Tara D'Lutz, 38 

Lawyer, Shields and Lippson

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“Sometimes people get stuck in an awful legal process, they're scared and alone, and they need someone who will speak up for them,” Tara D'Lutz says. She's been the advocate for such victims in several notorious cases, most notably that of Sheron Montrey, an inmate at the Pocahontas Correctional Unit. Sexually assaulted repeatedly by a corrections officer and eventually impregnated, Montrey was one of nine abused inmates who hired D'Lutz to file an action against the Department of Corrections. D'Lutz's clients say she's more than an lawyer: Her dogged pursuit of the case exposed a history of mismanagement at the facility. The suit was successfully settled last spring.

D'Lutz cut her teeth as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, where she first earned acclaim prosecuting several brutal animal cruelty cases in 2000. Since coming to Richmond three years ago, she's made a career standing up for people others deem disposable. “I can't stand it when people are bullied,” she says.

She's butted heads with several prominent officials along the way, including Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody, who she successfully challenged in two racial discrimination cases last summer. What may stand out most about D'Lutz is her disregard for traditional ideas about being a lawyer. She pays little attention to billable hours and has established close relationships with many of her clients. “I'm very lucky to know some of these people,” she says. “Some of them are angels.”

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