Anita Santos-Singh

Anita Santos-Singh

Anita Santos-Singh, Founding Executive Director of Philadelphia Legal Assistance and legal services advocate for 34 years, passed away on Saturday, January 13, 2024.

Anita was one of the brightest lights of the Philadelphia legal community, laser focused on bringing life changing legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable Philadelphians.

Originally from Brownsville, Texas, Anita came to Philadelphia in 1982 to attend Penn as an undergraduate student. After graduation from the University of Michigan Law School in 1989, she returned to Philadelphia where she would devote her legal and leadership talents to those most in need and least able to afford an attorney.

Anita began her legal career as a consumer-housing attorney at Community Legal Services in 1989, protecting homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure and the loss of their home. Widely admired by her colleagues, when Philadelphia Legal Assistance was created in 1996 to serve Philadelphia’s poor with federal funds, Anita was tapped to lead the new organization.

“For more than 25 years, Anita shaped Philadelphia Legal Assistance to be on the front lines of confronting oppressive race and income disparities, protecting individuals and families, and striving for the greatest community impact possible”, according to Lou Rulli, Anita’s long time mentor, colleague and law professor at Penn Law School. In addition to Anita’s deep commitment, she brought many talents to her daily work: intense drive, vision, wisdom, and inclusiveness. Never satisfied with the status quo, she sought every opportunity to expand PLA’s reach and services. She forged vital collaborations with community organizations, nonprofits, governmental entities, and grassroots communities to reach people where they were and to empower them to successfully navigate the difficult and sometimes life-threatening challenges they faced.

During the recession of 2008, Anita answered the City’s urgent call and launched the Save Your Home Philly Hotline to help Philadelphia homeowners facing the loss of their home. She responded again in 2021 when called upon to staff the Eviction Diversion Hotline providing a vital safety net for tenants facing eviction. She built a highly successful Medical Legal Community Partnership with attorneys embedded in public health centers so that Philadelphians could obtain legal help in their communities where they received medical care. And, under her leadership, PLA provided critical support to expand legal help to migrant farmworkers, partnered with pro bono assistance on consumer bankruptcies, and created Philadelphia’s first low-income tax clinic.

A broad range of law, justice, and service organizations recognized Anita’s service with many prestigious awards. She was recognized by the Philadelphia Bar Association with its Bending the ARC Award (formerly the Andrew Hamilton Award) and by SEAMAAC with its 30th Anniversary Mosaic Unsung Heroine Award. The Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania honored Anita with its La Justicia Award, and she received excellence awards from Latinx students from two different law schools at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations recognized her for her community service and commitment to the civil rights of all Philadelphians. Anita served on the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Access to Justice and Civil Gideon Task Force and was the long-time co-chair of the Association’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee.

Anita was a lover of live music, travel, knitting, and Rafael Nadal. She loved to laugh out loud, to dance and to enjoy good food. She was thoughtful, kind, inquisitive and loving. She was a role model, mentor, coach and innovator. Anita is survived by her mother, Anita Santos and sisters, Cristina Santos and Veronica Santos as well as her brother-in-law Joe Rodriguez & childhood nanny Cuca Gonzalez.

Visitation is scheduled from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home. Services conclude at the end of the evening.

Services are under the guidance of Sunset Memorial Funeral Home, Crematory & Flower Shop. 657 Springmart Blvd., Brownsville, Texas. (956) 350-8485

To send flowers or a plant to the family in the memory of Mrs. Anita Santo-Singh, please visit Didi’s Flower Shop at Sunset Memorial, place your order online at or call (956) 572-3872.