Voices’ Blog

A Message from Martha Bergmark, Founding Executive Director

July 30, 2021 - 1:57 pm
by Martha Bergmark

I write this post to announce news of two important changes at Voices for Civil Justice. The first change: a leadership transition. The second: a new model for how Voices can continue to serve your organizations and this network of advocates for people facing civil legal crises. 

I write this post to announce news of two important changes at Voices for Civil Justice. The first change: a leadership transition. The second: a new model for how Voices can continue to serve your organizations and this network of advocates for people facing civil legal crises.

Leadership Announcement

On August 1, I will begin my retirement and step down as Voices’ founding executive director. It’s been a privilege and a delight to serve as executive director of Voices for Civil Justice since our launch in late 2013. With Elizabeth Arledge as founding deputy director, the Voices team built a 50-state network of legal aid and civil justice advocates that’s now 1,700 members strong. In partnership with you, we’ve generated a steady drumbeat of media coverage — more than 700 news and opinion pieces in dozens of outlets — about civil legal aid and civil justice reform. We’ve called attention to how civil justice reform can advance solutions for problems we all care about — from homelessness to domestic violence to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve advanced reform of America’s civil justice system so it works for everyone.

I am excited to pass the baton of leadership to the wonderful Sam Scarrow. To many of you, Sam needs no introduction — you already know him well as our director of media relations and strategic partnerships. For the benefit of others, Sam is a long-time member of the Voices team in two ways. For two years, he was a communications consultant at BerlinRosen, the national public affairs firm we retain to do our extensive national media outreach. As a member of our BR team, he was a master at pitching news and opinion pieces about legal aid and civil justice. In early 2019, we were fortunate to recruit him to our staff. During the pandemic, Sam has brilliantly and tirelessly capitalized on unprecedented national media interest in our civil justice issues while continuing to build this network’s capacity to do the same in local media. He has helped bring the voices of legal aid clients and attorneys into the coverage about the threat of mass evictions and the disparate burden of Covid-19 on our clients. I’m grateful to Sam for leading this ongoing effort, and for being the right person at the right time to take Voices to new heights.

A New Model for Voices

As executive director, Sam will preside over a change in our business model. For seven years, thanks to generous grants from several foundations, we were able to build our national JusticeVoices community and to offer you, free of charge, the communications tools and services you can use to grow as communicators and media advocates. With foundation funders moving to other priorities, Sam will now lead the effort to ensure a sustainable future for the mission of Voices by soliciting paid engagements for communications strategy consulting, communications trainings, direct media outreach, op-ed writing and other services. The Voices team will consist of Sam as sole staff member, our terrific team at BerlinRosen, and my help to Sam on a part-time, pro bono basis. We will be reaching out to you for help in building the new model.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all who have contributed to the realization of Mary McClymont’s original, inspiring vision for Voices — our generous funders and ever-helpful advisory committee, our staff and BerlinRosen team members, the legal aid and civil justice advocates willing to offer their expertise to reporters, and most especially the hundreds of legal aid clients willing to share their compelling personal stories. By connecting headline news to underlying civil justice challenges, together we are reshaping the public narrative, with results that include funding increases for civil legal aid and meaningful policy change. To all of you – thank you!

Onward and upward,


Organizations mentioned/involved: Voices for Civil Justice

Remembering Elizabeth Arledge, 1964-2021

January 8, 2021 - 3:33 pm
  Elizabeth (Betsy) Arledge, 56, passed away on January 7, 2021 in Arlington Virginia.  She was surrounded by loved ones. Elizabeth was born on July 27, 1964 in Rutherfordton, NC.  She was an artist in the kitchen, a weaver of people and friends, avid gardener and master naturalist.  She loved books and music of all ... Read more


Elizabeth (Betsy) Arledge, 56, passed away on January 7, 2021 in Arlington Virginia.  She was surrounded by loved ones.

Elizabeth Arledge headshot
Elizabeth Adrian Arledge, 1964-2021

Elizabeth was born on July 27, 1964 in Rutherfordton, NC.  She was an artist in the kitchen, a weaver of people and friends, avid gardener and master naturalist.  She loved books and music of all types.

Elizabeth was a 1982 graduate of Rutherfordton Spindale Central High School.  She attended Queens College in Charlotte, NC and was a proud graduate of UNC – Chapel Hill in 1986.  After graduation she was a staff writer at the Forrest City Daily Courier.

Elizabeth held a passion for politics and advocacy for the underserved.  She began law school at Chapel Hill, but soon became involved in the campaign for NC Congressman David Price.  She moved to Washington, DC in 1989 eager to pursue her passion for women’s empowerment, social justice, and human rights. After a stint at Business & Professional Women USA, she joined the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1991, where she built a national, nonpartisan campaign skills program that trained more than 5,000 women candidates and campaign staffers across the United States.  That program contributed to a record-breaking number of women being elected to Congress in 1992.  From 1996 to 2000, she provided strategic communications services to foundations and nonprofits across the country as an associate at Martin & Glantz.  She found her true career calling in 2000 when she joined the National Legal Aid and Defender Association as its first Director of Communications.  There she discovered her passion to shine light on America’s broken civil justice system and the inequity for those who cannot afford a lawyer and developed her formidable skills in service to the equal justice community, helping them tell compelling stories about their work, the clients they serve, and the unmet needs of those less fortunate. She went on to work at Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, VA, Disability Rights Oregon in Portland, and the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, DC.  In 2013, Elizabeth obtained what she called her ‘dream job’, as founding Deputy Director of Voices for Civil Justice. She built a mighty national media and communications resource for her beloved community of civil justice reformers and civil legal aid advocates. At Voices, Elizabeth was able to deploy her full arsenal of strengths as a compassionate listener, master communicator, strategist, organizer, writer, coach, and cheerleader. Recent media coverage reporting the pandemic-driven eviction crisis has relied heavily on Elizabeth’s work to shape the narrative and develop sources, including people directly affected by the crisis, legal aid lawyers, and researchers in the specific issues involved. Civil justice reform such as the right to counseling in eviction cases and increased use of court navigators are the legacy of her strategic communications support.

Elizabeth is survived by her sister, Tracy Arledge Bowers of New Braunfels, TX, her partner Bob Giles, and her godchildren Katy, Lane, and Sam.  She is predeceased by her mother, Polly Evelyn Bryant Arledge, her father, A. Jervis Arledge and sister, Bonnie Arledge.  In lieu of a service, there will be a celebration of life sometime in the future when friends and family can gather together to celebrate her life.  To receive information about an eventual gathering, you can request to join Facebook group Friends of Elizabeth Arledge or email FriendsofElizabethArledge@gmail.com.

Donations can be made in memory of Elizabeth Arledge to cancer research or legal aid services for western North Carolina as follows:

  • Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center, 3300 Whitehaven Street, Suite 3000, Washington, DC 2007 or online at https://lombardi.georgetown.edu/giving/#.  Specify gifts to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Research (online under ‘other’) and note the gift is in memory of Elizabeth Arledge.



Issue Brief Argues for Federal Leadership in Reforming America’s Civil Justice System

September 20, 2019 - 11:08 am
by Karen A. Lash

A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress argues that it is time to fix the nation’s civil justice system so that it works for everyone, not just the people and corporations that can afford to hire private lawyers.

In Consumer Debt, Let’s Not Forget the Role of Civil Justice

September 13, 2019 - 8:36 am
Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It’s time to reform our civil courts to give them a fighting chance.

Justice ain’t much if you can’t afford it

July 30, 2019 - 8:30 am
In her recent op-ed for Newsweek, Voices for Civil Justice Executive Director Martha Bergmark argues: “In America, we are raised with the promise of ‘justice for all.’ But after decades as a civil rights and civil legal aid lawyer, I know firsthand that our nation falls far short of that ideal.”

Pennsylvania Voices and that 4-letter word

July 11, 2019 - 8:24 am
Peer Perspectives share media-savvy ideas and insights from the field. This post is by Christine Kirby, director of development and state support at Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., and statewide coordinator of Pennsylvania Voices.

Legal Aid protected this family’s American dream

June 28, 2019 - 7:59 am
After a lifetime of escaping violence and poverty in El Salvador, 19-year-old Herbert came to the United States determined to make a better future. The life he built here – as a husband, father, business owner and leader in his community – was nearly destroyed by one traffic violation. Herbert was fortunate to find the help he needed to navigate an extremely complex immigration justice system. We tell his remarkable story in our latest photo essay, created with the generous support of freelance photographer Lisa Helfert.

Top Amazon Lawyer: “Fix the Broken Civil Justice System”

June 18, 2019 - 7:52 am
Amazon’s General Counsel David Zapolsky argues that American corporations have a major stake in keeping America’s promise of equal justice under law.

“I was on a conservative talk radio program yesterday” (and other things legal aid communicators could be saying…)

June 3, 2019 - 7:49 am
Peer Perspectives share media-savvy ideas and insights from the field. This post is by Ann Kloeckner, executive director of Legal Aid Works in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  www.legalaidworks.org June 3, 2019 Early in my tenure as executive director at Legal Aid Works in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 2012, I was invited to be a guest on Town Talk, an hour-long show airing from ... Read more

All Rise for Civil Justice, a new Voices campaign

March 21, 2019 - 3:36 pm
Today, our team at Voices for Civil Justice is excited to announce the official launch of All Rise for Civil Justice, a new national campaign for civil justice reform. Equal justice under law is a right, not a privilege. In America, we believe people should get fair resolutions to problems that threaten their families, homes ... Read more

Welcoming our Newest Voices Team Member

March 12, 2019 - 3:31 pm
We are excited to share this introductory message from the newest member of our team, Media Relations Manager Sam Scarrow.  Hello, everyone! I’m thrilled to have the chance to work with each of you and am honored to have the responsibility and opportunity to elevate the civil justice crisis in our national discourse. If my name seems familiar, you have ... Read more

Your next report could be media gold

January 29, 2019 - 9:24 am
One of the most important lessons we've learned in five years of media advocacy is that issuing a report is a fantastic way to get media attention for an issue.