vulnerable.