Court Gives Out Pro Bono Publico Awards
Attorney Mary Moran lived up to the award she received for her pro bono work.
During the First Judicial District’s second annual Pro Bono Publico Awards ceremony last Thursday, Moran volunteered for the several judges gathered at the ceremony to assign her more pro bono cases.
“It would be my honor to extend my services to them,” said Moran, selected by the criminal division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court to receive an award.
Moran said that after leaving her work as a public defender 2½ years ago to enter private practice and reaching some financial success, she went to judges and volunteered for pro bono assignments in order to give back to the community from the harvest of her prosperity.
During the ceremony, the names of Moran and over 300 attorneys who provided pro bono services in 2007 scrolled over a screen as attorneys and court officials mingled in the sixth-floor City Hall Alex Bonavitacola Law Library.
Moran, five other attorneys and a committee were selected to receive an additional pro bono commendation by a committee composed of judges, a court system civil servant and three outside attorneys.
These honors are important because it comes from judges to honor ethical, effective advocates of indigent clients in their courtrooms, said Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Annette Rizzo.
The Landlord Tenant Liaison committee, chosen for an honor by the civil branch of the Common Pleas trial division, was selected for improving the forms and information used in the court for pro se tenant litigants and, among other proposed procedural improvements, developing a mandatory mediation program to handle landlord-tenant disputes.
“I was very pleased, surprised, more shocked,” said Kenneth Baritz of Kenneth L. Baritz & Associates about receiving the award along with other participants in the Landlord Tenant Liaison committee. The committee with an estimated 12 members included both attorneys like Baritz who represent property owners and attorneys who represent tenants.
Gary Server, selected by the juvenile branch of the family division for an award, was humbled to be recognized by judges for his work handling both delinquent and dependency cases. “I didn’t realize anyone was watching,” Server said.
Server said his ultimate reward comes when family members scream out in jubilation “when families get back together and a judge discharges the case.”
Server was selected because he represents the advocacy that can check judges’ power in litigants’ lives, “power best contained and curtailed by legal representation,” said Administrative Judge Kevin M. Dougherty of the Family Court division.
Server has worked alongside another honoree, W. Fred Harrison Jr. on felony, including death penalty, cases, Harrison and Server said.
Harrison was selected by the criminal branch of the trial division to be honored for his superior knowledge of the law and his passionate advocacy of indigent criminal clients, President Judge C. Darnell Jones II said.
Attorney Megan Watson, selected by the domestic relations branch of the family division, was honored, Family Court Judge Idee Fox said jokingly, for letting judges guilt trip her and chase her down the hallway to take pro bono assignments. Watson is able to get angry, bitter families to focus on the children they’re fighting over, Fox said.
Attorney Howard Soloman was selected by the Orphans’ Court division because of his above-and-beyond pro bono work, including volunteering to create a guardianship manual, said Administrative Judge Joseph D. O’Keefe of the Orphans’ Court.
David H. Denenberg of Abramson and Denenberg, selected by the civil division of the Municipal Court, said he has been driven to volunteer with cases involving elderly clients since he was once asked to evict a 92-year-old tenant mid-winter. Since then he has accepted any pro bono cases that have ever come into his office. “I don’t think I’ve ever said no,” Denenberg said.
Jones said it’s easy to volunteer time episodically. He thanked the honorees for giving more. “It’s another thing to give time. It’s another thing to give energy. It’s another thing to give heart,” Jones said.
— Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter