Sally Corbette Newman

Sally Corbette Newman

In Memory of Sally Newman

By Hon. Harry T. Edwards, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

On Friday, August 16, 2019, Sally Corbette Newman, passed away at the untimely age of 36. She was the beloved spouse of Romain Philippe Guimard, daughter of Joe Newman and Nancy Margaret Houska, sister of Megan Schneeberger, and granddaughter of Liz Newman and Ellen Scott. Sally attended the Cardwell School; graduated from Bozeman High School with top honors; and was state champion in Policy Debate in 1999 and 2000. She was raised by her father, who says that he "deserves only credit for giving Sally a peaceful place in the hills near a stream in coyote country to read to her heart's content without electronic interference, with fresh veggies and clean mountain air and water."The mountain air obviously served her well because Sally achieved so much and touched the lives of so many people after leaving Montana.

Sally graduated from Dartmouth College in 2005. She then received a prestigious Root- Tilden-Kern full tuition scholarship, awarded for public service, academic merit, and leadership, to attend the NYU School of Law. She graduated from law school in 2010 and worked in several public interest positions, including as an Associate Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charleston, South Carolina. During 2013 and 2014, Sally served as one of my law clerks on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington, D.C.; and during 2014 and 2015, she served as a law clerk for the Honorable Richard M. Gergel on the federal district court in the District of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. It was during her clerkship with Judge Gergel that Sally put down her roots in Charleston.

As Sally settled in Charleston and embraced her new home in South Carolina, she was determined to provide low-cost legal representation and assistance to the working poor and others of modest means who do not qualify for free legal services but who cannot afford a private attorney. In 2016, with no funds, staff, or office space, and no experience in running a legal operation, Sally established Charleston Legal Access and took over as the Legal Director. She parlayed her strong skills as a committed public interest attorney with experience in criminal proceedings, community development, civil rights law, refugee resettlement, employment law, and environmental law, and used her extraordinary talents as an advocate to convince members of the legal community, government officials, foundations, and the public-at-large to contribute to her effort. She assembled a small staff of devoted colleagues to work with her in developing CLA. However, anyone who worked at CLA did so out of commitment to the mission and loyalty to Sally, not to make money. Even though Sally was still a relatively young attorney, who was very new to South Carolina, she quickly began to make her mark. She believed that lawyers have a duty to serve the public good. And she worked tirelessly to achieve this ideal, not just with an advocate's zeal, but with dedication, compassion, patience, and understanding. People rallied to support Sally's efforts because of her great professional work on behalf of others and her uncanny ability to connect with others in ways that made them want to be on the side of the angels.

Sally had a really good year in 2017. She earned the respect and admiration of everyone

with whom she worked and served. And CLA made impressive gains in recovering funds for low income clients, defending their claims, and extinguishing their debts. As Sally was achieving great success in her professional efforts, she and Romain fell in love. Romain was an acrobat with Compagnie XY, a touring French contemporary circus collective. Sally had a strong interest in acrobatics and circus arts, so it was not surprising that they were drawn to one another. They first met when Romain and his circus troupe performed at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston in 2013. After dating for nearly four years and overcoming the challenges of a long-distance relationship, they decided to get married. And then the bottom fell out of Sally's life. In January 2018, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and deadly cancer with very low survival rates.

Sally survived nearly twenty months after her diagnosis, while enduring very difficult and wearing consultations and treatment regimes at the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the Cleveland Clinic. The odds of survival were never very good, but Sally never quit. And, as best she could, she continued to live her life to the fullest. In a beautiful ceremony, Sally and Romain were married on March 31, 2018, at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Charleston, South Carolina. Sally always had the abiding love and support of Romain, even during her most trying moments. She also had the support of her sister Megan, who left a job in Chicago to be with Sally, and her good friend, Natalie Deyneka, a lawyer in Charleston, who gave her invaluable assistance in managing insurance claims, conferring with hospitals, researching treatment options, and serving as Sally's advocate in a slew of matters. And some good friends created a GoFundMe account to help Sally cover the enormous expenses associated with her medical treatment.

During her illness, Sally decided to write about her situation. She posted four compelling essays on Medium, an online publishing platform. The essays are heartrending and captivating. They offer lucid explanations of what Sally was facing, including honest, thoughtful, serious, profound, sometimes humorous, and sometimes sad thoughts on life and death, grace, and reflections on living life to the fullest. She never sought pity. Dealing with cancer was not a win/lose situation for Sally. Rather, as she explained in her essays, she aimed to give meaning to the situation that she was in and make it clear that she was not giving up. She always lived life to the fullest, to her capacity to the end.

In her last essay written on July 29,2019, Sally said: "We'd hoped treatment would give me more time to be on this earth, but as it's turned out, treatment has simply extended my time on treatment, and it's getting harder and harder to withstand even the 'easier' therapies." But in her usual upbeat manner, she added: "I'm lucky to have lived my life exactly how I've wanted to. I've traveled, and visited wonderful places. I've worked my ass off as a lawyer advocating for those without the resources to do it on their own. I've worn lovely clothes and attended lavish parties and renovated an old house and planted fruit trees in my front yard. I've marched in the streets and protested wars and then worked to resettle refugees from those wars. I've performed in and produced circus shows, dangling from rigs and trees and spinning freely, joyously, through the air. I've hiked mountains and visited parks and camped and had the most wonderful, enjoyable, frustrating, interesting mishaps and relationships and adventures. What I want now is mostly just to rest and be in retirement."

Sally touched so many people, many of whom had never met her. Her unfailing commitment to serve the public interest, determination to assist underprivileged members of society, and sterling accomplishments made her shine. And her grace and wise words about life, even when she was terminally ill and hurting, were inspirational to so many people. Her fortitude and commitment to doing good in the world will be missed. But her memory is a blessing.

Donations can be made to Charleston Legal Access, 1630 Meeting Street Road, Suite 106, Charleston, SC 29405, or Sarcoma Warriors SC, PO Box 24190, Greenville, SC 29616, in Sally's honor.