A Few Words for Addison Parker

by Ben Carter in

Because we don’t say enough about people who matter to us, because we don’t celebrate people who live principled lives, because we should praise people like Addison Parker, I’m posting the letter I wrote to support Addison’s nomination for the Kentucky Justice Association’s Consumer Safety Award. The Kentucky Justice Association honored Addison last week with the award. I missed it, but I am told that J.T. Gilbert did a bang-up job describing the importance of Addison’s career to Kentucky consumers.

Dear Chairman Gilbert and the KJA Awards Committee,

I’m writing today to nominate Addison Parker for the Kentucky Consumer Safety Award. Earlier this summer, Addison retired after decades of service to Kentucky’s consumers as an attorney at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (AppalReD). During his time at AppleReD, Addison served Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens at their most vulnerable moments.

I know that the private bar does not always know what is going on with their brothers and sisters in the legal services community; you may not know, for example, that his legal services colleagues from across the state regard Addison as a titan of consumer law. Practicing in all corners of consumer law, Addison assisted debtors in filing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, mobile home owners facing abuse, tenants facing eviction, and homeowners facing foreclosure. He has successfully battled zombie debt collectors, tax lien purchasers, and unscrupulous payday lenders. With bold and creative advocacy forged by a combination of hard work, meticulous attention to statutory and jurisprudential detail, and an unrelenting passion for his clients and his causes, Addison has upheld and expanded the rights of consumers across Kentucky.

When we think of “consumer safety”, most of us think first about seatbelts, airbags, salmonella, and flammable pajamas. If we have learned anything from this last decade, it must be that the negligently designed financial products offered to American consumers can cause just as much (if not more) harm to Kentucky families and our community’s well-being than a negligently designed physical product. Addison recognized this principle decades ago and began battling the powerful banks and financiers who seek to profit through recklessness and fraud long before the present meltdown.

While Addison’s laser-like devotion to protecting Kentucky consumers is admirable standing on its own, Addison’s commitment to mentoring and assisting other attorneys makes his contribution to Kentucky’s legal community truly remarkable. Three years ago, I began defending homeowners facing foreclosure at the Legal Aid Society in Louisville. I could not have been more clueless about how to help someone facing foreclosure. I soon met Addison because he chaired the Kentucky Consumer Law Working Group, which meets quarterly to discuss new developments in Kentucky consumer law. Afterwards, Addison generously spent hours on the phone with me discussing case strategy, explaining the nuances of complicated federal statutes like the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (HOEPA), and the Home Ownership Equity and Protection Act (HOEPA). Addison traveled around the state to co-counsel cases with public and private attorneys. He provided trainings to any group willing to listen, whether it was the Kentucky Bankers Association or the Kentucky Equal Justice Center.

Unfortunately, clients of legal services organizations often expect that they won’t get a good attorney because they couldn’t afford to pay an attorney. Many of Addison’s clients came to understand that not only did they get a good attorney, they got the best attorney. An attorney that money couldn’t buy—and I mean that literally. Over his career, Addison passed up numerous, more lucrative opportunities to become a law professor, to become in-house counsel at the National Consumer Law Center, to pursue private practice, and to work in other legal services organizations. His devotion to Kentucky and its most vulnerable citizens is as deep as his contributions to them are numerous. I can think of no better or more appropriate way to honor Addison’s career-long commitment to Kentucky than by honoring him with the Kentucky Consumer Safety Award.


Ben Carter