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Penn Law Alumni Society celebrates distinguished graduates at 2018 awards ceremony

October 19, 2018

The award recipients spanned the decades, private and public sectors, and a range of pro bono interests.

By Caroline Harris

On October 18, the Penn Law Alumni Society honored distinguished alumni for their professional accomplishments and service to the Law School. The award recipients spanned the decades, private and public sectors, and a range of pro bono interests. 

Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger opened the ceremony, recognizing the inspiring accomplishments of the awardees. Ruger began by honoring Laura K. Christa L’80 posthumously with the Distinguished Service Award. Christa was a leader in the legal profession and a dedicated volunteer for Penn Law. She was the managing partner of Los Angeles-based litigation firm Christa & Jackson. A champion of the rights of women and girls, she advocated for the use of Title IX litigation and fundraised for female candidates in public office. Christa served as President of Penn Law Alumni Society Board of Managers.

“She packed an immense amount of life into her 63 years,” said Ruger.

Classmates remembered Christa as a lively spirit and beloved friend.

“Nobody worked harder at keeping in touch and no one worked harder at being a good friend,” Neil Hamburg L’80 said.

The Young Alumni Award went to Cate Brandon L’09 and Jamie Gullen L’12 in recognition of their professional achievements. Brandon is an associate at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. Previously, she served in the Obama Administration as Senior Counsel on Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She developed strategic responses to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation, the opioid epidemic, and the care and custody of unaccompanied migrant children apprehended at the U.S. border.

Brandon is passionate about immigration reform, arguing that “the consequences of Trump’s family separation policy are far from over and these families need your help.”

Penn Law honored Gullen for her work to increase education and employment opportunities for youth who have juvenile or criminal records. Gullen is a supervising attorney in the Employment Unit at Community Legal Services (CLS). In her six years at CLS, Gullen has helped lead large-scale advocacy campaigns to clear criminal records, to ban-the-box on college applications, and to prevent juvenile records from being considered by Philadelphia employers. Her overarching goal is “dismantling the systems of oppression that keep our clients trapped in poverty and disproportionately affect low-income people of color.”

Hannah Lieberman L’80 received the Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award for her work as the Legal Director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC). There, she supervises complex civil rights litigation, including cases seeking to improve the conditions of confinement for unaccompanied immigrant children at a detention center in Virginia. Previously, Lieberman served as Advocacy Director at Community Legal Services (CLS) and Maryland Legal Aid Bureau (MLAB), where she spearheaded class actions to secure workplace benefits for farmworkers and aid low-income residents.

“Whatever success I have had is also attributable to Penn Law,” she said.

Jennifer Kroman L’94 won the Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award for her extensive representation of survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. She is Director of Pro Bono Practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, where she aids hundreds of low-income individuals. Kroman says she feels “incredibly lucky” to have the opportunity to make a positive change, and counsels her daughters to “make it your life’s work to make the world a better place.”

This year’s James Wilson Award honored Gary Born L’81. In 2018, Chambers and Partners recognized Born as the most eminent figure in the world of international arbitration. He has taught a course on International Investment Arbitration at the Law School since 2016. Born has “fond memories of late nights in the library” at Penn Law.

 “I learned more from my classmates about life and the law than I can say,” Born said.

Anthony Gay L’94 won the Alumni Award of Merit for his contributions to the Penn African-American Law Alumni Society (PAALAS). He serves as Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs at PECO. He has served as co-lead of Exelon’s Legal Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is on the board of the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia.

In his remarks, Gay spoke of his admiration for the meaningful work of other Penn Law alumni: “The remarkable group we see here today goes to the remarkableness of Penn.”