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Kathy Purnell, J.D., Ph.D. is the Founder of the Human Civil Rights Law Center.   She has over two decades of combined experience as a professor, attorney and nonprofit administrator. 



She obtained her undergraduate degree in Government from Harvard University (A.B. 1991). After studying abroad in Korea (Korea University) and then a brief stint working on American Disabilities Act compliance and constituent issues for the Manhattan Borough President's office, she continued her studies to earn a Ph.D. from Cornell University (Ph.D. 1999 - Political Theory/Government), and then a law degree from DePaul University College of Law (J.D. 2008) and a certificate in International and Comparative Law.   


Legal Advocacy and Training highlights


One decade as a licensed attorney primarily in the fields of immigration law, civil/human rights investigation, eviction diversion, research law and sponsored research compliance, contract negotiation and review,  and transactional law/compliance issues for nonprofits.


She has been invited to develop numerous continuing legal education and other training modules in the areas of immigration, immigrant detention, administrative law, contract review, housing law, diversity and inclusion in nonprofit governance, legal and regulatory concerns for nonprofit boards, entity formation and other legal concerns for social entrepreneurs. 


Her legal skills have also been developed through employment and/or service for the following organizations and firms: Justice for Our Neighbors-Michigan, the DePaul International Human Rights Law Institute (served as a Sullivan Human Rights Fellow), Illinois Appellate Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, DePaul University Asylum & Immigration Clinic, Legal Aid of Western Michigan (served as an Equal Justice America and Equal Justice Works Fellow), National Immigrant Justice Center,  Carpenter & Capt, an ACLU Immigrant Detention fellowship, Western Michigan University and  the Student Hurricane Network (a Hurricane Katrina service project).


Professional memberships


In addition to membership in the State Bar of Michigan as an attorney (2008-present), she is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) since 2009.  She is currently serving as the Diversity Chair for AILA's Michigan Chapter, and is a member of the Kalamazoo County Trial Lawyers Association.

Her past professional memberships have also included membership in the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and the Kalamazoo County Bar Association

Her American Immigration Lawyers Association profile may be accessed here.

Her State Bar of Michigan profile may be accessed here.

Watch some of Dr. Purnell's recent talks on immigration. Click on the icons below!

Kalamazoo County Bar Association Presentation on  "Immigration Practice 101...For the Present Moment" (February 2021)  ​

 Film Discussion Series event with New Immigrant Visions based in Massachusetts, Kalamazoo Refugee Resource Collaborative and the Western Michigan University School of Nursing (November 2020)

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