Elder Law

Former Justice Department Lawyer Who Advocates for Elderly Wins Genius Grant

Marie-Therese Connolly was prosecuting civil fraud cases for the U.S. Justice Department in the late 1990s when the Clinton administration reacted to reports of nursing home abuses by creating the Elder Justice and Nursing Home Initiative. Connolly headed the DOJ program, and continued her focus on elder abuse after she left government work.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognized Connolly’s work today by awarding her a $500,000 “genius grant,” the Washington Post reports. According to the foundation, Connolly has “devoted her career to laying bare the many forms of elder abuse: physical and psychological, as well as financial exploitation and wrongful deprivation of rights.”

Connolly, a 54-year-old senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, was a moving force behind the Elder Justice Act passed by Congress last year. She is founder of Life Long Justice, a nonprofit that fights elder abuse. When she headed the Justice Department’s nursing home initiative, she developed new legal theories of liability and litigation strategies that led to successful prosecution of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes, according to a press release. She has a JD from Northeastern University School of Law.

Connolly told the Post she hopes the award will advance the cause. “I’m just hoping that the foundation’s recognition of what’s really a growing epidemic is the beginning and will be a game-changer in the whole field,” she said.

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