We filed an amicus brief in a case challenging Pennsylvania's unconstitutional probation detainer system
Jail cells
Pennsylvania has the second highest rate of community supervision in the country. Probation violations that lead to probation detainers send thousands of Pennsylvanians to state prison each year even though they have not had a trial or been convicted of a crime.

On July 2, we joined the ACLU of Pennsylvania to file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by the Philadelphia Defenders Association on behalf of Tyjear Davis. Mr. Davis was arrested while on probation, and was released without bail. However, his probation judge later determined that he should be incarcerated until his trial under the presumption that "detention of certain groups of defendants on probation is necessary to protect the community." The Defenders Association is challenging his probation detainer under the Pennsylvania Constitution in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In our amicus brief, we argue that, if there had been a thorough examination of Pennsylvania's robust due processing laws, this presumption of detention would be deemed unconstitutional. Indeed, Pennsylvania law demands that "whenever the liberty of an individual...is at risk, fundamental due process is essential." Read more about our brief here.

The case and Pennsylvania's probation detainer system were described in a July 11 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, " Philly public defender suit seeks to blow up 'unlawful' probation detainers." 

Helping Philadelphians stay in their homes: the Community Redevelopment Legal Assistance project

A street corner in West Oak Lane
A street corner in West Oak Lane
Northwest Philadelphia's middle neighborhoods have tremendous strengths, but are still recovering from the foreclosure crisis. The  predominantly non-white neighborhoods of Germantown, East Oak Lane, and West Oak Lane were particularly targeted by predatory mortgage lending. Many longtime homeowners, particularly those in poverty and those who inherited their homes from relatives, face challenges that could make it hard for them to hold on to their homes. The Community Redevelopment Legal Assistance (CRLA) project is a joint effort between the Law Center, Community Legal Services, and Philadelphia Legal Aid, organized by Regional Housing Legal Services to help residents of the 19126, 19138 and 19144 ZIP codes stay in their homes. These organizations have come together to help residents solve problems that hold people back from stable housing: property tax debt, difficulty paying utility bills, unstable employment, and more. 

As part of this project, we help remove barriers to employment for job-seekers with criminal records by providing know-your-rights training to job applicants and reaching out to area employers. View the online brochure for the CRLA project here. You can also read more about this program in a July 24 op-ed from staff attorney Claudia De Palma in the Germantown Courier, "A decade after the 2008 foreclosure crisis, Northwest Philadelphia is fighting back."  

Law Center in the News: How we're helping job-seekers fight employment discrimination
Jennifer Clarke
Jennifer Clarke
For far too many job applicants with criminal records, one brush with the law can cause employers to reject them out of hand for decades. But in Pennsylvania, this type of discrimination is illegal. Our Executive Director Jennifer Clarke highlights the laws that protect job-seekers with criminal histories, and dispels many of the negative stereotypes that hold them back in the workplace, in a July 19 column in The Legal Intelligencer, "Employers: Applicants With Criminal Histories Deserve a Fair Chance." 

In the article, she discusses our efforts to create case law under an important but under-enforced Pennsylvania law, the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA). This act allows employers to consider criminal convictions only "to the extent to which they relate to an applicant's suitability for employment in the position for which (s)he has applied." 

In our most recent case under CHRIA, we are representing Kara Gannon, a 56-year-old woman with strong work history in social services. Ms. Gannon was denied two social work positions with Montgomery County solely, we allege, due to two unrelated misdemeanor convictions from eight and ten years ago, in violation of CHRIA. In both instances, Ms. Gannon was in the final stages of the hiring process and was only turned away after she voluntarily submitted her record. "Holding the county responsible for wrongfully denying an applicant employment based on her criminal record, and requiring the county to adopt new policies to ensure compliance with CHRIA, will impact workers not just in that county but will surely cause other municipalities to scrutinize their own hiring policies," Jennifer wrote. Read the column here.

Learn more
August 15: Gun Safety CLE
The Pennsylvania capitol dome

A statue of a revolver with the barrel twisted

A Philadelphia cityscape

Join us on August 15, 2019, for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on gun safety. In Philadelphia, gun violence is an epidemic. Last year, in addition to the 249 Philadelphians killed in shootings, over 1,100 people were shot and survived, leaving many with lifelong disabilities and ongoing medical costs. This violence does not affect everyone in the city equally: gun violence is the leading cause of death for black men and youth in Philadelphia between the ages of 15 and 34. Learn about the issues, the law, and the challenges in trying to address gun violence in Pennsylvania. Panelists include:
  • Raynard Washington, Chief Epidemiologist, Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health
  • Mimi McKenzie, Legal Director, Public Interest Law Center
  • Ben Geffen, Staff Attorney, Public Interest Law Center
1 Substantive CLE credit will be available to all Pennsylvania attorneys
When: Thursday, August 15, 4:00-5:30 p.m.; reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 
Where: Magna Legal Services, 1635 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Cost: $75 for attorneys; $25 for non-attorneys, public interest attorneys, and law clerks
Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Magna Legal Services.
Magna Legal Services 
Blast from the Past: Taking on sexism in the Philadelphia Police Department
Penelope Brace on her first day as a police detective
Penelope Brace on her first day as a police detective
In the 1970s Penelope Brace challenged the Philadelphia Police Department's refusal to hire women as police officers. We represented her in court.

The prevailing attitude of Police Department leadership was no secret. In a report filed in the case, Women as Police Officers, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Joseph O'Neil wrote: "Female officers are not as effective as male officers ... Women are not physically capable of handling violent incidents on patrol... women are less likely to take charge at an incident."

At trial in 1976, a federal judge ordered the Department to hire one-hundred new female officers, and to conduct a study on their performance. Later, reviewing the results of this study, the judge determined that there was no basis in fact for the Philadelphia Police Department's arguments. Today, 27% of Philadelphia police officers are women, nearly twice the national average.

Thank you summer interns! 
Our 2019 summer Interns
Our 2019 summer interns

We'd like to thank our summer 2019 interns for their fantastic work throughout the summer! Help us show our appreciation by liking their post on Facebook! Clockwise from back row left: Andrew Cutillo, University of Michigan Law School; Emma Pajer, Temple University Beasley School of Law; T.J. Grayson, Yale Law School; Max Reinhardt, Yale Law School; Deepti Sailappan, University of Chicago; Caroline Ramsey, University of Virginia School of Law; Taylor Hinch, Villanova University. Not pictured: Eden Richman

Summer interns at a Phillies game
Interns on a bus tour of Philadelphia
In Pursuit of Justice--Our 50th Anniversary Celebration
Invitation to our annual celebration

On October 10, join us at the new artist space and venue Cherry Street Pier to celebrate five decades In Pursuit of Justice at our 50th anniversary celebration. In 1969, we were founded as a Philadelphia affiliate of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. In the 50 years since, we have fought for, and won, lasting changes that help communities stand up for their rights in the face of discrimination and poverty.


Thursday, October 10

6 - 9 p.m.

Cherry Street Pier

121 N Christopher Columbus Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19106


Tickets are available for $175 per person. For more information about this event, including sponsorship and accessibility, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.  


Tickets _ Information

Featuring emcee Tamala Edwards, anchor of 6ABC's Action News Mornings!

Tamala Edwards
Tamala Edwards

Cherry Street Pier
Cherry Street Pier