Trister HPR

AFJ Mourns Passing of Champion of Social Justice Mike Trister

The social justice community lost a true champion last week. Mike Trister, AFJ’s longtime counsel and friend, died after a fierce battle with pancreatic cancer. I had the privilege to work with him and learn from him for over 14 years. He taught me so much about tax and campaign finance law, but even more importantly, he taught me how to be a good lawyer.

In all the years, I only heard him raise his voice once—when he vehemently disagreed with a position the IRS was taking that would make it hard for nonprofits to register voters. Most of the time, he talked quietly, so quietly we needed to lean in closer. But it was always worth it—whether he was explaining the impact or legislative history of a specific law, describing the potential meaning of a new ruling or statute, or discussing whether we should weigh in on a bill or court case, Mike always had an incredibly thoughtful and clear answer (or opinion). I have a folder full of notes from meetings with him—and it is amazing how often I look through it when I’m searching for an answer.

Mike was instrumental in starting and sustaining what has become AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy program. He has enabled us to encourage and guide thousands of nonprofits and foundations to be bold, assertive advocates, all while staying legally compliant. I will think of him—and the powerful lessons he taught me—as I continue doing this important work he started.

To read more about Mike and his invaluable contributions to civil rights and social justice, read his firm’s powerful remembrance. And hear him as he accepted AFJ’s first Lifetime Achievement award at our annual luncheon in June.

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