October 2020 Volunteer of the Month

Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their voluntarism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.

Ronda C. Lustman is the October 2020 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award recipient.

Ronda grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, with two sisters. As an undergraduate in New York City obtaining her B.A. in Humanities, she did not know what she wanted to do with her career and she did not have any lawyers in her family. However, she wanted to work in social justice so she chose to go to law school. While there she enjoyed criminal law and participated in a pilot program interviewing prisoners for bail arguments so it was natural that she went to the DA’s office after graduation. Ronda was interested in white collar crime investigation and made that a specialty as an Assistant District Attorney, and then as Inspector General for the Mayor’s Office in the New York City Department of Investigation. She met her husband at the DA’s office, got married, and moved to Louisiana for a while, doing defense work. However, she wanted to raise her family in New York so the family moved back, where they had a son and a daughter who still live in NYC. Her son is a transactional finance lawyer who is recently engaged, and her daughter is a marketing social media manager currently working in South Africa. Upon moving back to New York, Ronda took a job with the Attorney General’s office and she stayed there from 1983 until retiring to Tucson in 2007. She investigated and prosecuted many complex white collar fraud scheme and other fraud cases or unlicensed practice matters.

After moving to Tucson full-time, Ronda started volunteering for SALA VLP. She also volunteered for the AG’s Office here in Pima County for a few years. At SALA, she has been trained in and learned family law, a new area of law for her. She has done domestic relations advice clinics since 2010 both at SALA and at Pima County Superior Court Service Center. She steps in to teach divorce with and without children classes and paternity classes regularly. Recently, Ronda’s dedicated participation in the VLP’s remote clinics and classes was integral to the VLP’s ability to provide legal services to clients during COVID-19. In addition, she taught a family law training class to the VLP interns, which was very helpful and inspiring to them.  She is an inspiring mentor to both interns and new volunteer attorneys in the VLP.

She enjoys the flexibility of volunteering at SALA because she is able to help people without having a long multi-year commitment to a case so she can travel to visit family. Over ten years ago, Ronda beat breast cancer with radiation. At the end of 2018, she learned the cancer had returned. She took time off from volunteering to fight her way through chemo and surgeries, in January-April 2019, and quickly returned to volunteering. Her spirit and outlook on life have been so strong and positive. Despite fighting cancer for a second time, she has been a dedicated volunteer at SALA. In addition to this, she has been on the Board of the Rogue Theatre since 2015. This year, her willingness to do remote classes and clinics has made it possible for clients to receive legal aid during the pandemic.

Ronda feels that volunteering for domestic relations clinics to assist people through their divorce or paternity case is worthwhile for both the client and the judicial system. It gives the clients confidence and knowledge about the process as they proceed pro per, which then saves the Judges the time explaining this information in court so, as she says, “there’s more justice in it.” She feels the judicial economy gained helps fairness in the process. She enjoys helping people with their expectations and confidence from the start, and seeing them progress, because family court can be very intimidating and unknown for most people without detailed information on the process and the possible outcomes. She also enjoys the fascinating variety of fact patterns she gets with clinic clients and all the problem-solving involved.

Ronda still visits her children in NYC. She also visits the East Coast to take care of her two sisters, who have mental and physical health issues. When she is not volunteering, she enjoys hiking, yoga, and being outdoors. Her indomitable and optimistic spirit, and her compassion, is an inspiration to clients and to SALA VLP staff.

For questions or comments about this blog, please contact us at: Connections@sazlegalaid.org