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Penn Law Honors Pro Bono & Public Interest Service

April 22, 2011
Professor Seth Kreimer accepts Penn Law's inaugural Beacon Award
Professor Seth Kreimer accepts Penn Law's inaugural Beacon Award

University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Seth Kreimer received a standing ovation as he was honored with the Law School’s inaugural Beacon Award to recognize a faculty member’s contribution to pro bono and public interest service. The award was part of Penn Law’s annual Public Interest Recognition Event, held Thursday evening, April 14, at the Levy Conference Center.

Kreimer “has been a resource, literally, for every public interest organization in Philadelphia, whether it’s the Women’s Law Project, Juvenile Law Project, AIDS Law Project, ACLU, [or the] Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia,” Penn Law Senior Fellow David Rudovsky said in presenting the award. “He has a passion and a commitment to fairness, to equality, [and] to access to justice that motivates him in a way that’s really unique among people in the field.”

Rudovsky described Kreimer as the go-to source for legal advice for lawyers facing the toughest issues in public interest and civil liberties litigation. “There’s Westlaw, there’s Lexis – there’s also something known as ‘Seth-law,’” Rudovsky said, eliciting laugher from the crowd.  

In accepting the award, Kreimer invoked the late Justice Louis Brandeis. “[Justice Brandeis] used to say that the only legitimate basis for accumulating wealth or professional privilege is the opportunity that it provides from time to time to do the right thing,” Kreimer said. “Over the years, I’ve been blessed with a series of sources of professional privilege that have made it possible for me to undertake pro bono efforts and this is an occasion to express my gratitude.”

Kreimer thanked the Law School, and particularly Dean Fitts, for providing him with a base on which to work on civil rights and civil liberties issues. He thanked public interest organizations, lawyers, and his clients for giving him a chance to join them in “efforts to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.” And he thanked his students. “I have been honored by the insight and the eagerness and the passion of the students at Penn Law School,” he said. “I look forward to seeing after you leave and go out in the world the ways in which you use your professional privileges from time to time to do the right thing.”

Third-year student Kristen-Elise Brooks received the C. Edwin Baker Award for performing the most pro bono hours of any student in the Class of 2011 – 426 hours over her three years at the Law School. “I’m sure that most people expect that the person who has the most [pro bono] hours would be going into public interest straight out of law school – and I’m not. I’m going to be starting in the fall at Paul Weiss,” Brooks said. “I think that’s one of the wonderful things about Penn. It’s that everyone does pro bono here. It’s not that there are public interest and firm people … Everyone is pro bono oriented.”

The event recognized the work of numerous Penn Law students, public interest law attorneys and advocates, and over 20 student-run pro bono groups. Loida Moreno, director of volunteer services for the Philadelphia Prison System, took the opportunity of being honored for her work with Penn Law’s Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project to thank the students at the event. She recognized “all the students that in one way or another took the time, the initiative, the leadership, and the effort to say, ‘I’m going to be part of a project for people that, for the most part, people choose to forget.’”

For a complete list of individuals and organizations honored, see the Public Interest Recognition Event program (PDF).

Flickr: Photos from the Annual Public Interest Recognition Event