We are very pleased to announce the 2013 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner Martin Bunt from Emory University School of Law. This year we selected 10 finalists and then had to choose a winner from a VERY competitive pool. It was so tough, we’ve also selected two Merit Distinction recipients as well. All three will be guest bloggers for the PSJD Blog.
In addition, we will be presenting Martin with his award (and his $1,000) at Emory. I look forward to meeting him, his family, and all those who helped him create the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans.
Here is the full announcement, with all the great finalists. We are so grateful to them for their incredible work!!!
19th 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.
J. Martin Bunt
Emory University School of Law
Martin faced considerable challenges when starting the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans (VCV), but his passion for service and his perseverance in the face of many obstacles has created a lasting impact on his community. As a 2L, Martin started the clinic 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 is up and running. Martin is not only the “face” of the clinic, recruiting pro bono attorneys and working to get case referrals, but he is also devoted to handling cases himself. As his nominator so eloquently said, “His passion, ability to recruit others to fill the needs of the VCV, and his professional skills have created a service organization to fulfill a great need where before there was nothing.” Today, there are nearly 50 lawyers who have agreed to take veterans’ benefits cases and there are over 40 student volunteers, 26 of whom are working on 20 cases and a legislative initiative to create special courts in Georgia to help veterans with traumatic conditions to obtain treatment and release as an alternative to incarceration.
Martin is dedicated to making the lives of men and women who serve better. He said it best, “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.”
Ioana E. Tchoukleva
University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Ioana is a tireless advocate for prison inmates navigating the parole process. Through volunteer work with the Restorative Justice Roundtable, Ioana met some really amazing people. One stood out to her as a symbol of the dysfunction and inherent unfairness of the California Parole System. So, she decided to do something to help. She took the lead on creating the Post-Conviction Advocacy Project (PCAP), a student led project. Seeing that indigent prisoners frequently receive inadequate assistance in preparing for parole board hearings, Ioana recruited Berkeley Law students, faculty and staff to build the project, and then secured a commitment from UnCommon Law to provide attorney supervision. The Project currently has 27 student volunteers (1L – 3L) who represent clients in three area prisons. The Project also has an education mission to teach students about the many issues California “lifers” face and to teach the skills that will make students powerful and effective advocates.
Seton Hall University School of Law
As Karol said, “I was that kid.” And now she is a steadfast voice for undocumented immigrant children. She works in many ways to pay it forward. In addition to the countless hours she’s spent educating her community and bringing together partners to work toward making the immigration system better, she has hosted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) clinics. In one day at just one clinic, 169 applicants received legal information, 40 of whom completed their DACA applications. Her efforts are reflected in the gratitude her clients feel. Not only has Karol’s work benefited them in a legal sense, but her complete dedication to each individual means their lives are better as well.
Elizabeth Gavin, Fordham Law School
Founder of a newly created student organization, Advocates for Sexual Health and Rights (ASHL), which aims to advocate for the human rights of marginalized populations.
Sam Keen, DePaul University College of Law
Dedicated volunteer with the College of Law’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP). NLAP is a law student pro bono help desk for the homeless.
Remy Krumpak, Southwestern Law School
President of the Law School’s Homelessness Prevention Law Project (HPLP), through which he has dedicated over 400 hours on Skid Row providing legal assistance and social service referrals to homeless families.
Talia Lewis, American University Washington College of Law
Founder of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), through which she fights for the proper treatment for deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are incarcerated.
Teresita Ramos, Boston College Law School
Co-creator of a partnership between the Law School and the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Through this and other efforts, she tirelessly advocates for furthering special education access for Hispanic families.
Luce Pierre-Russon, St. John’s Law School
Dedicated volunteer with the Consumer Debt-Volunteer Lawyer for the Day (VLDF) Program, through which she advocates for and educates her community about consumer debt and consumer protection.
Vanessa Stine, Villanova University School of Law
Founder of the Notario Fraud Project, through which she educates and represents victims of notario fraud and predatory legal representation.