2015 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner announced!

We are very pleased to announce the 2015 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner: Lark Mulligan.  This year we selected 7 finalists and then chose a winner from a VERY competitive pool.  We’ve also selected two Merit Distinction recipients.  All three will be guest bloggers for the PSJD Blog.

In addition, we will be presenting Lark with her award (and her $1,000) at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.  I look forward to meeting her, her family, and all those who helped her advance the work of the Transgender Justice Law Project of Illinois and especially the Name Change Mobilization project.

Here is the full announcement, with all the great finalists.  We are so grateful to them for their incredible work!!!

21st Annual 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.

WINNER

Lark Mulligan

DePaul University College of Law

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.” 

MERIT DISTINCTION

Courtney Brown

Golden Gate University School of Law

Courtney Brown volunteers every day at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, where she helps San Francisco’s most vulnerable tenants navigate the confusing and stressful eviction process.  She had dedicated over 2,000 hours to helping tenants while maintaining a high academic standard and being a leader in her law school public interest community.  Courtney is also a visionary, who identified a gap in service to her clients in the area of 3-day eviction notices.  She realized real estate speculators and developers were using this mechanism to skirt existing landlord/tenant law and displacing elderly, disabled and vulnerable clients.  She has developed a project to combat this issue, and is currently seeking funding to continue this work beyond graduation.

Courtney best expressed the source of her own inspiration: “I grew up in a small rural Wisconsin town, and as a child I experienced economic and housing instability.  I know what it is like to grow up watching the stress of economic and housing instability drive my family to desperation and illness.  I know what it is like to fight, and I use that same resolve to empower vulnerable people defending their homes and communities.”

Emily Bock

Temple University Beasley School of Law

 

Emily Bock demonstrated a commitment to serving low-income people in need of legal services before she even started as a law student. During law school, her most notable pro bono achievement has been the launch of the Expungement Project, a new student pro bono group with Temple’s National Lawyer’s Guild chapter.  Emily recruited 43 students in its inaugural year, and together with attorneys from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, organized trainings, multiple clinics per semester, and petition “drafting days” in different locations around Philadelphia.  And she is working with law school professionals to ensure the project outlives her time at Temple.  As one example, she successfully lobbied the law school administration to allow 1Ls to sign up for pro bono projects on a limited basis in their first semester, with the idea that this would help in recruiting long-term, committed student volunteers to her project.

One of the volunteers she recruited said it best: “Providing expungements has been very meaningful.  There are very few legal processes that can so quickly change the circumstances for a person. … Emily is the perfect leader for the expungement project.  She is incredibly knowledgable, very caring, and extremely motivating.  Everyone who has gotten involved with the project has been exceptionally trained and is well informed about the overarching issues complicating the lives of our clients.”

OTHER FINALISTS

Michael Paspon, Touro Law Center

Helped launch the Breaking Barriers Pro Bono Assistance Project, which provides holistic re-entry services to post-incarcerated individuals.

Dana Mangiacapra, Touro Law Center

Helped launch the Breaking Barriers Pro Bono Assistance Project, which provides holistic re-entry services to post-incarcerated individuals.

Tiffany WoelfelUniversity of Wisconsin Law School 

Dedicates many pro bono hours to the Legal Assistance for Institutionalized Persons Project and the Veteran’s Law and Legal Intervention for Nonviolence Clinics as well as Wills for Heroes.  Additionally,  Tiffany organized multiple pro bono service trips, which provided over 840 hours of service to the destination communities.

Rasha Abu-Zeyadeh, Texas Tech University School of Law

Started the Texas Tech Law Criminal Law Association and dedicated more than 160 pro bono hours to the Innocence Project of Texas and the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office.

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