2017 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner & Merit Distinction Recipients Announced

We are pleased to announce that the 2017 PSJD Pro Bono Public Award Winner is Lydia X. Z. Brown. 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.

This year we received twenty-one impressive nominations. After much deliberation, we selected eight finalists. In addition to our winner, we have also selected two Merit Distinction recipients. In addition, we will be presenting Lydia with their award at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Lydia X. Z. Brown and our Merit Distinction recipients will all be guest bloggers for the PSJD Blog.

Our winner, Merit Distinction recipients, and finalists are highlighted below. Thank you to our impressive pool of nominees for the incredible public interest work they are doing.

WINNER: Lydia X.Z. Brown | Northeastern University School of Law

This year’s Pro Bono Publico Award Winner is Lydia X. Z. Brown, a 3L at Northeastern University School of Law. Lydia’s record advocating for individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people of color extends across the country and begins well before law school. At Northeastern, Lydia has served on the Committee Against Institutional Racism, the Transgender Justice Task force, and the Disability Justice Caucus–of which they are a Co-Founder. Lydia’s commitment to legal service is also apparent in the impressive number of pro bono hours they have worked at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic at Northeastern, the ACLU, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Movement Advancement Project, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Disability Law Center of Massachusetts. Lydia speaks, publishes, and advocates. They serve on councils and organize vigils. They are a adjunct professor of the intersectionality between disability, gender, and minority status, a voice for change among young people, and a valued peer of many who are older. We are honored to confer our 2017 award upon Lydia.

Merit Distinction Finalist: Danya Jones | Lewis & Clark Law School

Now a 3L, Dayna has relentlessly dedicated her time in law school to environmental justice and Native American Civil Rights issues. Working at the intersection of these two concerns, Dayna helped the Chemawa Indian School launch its Peer Court program, served as Treasurer of the Native American Law Student Association. Her most significant contributions, though, are legislative: when the governor of Oregon convened a Cleaner Air Oregon process to review the state’s air toxic rules, Dayna provided support to OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon; as an intern for State Representative Karin Power, she convinced her boss to advocate for overhauling the state’s air toxics rules on the floor of the Oregon House. We are excited to see what she accomplishes next.

Merit Distinction Finalist: Brigitte Malatjalian | Southwestern Law School

Brigitte’s commitment to serving the Armenian community within Greater Los Angeles has set a powerful example for both fellow students and practicing attorneys. Brigitte began her law school career volunteering with the Homelessness Prevention Law Project. She then spent two years working at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, where she gained a deeper understanding of systemic injustices and a powerful desire to help address them. Ultimately, this drive led her to form a partnership between Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles and the Armenian Bar Association and start a pilot clinic providing free legal services in “Second Armenia” (Glendale California). When she graduates this Spring, she will leave behind a successful pilot; NLS and the Armenian Bar Association plan to continue the clinic. We are thrilled for this opportunity to call attention to Brigitte’s accomplishments.

Other Award Finalists:

Coones, Patrick | University of Alberta Faculty of Law

Developed a program with Action Coalition of Human Trafficking Alberta that provides victims of human trafficking with legal assistance.

Fletcher, Corinne | Lewis & Clark Law School

Created a Student Directed Reading Group for Lewis & Clark Law School and MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility students; used her program to convince state legislators to advocate for procedural reform in the juvenile justice system.

Goodman, Jason Landau | University of Pittsburgh School of Law

LGBTQ advocate who wrote a current model Pennsylvania policy for transgender student inclusion.

Gustin, Erika | Notre Dame Law School

Co-established the Notre Dame Exoneration Project.

Kulak, Ashe | Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Assisted Indiana University’s LGBT Pro Bono Project in expansion to include policy work.

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