Statement of Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel, On the Passing of a True People’s Lawyer Charlie Hey Maestre

On behalf of LatinoJustice PRLDEF I send my sincere condolences to the family of one of Puerto Rico’s warriors for the poor and marginalized, Lcdo. Charles Hey Maestre. Charlie was an example of a people’s lawyer who dedicated his life to help the poor of the Island of Puerto Rico and to link its struggles with those of poor and marginalized communities in the United States. He directed Legal Services of Puerto Rico with its enormous case load and record of success and he was instrumental in the founding of the Institute for Civil Rights. At the end of his career he guided Puerto Rico’s delivery of legal assistance to the poor by way of its attorney interest-bearing accounts.

Charlie’s reputation in the Puerto Rican diaspora preceded him. He was known as a guidepost for all social justice strategies. His service to the board of the Center of Constitutional Rights and the New World Foundation, in New York City where he studied law, was an extension of his work for the people of Puerto Rico. By the time I started collaborating directly with him as part of my work for LatinoJustice I was well aware of his passion for justice. Through Charlie, LatinoJustice was able to extend its reach to other Latina/o advocates and attorneys at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association on the important intersection between criminal justice and civil rights. Through Charlie our recent legal representation of the people of Vieques with our Associate Counsel Natasha Bannan, was promoted and supported. And in Charles Hey Maestre the presence of LatinoJustice PRLDEF in Puerto Rico was always welcomed.

His intellect was obvious, his passion contagious and his smile and sense of humor and humility was inspiring. As our colega in California, Jose Padilla, put it Charlie “had an amazing blessing-- his servant spirit-- and the powerful humility that comes with it.”

He will be missed. Que en paz descanse.

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