PSJD - Your Pathway to Public Service Legal Careers. A NALP Initiative.

Printer Friendly Version

Past Winners

Since 2003, NALP and PSJD annually solicits nominations for the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. This prestigious award honors one law student nationwide for their pro bono contributions to society, and recognizes the significant contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community, and legal education through public service work. PSJD caught up with some of the past recipients to see where their careers have taken them since winning the Pro Bono Publico Award. See their stories below!


2015 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Lark Mulligan
DePaul University College of Law

Lark Mulligan (left) and Christina Jackson (right)
Lark Mulligan (left) Christina Jackson (right)

For the past five years, Lark Mulligan has been a leading volunteer with the Transformative Justice Law project of Illinois, a volunteer-run organization that provides free, zealous, holisitc, and gender-affirming legal services to impoverished and low-income transgender people who are criminalized.  In addition to the work she does in overseeing the maintenance and growth of the organization as a Collective Member, she is a leader in the Name Change Mobilization project and the ‘zine publication Hidden Expressions.  Through the Name Change Mobilization, trained volunteers assist transgender and gender non-conforming people file petitions to change their names legally.  One example of her dedication to this population arose when, as part of the name change process, she became aware that some judges were regularly asking inappropriate questions and denying meritorious petitions because they believed transgender petitioners did not have valid reasons for changing their legal names.  In response, Lark drafted a “Transgender 101 for Judges in the Civil Division” document in order to educate judges about the importance of having identity documents that reflect a transgender person’s true self.  The effort has been a success and those judges have stopped creating roadblocks for transgender name change petitioners.  This is just one example of Lark’s tireless commitment to the transgender community and the many hours she has spent helping vulnerable clients navigate a difficult and onerous process.

In her letter of recommendation, Avi Rudnick, Name Change Mobilization Coordinator, described Lark’s contributions this way, “Ms. Mulligan has demonstrated outstanding skills as an advocate while supporting individuals through a significant life changing moment. . . She uses humor and her trans identity to truly connect with our clients, and based on the glowing feedback we have received, I am confident that she has left a lasting impression on each one.”

2014 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Alex Dutton

 

In 2012, as a 1L, Alex volunteered to assist with Philadelphia's first Youth Court, located at Strawberry Mansion High School - the only high school on the Philadelphia School District's list of "persistently dangerous schools". Youth Court initiatives are an exercise in restorative justice, using positive peer pressure to reshape student behavior and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by providing an alternative to suspension for students who commit minor offenses. In order to reach students overtly distrustful of anyone associated with the criminal justice system, he convinced his supervisor to set aside the Court manual temporarily and meet with students in small groups so the students could take the lead and educate the program staff and volunteers about their lives and their values. Alex's involvement continued throughout his law school career, and he has successfully attracted other law students from all six Philadelphia region law schools to support the city's burgeoning Youth Court programs.

In his letter of recommendation, Greg Volz, summarized best the impact of Alex's contribution to the Youth Court program and to the Philadelphia community: "Alex['s] efforts have sparked a potential paradigm shift in law school pro bono activity and shown how youth courts help disadvantaged youth help themselves."

2013 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - J. Martin Blunt


Martin, from Emory University School of Law, won the 2013 Pro Bono Publico Award. As a 2L, Martin started the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans (VCV) from scratch, pulling together the Department of Veterans Affairs, the State Bar of Georgia, a number of Atlanta attorneys, and the dedicated students at Emory. Through Martin's leadership, in less than a year, a new clinic, complete with a retired law firm partner and decorated veteran as the hands-on supervisor of the cases, and a professor as a co-director was up and running.

Martin was dedicated to making the lives of the men and women who serve better. He said quote, "When they come home, I believe it is our turn to serve them. I will continue to dedicate my life to the VCV knowing that I am serving those who have sacrificed so much to serve me".

2012 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Elizabeth Gutierrez

Elizabeth graduated from St. Mary's University School of Law in May 2013 with both a J.D. and M.B.A. In addition to winning the 2012 Pro Bono Publico Award, she was granted the Chief Justice Alma Lopez Woman in Leadership Award, the Commitment to Pro Bono and Community Service Award, and the San Antonio Bar Foundation Pro Bono Award. She also received the Hispanic Law Alumni Foundation Scholarship and the Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation Scholarship.

Elizabeth has just finished taking the bar and is awaiting results in San Francisco, California. She is still very interested in pro bono and public interest legal work, specifically in the field of immigration law. Her advice to current law students: "If you really love public interest and pro bono work, it's important to begin now, in law school. If you truly enjoy the work and aid you are providing people, it doesn't become another 'stress' or 'commitment'. It becomes the highlight of your day or week."

2011 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Felicia Cantrell

Felicia Cantrell graduated from Arizona State University College of Law in 2012. Since winning the award in 2011, Cantrell went on to serve as a Family Justice Specialist for the Support, Education, Empowerment & Directions (SEEDs) program for the National Advocacy & Training Network.

Cantrell is currently an attorney with the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice at Arizona State University College of Law, where she specializes in handling high-conflict divorce and custody cases for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and sex trafficking. She also volunteers for ASU Law's Medical Legal Partnership free legal clinics once or twice a month, and occasionally at free legal clinics at local domestic violence shelters.

2010 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner

After graduating from NOVA Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in 2011, Coe went on to serve as an Equal Justice Works Fellow for Florida Legal Services in Lake Worth, Florida. As a Fellow, she represents H-2B workers facing various employment law violations, working to protect them from exploitation.

Coe is one of few Florida attorneys working on the issue. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and twice in the Palm Beach Post concerning employer abuse and J-1 student visas. Because her work is so time-consuming, Coe's only extracurricular activity is taking care of her newborn baby!

2009 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Todd Belcore

Belcore graduated from Northwestern University School of Law and went on to serve as a 2010 Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. That year, he was also chosen to receive the Northwestern University School of Law’s Wigmore Key, which is given to the graduating student who has done the most to preserve the traditions of the law school. 2011 was a busy year for Belcore – he was chosen as a White House Champions of Change honoree for his work as a legal community leader dedicated to closing the justice gap in America. He was one of the 25 men and women recognized nationwide as an "Opportunity Leader" for his unwavering commitment to expanding the economic mobility of communities nationwide. Belcore received the 2011 Kimball and Karen Anderson Public Interest Fellowship award, which honors one attorney for their commitment to public interest work, academic achievement in law school, and their outstanding character and integrity. He was also honored as the 2011 "Legal Hero" by N'Digo newspaper in their October 20 issue.

Currently, Belcore is a full-time staff attorney at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, advocating on behalf of individuals with criminal records through litigation and lobbying, and ensuring that ex-offenders are not unjustly denied employment or occupational licenses. He has written about the economic hardships facing those with criminal convictions for the Huffington Post Politics blog, and has also contributed leadership development tips to the PSJD Blog’s Expert Opinion series. Todd is also the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago International Social Change Festival (CISCFF). CISCFF is a new vehicle for social change that funds and provides a forum for films and art that showcase untold stories that promote social change and cultivates a network from which direct action can be taken to address the issues showcased.

2008 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Tom Fritzsche

Fritzsche graduated from New York University School of Law in 2009. In addition to the Pro Bono Publico Award, he received the 2009 John Sexton Prize for Public Service from NYU. He went on to serve as a Skadden Fellow/Staff Attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Immigrant Justice Project in Atlanta, Georgia. At SPLC, he is involved in all stages of the cases, from intial community outreach to litigation. His work involves problems like minimum wage violation, sexual harassment, race-based discrimination, health and safety violations, and retaliation against workers who speak out about those problems. Recently, his work has been focused in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Fritzsche also volunteers with Freedom University, a group of students and faculty holding college-level classes for Georgia high school graduates regardless of immigration status. Freedom University was founded in direct response to the Georgia Board of Regents' decision to exclude undocumented immigrant high school graduates from any of the top five public universities in the state. He also sits on their Board of Advisors.

2007 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Parag Khandar


Khandhar graduated from American University's Washington College of Law in 2008. He then worked for the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC) until 2011, representing poor and moderate income Asian immigrant tenants, seniors, and workers in a variety of matters. He also supported community organizing efforts, particularly in subsidized housing. With the APALRC, Khandhar helped organize a tenants' association in D.C.'s Chinatown.

In 2011, Khandhar was accepted as a clinical teaching fellow at the University of Baltimore School of Law's Community Development Clinic, where is he is currently wrapping up his first semester of co-teaching the clinic, supervising student attorneys who are working on a variety of matters including emerging nonprofit formalization, startup small and micro-businesses, community assocations and neighborhood groups in Baltimore, and the growing worker-owned cooperative movement in the area. Khandhar is also the president of the Asian American Literary Review, a space for writers who consider the designation “Asian American” a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community.

2006 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Morgan Williams

Morgan, from Tulane University Law School, won the 2006 Pro Bono Publico Award in recognition of his efforts in founding the Student Hurricane Network.

2005 Pro Bono Publico Award Winners - Kathryn Neilson and Adrienne Lyles-Chockley

Kathryn, from Fordham University School of Law and Adrienne, from the University of Notre Dame Law School, won the 2005 Pro Bono Publico Award.

2004 Pro Bono Publico Award Winners - Alina Das and Kelly Barrett

Alina, from New York University Law School and Kelly, from American University - Washington College of Law, won the 2004 Pro Bono Publico Award.

2003 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner - Sudha Shetty

Sudha, from the University of Bombay - India, won the 2003 Pro Bono Publico Award.