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Meet Alumna and SAAS Summit Speaker Claire Mauksch ’07

Photo of Seattle Academy Alumni and Alumna and SAAS Summit Speaker Claire Mauksch ’07

Written By: Gena Wynkoop, Editorial Content Manager

In May, the SAAS Summit will showcase a panel of Seattle Academy alumni and community member speakers delving into the theme "The Work Won’t Wait," and focusing on civic engagement and action. One of the key topics at the forefront of discussions will be the justice system, and there’s no alumni better suited to join the dialogue than Claire Mauksch ’07.

With over a decade of experience, Claire currently works as Assistant General Counsel at the Bail Project, a nonprofit organization combatting mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

“The Bail Project's mission is to create a fairer justice system. Currently, there is a two-tiered system: one for people who can afford bail, and one for people who cannot,” explained Claire.

With a background in litigation and law, Claire serves the Bail Project in the General Counsel's Office. “I am one of the lawyers, so I counsel our senior management. I engage in transactional work with other nonprofit organizations, governmental entities, and players within it whether they be judges, prosecutors, service providers, and all who are working in and around these issues.”

As a SAAS student, Claire enthusiastically participated in Mock Trial, the beginning of her passion for the legal field. “My junior year, the Mock Trial team won the Washington State Championship,” Claire recalled. “I remember that being really special and exciting and lit a fire in me in terms of pursuing a career in law.”

But more than Mock Trial – Claire was a bonafide theater fan. “I was a big theater kid,” smiled Claire. “I was in all of the shows. I think anyone who would remember me from school would remember me as someone involved in the theater.”

“After SAAS, I studied History and Politics at Tufts University in Massachusetts. I spent a year at the University of Oxford in England and I also ran the Boston Marathon. Those were definitely highlights of my time in college.”

Before committing to law school, Claire decided to take some time and get work experience to see if she was really interested in law as a career path. “I took some time off and worked as an investigator for a public defender’s office in Brooklyn, New York. It was a fantastic job, I really learned how to think like a defense attorney.”

After that, Claire was convinced that this was the work she wanted to do and it was a population she wanted to serve. After working in Brooklyn for two years, she went to Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

When she graduated law school, Claire returned to New York - this time to the Bronx. “I went to work at the Bronx Defenders in the South Bronx. I believe it is the third poorest congressional district in the country as of the last census; it’s a very impoverished area.”

According to the Food Research and Action Center, the South Bronx, Congressional District 15, is actually now the first poorest congressional district at the time of the publishing of this article.

Here, Claire worked as part of a team of holistic defenders. Holistic defense means that there is a team of advocates that can respond to a variety of client needs, such as housing, immigration, family defense, or criminal defense." 

As much as Claire loved working in this role, life presented a detour that brought her back to Seattle and ultimately led her to work at the Bail Project in Seattle.

“My husband was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately became very sick during the pandemic. I couldn’t go with him to his appointments because of the hospital rules and overflow of COVID patients, so we decided to come back to Seattle.” Sadly, Claire's husband, Brian, passed away in June of 2020.”

“At the time of his death, I was also 34 weeks pregnant with our son Sam, who was born in July of 2020. After that, I took time to get my life together before returning to work on different projects.” 

Claire’s story is something she is not afraid to talk about; in fact, she encourages the dialogue about her husband's death. “I have become kind of a grief advocate, and of course, it’s an important part of my story. It’s not something that I hide.”

We are excited to welcome Claire back to the Seattle Academy campus to participate in our spring Summit event, where she can shine some light and expertise on our country's judicial and justice systems.

“At the Summit, I’d love to talk about the system and how broken our cash bail process is in this country,” explained Claire. “I also want to talk about the ways in which a SAAS education has prepared me to do my jobs, specifically as a litigator and an attorney. A huge part of my job is explaining complex legal concepts to folks who aren’t lawyers.”

She also wants to talk about “the bubble” that can exist in places like Seattle and how when you leave the bubble, the world doesn’t always appear as one would think.

“I think one thing that is important to impart to current students is that SAAS and Seattle, in general, are massive bubbles. When you leave those bubbles, you learn fairly quickly that not everyone agrees with the views that maybe you grew up with or that you were exposed to in Seattle or as students.”

Even with the proverbial bubble, Claire mentions the power that comes with understanding those differing opinions. “I think students today are more well-informed than I was back in 2000. But I think it’s often important to take a step back and expose yourself to alternative perspectives in order to be able to defend your own.”

As for the work she does in the world, although challenging and sometimes hard to see immediate results, she knows that it is good, honest work.

“I love working for the Bail Project because I know that the work our organization is doing makes the difference between people sleeping in cages and people going home to their families and communities.” 

Claire recalls days working in New York as a public defender and how it was a poignant feeling to be the only thing standing between her client going to Rikers Island or going home to be with their families.

“The immediacy of that advocacy is something that has never left me.”

The work is not easy, but it’s something that Claire is passionate about.

“Whenever you are trying to change a deeply entrenched system, you’re going to have a lot of political, governmental, and social pushback. It can sometimes feel like a fish swimming upstream. The idea is to reach within yourself to figure out what motivates you to keep doing the work day after day. Everyone has different reasons for that.”

For more information on the SAAS Summit for Civic Engagement and Social Entrepreneurship on Sunday, May 5th, please visit

Seattle Academy SAAS Summit Event May 5, 2024