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Justice for All: Marquette County

Thank you, Marquette County, for Merry Ross — and for showing us how to stand up for those who have nowhere to turn.

Meredith Ross
Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Law School

Meredith Ross MA’79, PhD’85, JD’90 believed that everyone — including Wisconsin’s underserved populations — deserves justice. As a longtime UW–Madison law professor and director of the Frank J. Remington Center, Ross was devoted to providing legal assistance to inmates of state and federal prisons.

Ross spent much of her youth at her family cottage on Crystal Lake in Marquette County, and after earning her undergraduate degree at Colorado State, she returned to Wisconsin for graduate school. She didn’t initially come to the UW to become a lawyer — let alone to teach lawyers. At first, her field was literature — she earned her graduate degrees in English and taught American literature and women’s studies.

But in the 1980s, after finishing her doctorate, she started taking classes at UW Law School and became a passionate advocate for the school’s law-in-action tradition. Just a year after earning her JD, the UW made her deputy director of the Remington Center, which provides law students with hands-on experience with real legal issues under the supervision of a practicing attorney. In 1996, she became the center’s director, a post she held until her retirement in 2012.

Ross led the Remington Center in its efforts to address the needs of those whom no one would listen to: the poor, the marginalized, and those who had been convicted — sometimes wrongly — of crimes.

Generations of law students learned to be lawyers under her watch.

“Under her watch, the Remington Center grew exponentially,” wrote clinical professor Michele LaVigne, cataloguing the many programs that Ross had helped to create. “What was once known simply as the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Program has become LAIP, the Criminal Appeals Project, Restorative Justice Project, the Prosecution Project, and the Public Defender Project. Meredith also helped to launch and grow the Economic Justice Institute, the law school’s thriving network of civil clinics.”

“Merry was a breath of fresh air in the law school,” wrote a former student at the end of Ross’s career, “and generations of law students learned to be lawyers under her watch.”

After her retirement, Ross returned to Marquette County — but tragically, not for long. She died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 60.

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