2022 Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award Recipient: Su Ming Yeh, Esq.

Su Ming Yeh, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP). PILP is a nonprofit statewide legal aid organization headquartered in Philadelphia that works to ensure the health, safety, and humane treatment of incarcerated individuals throughout Pennsylvania through litigation and advocacy. Su Ming Yeh leads a team of lawyers who represent incarcerated and institutionalized people on their civil rights claims. 

During her almost twenty-year career at PILP, Yeh has improved the lives of thousands of people, protecting the rights of incarcerated people, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and countless others who suffered abuse behind bars. She has litigated dozens of individual cases and class action suits challenging unconstitutional conditions for people who are incarcerated, institutionalized, or detained. She has argued successfully before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Yeh’s victories include class action lawsuits involving jail overcrowding and denial of access to adequate medical care. Yeh’ success as a litigator includes protecting the due process rights of incarcerated people, winning a Third Circuit ruling (now precedential) that broadened the constitutional rights of people in immigration detention facilities and ensured that lawsuits on behalf of survivors of institutional sexual assault were not barred by qualified immunity. 

In the past two years as the Executive Director of PILP, Yeh has been committed to expanding the services of PILP, increasing diversity, and providing new staff with a strong foundation to grow their careers. Throughout her time with the organization, she has been a shoulder to lean on and someone PILP staff regularly turn to for advice and guidance, as her compassion extends to everyone with whom she interacts. 

Yeh’s dedication to social justice and her community extends beyond her legal career. Prior to law school, she worked on social justice issues as a science teacher with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Tonga. Yeh also served as the Executive Director of the Asian Professional Extension, Inc. and as a community organizer with the Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families. 

Yeh is also a dedicated member of the greater Philadelphia public interest community. Yeh served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she co-taught the Civil Practice Clinic for 5 years. She served as the President of the Asian Pacific Bar Association of Pennsylvania in 2015 and still serves on its board, along with serving on the board of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s House of Delegates, previously co-chaired the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Civil Rights Committee, and served as the Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Public Interest Section. She is the current co-chair of the Minority Bar Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. 

“Over the last fifteen years, I and many others have relied on Su Ming as an expert on the rights of people who are incarcerated, an expert in constitutional litigation generally, and one of the most active and generous leaders of the public interest Bar in Philadelphia.” – Mary Catherine Roper, Langer Grogan & Diver P.C.

“Ms. Yeh’s clients can count on her to not only vigorously advocate on their behalf in court, but to provide an understanding ear during some of the most difficult times in their lives. She does not hesitate to offer assistance beyond the case currently in front of her. Ms. Yeh’s compassion extends not only to PILP’s clients, but to the staff, interns, and volunteers. Even before she became the Executive Director of PILP, she was someone staff turned to for advice and guidance.” – Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz & Matthew Feldman, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project