There is nothing more grotesque than people with power taking advantage of people without power—and there is inherent value, beauty, and importance in standing up next to these people and telling their story.
Growing up, Laura marveled as her mother, a public defender, stood as the sole obstacle between the individual and the immense force of the state. Laura took to heart the lesson that even when the state prevails, there is value in being a strong voice for those who might not otherwise be heard.
Inspired by her mother’s work, Laura decided to attend law school and studied Constitutional Law, Constitutional Rights, Criminal Procedure I and II, Church and State, and the First Amendment; and focused her legal career litigating to defend civil liberties.
When Laura received a call from Susie Zapata claiming her probation officer was sexually assaulting her, it would have been easy to turn her away. Susie was a convicted felon with a history of committing armed robberies, and there was no evidence of the sexual assault beyond her word. But instead of turning away, Laura thought about her mother, her commitment to listening to people — people without power, people with backgrounds we’re often quick to judge. That same afternoon Laura went to the FBI. Susie was wired with recording devices, met with her probation officer two more times and proved that her allegations against him were true. He was arrested and sent to prison. It was also revealed that he’d sexually assaulted at least five other probationers, two of whom had filed complaints with the New Mexico Corrections Department that were dismissed without investigation.
As Legal Director of ACLU, New Mexico, Laura litigated the constitutionality of the reduction of separation pay for honorable discharges under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; the right of same sex couples to marry in New Mexico; the lawfulness of placing inmates in solitary confinement after they have reported sexual assault; and she settled a case on behalf of a Jane Doe subjected to a series of unnecessary and invasive searches —including a cavity search— for 1.1 million dollars.
At Kennedy, Kennedy & Ives, Laura’s work includes representing estates of people wrongfully killed by law enforcement; a $750,000 settlement on behalf of a special education student who was inappropriately touched by her teacher; and a $680,000 settlement on behalf of a woman sexually assaulted in jail.
Laura maintains an ongoing commitment to defending the right of terminally ill patients of sound mind to seek aid in dying. She is a cooperating attorney with ACLU New Mexico responding to the repeal of the Morris v. Brandenburg decision and currently involved in efforts to establish Aid in Dying Legislation through the New Mexico State Legislature. Laura is also a member of the advisory committee to the Disability Rights Legal Center End of Life Liberty Project.
Additionally, Laura sits on the ACLU New Mexico’s Legal Panel and Reproductive Rights Panel. She is a frequent speaker on civil rights and civil liberties to public and professional audiences.
Laura is a lifelong resident of New Mexico and mother of two. She graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law where she was a Bonderant Research Scholar. At the risk of sounding like a complete nerd, one of her greatest pleasures is reading a good book.
To learn more about Laura’s cases, please go to our blog: The Second Wave