Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) is pleased to announce that Marissa L. Band, Esq., M.P.A.P., will be the new Project Director of our Disabilities Law Program (DLP) starting June 1, 2023. The DLP is Delaware’s designated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency for people with disabilities, providing free advocacy services to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. The DLP also monitors and investigates programs providing services to people with disabilities, in facilities and in the community, to ensure that individuals with disabilities are protected from abuse, neglect, and other violations of their legal rights.

Marissa first came to CLASI as a summer law student intern in 2006. She then received a prestigious Equal Justice Works public interest fellowship to return to CLASI as a staff attorney in 2008 and help launch the Delaware Medical-Legal Partnership program. For the past 14 years, she has served in a number of roles at CLASI, including as a staff attorney and supervising attorney in the Medical-Legal Partnership and Disabilities Law Programs, providing skilled legal advocacy to children and adults in a variety of special education, disability rights, public benefits, immigration, and poverty law matters.

Since 2019, Marissa has served as managing attorney of the DLP, leading systemic advocacy efforts to protect and advocate for the rights of Delawareans with disabilities. She is a member of the Division of Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council, the Skilled Nursing Workgroup of the Children with Medical Complexity Advisory Council, and has served on others including the State Rehabilitation Council, the Division of Developmental Disabilities Task Force regulation subcommittee, and the IEP Improvement Task Force. She spearheads collaboration with partners statewide, including NAMI-Delaware, the Parent Information Center, and others. Marissa has provided technical assistance and analysis in the drafting of disability-related legislation and regulations, and recently co-authored an article about disability as a determinant of health in the Delaware Journal of Public Health, which examined the ways that Delawareans with disabilities were disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are so excited for Marissa to take over the leadership of CLASI’s DLP,” says CLASI Executive Director Dan Atkins. “Marissa’s trajectory at CLASI has been steady and swift, from law student clerk to staff attorney to managing attorney to project director. Marissa has proven to be a hard worker, zealous lawyer, creative problem solver, and committed leader. Working alongside her talented and accomplished colleagues, the future is extremely bright for the DLP and Delawareans with disabilities with Marissa at the helm.”

Marissa succeeds Laura Waterland, who has been DLP’s project director since 2017 and will be retiring at the end of June after over 30 years at CLASI. “Marissa is a terrific advocate for our clients who is also very committed to addressing systemic issues facing people with disabilities in Delaware,” says Waterland. “I am excited to see what she will do in this new role at CLASI.”

In addition to her legal expertise, Marissa also brings the lived experience and perspective of a person with a disability to her role as project director. She was diagnosed with arthritis as a very young child, and thus has lived most of her life with a disability. This experience helped inspire her to attend law school and advocate for the rights of others with disabilities. “My disability has guided my career path and shaped me into an empathetic advocate,” she says. “I think it’s important for our Protection & Advocacy system to be led by people with disabilities.”

With a graduate degree in public policy, Marissa is especially excited to engage in more policy-related work and focus on “big picture” systemic issues as DLP project director. One of her priorities will also be further engaging the Delaware disability community in the DLP’s work. “I look forward to finding new ways to involve the disability community in informing our priorities and in our planning,” she says.

Marissa is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She obtained her Master’s in Public Affairs and Politics from the Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the Rutgers University School of Law – Camden. She is admitted to practice in Delaware and before the District Court for the District of Delaware.

CLASI’s Disabilities Law Program is designated by the Governor as Delaware’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency for people with disabilities, providing free assistance to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities to protect them from abuse and neglect and to advocate for their legal rights in the community, through individual legal representation, systemic advocacy, information and referral, technical assistance, community education, and self-advocacy training. The DLP assists with areas including civil rights, educational services, medical services, housing, government benefits, and treatment in the least restrictive environment. Learn more here:

The Disabilities Law Program is currently hiring for a new Legal Director to succeed Marissa. The Legal Director will provide advocacy leadership and coordination, legal supervision, and co-counsel support within the program. The Legal Director will also cultivate impact litigation and support the Project Director with policy advocacy. Learn more here: