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Board of Directors

Eric J. Rothschild, Chair

Pepper Hamilton LLP


Brian T. Feeney, Vice Chair 

Greenberg Traurig LLP


Melissa A. Wojtylak, Treasurer

Reed Smith LLP


Scott Bennett Freemann, Secretary

Freemann Law Offices


Danielle Banks

Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP


Richard L. Bazelon

Bazelon Less & Feldman


Anna M. Bryan

White and Williams LLP


Nicholas E. Chimicles

Chimicles & Tikellis


William H. Ewing


Joseph B.G. Fay

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP


H. Robert Fiebach

Cozen O'Connor


Howard R. Flaxman

Fox Rothschild LLP


Ellen S. Friedell

Reaching Agreement ADR LLC


Rachel Gallegos

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas 


Monique Galloway


George G. Gordo

Dechert LLP


Stacy L. Hawkins

Diversity Consultant

Rutgers School of Law - Camden


Marilyn Heffley

Reed Smith 


Donald K. Joseph

Rutgers School of Law - Camden


Joseph W. "Chip" Marshall, III

Stevens & Lee


Marciene S. Mattleman

After School Activities Partnership

KYW Newsradio


Stacey McConnell

Lamb McErlane PC 


Sharon F. McKee

Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin   


Aneesh Mehta

Volpe and Koenig 


Jeffrey S. Moller

Blank Rome


H. Laddie Montague, Jr.

Berger & Montague PC


Carlos S. Montoya



Derek Redcross, CPA

Redcross Associates


Paul H. Saint-Antoine

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP


Marc A. Topaz

Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check, LLP


Shelly D. Yanoff

Public Citizens for Children & Youth



Brandi Brice

Barristers' Association


Rudolph Garcia, Chancellor

Philadelphia Bar Association


Ellen T. Greenlee

Defender Association of Philadelphia


John Savoth, Chancellor-Elect
Philadelphia Bar Association


Djung Tran

Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania


Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Vice Chancellor

Philadelphia Bar Association



Mark Aronchick

Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin


Barbara Binis

Reed Smith LLP


Renee Chenault-Fattah

NBC 10


Roger J. Dennis

Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University

Dean JoAnne Epps

Temple University Beasley School of Law


Richard Z. Freemann

Freemann Law Offices


Honorable James T. Giles

Pepper Hamilton LLP


Clifford E. Haines

Haines & Associates


Ernest E. Jones

Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation


Michael L. Lehr

Greenberg Traurig LLP


Honorable Timothy K. Lewis

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, LLP


Arthur E. Newbold, IV

Dechert LLP


Albert P. Parker, II

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals


Helen P. Pudlin

PNC Bank


Michael H. Reed

Pepper Hamilton LLP


Sister Mary Scullian

Project H.O.M.E.


Ralph Smith

Annie E. Casey Foundation


Charles F. Thomson

Thomson Communications

Letter from the Executive Director    


"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."


Martin Luther King's famous paraphrase of 19th century minister Theodore Parker sustains us as we encounter bumps in our pursuit of a better life for our clients. As we write in this newsletter, we've appealed a disappointing ruling in a lawsuit -- the first of its kind -- that addresses the disproportionate placement of African American students in special education and below grade courses. The district court judge ruled that the students had not offered enough evidence that the segregation that they experienced was intentional.


We are sustained by King's sentiment because we knew when we took on our goals and mission that the problems are hard to solve -- indeed that is precisely why we took them on: we wade in where others have given up. It is therefore particularly gratifying when a court, or a policymaker takes up and advances our goals. As we describe below, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, someone else agreed with us that low income families should not be forced to pay ruinous -- and unlawful -- truancy fines. Those fines have now been reduced by nearly half a million dollars. People have been trying to solve the "autism shuffle" policy in the School District of Philadelphia for at least a decade; this is a policy that moves children with autism from school to school while their non-disabled peers stay put. A district judge has allowed a lawsuit finally challenging that policy to proceed.


I've been thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. in other respects, too, being deeply engrossed in Taylor Branch's excellent Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63. Combating voter suppression -- recognized as a key to ending segregation in 1961 -- remains significant 50 years later with the emergence of a new suppression effort in the form of proposals to require all voters to have identification. The dismal financial situation that constantly limited the scale of the ambitions of King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference rings true today as the dismal financial situation affecting all of America harms the Law Center.


The most important lesson from King, though, is his insistence on treating his adversaries with dignity and respect. It was and is particularly easy to vilify our "opponents": those who are introducing the voter ID laws with which we disagree or pursue the education policies that segregate African American students or impose financial burdens on low income people. I often think that loud denunciations would feel better. But then I wonder: will this actually solve the problem? Will it persuade the legislators or school administrators or employers that our goal, our mission, is the one that is just? The answer, I think, is no; so it is that we are taking yet another hard road by appealing to reason, with a recognition of humanity of every person -- even those with whom we profoundly disagree.


Once again, we cannot say enough times how much we appreciate all of your support: your generous financial contributions, volunteer work, good ideas and leadership. The work that we take on and the way that we do it only is made possible by you.


Joy to the world/happy holidays!



Very truly yours, 



jenny sig

Jennifer R. Clarke

Executive Director

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Email: tgoodman@pilcop.org


In This Email:

SymposiumThanks to All Who Attended This Year's Symposium and Award Dinner! 

Jerry Balter
On October 6th, the Law Center held its Fourth Annual Symposium on Equality. This year we explored environmental justice in urban communities and the strategies and tools EJ advocates can use to reduce disproportionate burdens and develop healthy, sustainable communities.

The Symposium was followed by the Thaddeus Stevens Award Dinner, which this year honored pioneering EJ activist and emeritus Law Center attorney Jerry Balter for his tenacious efforts to help low-income and minority communities in Philadelphia, Chester, and throughout the region in the face of discriminatory environmental policies.

The events, which included the Symposium, a cocktail reception, a silent auction, a dinner, and the award presentation, were a huge success, with over 200 environmental justice advocates, Law Center supporters, and friends and admirers of Jerry in attendance throughout the day.

You can view pictures from the Symposium and the Dinner on our Facebook page! (Be sure to "Like" us to stay up-to-date on Law Center updates, pictures, and issue news.) 
Public Health & Environmental Justice
Law Center Launches New Community Garden Initiative
 Amy Laura
Attorney and long-time community organizer Amy Laura Cahn recently joined the Law Center to launch the Garden Justice Legal Initiative, an effort to provide pro bono legal support, advocacy, and policy research to community gardens and urban farmers in Philadelphia's communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, and historically disinvested neighborhoods.

The initiative, supported by a Skadden Fellowship, aims to empower communities to overcome the food insecurity that plagues Philadelphia, and also to help them take control of the 40,000 vacant and abandoned lots in Philadelphia that stand in the way of positive development and community self-determination.
Read more about the project.
Sometimes, even a garden needs a lawyer -- Broad Street Media, LLC, 10/27/2011

MFSBriefVerdict Could Undermine Environmental Regulation, According to Law Center Amicus Brief
The Law Center and nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice recently submitted an amicus brief to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the case MFS vs. DiLazaro, arguing that public health considerations counsel that state employees who are enforcing environmental regulations should be subject to personal liability only in extreme and clear circumstances.  
MFS, Inc. sued four employees of the Department of Environmental Protection for allegedly violating its rights by taking excessive and retaliatory action against it. The corporation was awarded $6.5 million in damages -- to be paid by the individual employees -- in a jury verdict that was then overturned on appeal.

The amicus brief urges the Third Circuit Court to sustain the ruling overturning the jury verdict, which, if reinstated, would have an immediate and severe chilling effect on environmental regulation.
Read more.
Read the brief.
SpEdSpecial Education

Law Center & Clients Appeal District Judge Ruling for LMSD in Blunt

The Law Center and its partners at DLA Piper have appealed an October ruling by District Judge Bartle which granted the Lower Merion School District's Motion for Summary Judgment in the case Blunt vs. LMSD.   


The judge ruled that the seven students in the case had not produced enough evidence that the acknowledged disproportionate placement of African American students in special education and below grade courses were the result of intentional discrimination. The court make this ruling despite irregularities in their disability diagnoses and special education programming, and despite the fact that this disproportionality has existed for many years without being addressed.


The Law Center and its clients disagree with the Judge's ruling and will continue in our campaign to end the disproportionate and inappropriate placement of black students in special education and low-level classes.

Read the decision.

Read the Law Center's statement in response. 


Richmond Kids
Above: named plaintiffs in PV vs. School District of Philadelphia

Judge Strongly Rejects School District of Philadelphia's Motions to Dismiss in Autism Case  

On October 31st, Judge Legrome Davis firmly rejected the School District of Philadelphia's motions to dismiss or limit the scope of P.V. vs. the School District of Philadelphia, a lawsuit the Law Center filed in June, 2011 on behalf of four students with autism. The lawsuit alleges that the District's policy of automatically transferring students with autism between schools violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Read more. 

Read the decision.   

Ninth Circuit Decision in Anchorage v. M.P. Vindication for Parents 

On November 1st, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a brisk rebuke to the Alaska District Court, overturning its ruling in Anchorage School District (ASD) v. M.P. that the ASD did not deny Law Center client M.P. a free and appropriate public education "because M.P.'s parents failed to cooperate with the ASD" in preparing a new IEP.

The ruling is a powerful response to an unfortunately prevalent attitude that blames parents for any problems in a student's education.
As the decision forcefully states, it is the legal responsibility of the schools - not the parents - to provide students with a free and appropriate education. We thank our partners at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and in particular Nicholas Miranda, for their excellent lawyering which ensured the success in this case.  
Read more.
Read the decision.
Support our special education practice by sponsoring a subscription to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Law Reporter, a source of up-to-date information on special education caselaw that will help us efficiently and effectively serve children with disabilities in the Philadelphia area.

Donate now! The subscription costs $1359, and whatever contribution you can make toward that total is greatly appreciated. 

HealthCareHealthcare Access 

Law Center Briefs Supreme Court on Deficient Access to Healthcare

On August 5th, Law Center attorney James Eiseman and Tulsa-based attorney Louis Bullock submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California on behalf of the American Medical Association and other organizations, documenting for the Court how inadequate Medicaid payment rates for doctors and dentists have effectively denied health care to children enrolled in Medicaid. The Law Center has extensive experience with the problem, litigating a Medicaid-access case in Florida (see below) and having litigated other similar cases in Michigan, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. 


The brief was quoted in a New York Times article about the case, saying that "Judicial enforcement is the only viable means to remedy states' noncompliance with the Medicaid Act."    


Read more about the brief, or read the full brief here. Oral arguments were heard in the case on October 3rd.  


Trial Continues in Florida Medicaid Case 

Law Center attorney Jim Eiseman returned to Florida early in October as trial continued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of almost 2 million children enrolled in or eligible for Medicaid. The defense presented much of its case, which included testimony from a number of Florida Medicaid officials.


Cross examination by co-counsel Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP as well as Eiseman revealed that much of the testimony conflicted with prior statements made by other health officials and even the witnesses themselves. A recent article by the Associated Press discussed the case and the contradictory reports given about the state of Medicaid in Florida.   



Law Center Appeals State Decision to Withhold Essential

Medicaid Information 

Jim Eiseman
Jim Eiseman heads the Law Center's healthcare access efforts

Law Center attorney Jim Eiseman recently appealed a refusal by the state's Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to provide information about the rates DPW pays to insurance companies to provide dental care to children enrolled in Medicaid in southeastern Pennsylvania. Publicly available information shows that a dismally low number of children actually receive medical care even though the federal law requires it. A recent report gave Pennsylvania a grade of D (up from an F) for its dental care.


Information about the rates that dentists are offered and how they are set is essential because unreasonably low rates deter dentists from providing service to Pennsylvania's 1 million children enrolled in Medicaid. Low rates also violate the Medicaid law, which requires that the rates be set high enough to ensure that Medicaid recipients can easily access care. 


All substantive parts of Eiseman's request were denied by DPW, which asserted that the rates are "trade secrets" and that revealing them would disrupt the Department's ability to negotiate with Medicaid providers. Eiseman appealed the decision with Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records. At least five insurance companies have intervened to protect the secrecy of the information. 


You can read the appeal here.

Read the report giving grading PA's dental care.  

VotingRightsVoting Rights  

 Law Center Joins Coalition to Protect Voting Rights 

A Protect Our Vote press conference in Harrisburg. (Groups rally against voter ID bill - ABC27) 
Across the country, politicians are pushing to pass voter identification laws that could lead to widespread disenfranchisement of low-income, minority, elderly, and disabled populations, all of whom are less likely to have photo ID and face additional barriers to obtain them.
In Pennsylvania, the State House of Representatives passed such a law in
House Bill 934. The Law Center has joined the Protect Our Vote coalition, which includes Project HOME, the ACLU, and many other organizations, in an effort to fight the bill as it comes before the Senate. Contact your Pennsylvania State Senator today to oppose HB 934!

These voted ID laws, which proponents claim are meant to stop voter fraud, are only effective against a type of fraud that almost never occurs.

Click to view a "Map of Shame" compiled by the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights showing where these laws exist across the country, and to learn more about the issue.
Education Quality & Equity
Truancy Fines Reduced in Lebanon School District

The Law Center and the Lebanon NAACP released a report in September announcing that analysis of court records in the Lebanon School District shows that the Magistrate Judges have stopped issuing truancy fines in excess of $300 and have reduced 91% of the excessive fines originally imposed that were still outstanding - wiping out more than $450,000 in truancy fines owed by parents

In the past year, the District has reduced the number of truancy summons it filed in court by 25%, and the fines this year total less than 43% the dollar amount of the fines imposed two years ago.

Despite these positive developments, the District has continued to oppose repaying any of the excessive fines already paid to them, totaling about $108,000. Also, the NAACP continues to note that the District rarely (if ever) follows the state Department of Education's recommendations that schools arrange truancy conferences with parents before turning to the courts.

Read more.

Read the full report. 

UpdatesLaw Center Updates
In Memoriam: Ella Wright 

Ella Wright, a part of the Law Center family since 2009, passed away in November. She will be deeply missed here at the Law Center, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family in this difficult time.
Thank You to our Fall Extern and Deferred Associate!  
As our Fall intern, Aviva Reinfeld, and deferred associate, Jenai St. Hill, finish their time at the Law Center, the Law Center staff would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for the great work they've done!Aviva

Aviva Horrow Reinfeld is a third-year student at Stanford Law School doing a year-long externship with the Law Center. Her clinical and intern experience has focused on environmental law, and she has worked on a wide variety of projects with the Law Center, including heading the Law Center's involvement in the Protect Our Vote coalition.

JenaiJenai St. Hill, a 2011 graduate of Columbia Law School, has worked at the Law Center over the past months as part of Reed Smith's deferred associate program. She will officially join Reed Smith LLP as an associate in January 2012.

Thank you for the important work you do in support of the Law Center's mission!
BoardStacey McConnell Elected to Board of Directors

Stacey McConnell

At its September meeting, the Law Center's Board of Directors elected Stacey McConnell of Lamb McErlane PC to join the Board.  


Stacey chairs her firm's Estate Planning and Trusts Department and has been in private practice in the Philadelphia area for more than 20 years, representing both individuals and institutions. Her practice focuses on estate planning, administration of trusts and estates, charitable giving, and sophisticated wealth preservation and transfer techniques.


Stacey has served as President of the Chester County Estate Planning Council and is a member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council. She is a graduate of Duke University, Stetson College of Law, and the Graduate Tax Program at Boston University School of Law.


From all of us at the Law Center, we would like to extend a warm welcome and our thanks to Stacey for her commitment to furthering the Law Center's mission! 

EventsUpcoming Sessions in Know Your Child's Rights Series 

All sessions will take place from 12:00-4:00pm on the listed day at the United Way Building, located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Sessions also available via webinar.


Extended School Year: Who Doesn't Need It? 

Date: Tuesday, January 24th  

Time: 12:00-4:00pm

Cost: Pay What You Can!    

This session is focused on the need and process to ensure extended school year (individualized summer programming) for students with disabilities. We schedule it in January because parents and schools must make timely and early decisions about ESY for students with disabilities, rather than waiting until spring. Ben Geffen, another attorney at the Law Center experienced in special education law, will join Sonja Kerr in teaching this session.
Register now!� 

ADAAA, 504 & Chapter 15: Services Needed, Discrimination Avoided  

Date: Tuesday, February 21st

Time: 12:00-4:00pm

Cost: Pay What You Can!
This session recognizes the critical role of the ADAAA, 504 and Chapter 15 to meet the needs of students with a variety of disabilities who do not qualify for special education services. Parents, advocates, teachers, and attorneys are invited to learn about recent cases and practical strategies in formulating 504 service agreements. Charles Weiner, a local attorney experienced in ADA/504 matters, will join Sonja Kerr to discuss ADA/504 and Chapter 15.

Register now!  


Full schedule / multi-session registration 

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is dedicated to advancing the Constitutional promise of equal citizenship to all persons irrespective of race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender or poverty. We use public education, continuing education of our clients and client organizations, research, negotiation and, when necessary, the courts to achieve systemic reforms that advance the central goals of self-advocacy, social justice and equal protection of the law for all members of society. www.pilcop.org

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia is a registered charitable organization. A copy of the official registration may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free within Pennsylvania 1.800.732.0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.