Nationwide Legal professionals Guild chapter shaped in New River Valley, eager on defending rights | Native Information

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National Lawyers Guild chapter formed in New River Valley, keen on protecting rights | Local News

“All of these factors have propelled me back into action,” Graf said.

Graf already had a long history of service with the national guild.

“Actually, I was an activist before I was a lawyer,” he said.

In 1984 he began working with the guild, helping to resettle Central American refugees in Austin, Texas, he said. At the time he was a computer salesman.

“And the lawyers I was working with finally said to me, ‘Why don’t you go to law school?’ ”

So, in his 30s, with a family to raise, Graf started law school in Portland, Oregon. Later, he would serve as president of the NLG chapter there, where he lived for 19 years.

Graf became involved with legal observing.

Legal observers act as trained witnesses and advocates of legal rights. They can be easily spotted at protests and rallies wearing their bright green hats and badges identifying the attorney they are observing for.

The legal observer program that Graf started laid the foundation for the new regional guild chapter.

“The role of legal observers is accountability for the criminal legal system,” said Emily Satterwhite, 48, a Virginia Tech professor and the current LO coordinator. Graf started the LO program in the New River Valley, but as it grew, Satterwhite volunteered to take over the logistics.