Prof. Seth Kreimer is the recipient of the 2023 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award, honoring his decades of work promoting equal access to justice.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation has named Seth Kreimer, Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, as the 2023 recipient of its Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award. This prestigious award celebrates the work of public interest attorneys who have dedicated their careers to fighting for equal access to justice.
“Seth Kreimer’s tremendously impactful work has shaped countless lives,” said Sophia Z. Lee, Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “A prolific constitutional scholar, his unwavering dedication to advancing civil liberties and equal justice has inspired generations of public interest lawyers, and his collaborative leadership has had immeasurable influence on Philadelphia’s public interest community.”
For more than four decades, Kreimer has devoted his life’s work to civil rights, civil liberties, and access to justice at Penn Carey Law and as a community leader, litigator, and public interest attorney. As an esteemed mentor in the Philadelphia public interest community, he has advised two generations of public interest lawyers. Kreimer’s impact has been recognized by Community Legal Services with its Equal Justice Award in 2016 and by the ACLU of Pennsylvania with its Spencer L. Coxe Civil Libertarian Award in 2011.
An expert in constitutional law, Kreimer has published on a wide variety of issues and has taught a course on constitutional litigation at the Law School since 1980. Our alumni who studied under Kreimer have launched distinguished public interest careers, including two previous winners of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award, Mary Catherine Roper L’93 and Su Ming Yeh L’ 04.
“It is no secret that Seth is one of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars and that his scholarship has shaped the development of constitutional principles with a sharp focus on equity and fairness for all,” said Louis S. Rulli, Practice Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Practice Clinic and Legislative Clinic. “His teaching of constitutional principles—especially his ‘Constitutional Litigation’ course—has been the bible for generations of public interest lawyers who have been inspired by Seth to use their talents to serve the public good.”
An exceptional scholar and teacher, Kreimer is also a veteran public interest lawyer. He has frequently served as counsel in litigation to protect voting rights, access to abortion and the right to bodily integrity, First Amendment speech, and the right to marriage. Some of his most notable victories include the following:
- Upholding student rights: Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. V. B.L. (U.S. Supreme Court, 2021)
- Challenging racial profiling by state and local police: Marquez et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Middle District of Pennsylvania, 2022); Marte v. Oliver (Middle District of Pennsylvania, 2020), Bailey v. City of Philadelphia (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 2010)
- Challenging illegal detention of immigrants: Galarza v. Szalczyk (Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 2014)
- Challenging denial of educational opportunities to immigrants: Issa v. Sch. Dist. Of Lancaster (Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 2017)
- Promoting safe injection sites: S. v. Safehouse (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 2019)
- Establishing the right to video record police officers: Fields v. City of Phila. (Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 2017)
- Protecting employment rights of ex-offenders: Peake v. Commonwealth (Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, 2015); Nixon v. Commonwealth (Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 2003)
- Establishing the right of same sex couples to marriage equality in Pennsylvania: Whitewood v. Wolf (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 2014)
- Securing the right of gay and lesbian parents to establish families by second parent adoption: In Re R.B.F. (Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 2002)
- Challenging discriminatory residency requirements for public assistance recipients: Maldonado v. Houston (Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 1998)
- Establishing rights to reproductive autonomy: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (U.S. Supreme Court, 1992)
Kreimer has dedicated countless hours of consultation and research to supporting attorneys and nonprofit advocacy organizations. His work has supported nearly all of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s public interest partners, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the AIDS Law Project, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, Community Legal Services, HIAS, the Public Interest Law Center, Regional Housing Legal Services, Disability Rights PA, the Juvenile Law Center, the Women’s Law Project, and the Mazzoni Center. He has also advised social justice initiatives and litigation by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Committee on the Homeless, MacArthur Justice Center, Philadelphia Human Relations Commission, and Pennsylvania Attorney General.
“There are few people who have ever had a more profound impact on public interest law in Philadelphia than Seth Kreimer,” said Susan Frietsche, Co-Director of the Women’s Law Project. “For being a guiding light and comrade in arms in the struggle for freedom, equality, and dignity, and having a hand in so much of the monumental work of the nonprofit public interest community, Seth Kreimer richly deserves the honor of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award.”
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation will bestow the Award at the annual Access to Justice Awards Celebration on Thursday, November 9, 2023,