Meet Our Team
Kieley co-founded the RDF with her mom at the beginning of 2021. She was continually battling financial barriers for her clients and it was a growing sense of frustration. It did not seem “just” to her that pre-trial classes cost hundreds of dollars or that clients could not get hired because they didn’t have access to identity documents. There is an element to navigating the criminal legal system that is purely financial and she wanted to do her part to help eliminate that barrier until there is a systemic change such that finances are no longer a factor.
Kieley was born in Stillwater, O.K. but spent most of her childhood in Williamsburg, V.A. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia Tech in 2014 and her Juris Doctorate from American University in 2017. When she isn’t working, Kieley enjoys hiking and perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. She hopes to finish touring all of the SC State Parks this year and then will begin training to thru hike the Palmetto Trail.
Morgan began her legal career as a Public Defender in Lexington County, South Carolina. It was abundantly clear that incarceration forced most of her clients to lose the little they already had. In hopes to help after incarceration, she found herself and many other Public Defenders utilizing their own money to help with groceries, clothes, housing and transportation for the amazing people they worked with every day. This willingness to give was rooted in a desire to do everything possible to ensure their clients found stability and success. It became a dream of hers to find a way to help Public Defenders everywhere have access to these funds, instead of constantly having to use their own. She’s excited that the Rainy Day Fund is beginning to make this dream come true.
When Leanne’s daughter first became a public defender they talked about all of the (seemingly small) things that keep clients from freeing themselves from the legal system and moving forward in their lives. Leanne had never experienced these problems first hand and couldn’t really understand how they impacted individuals. Interested in understanding and helping, she traveled to Columbia where she volunteered and went to a variety of social training classes. She also went to court – city court as well as homeless court. Her eyes were opened to the endless list of barriers to success that the clients and lawyers deal with daily. She watched as the lawyers worried about their clients and paid out-of-pocket for the needs of their clients and how those seemingly small barriers for hundreds of clients became a real financial burden for the lawyers themselves. Many social services were in place, but there were gaps in the system that kept clients from utilizing those services. In early 2021 Kieley and Leanne co-founded RDF to provide assistance for those small expenses that prove to be barriers for clients to move forward in terms of housing and employment. Leanne Sutton has an MS in Health and Community Wellness from Oklahoma State University and an MS in Kinesiology from The University of Illinois. She is a small business owner and former teacher who loves puzzles, games, and travel.
Emily is a lifelong South Carolinian and public defender in Richland County. Before she was ever a public defender, though, she was a waitress, where several of her coworkers were caught in a web of financial hardships that directly correlated to past criminal legal system involvement. The kitchen where she worked was constantly abuzz with conversations about the costs of getting a driver's license reinstated or a charge expunged, and about the choices one is forced to make when poverty is what stands between a person and their next step. When she joined the public defender's office in 2021, her clients echoed these frustrations tenfold: you can't apply for a job or an apartment if you don't have an ID; you can't get an ID without a birth certificate, all of which cost money. She is so grateful for the existence of the Rainy Day Fund to fill some of these gaps for her clients and many other community members she loves. Emily received her Bachelor of Science degree from Clemson University (go tigers!) and Juris Doctor from University of South Carolina School of Law. In her free time, she still loves being in the kitchen, celebrating her own micro-holiday of “pizza Friday” every Friday.
Maisie was a public defender in Richland County for six and a half years. As a public defender, Maisie felt privileged to walk with people through some of the most difficult times in their lives. She saw wildly resilient people, sometimes recently released from incarceration, who were constantly being asked to overcome considerable barriers in order to simply break even. Frustratingly, many of these added obstacles came in the form of unnecessary and onerous costs. Maisie believes that financial burdens should never limit a person’s ability to reintegrate into our community and not only survive, but thrive. The Rainy Day Fund is an opportunity to alleviate some of those daily pressures and Maisie is excited to be involved. At the end of 2020, Maisie moved home to Virginia and is a lawyer with the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Civil Rights & Racial Justice program. Maisie attended Hofstra University and Washington & Lee School of Law.
Destinee has worked in the public interest sector for as long as she can remember. Serving her community and helping to eliminate systemic issues are major driving forces behind the work that she does. As a native South Carolinian, Destinee has seen the issues facing the state of South Carolina all of her life, one being the war on poverty. Many people can never break out of the cycle of poverty because of the needless fines and restrictions that keep them one paycheck away from homelessness. Destinee started her legal career as a Staff Attorney at the South Carolina Supreme Court. She is now an Associate Attorney at Cordell & Cordell Law Firm where she practices family law and domestic litigation in Columbia, SC. Destinee received her undergraduate degree from Clemson University (GO TIGERS!), her MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business, and her JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law. In her spare time, Destinee enjoys going to brunch, traveling the world (Paris and New York are her favorite places so far), and going to the movies alone with a giant tub of popcorn, a Dr. Pepper, and a bag of Haribo gummy bears.
Haley worked in the Richland County public defender’s office for four years, where she befriended all of the wonderful women who serve on the Rainy Day Fund’s Board of Directors. During her time at the public defender’s office, she witnessed first-hand the many financial barriers faced by those who are entrenched in an unfair legal system. She spent much time handling probation cases where the inability to pay fees or afford housing often resulted unfair and negative outcomes for clients. The Rainy Day Fund presents an opportunity to help alleviate some of these financial barriers for those involved in the legal system, and when given the opportunity join the Rainy Day Fund, Haley jumped at the chance. Haley is an associate attorney at Ballard & Watson. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, snuggling with her adorable labradoodle, Bruno, cooking and entertaining, and binge-watching true crime shows.
Founding Board Members Kieley Sutton, Leanne Sutton, Maisie Osteen, Shaun Scott, Lindsay Adler, Patti Green, and Morgan Drapeau celebrated the launch of RDF on 9/25/2021
How It Began
Co-Founders Leanne and Kieley Sutton
Leanne and Kieley are a mother-daughter team who co-founded the Rainy Day Fund after seeing the financial frustrations that people face when they are legal-system involved.
When Kieley started as a public defender back in 2017, Leanne noticed that Kieley continually had large chunks of money that were going to support her clients. When asked about what was happening, Kieley explained how she occasionally purchased items for her clients such as birth certificates, bus tickets, hygiene products, and the occasional meal.
Over time, it became very obvious to Leanne and Kieley that so many small financial burdens were preventing clients from achieving their next level of success. For example, folks experiencing homelessness could not get a job without an ID which required a birth certificate. Obtaining a copy of a birth certificate can cost between $12 and $150. Applying for programs such as Pre-trial Intervention costs an initial $150 and that doesn’t include program fees or follow up costs. These costs were prohibiting clients from moving on in their journey and public defenders and other public interest workers were paying out-of-pocket when possible. When those costs couldn’t be covered, it increased a client’s likelihood of being stuck in a cycle of legal system involvement.
To help alleviate some of these costs, Leanne organized a donation drive for Giving Tuesday in 2019. She was able to collect enough donations to put together 10 care packages for folks transitioning from unsheltered to sheltered living. While talking to the donors, Leanne found that a lot of community members were interested in supporting these goals with more than donated items, but that there was not a non-profit dedicated specifically to covering the purely financial burdens of being legal system involved.
Putting the pieces together, Leanne and Kieley worked to bring together an amazing group of passionate public interest lawyers and social workers to create the founding board of the Rainy Day Fund. Together, they seek to eliminate as many financial barriers to success as possible so that folks are more likely to escape the crushing cycle of incarceration and housing instability that is associated with poverty.
Rainy Day Fund
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