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Law Alumni Society honors outstanding alumni & former dean with the 2015 Annual Alumni Awards

November 17, 2015

On November 13, the Law School honored six University of Pennsylvania Law School graduates and one former Penn Law dean and faculty member for their career achievements, pro bono work, service to the legal profession, and service to the school.

Included in the group were the director of the Garden Justice Legal Initiative in Philadelphia; a partner in Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Chicago office who is also a leader in the firm’s LGBT community; a Texas-based expert in the field of international child abduction; the director of Ballard Spahr’s national pro bono practice; a long-serving government attorney in Florida; a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge; and the current president of Tulane University.

The ceremony was held in Penn Law’s Michael A. Fitts Auditorium and was followed by a reception in the Davis Student Union.

Earlier in the day, the Law Alumni Society also honored the Penn Law Alumni Club of China with its Club of the Year Award.

The 2015 Penn Law Alumni Society Award Honorees were:

  • James Wilson Award Honoring a lifetime of service to the profession, the Honorable Benjamin Lerner L’65
  • Distinguished Service Award Honoring service to the Law School, Michael A. Fitts
  • Alumni Award of Merit Honoring professional achievement and service to the Law School, Murray Greenberg C’65, L’68
  • Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award Honoring a sustained commitment to pro bono and/or public service throughout a private sector career, Mary Gay Scanlon L’84
  • Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award Honoring justice through service to others, Pamela M. Brown L’86
  • Young Alumni Award Honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, Amy Laura Cahn L’09
  •  Young Alumni Award Honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, Jordan Heinz L’05

The Young Alumni Award, honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, was awarded to Amy Laura Cahn L’09

Amy Laura Cahn is a Staff Attorney and Director of the Garden Justice Legal Initiative (GLJI) at the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia. The GJLI uses law and organizing to support community gardens and market farms working for land and food sovereignty in historically disinvested communities. She also currently serves as the co-chair of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Food Policy Advisory Council and on the boards of the Neighborhood Gardens Trust and Bread and Roses Community Fund.

Prior to law school, Cahn was a theatrical lighting designer, a community organizer, and co-founder of New York City’s Bluestockings Women’s Bookstore. In 2004, she co-authored a community-based study on childhood lead paint poisoning that helped overturn New York City’s lead laws. Cahn’s article on Philadelphia’s Eastwick, environmental justice, and urban renewal — “On Retiring Blight as Policy and Making Eastwick Whole” — was published in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review in 2014.

A magna cum laude graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School and summa cum laude graduate of Hunter College, Cahn served as a law clerk to the Honorable Michael M. Baylson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and as a clerk with the Honorable Stephen Skillman of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

The Young Alumni Award, honoring the professional achievement of an alumnus/a who has graduated within the past 10 years, was awarded to Jordan Heinz L’05

Heinz is a Partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago where he currently practices in both the intellectual property and general litigation departments. Within the intellectual property department, Heinz focuses on Lanham Act litigation (trademark, false advertising and unfair competition) and trade secret litigation across a broad range of industries. Within the general litigation department, Jordan focuses on complex commercial litigation matters, including employment and consumer fraud litigation. He regularly serves as a Penn Law alumni representative for prospective and admitted students in Chicago.

Since joining K&E, Heinz has contributed thousands of pro bono hours to representing indigent prisoners, assisting nonprofits, serving as guardian ad litem for disabled adults, and handling myriad other legal matters for the disadvantaged. In addition to his direct legal service, Heinz is a critical part of the pro bono management team at Kirkland and serves as a Chicago Pro Bono Coordinator.

Heinz started at K&E in 2005 as the firm’s first openly gay attorney, and since then, he has led the development of the K&E LGBT community, which is now one of the largest and most active in the Chicago legal market. He has worked together with Lambda Legal on litigation relating to same-sex couples and the right to marry in Illinois, and most recently in the Seventh Circuit with regard to same sex marriage in Indiana.

Among many other awards earned to date, he was honored with the Windy City Times’ “30 Under 30” Award in 2008 and the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award in 2011, and the Public Interest Law Initiative’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015.

Heinz graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University in 2002, and is a 2005 graduate of Penn Law, where he served as Senior Editor on the Law Review.

The Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award, honoring justice through service to others, was awarded to Pamela M. Brown L’86

Pamela M. Brown is the Director of the Bi-National Family Violence Project at the non-profit law firm of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., (TRLA) headquartered in Weslaco, Texas. In 2002, Brown spearheaded the creation of the Bi-National Family Violence Project, an innovative program designed to address the challenges faced by low-income domestic violence victims whose spouses or partners abduct their children across international borders. The Project has helped reunite over 75 children with their survivor mothers and enabled many other children to remain with their mothers following flights to safety.

As a recognized expert in the field of international child abduction, Brown has served three times as an observer delegate to the Special Commission on The Hague Abduction Convention at The Hague, Netherlands, and has given numerous presentations to groups throughout the United States and Mexico. She is the author of the International Child Abduction chapter in “Human Rights in the U.S.: Handbook for Legal Aid Attorneys,” (Washington College of Law, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, 2014).

Brown is the recipient of several accolades for her work, including a State Bar of Texas Presidential citation, the Impact Award from the Poverty Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, the Dom Vetri Champion of the Public Interest Award from the University of Oregon School of Law, and numerous awards of merit from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Pamela received a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Government, both with high honors, from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981 and 1982 respectively. She received her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1986 where she was an Arthur B. Littleton Legal Writing Instructor and a founding member of the National Lawyers Guild Food Stamp Clinic.

The Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award, honoring a sustained commitment to pro bono and/or public service throughout a private sector career, was awarded to Mary Gay Scanlon L’84

Mary Gay Scanlon directs Ballard Spahr’s national pro bono practice, which provides more than 35,000 hours of pro bono service annually across its 14 offices.

Since joining the firm in 2003, Scanlon has built its ground-breaking pro bono program as the firm has extended its national footprint. Under her leadership, Ballard Spahr has developed pro bono practice groups in several areas, including asylum, voting rights, and child advocacy. She has expanded and strengthened the firm’s relationships with local and national legal services organizations, and championed the development of pro bono partnerships with law schools and corporate counsel with the goal of expanding the availability of free legal services. As a member of the firm’s management team, she works with firm leadership to ensure that pro bono work is an integral part of the firm’s culture, business, and professional development. She also participates in regional and national efforts to expand the availability of pro bono legal services.

Scanlon has also been instrumental in developing the firm’s diversity pipeline project at Constitution High School in Philadelphia. She sits on the school’s advisory committee, and helped develop job shadowing, mentoring, mock trial, and internship programs in which all students may participate.

In addition to serving as the firm’s Pro Bono Counsel and chairing its pro bono committee, Scanlon maintains a substantive practice in many areas of public interest law, including human rights, immigration, election protection, children’s advocacy, and poverty law matters.

Prior to joining Ballard Spahr, Scanlon was an attorney with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania where she represented parents and families in issues involving public schools and educational reform.

Scanlon is a member of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, and serves as Co-Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Law Firm Pro Bono Committee and on the board of Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program. She is an elected member and past President of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District’s Board of School Directors.

The Alumni Award of Merit, honoring professional achievement and service to the Law School, was awarded to Murray Greenberg C’65, L’68

Murray Greenberg served for 27 years as the First Assistant County Attorney and County Attorney for Miami-Dade County in Florida, presiding over one of the nation’s premier municipal legal departments. Greenberg personally represented the County in a number of high profile cases at both the trial and appellate levels, including the 2000 Presidential election cases (Bush v. Gore), the litigation surrounding the County’s bilingualism ordinance, and challenges under the federal Voting Rights Act relating to the districting of the County Commission. He also drafted and defended many provisions of the current County charter.

Following his retirement from government service in 2007, Greenberg worked at some of South Florida’s top law firms, where he presided as a mediator, arbitrator, and special master. Throughout his career, he has mentored countless young attorneys, many of whom have gone on to leadership roles in the judiciary, state and local government, academia, non-profits, and law firms.

Outside of practice, Greenberg has served for almost 40 years as an adjunct professor at numerous law schools, teaching courses in State and Local Government, Taxation, and Election Law. He also served as a member of a Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force and a Florida Bar Grievance Committee. He has served as President of the Good Government Initiative, an affiliate of the University of Miami, and as a member of the Mayor’s Election Advisory Group and the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Library.

A graduate of both Penn’s Law School and the College of Arts and Sciences, Greenberg has remained an active and dedicated member of the Penn community, and he played a leading role in establishing the Penn Law Alumni Club of South Florida. He has proudly provided mentorship, guidance, and friendship to Penn Law students, job applicants, and alumni for decades, helping them find successful careers both in and out of the public sector. He is the father of two and grandfather of six, and resides in Pinecrest (Miami area) with his wife.

He received both his BA in Political Science and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

The Distinguished Service Award, Honoring service to the Law School, was awarded to Michael A. Fitts

Michael Fitts’s vision for and support of interdisciplinary research and teaching remains incredibly influential in the shaping of the future of legal education. Under his leadership, Penn Law became and continues to be a national leader in cross-disciplinary legal education, with 30 degree and certificate programs offered in partnership with Wharton, the Medical School, and other schools on Penn’s campus. He expanded the size and academic breadth of the standing faculty, recruiting more than 25 renowned scholars and promising young intellectuals. In addition, Penn Law has expanded its global connections and impacts through a range of international partnerships and programs.

Fitts served as a clerk to Third Circuit Judge Leon Higginbotham and as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he served as outside counsel to the President, White House, and Cabinet. He has written on questions of administrative law, presidential power and separation of powers, and has argued for improving the structure of political parties and executive-branch decision making. Fitts is a member of the Law and Political Process Study Group of the American Political Science Association.

Fitts is a Philadelphia native, and contributed nearly 30 years to Penn Law as a faculty member, beginning his teaching career at Penn Law in 1985. His 14-year tenure as Dean of Penn Law ended in June of 2014, when he stepped down to become the 15th President of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Fitts holds an AB from Harvard College and a JD from Yale University.

The James Wilson Award, Honoring a lifetime of service to the profession, The Honorable Benjamin Lerner L’65

Lerner is currently a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Prior to his time on the bench, he served as Of Counsel at Dilworth Paxson, for fifteen years as Chief Defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and as Deputy Attorney General in the Pennsylvania Department of Justice’s Office of Criminal Law. He clerked for Judge Stanley A. Weigel on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California immediately following his Penn Law graduation. Judge Lerner has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Penn Law, teaching trial advocacy.

Judge Lerner, as head of the Defender Association, built the organization into one of national standing in its commitment to providing top quality representation to indigent defendants and was a powerful voice for improvements in the criminal justice system.

As a judge, he has been recognized nationally for his work with juvenile defendants and in ensuring quality representation in capital murder cases. He has served as a member of the Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, as a member and past President of the Board of Directors of National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and as a Teaching Team member of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, among many other appointments and affiliations. He was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1990, and he had received numerous awards from the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and the American Bar Association.

Lerner received his BA from Brandeis University in 1962. In 1965, he received his JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was a member of the Law Review and Order of the Coif.