John Rosenberg

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From 1962 to 1970, I served as a Trial Attorney, Deputy Section Chief and Section Chief in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. I litigated civil trials involving racial discrimination in voting, public accomodations, and employment, including the first trial under the Voting rights Act of 1965 in Dallas County, Alabama. I was also on the trial team that succesfully convited seven of the klansmen responsible for the killing of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi in 1964. From 1970 to 1973 I served as Deputy Director and Kentucky Director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (Appalred) in Prestonburg, Ky., a legal services agency representing low income persons in a high poverty Appalachian area in eastern and south central Kentucky, and then headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1973 Appalred in Kentucky incorporated separately, and I served as Executive Director until my retirement in 2002. During those years, the program gained a national reputation for its outstanding advocacy, particularly in environmental cases relating to coal mining, mine safety and black lung disease; and traditional poverty law cases involving consumer law, family law, housing , and federal and state assistance programs. I continued to litigate some major cases at all levels of the Kentucky Courts including a landmark environmental case upholding a Constitutional Amendment we drafted to give landowners the right to object to surface mining of their property.  Upon retirement, I joined the Prestonsburg law firm of Pillersdorf, DeRosset and Lane as of counsel, specializing in environmental matters and cases ivolving elderly rights. I was also designated as Director Emeritus of Appalred, and have maintained a close relationship with the legal services agency to the present. In 2001, I became a candidate for the Board of Governors of the Kentucky Bar Association and was elected by the lawyers in this eastern Kentucky region for two three-year terms. I continued my interest and support of legal services for the poor, and joined the Kentucky delegation on their annual visits to Washington, D.C. for ABA Days, which I have continued to do to the present. I received the ABA Grassroots Advocacy Award in 2015. I was encouraged by Bill Robinson, former ABA President to be active in ABA activities. He appointed me to be member of the Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service on which  I served from 2011 to 2014. From 2014 to 2019 I served as Civil Advisor to the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and PublicDefense.

I have served on the Kentucky Public Advocacy Commission since 1994,and a  number of years as its Vice-Chair. The Commission oversees our fine statewide Public Defender system. I have served and continue to serve on numerous non- profit boards , especially those concerned with low income issues in eastern Kentucky; and I have received several honorary degrees.


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