On February 10, about 140 people gathered at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York to honor Law School students and alumni at the Seventh Annual Presentation Ceremony of Public Service Awards.
“It’s a community building and recognition event,” said Karen Comstock, Assistant Dean for Public Service. “We recognize our alumni who are out there doing public service, so they know that we value their work, and so they may be able to mentor our students.”
This year the event honored ten alumni and thirteen students. Alumni accomplishments include community development, preserving marine ecosystems, and providing free legal services to indigent clients in Mexico City.
“I talked with the students at the event, and they were all really thrilled with it; gratified to see lawyers they want to emulate,” Comstock said.
Law School alumni, faculty, and administrators nominate alumni, and the Public Service Committee reviews them. “We receive more than 50 nominations every year,” said Comstock. “We like to have diversity in every way possible—type of work, age, geography.”
The best part of the evening, Comstock said, is hearing the alumni talk about their work. “It’s so interesting, moving, and inspirational.”
“A lot of these folks are out there toiling away and trying to do justice, and they are not recognized,” she continued. “One of the awardees told me that when he got the phone call about the award, he shut his office door and burst into tears.”
It’s hard for Comstock to choose a representative awardee, but Elizabeth Barker ’89, who has been a public defender for 27 years, “is the type of person I really love to recognize,” she said. “Public defenders are often derided for representing people who committed heinous crimes, but they do it because they believe in human rights and respect for the rule of law.
“One student, who’s a real superstar, told me ‘I don’t see why I was nominated, I’m not that special!” Comstock notes. Reading both the student and alumni biographies makes it clear that all of them are superstars, with a wide range of passionate commitments.
One winner of the Freeman Award for Civil/Human Rights, Ann Eisenberg ‘12, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Morocco before coming to the Law School. Jackie Solivan ‘12, one of the winners of the Stanley E. Gould Prize for Public Interest Law, interned with the Federal Bureau of Consumer Protection
Then there’s one of the winners of the Seymour Herzog Memorial Prize, for excellent students with a commitment to public interest and a love of sports. Ben Tettlebaum ‘12 has taken his love of the outdoors into a passion for environmental justice.
Comstock believes that the Public Service Award Ceremony is succeeding in its goals. Student/alumni connections continue to flourish. “I hear from many people that this is their favorite alumni event of the year,” Comstock concludes.
Elizabeth Barker '89
Deputy Public Defender, Contra Costa County Public Defender, Martinez, CA
Andrew Cowan '08 (Rising Star Award)
Trial Attorney, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Public Defender Division, Dedham, MA
Gabriela Solis de Ibarrola LL.M. '02
Attorney, Bufete Juridico Gratuito Social, A.C., Mexico City
Matthew Faiella '05 (Rising Star Award)
Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, New York, NY
Neil Getnick '78
Partner, Getnick & Getnick, LLP, New York, NY
Len Kennedy '77
General Counsel, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington, DC
Peggy Lee ‘96
Senior Staff Attorney, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, Athens, OH
Michael Levine '80
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Local Initiatives Support Organization, New York, NY
Robin Lunge '95
State of Vermont Director of Health Care Reform, Burlington, VT
Jason Patlis '92
President, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Washington, DC
Awarded annually to the law student or students who have made the greatest contributions during his or her law school career to civil-human rights:
Erin Agee, Kira Devin, Ann Eisenberg, Jennifer Holsey, Melissa Koven, James McHale, Susan Millor.
Awarded annually to a third year student or students who have shown outstanding dedication to serving public interest law and public interest groups: L. Sheldon Clark, Jing-Lan Lee, Christine Ou, Jackie Solivan.
Awarded annually to a student or students who demonstrate excellence in the law and commitment to public interest law, combined with a love of sports:
Andrew Jacobson, Benjamin Tettlebaum.