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Penn Law welcomes Sherrilyn Ifill as Honorary Fellow during Public Interest Week

Today, Penn Law kicks off its 11th Annual Public Interest Week, bringing together students, noted public interest lawyers, policymakers, and scholars for a variety of panels and other events addressing the theme of “Justice for All.” Among the featured speakers is this year’s Honorary Fellow-in-Residence, preeminent civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill.

Each year, the Penn Law faculty invite an attorney working at the forefront of significant public interest legal issues to serve as the law school’s Honorary Fellow-in-Residence. Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights legal organization. As a highly regarded national civil rights strategist, she regularly contributes to the ongoing public conversation about many political and civil rights issues.

Ifill is also a former law professor and critically-acclaimed author who has written extensively on issues of race in American public life, including in her book On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century. During Public Interest Week, Ifill will spend time with Penn Law students, faculty, staff, and alumni sharing her experience and expertise both during informal discussions and at an evening dinner presentation on Thursday, October 4.

“We are sincerely honored to be hosting Ms. Ifill as our Honorary Fellow-in-Residence this year,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. “The opportunity to have a powerhouse advocate like Ms. Ifill at the center of our Public Interest Week shines a light for our community on the power of public service to effect impactful change.”

Public Interest Week will also feature events and speakers touching on a wide range of public interest issues, including mass incarceration, eviction and housing legislation, family separation, the #MeToo movement, and environmental justice. The week includes a variety of programming, much of which is planned by students for students, including panel discussions and an interactive simulation of life with a criminal record.

On October 3, Allison Zieve, Director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, will give a talk on “Litigating to Preserve Public Protections in Deregulatory Times.” Zieve maintains an active litigation practice focusing on public, consumer safety, open government, federal preemption, class action standards, and First Amendment issues, and has argued before the United States Supreme Court.

The week will conclude with the Toll Public Interest Center’s annual student and alumni bash, a celebration of  Penn Law’s collective continued work toward justice.

“Our week is a collaborative undertaking that brings us all together to examine some of the most critical substantive issues of our time, and to reflect on our role as lawyers and as engaged citizens who want to make the world a better place – where, as this year’s theme contemplates, justice truly can be for all,” said Finkelstein.   

Penn Law’s 11th Annual Public Interest Week is coordinated by the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC), which is the hub of public service at Penn Law. TPIC oversees the Penn Law pro bono program, facilitating a wide array of pro bono and public service opportunities through which students engage in impactful service while honing critical legal skills. In addition to administering the pro bono graduation requirement, TPIC is home to all of Penn Law’s public interest programming, including the Toll Public Service Corps – a group of Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows, who all aspire to become advocates for advancing justice.

Public Interest Week runs from October 1 through October 5. For more information about the week’s events and to view the schedule, click here.