When asked about her caseload as a mediator specializing in Workers’ Compensation and employment disputes, she replied, “It’s wild! I have a frenetic caseload!” Any mediator worth their salt can enjoy a great work/life balance, filling their calendar with as much work as they choose to accept. What distinguishes Kate from many of her colleagues is that she adds an extra element to her personal balance: a passion for social justice. This passion is articulated in every aspect of her life. This dedication to her craft and her cause has earned Kate repeated recognition from both within and beyond the legal community.
Kate gives freely of her time, talent, and energy very literally. For the past 13-14 years, Kate has blocked two to three days each week for pursuing both pro bono projects and community causes. That’s an extraordinary 50% of each work week! And for more than a decade! With that time, Kate has spearheaded several community-building initiatives. Kate has even woven her fervor for inclusiveness into the fabric of her family. Kate and her husband, Nick Maradei, are trans-racial adoptive parents, having adopted at birth two African American daughters to complete their family along with their biological son.
There’s a singular event that prompted Kate to invest even more of herself to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion. The senseless killing of Minnesota motorist Philando Castile on July 6, 2016, rocked Kate to her core. As a mother raising two African American daughters, she became increasingly concerned for their personal safety. For Kate, action is the antidote to anxiety. She asked herself a searing question: what are we doing to facilitate community dialogue between law enforcement and black/brown communities?
The outworking of her search for an answer resulted in tremendous opportunities to bridge the racial divide. Kate formed strategic partnerships to help achieve her goals. One such initiative is the Project for Equitable Access in Remote Learning, or PEARL, a program aimed at closing the equity gap in education by providing mentors, and during the height of the pandemic,
in-person tutoring for students attending SE Raleigh High School. Kate’s desire was to provide for underprivileged youth what affluent parents were able to provide for their children. Kate also helped organize several vaccine clinics during COVID. Kate has also lent her expertise to a non-profit called “Boots on the Ground,” which is committed to targeting community violence intervention by facilitating dialogue between law enforcement and black communities.
Kate has been the driving force behind an initiative of the NCBA’s Dispute Resolution Section called Try Someone New: Diverse Mediator List. This resource enables parties from varied backgrounds to select a mediator who not only best reflects their own skin color but also brings unique life experience and multiple perspectives to the table. For her exemplary efforts, she was professionally recognized in the Triangle Business Journal’s People on the Move in Raleigh/Durham in 2014. Here’s what they had to say about Kate more recently: “Her focus and commitment to equity allow her to make a measurable difference.”
Kate remains quite humble despite the numerous awards for which she has been nominated, including the NCBA’s Citizen Lawyer Award and the Thorp Pro Bono Service Award. When asked what has meant the most to her over her career, she recounts an impassioned story about a successful pro bono lawsuit she filed in another state to recover legal fees stolen by a shyster attorney in another state. The recovered money allowed the family to purchase a specialized wheelchair for their eldest daughter. Thanks to her native-level speaking ability in Spanish, more than one immigration attorney has called on Kate to help obtain affidavits for their clients. If it were up to Kate, we could erase decades and decades of systemic racism in a single generation. But only if each of us grabs a shovel and helps dig.
Kate is a woman who has poured herself into her passion for achieving social justice. Each facet of her life reflects a different aspect of her living out an amazing life balance that gives her outlets for all of her creativeness and boundless energy. And if she were not doing enough during COVID, she also collaborated with her very talented friend to create a virtual concert for hospital patients and retirement communities called Sunshine Songs. Oh, and there’s also an annual, now large-scale, MLK event the family started to honor their daughters’ cultural heritage. In short, Kate is a one-woman force for good!
Dawn LaRue is a member of the NCBA Pro Bono Committee Recognition Subcommittee.