50 Years of Fighting for Justice
50th Anniversary Public Interest Law Center logo

In 1969, we were founded as a Philadelphia affiliate of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. In the five decades since, we have fought for, and won, lasting changes that help communities stand up for their rights in the face of discrimination and poverty. Throughout our history, we have broken down barriers that seemed insurmountable and stood in the way of basic human needs: a safe home, a voice at the ballot box, an education for all children, and much more. 

This year, in 2019, we will celebrate this history, and highlight how it informs our work today, with special events, reflections on the principles that form our foundation, and bold ideas for the future. We'll be sharing information about how you can be a part of this celebration throughout the year--and we hope you'll join us!
A collage of images from the Law Center_s history
Save the Date: Our 50th Anniversary Event Series 
To celebrate this milestone, we are hosting a series of events throughout the year highlighting our history, our work today, and our plans for the future. Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more information and events as the year goes on! If you have any questions about these events, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.

Launching the new Grounded in Philly

Thursday, April 11, 2019
One Art Community Center, 1431 North 52nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Free, registration information coming soon

This Spring, help us celebrate the launch of the new and improved Grounded in Philly, a one-stop online resource ecosystem for the urban agriculture and open space community in Philadelphia. Join us in One Art Community Center's beautiful outdoor garden space for music, food and a demonstration of the new site.

Photo of Yards Brewery

Young Professionals Networking Event

Thursday, June 13, 2019
Yards Brewing Company, 500 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Join us at Yards Brewing Company to network with other young professionals and learn about our work combating employment discrimination, both for those with criminal histories and those with disabilities. Enjoy Yards beer and tasty hors d'oeuvres while networking in a relaxed and unstructured environment.

Click here to purchase tickets

A voting booth

A Celebration of the Right to Vote

Thursday, November 7, 2019
7303 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119

Law Center board member Howard Langer will host an intimate dinner party celebrating our long and storied history of defending and strengthening the right to vote. Learn more about what's coming next in this important work and how you can get involved. 

Working to Keep Guns Out of the Classroom in Pennsylvania
Gun free school zone sign
Arming teachers and other school personnel not only goes against existing state and federal law--research shows that introducing more guns in schools will make students and teachers less safe. In late December 2018, we joined CeaseFirePA, the Education Law Center of PA, and Public Citizens for Children and Youth to file an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit filed by the Tamaqua Education Association, the union for classroom teachers, guidance counselors and librarians, challenging Tamaqua Area School District's proposed policy of arming school personnel. On January 16, the school district voted to postpone the implementation of this misguided and dangerous policy in response to the lawsuit and pressure from parents, teachers, and students.

Highlighting Environmental Racism and Health Disparities in Philadelphia
A smokestack against blue sky
Pennsylvania has the second largest racial and economic disparity in exposure to air pollution in the nation.  At a December 12 hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee of Philadelphia City Council, Executive Director Jennifer Clarke delivered testimony prepared by Staff Attorney Ebony Griffin on the disparate health impacts of air pollution on low-income and minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia, using Nicetown as a case study. The Philadelphia Department of Air Management granted a permit for a natural gas plant in the neighborhood, even though the community already faces some of the nation's highest levels of fine particulate pollution. Griffin proposed changes to the process by which polluting facilities are approved, such as an Environmental Justice Protocol, originally conceptualized by the late Jerry Balter, a former Law Center attorney. This protocol would make civil rights and public health an explicit consideration in every review process.  Read the full testimony here.

PA Schools Work Update: New Reports Show that Local Districts are Feeling the Strain of Inadequate State Funding
On January 30th_ PA Schools Work held a press conference calling on Gov. Wolf to make bold investments in education in his upcoming state budget. Above_ Kari King of PA Partnerships for Children speaks.
On January 30th, PA Schools Work held a press conference calling on Gov. Wolf to make bold investments in education in his upcoming state budget. Above, Kari King of PA Partnerships for Children speaks.
We are proud to be a founding member of PA Schools Work, a non-partisan campaign to ensure that Pennsylvania public schools are adequately and equitably funded. In recent months, our partner organizations in this coalition have released a series of reports and surveys on the challenges faced by local districts. 
  • In October 2018, the Education Law Center of PA and PA Schools Work released a report showing that special education costs are rising much faster than state aid. For every new dollar Harrisburg contributed for special education from 2008 to 2016, local districts chipped in 20. Check out coverage of this report from WHYY.
  • Local districts face similar struggles in funding career and technical education (CTE), according to a report released by PA Partnerships for Children and PA Schools Work in January. The report shows that local schools foot 90% of the bill to send students to CTE centers. Read more in this story from the York Dispatch.
  • In their annual budget survey, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators found that districts across the state are facing rising fixed costs for charter schools, pensions and special education. Only 16 percent of districts reported being better off financially than last school year. Read more from WHYY
All of these reports highlight the same essential fact: state funding has not kept pace with need. For the sake of our children's education and our state's future, Harrisburg legislators must make significant additional investments in school funding. 

Blast from the Past: The Nation's First Community Right to Know Ordinance
Philadelphia Inquirer story covering the Community Right to Know ordinance
Philadelphia Inquirer story covering the Community Right to Know ordinance
To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we will look back throughout the year on past cases that help form the foundations of our work today.  

In many ways, our work in environmental justice today is built on the foundation of one of our most significant historic victories: the passage of the nation's first Community Right to Know Ordinance in Philadelphia. In 1979, residents in Bridesburg, a heavily industrialized community, faced cancer death rates that were twice the national average and air contaminated with many toxic chemicals. Working with Bridesburg residents and a coalition of unions and environmental organizations, we drafted the first ever Community Right to Know ordinance, which gave citizens the right to know what toxic chemicals facilities were using and releasing in their neighborhoods. Philadelphia City Council passed the resolution in 1981, and it became a model for local and state initiatives across the country, culminating in the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).  

Welcome Our 2019 Ex Officio Board Members
Left to right_ Rochelle Fedullo_ The Honorable A. Michael Snyder_ Lauren McKenna_ and Tianna Kalogerakis
Left to right: Rochelle Fedullo, The Honorable A. Michael Snyder, Lauren McKenna, and Tianna Kalogerakis
We are pleased to welcome our 2019 slate of Ex Officio board members. Help us welcome them by liking their post on LinkedIn!

From the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Chancellor, Chancellor-Elect and Vice-Chancellor all serve on our Board of Directors. Rochelle Fedullo of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker is the new Chancellor. The Honorable A. Michael Snyder of The Dispute Resolution Institute is the new Chancellor-Elect. Lauren McKenna of Fox Rothschild joins the Law Center board as Vice-Chancellor. We would like to thank past Chancellor Mary Platt for her years of service.

In 2019, we welcome Michaella Tassinari of Robert J. Casey Jr. & Associates, Chair of the Young Lawyers Division, to the Board of Directors. We would like to thank the 2018 representative, Vincent Barbera of White and Williams, for his year of service. We would also like to welcome Tianna Kalogerakis of Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt, representing the Barristers' Association of Philadelphia, to the board, and thank Kevin Harden Jr. of Ross Feller Casey for his years of service as the association's representative.