2023 Excellence Awards: Mary Kaczorek

2023-06 Kaczorek Banner

Mary Kaczorek was awarded the 2023 Excellence Award for Improving Access to Justice. Kaczorek has led the Mid Minnesota Legal Aid Housing Department through the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has advocated for remote hearings for the benefit of MMLA’s low-income and disabled clients. In addition to supervising attorneys and litigating her own cases in housing court, Kaczorek has also advocated for eviction reform at the Minnesota legislature. 

1. What has been a meaningful moment in your area of work?
A meaningful moment for me was the opportunity to emcee our awards dinner at the last statewide legal services conference, and to look out across a ballroom of 200-plus awesome legal aid lawyers and advocates from all over Minnesota. So inspiring!

2. What do you wish more attorneys knew about your area work?
Civil legal aid attorneys and staff earn significantly less than public defenders. Our work focuses on basic human needs—things like housing, economic stability, family safety. Minnesota needs legal aid lawyers. Donate to your local legal aid office and call your legislators to advocate for more civil legal aid funding! Head to to learn more.

3. Who is a legal hero/mentor to you?
My colleagues. They are all wonderful. Some favorites are Luci Gonzalez Stoerzinger for teaching me how to compassionately work with folks in crisis, Luke Grundman for constantly harping on us about due process, and Cathy Haukedahl for being my first model of an epic public service lady lawyer boss.

4. How would you like to see the legal profession or our local legal community change?
So many things. The demographics of our profession need to better reflect the diversity of our client communities, especially in public interest law. Every lawyer should do a meaningful amount of pro bono work. We need to drastically improve funding for our courts, legal aid, and public defenders. Many aspects of our current legal system perpetuate racism and keep people in poverty. Lawyers, decisionmakers, and lawmakers need to take bold, unapologetic stances if we are going to truly move the needle. Eviction reform! Civil Gideon! All of it!

5. What do you do to unwind and recharge from your work?
I have lots of hobbies. I like to garden with plants native to Minnesota. I also like to play basketball, camp on the North Shore, watch Bluey with my kids, bake snacking cakes, read sci-fi and high fantasy books, and go hiking with my small munsterlander Lotte Dog.


Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter