2019 Howard B. Eisenberg Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Growing up in a family dedicated to social justice made an indelible impression on David Pifer and formed the basis of his life’s work. The turbulent times of civil rights and the Vietnam War were regular dinner fare. High school included fights for school funding, the opening of a teen center and school integration, and in college it involved political campaigns and anti-war activities. Following graduation from the University of Michigan his passion took him into substance abuse and juvenile justice prevention, the creation of a non-profit housing rehabilitation corporation to combat neighborhood deterioration, and finally to law school at the University of Detroit with the goal of being a legal aid lawyer.
Starting as a law student, he worked at Legal Services of Eastern Michigan for 11 years first as a law clerk, then program administrator, staff attorney, and acting executive director. He came to Legal Action of Wisconsin (LAW) in 1992 as a staff attorney, and later as its housing law priority coordinator. When community groups identified driver’s license suspensions as a problem in 1997, he created LAW’s Road to Opportunity Project to work on driver’s license restoration for low-income workers, and later expanded it to include criminal record and child support issues as barriers to employment. In 2007, he became the Milwaukee office Managing Attorney, and then Executive Director in 2014. For 40 years, LAW provided Dave with a challenging and rewarding vehicle to fight for social justice.
David Pifer has been supported in his search for social justice by his wife of 40 years, Jacqueline Irland MD, and his son Jason Irland Pifer and daughter Caralyn Pifer Irland. He has twin granddaughters Tess and Riley Pifer, age 2 ½. His retirement is full of many activities including caring for and playing with them 3 days a week.