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July 14, 2022 Article

In Memoriam: Rich Cozzola

The world lost an incredible advocate for children and families as well as a wonderful human.

By Cathy Krebs

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

The world lost an incredible advocate for children and families as well as a wonderful human, with the death of Rich Cozzola on April 16, 2022. If you did not have the pleasure of knowing Rich, who worked for nearly the last 25 years at Legal Aid Chicago, you can read about his work and life in this beautiful obituary. But even if you did not know Rich personally, if you have ever read an article from the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee (CRLC), you have been impacted by his work.

Rich joined the editorial board of the CRLC newsletter in the fall of 2009, though he had already been working with the committee for several years on other projects. He was an active member of the board and rarely missed a planning call, but if he did, he always followed up with a separate phone call to share ideas for possible articles. He was a lifelong student (it was no surprise to me that his obituary referred to the half-dozen books he had checked out of the library when he died), and he was brilliant at brainstorming topics that would be of interest to the children’s law community. Though he did write the occasional article (“The Growth of the Family Defender Movement” is a great overview of an early Parent Conference hosted by the ABA Center on Children and the Law in 2015), he was much more likely to want to profile and lift up the work of others. He had a hand in almost every edition we published. Just a few of the articles that he helped to bring to fruition were “ADHD: What You Need to Know for Your Juvenile Client” (September 2021); “Juvenile Expungement: Running a Court-Based Help Desk During a Pandemic” (March 2021); and “Preserving Families Through High-Quality Pre-Petition Representation” (March 2021).

I actually already knew Rich when we began working together through the CRLC. I first met him in 1999 when I was a student and he was a teacher at the weeklong Rocky Mountain Child Advocacy Training Institute presented by the National Association of Counsel for Children and the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, in conjunction with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. I had been practicing long enough at that point to realize how much I had to learn about trial practice and was so grateful to be there—but as anyone who has been to one of those trainings knows, it is a very intense week. After one of the sessions during which we reviewed the videotapes of ourselves (back when we still used VHS!), Rich stopped me to ask how the week was going for me. I admitted to him that I was getting so much out of the week but that I was pretty intimidated by the instructors and other students. We were walking just the two of us and he slowed our pace as he really considered what I was saying. I wish I could remember his exact words, but he basically said to me that he also felt intimidated by the other instructors but also by all of the students, including me. I was so struck by the fact that he had listened so closely to what I had said and then answered so authentically and humbly. It felt extraordinary. When I got the opportunity to work with him through the CRLC, I realized that he truly believed what he had said to me, that we are all in this community together and that we have so much to learn from each other.

As I process this huge loss, I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to know and work with Rich. I hope that we can honor his memory and legacy by embracing his belief that we, as children’s lawyers, are part of a rich community and that we should support and learn from each other.

Cathy Krebs is the committee director of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee in Washington, D.C.

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