Board member and longtime supporter
Norm has been lending his support and expertise to AFJ for decades and has been a committed partner in the fight for justice since our earliest days.
Norm was raised in New York City and attended law school at the University of Buffalo School of Law where he also briefly taught. He then moved to DC where he continued clinical teaching until joining the Mental Health Law Project – now Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law – in 1977. In 1990, Norm became Director at the New Israel Fund, a progressive organization that supports NGOs in Palestine and Israel. Later, he continued his career as a consultant for a variety of progressive causes and organizations. Norm’s legal expertise, nonprofit management, and grantmaking experience make him a tremendous asset to our board of directors. His leadership has been invaluable in guiding our success over many years and in multiple battles as AFJ fights for justice on a number of fronts.
Norm first became involved with AFJ after meeting our founder Nan Aron and was impressed with her vision of the courts. Norm says: “The court is probably the most powerful institution in our society, at least in terms of being able to advance social justice and human rights and the like, and that has been a centerpiece for me – no matter what law we pass, no matter how much people have support for one issue or another, if the courts are not with us that issue will not succeed. Establishing a court that is fair and independent is a fundamental premise by which I live.”
Current AFJ President Rakim Brooks and Norm met as colleagues on AFJ’s board. Although he was young and new to the organization, Norm was impressed by Rakim’s energy, intellect, and vision. “Rakim is going in a new direction with new ideas, and I very quickly developed a great admiration for him. He is a pretty terrific guy,” he says.
“AFJ is one of the most important social justice organizations in our country. It is seeking to produce a fair honest, judiciary, and independent court where people have access to justice and to the court in a time when that access is essential.”
Norm believes AFJ’s Justice program is indispensably important. He concedes that the deck is often stacked against us, but whether we win or lose it is important that we move the needle on the public perception of who an appropriate judge is: “We care a lot about justice in this country, we don’t care a lot about providing access to justice, we don’t work at providing access to justice. AFJ does that. AFJ makes that possible. It is not the stuff that headlines are made but it’s what is enormously important to the people of this country.”
As important as the Justice program is, Norm says that AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy program is the most important thing AFJ does, believing it is fundamental to the progressive infrastructure in this country by helping nonprofit organizations to get better, giving them knowledge and power, and educating them on how to avoid crossing the line. His philosophy includes focusing on, assisting, and investing in those agents that are likely to change society: “We need to let the flowers bloom and we need to pay special attention to those groups that will change society. It’s the single most important contribution we have made.”
Norm loves the law as an agent for change but to do it all over again he’d be a standup comedian. We are grateful he chose law and after so many years still brings his unique charm and humor to his work at AFJ. We thank his wife Tonya George, also an AFJ supporter, and his two grown twin sons for sharing Norm with us.