Seven exceptional attorneys recognized for their outstanding work at the CBA and CBF Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon
Some of the most influential work done by Chicago’s legal community flies under the radar. The Chicago Bar Association and The Chicago Bar Foundation’s 16th Annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon on July 15, 2014 highlighted some of that important work, honoring seven truly exemplary lawyers in our community before more than 700 attendees at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago.
The award recipients represent a broad cross-section of Chicago’s legal community and share an unfaltering commitment to advancing justice and inspiring those around them to join the cause. This year’s recipients have represented victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, people seeking a fresh start after encounters with the criminal justice system, first responders, people facing discrimination, among many other people in need. Some brief information on this year’s award recipients follows, and more information on the honorees and background on the awards is available at chicagobarfoundation.org/awards.
The Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Fellowship
Catherine Longkumer’s commitment to protecting the rights of human trafficking victims began in college when she spent a month in Thailand volunteering her time to help those trying to leave the sex trade. In 2012, Catherine joined the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services as an Equal Works Fellow to help launch ATLASST, an anti-trafficking initiative that provides holistic pro bono legal services to survivors of human trafficking. Over the last two years, she has served more than 30 clients, trained more than 100 pro bono attorneys and led awareness efforts reaching hundreds of people.
The Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award
As the head of the Allstate law department’s mentoring program, Mary Jo Quinn devotes substantial time to pro bono service while also supporting and inspiring others to get involved. She helped build a pro bono program that has resulted in nearly 60 volunteers from Allstate giving over 1,000 hours of pro bono services to Cabrini Green Legal Aid clients, personally accounting for over 100 of those hours. Thanks to Mary Jo’s leadership, Allstate is currently the only corporate law department handling clemency petitions, an important expansion of corporate pro bono.
The Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award
Jill Metz has devoted her 35-year career in law to litigating, advocating and educating the public on LGBT legal issues, both in her private practice and through pro bono service. Jill was instrumental in Illinois becoming the sixteenth state to recognize the freedom to marry. A long-time member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Jill began working closely with the organization in 1991 on a groundbreaking case that secured a ruling that custody of a child may not be denied because of a parent’s sexual orientation, the first of many noteworthy pro bono efforts in her amazing legal career.
The Leonard Jay Schrager Award of Excellence
For nearly 40 years, Professor Michael Seng of The John Marshall Law School has been inspiring countless students to devote their careers to public service and become leaders in a multitude of good causes. Beyond training students in fair housing law, in 1992 he founded the John Marshall Fair Housing Legal Clinic, the first law school clinic in the country to solely handle issues involving housing discrimination. Professor Seng’s influence also extends beyond the United States in 1993, he organized delegations of lawyers and judges to assist the Czech and Slovak Republics in rebuilding their legal systems following the fall of Communism, and he has been involved in many other international efforts as well.
The Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award
Having graduated from The John Marshall Law School only eight years ago, Brian Jones has already developed a successful law practice and bettered the profession through his exemplary leadership and involvement in pro bono and the CBA Young Lawyers Section. As one of the leaders in the Wills for Heroes program, which provides free estate planning to first responders, Brian has spent hundreds of hours planning, recruiting and training volunteers for the program in the Chicago area, where it is run by the CBA Young Lawyers Section and already has helped thousands of police, fire and other first responders.
The Richard J. Phelan Public Service Award
Michael J. Pelletier has spent his entire career advocating on behalf of indigent defendants. In his 38 years at the Office of the State Appellate Defender (OSAD), he has worked tirelessly to ensure that OSAD’s clients and staff receive the highest possible level of respect, fair treatment and advocacy. He directs the work of more than 170 attorneys and 60 support staff who handle approximately 4,800 cases throughout Illinois’ five appellate districts, and has implemented policies to support the long-term health of the agency.
The Thomas H. Morsch Public Service Award
Denice Wolf Markham has been a fierce advocate for domestic violence victims throughout her entire legal career, which spans more than 30 years. She is the Executive Director of Life Span, a Chicago-based nonprofit that combines counseling, criminal court advocacy and legal representation to offer clients a comprehensive solution to the violence in their lives. Under her leadership, the organization has grown exponentially and launched a number of innovative initiatives and she has helped make it possible for thousands of victims of domestic violence to be safe and stable.