By: mesh | April 25, 2019 | News

For Immediate release:
Regina Charon Fellowship established; Sarah Petitto is 2019 award-winner

The West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest (“the Fund”) is very pleased to announce the creation of a fellowship in memory of Morgantown lawyer and former administrative law judge, the Hon. Regina Charon. This summer fellowship will be awarded annually to a West Virginia University College of Law student who is deeply committed to social justice and to increasing access to justice for all West Virginians. The Regina Charon fellowship will be administered and awarded through the Fund as part of the Public Interest Advocates summer fellowship program. The student who is chosen for this fellowship will work full time for 10 weeks in one of Legal Aid of West Virginia’s offices and will earn a summer stipend of $5500.

This year’s recipient of the Regina Charon Fellowship is Sarah Petitto. Sarah is a rising third year student at the WVU College of Law and she will work this summer in the Clarksburg office of Legal Aid of West Virginia. She is the President-elect of the Public Interest Advocates at the WVU College of Law for the upcoming school year. She earned a B.S. in Biology from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2017 and will earn her J.D. from the WVU College of Law in May of 2020. She is a pro bono award recipient, a community service award recipient, and a West Virginia State Bar Rural Practice scholarship winner. She has served as a Magistrate Court mediator and was a finalist in the WVU College of Law Lugar Cup trial competition in spring of 2019.

About Regina Charon:

The Honorable Regina Charon was a well-respected lawyer in the Morgantown community who also served as an Administrative Law Judge. Regina received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and in 1976 she earned a law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law. She worked for many years for North Central Legal Aid of West Virginia, then practiced as an independent plaintiff attorney specializing in employment and family law.

Regina was one of the first woman lawyers in the West Virginia, and was a pioneer and role model for other women entering the legal profession. She frequently took on cases out of a sense of justice and moral outrage, often dealing with issues that other lawyers shied away from. One of her proudest career achievements was representing West Virginia LGBT families in second parent adoptions, long before the legalization of same sex marriage. She also served as substitute Municipal Judge for the City of Morgantown, and as past president of the Monongalia County Bar. In 2002, she was appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the Board of Review, West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs.

Regina was an active member of the Morgantown community. She had a compassionate heart and looked for ways to help others through the law and humanitarian projects. She was an ACLU member, served on the Board of North Central Legal Aid of West Virginia, was a member of the Morgantown Building Commission, and served as President of the Tree of Life Jewish Congregation. She was one of the initial members of the Council for Women’s Concerns at West Virginia University, which set the stage for the establishment of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University. She helped establish both Morgantown Heath Right (now called Milan Puskar Health Right, a free clinic) and Caritas House (a home for people living with HIV/AIDS) in Morgantown.

Regina died in 2004, at the age of 58. In 2005, the State Bar and Legal Aid of West Virginia established the Regina Charon Zealous Advocate Award, and in 2007 she received a posthumous award from the Women’s Law Caucus. Her husband Nyles Charon, her brother Stanley Raucher, and her daughter Mollie Charon, are jointly establishing this Regina Charon fellowship in her memory.

About the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest:

The West Virginia Fund for Law in Public Interest is a non-profit organization that works to fund fellowships for WVU College of Law students to spend the summer working in public interest organizations throughout West Virginia. Founded in 1987, the fund seeks to help students gain a deeper understanding of the grave importance of public interest work. These students provide legal
services to help West Virginians, including the elderly, the poor, children, and victims of domestic violence. The Public Interest Advocates is a student organization at the WVU College of Law that works closely with the WV Fund for the Public Interest to help facilitate the candidate selection process. The Fund awards PIA fellowships annually through a competitive selection process. Since its inception, over 350 students have received fellowships at public interest organizations, including Legal Aid of West Virginia, Senior Legal Aid of West Virginia, Mountain State Justice, the Public Defender’s Office, Disability Rights of West Virginia, ACLU of West Virginia, and ChildLaw Services, Inc.

To donate to the Regina Charon Fellowship Fund, visit the Fund website at www.wvpublicinterest.org or contact Jennifer Powell, Executive Director, at 304-293-8555 or jennifer.powell@mail.wvu.edu. Checks can be sent to the WV Fund for Law in the Public Interest, c/o P.O. Box 6130, Morgantown, WV, 26506.

About Legal Aid of West Virginia:

Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) is a statewide, non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance and advocacy to low-income and vulnerable West Virginians. With 12 offices throughout West Virginia, our staff of over 100 dedicated paralegals, advocates, and attorneys work on behalf of vulnerable and low-income people who are facing threats in areas of basic need like safety, housing, health and financial security.

To learn more, visit their website at www.lawv.net or contact Erica Pulling, their Director of Communications and Development, at 304-343-3013, ext. 2154.