By Meredith S. Auten, President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
On Thursday, November 9, 2023, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation will host our annual Access to Justice Awards Ceremony at Philadelphia’s Fitler Club. The event celebrates the best of Philadelphia’s public interest community, civil legal aid organizations, and the businesses and law firms that partner with the Foundation to deliver on the promise of equal access to justice for all people.
The opportunity that the Access to Justice Awards Celebration provides to connect and reconnect with the public interest community is always a cause for celebration, but this year I am particularly excited and inspired by the extraordinary award recipients: our Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award winner Professor Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey School of Law; and our Pro Bono Award Winner the law firm of Holland and Knight. Their work epitomizes the ideals of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and provides real world examples of how the legal community can unite and engage in philanthropy to remove barriers to justice.
Established in 1979 by the Apothaker family, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award recognizes the work of public interest attorneys who have dedicated their careers to the fight for equal access to justice. Throughout his career, Professor Seth Kreimer has demonstrated the ideals inherent to the aspirations of the Apothaker family and the fundamental goals of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
Professor Seth Kreimer has taught at the Penn Carey Law school for over three decades. Over the course of his tenure, Professor Kreimer has taught, mentored, and collaborated with many of our non-profit partners. The ACLU; Community Legal Services; Disability Rights Pennsylvania; Juvenile Law Project; Mazzoni Center; Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project; Public Interest Law Center; Women’s Law Project; and the AIDS Law Project have all benefited from his board service and counsel. He has authored numerous amicus briefs in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and federal courts of appeal on significant public interest issues. Through extraordinary work in the classroom, the courtroom, and the community, Professor Kreimer has benefitted so many in the Commonwealth. Professor Kreimer even taught two previous winners of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award: Mary Catherine Roper and last year’s recipient, Su Ming Yeh. It is remarkable to see the impact that a single committed individual can have. We look forward to celebrating Professor Kreimer and the breadth and depth of his accomplishments.
I am also excited to acknowledge the work that Holland & Knight has done with its pro bono support to asylum seekers following the conclusion of America’s military engagement in Afghanistan. The massive evacuation effort which coincided with the drawdown in August 2022 demanded a tremendous humanitarian response. The World Church Service (WCS) in Central Pennsylvania welcomed 220 Afghan allies. Legal experts and the team at Holland & Knight responded to the sudden demand for immigration legal services. The Philadelphia office hosted members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association to educate potential volunteers and interested staff. In addition, Holland & Knight recruited 45 attorneys and support staff from 14 offices across the country to work with over thirty clients, comprising over a dozen individual asylum cases, treating each individual case with the highest caliber of service. Holland & Knight’s actions demonstrate how well the private bar can step up in the face of an unanticipated crisis to donate expert skills and services to solve complex, pressing legal problems, and make a positive, lasting impact on community.
As the president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, I am often asked what does the Bar Foundation do? I am always proud to talk about the many things we do to remove barriers to justice, build system-wide capacity, and engage the community in support of our philanthropy for justice. I am even more proud to point to examples of individuals and firms, such as Professor Seth Kreimer and Holland & Knight, and showcase how their work reflects all the possibilities and triumphs to which the Foundation aspires.
We hope you will join us to celebrate these worthy award recipients and our generous sponsors and supporters. If you would like to join us at our event, please make sure that your law firm has participated in our Unified Giving Program for 2023. We also have many sponsorship opportunities available for this special event. Please see these wonderful opportunities available on our website: https://www.philabar- foundation.org/events/2023-access-justice-awards-celebration.
We look forward to celebrating with you!