“Knowledgeable, caring, hardworking, humorous, and passionate about equal justice under the law.”
These are the qualities his former co-workers used to describe the late Phil Dailey, a Penn Yan native who was recently honored for his incredible dedication to civil justice by the New York State Bar Association’s creation of a posthumous award in his name. The award recognized Phil and will be given every year by NYSBA to recognize “the vital services of non-attorney staff who have demonstrated an excellence and dedication in service to legal service organizations fulfilling their mission to provide all New Yorkers with equal access to justice.” The first-ever Phil Dailey award was accepted by his daughters on his behalf at the 2016 Legal Assistance Partnership Conference on September 15th, 2016. His dedication to service and justice should serve as a model to us all.
Dailey’s service career officially started in 1992 when he served in the U.S. Army with the 7th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and was stationed at Guantanamo Naval Base during Operation Safe Harbor. In 1995, he was honorably discharged. He then began his college career and earned an A.A.S. degree from Finger Lakes Community College followed by a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Hobart William Smith in 2000.
After that, he used his newly acquired skills and knowledge for two years as an AmeriCorps paralegal at the Geneva office of Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY). He was eventually hired as a staff paralegal and continued working at LawNY to secure justice for all regardless of their income until he passed away. He was extremely knowledgeable about public benefits law, veterans benefits, subsidized housing, and landlord-tenant law. A fierce advocate, he held the local agencies and judges who dealt with his clients accountable for the biases they exhibited toward them. He also led a team of legal aid attorneys in developing interactive forms to assist individuals in need in requesting and receiving fair hearings if they lose or are denied public benefits.
Particularly passionate about veterans’ law, he organized, reviewed, and added resources to the LawHelpNY website to assist veterans. His commitment to veterans didn’t stop there. As a result of Phil’s brainstorm, LawNY began a veterans’ hotline in 2012 to provide legal information and referrals to veterans and their families. Phil ran the hotline almost single-handedly until he passed away. Although it was originally intended for those who live within the five- county region surrounding Geneva, word got out in the veteran community and calls began coming in from all over New York state and beyond!
One story, told by a former co-worker at LawNY, sums up the kind of person and advocate Phil was. A Spanish-speaking client was turned away from the Department of Social Services in Yates County because she did not speak English. Due to Phil’s advocacy, she received over $5,000 in retroactive benefits for herself and her three children. He was truly a caring person and advocate!
Phil Dailey was an amazing person who dedicated his life to service. He worked tirelessly to leave the world a little bit better than he found it. His kindness, compassion and incredible sense of justice touched many and should serve as an inspiration to all. He was a true warrior of justice!
Author: Maureen North