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Fiza Quraishi 
Nov. 1978 - Feb. 2016

Fiza2In a calling where commitment and compassion are the norm, Fiza Quraishi stood out from the crowd. She was an amazing lawyer and advocate. But as her friends and colleagues will attest, she was much more than that. During her decade at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) she helped improve the lives of thousands of children.

Last May, Fiza gave a speech at her Barnard College Class reunion highlighting the values she hoped to pass along to her daughter. She wanted Azu to “to have conviction in her ideas and opinions and never apologize for them… that she will always be able to put herself in other people’s shoes and try to see where they are coming from. … embrace diversity, bring people together, and push for equality.” All who knew Fiza recognize these as the values she lived by.

Fiza was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago. Despite a demanding health care regimen, she was always asking about how you were doing, offering to support to those in need and making the extra effort share what little time she had left. It was her unlimited empathy that made her such a wonderful colleague, friend and such an effective advocate.

Fiza had a hand in so much of what NCYL has accomplished during the last ten years. As a law clerk she helped draft the complaint in Clark K. v. Wilden, litigation challenging the child welfare system in Las Vegas that finally settled just last year. She was a key member of the litigation in Katie A v. Bonta, class action litigation that won the promise of intensive home- and community-based mental health services to children in California foster care. Perhaps her most significant case was Brazwell v Wagner. As lead lawyer in the case, she challenged California’s policy of denying cash assistance to relative caregivers when the children they care for get in trouble with the law. As a result of her efforts more than 14,000 families who took in foster children, were better able to care for these children.

Fiza was a highly effective policy advocate. As one of her colleagues put it, Fiza had the “amazing skill of being able to sit at a table with lots of advocates, hear all the different perspectives spoken and find a way to weave them together in a cohesive thread. It’s how things are able to actually move forward!” She helped draft a first-of-its-kind Law Enforcement First Responder Protocol for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) now being used as a model across California and the nation. NCYL only became involved in this work because Fiza had a client, a victim of child trafficking, whose needs weren’t being served by the systems responsible for the child’s welfare. As a result of her empathy and vision, the circumstances for these vulnerable children has been changed for the better.

In addition, Fiza was a prolific writer and NCYL’s go-to editor whose rare ability to make the complex understandable salvaged countless articles and legal briefs. It was this gift that enabled her to work so effectively with youth and incorporate their voice in a way that was respectful and real.

Fiza originally came to NCYL as a law clerk, then later rejoined the organization on a prestigious Equal Justice Works law fellowship, sponsored by Morrison and Foerster, before becoming a staff attorney. Recognizing the importance of the support she received, she mentored countless law clerks, law fellows and young attorneys. She gave invaluable legal training but even more importantly, personal support and friendship.

Fiza was a graduate of Barnard College in New York. After getting her B.A., she joined the Vera Institute of Justice as part of an initiative focused on ensuring communication between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She later directed Brooklyn’s Red Hook Youth Court delinquency prevention program. She obtained her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School where she received the University of Michigan Law School’s Jane L. Mixer Memorial Award for promoting social justice in the law.

Fiza passed away on February 23rd, 2016. She is survived by her husband, Adil, and five year old daughter, Azu.

The National Center for Youth Law has established the Fiza Quraishi Legal Fellowship in her honor.

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