By Leslie E. John, partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
In November at our annual Access to Justice event, we celebrated our 2019 Unified Giving Partners’ generous contributions to the Bar Foundation and the outstanding achievements of pro bono and public interest lawyers in Philadelphia. The evening kicked off with food, drinks and networking followed by an awards program. Linda Peyton, the Executive Director of Legal Clinic for the Disabled, received our Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award and Hausfeld LLP received our 2019 Pro Bono Award. Hon. Timothy K. Lewis closed the program with an eloquent and inspiring speech about the impact of the Equal Justice Center and the promise it holds of providing access to justice. Thank you to everyone who joined for a wonderful evening.
The generosity of our Unified Giving contributors and individual donors make the work of the Bar Foundation possible. As we prepare to make our annual grants to nearly 40 nonprofit partners at the end of this year, we are hopeful for additional donations in these final weeks. Because our grants are unrestricted financial support, they have a substantial impact on our nonprofit partners.
To give you an idea of the impact of the legal aid organizations we support, in 2018 they handled more than 11,000 pro bono cases. In 2019, their litigation, advocacy, and counsel have resulted in successes such as:
- The exoneration of Larry Trent Roberts through the work of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, an organization committed to providing legal resources to individuals who are wrongfully incarcerated. Through litigation led by legal director Nilam Sanghvi, also a Bar Foundation Trustee, Trent’s sentence was vacated after 13 years of imprisonment for a murder he did not commit.
- Right to Counsel legislation guaranteeing low income tenants the right to an attorney in eviction cases was passed unanimously in Philadelphia City Council advancing the work by the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project (PEPP), a collaborative effort launched by Mayor Jim Kenney and implemented by Community Legal Services (CLS), Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD), Philadelphia VIP, Regional Housing Legal Services (RHLS) and SeniorLAW Center (SLC).
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s ability to maintain our unrestricted grants to these important organizations relies on your generosity. If you haven’t given to us yet, we hope you will make a donation by mail or online at PhilaBarFoundation.org before December 31st, we also accept gifts of stock or other securities as well as retirement plan assets.
Judge Lewis challenged us at our Access to Justice event: “And I ask that you ask yourselves, ‘What have I done with the gifts I’ve been given to advance the cause of justice for those most in need?’” I urge you to consider an end-of-year donation. Thank you for your support!