Blank Rome's Founding Partner Edwin P. Rome served as counsel for Aaron “Treetop” Turner, a client on Pennsylvania’s Death Row, representing him for more than 11 years and through five separate trials and appeals, until Mr. Turner was exonerated and freed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In the concurring opinion to the decision that freed Mr. Turner following the fifth trial, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno wrote, “I cannot help but express a renewed and continuing admiration for lawyers” who carry on despite seeming failure “in the search for the priceless jewel of truth.”
The Edwin P. Rome Pro Bono Achievement Award was created in 2004 to recognize outstanding performance and a demonstrated commitment to pro bono legal service each year.
2015 – Brett S. Ward and Morgan Fraser Mouchette
Brett S. Ward and Morgan Fraser Mouchette won the 2015 award for their advocacy on behalf of a woman veteran in her custody case. Their client’s children were taken from her by an order of the Bronx Family Court because she left home to serve two tours of duty in Iraq. Their client had to leave the military to fight for her children, and then ended up in a homeless shelter for two years as a result. Mr. Ward and Ms. Mouchette represented their client for five years and through two trials, and the representation is ongoing. Because of their efforts, their client now has sole legal and physical custody of her children, and the family is thriving.
2014 – Lawrence J. Beaser
Lawrence J. Beaser was recognized for his career-long commitment to public service and child welfare. Mr. Beaser was the principal drafter of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law, which was the first in the state, and he has consistently been called on to offer his counsel on proposed legislation. Throughout his career, Mr. Beaser has handled many different types of pro bono matters, including representing juveniles in criminal court through the Juvenile Justice Program and working with a variety of nonprofits seeking to improve our communities.
2013 – Michael Joseph
Michael Joseph received the 2013 award for his dedication to pro bono, and more specifically, for his commitment to representing asylum-seekers who are fleeing their home countries to escape persecution based on race, ethnicity, religion, or membership in a particular social group. Mr. Joseph has successfully represented asylum-seekers from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Cameroon, China, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Serbia, and Syria. Mr. Joseph was applauded not only for his tenacious advocacy and his record of success, but also for his compassion and empathy for his refugee clients.
2012 – Barry Abrams
Barry Abrams was recognized for his dedication to pro bono service throughout his career. Mr. Abrams has donated tens of thousands of hours of his time to pro bono causes. Especially of note is his representation of a death row inmate, spanning nearly 10 years. Sadly, Mr. Abrams’ best efforts on behalf of his client were ultimately unsuccessful, but his client was truly appreciative of the effort on his behalf, even up until the very day of his execution. Mr. Abrams also provides representation to refugee and immigrant children through the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. He also provides pro bono service through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program and serves on the Access to Justice Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
2011 – Jonathan M. Korn and Andrew Hughes
Jonathan M. Korn and Andrew Hughes received the award for their tireless advocacy on behalf of a young man who was the victim of child sexual abuse by his adoptive father. The young man filed his claims pro se, alleging that his foster father, a prominent pastor, sexually abused him, and others in authority were aware of the abuse and did not intercede. All of the claims except those against the estate of his foster father were dismissed; a default judgment was entered against the estate. The representation was originally supposed to be limited to an evidentiary hearing on a single issue. Upon meeting the client and receiving the file, Mr. Korn realized that his client's claims against the other defendants were improperly dismissed and recruited Andrew Hughes to work on the case. Mr. Korn and Mr. Hughes worked tirelessly to amend the complaint, revive the improperly dismissed claims, and prepare for litigation. The pair dedicated hundreds of hours to this case to ensure that their client would achieve a favorable result. The defendants settled their claims with the young man, who plans on using the settlement to secure stable housing and to achieve his dream of attending college to help other victims of child abuse.
2010 – Scott Coburn
Scott Coburn was recognized for his unwavering commitment to the Firm’s pro bono program, beginning when he joined the Firm as a summer associate. Mr. Coburn handled a variety of different matters, including social security disability appeals through the Homeless Advocacy Project and working as a lead attorney through the Landlord-Tenant Municipal Court Project through Philadelphia VIP. Mr. Coburn also represented a prisoner in a civil rights claim, negotiating a settlement that will enable the man to start his life over upon release from prison.
2009 – Kate Barecchia
Kate Barecchia received the award for her efforts both as an advocate for her clients and as an advocate for the Firm’s pro bono program. Notably, Ms. Barecchia represented a man in a hotly-contested custody case. The client, who is not biologically related to the child, had nonetheless raised the child since birth. Ms. Barecchia helped her client get custody and reunite his family. She also readily assisted others with cases that they handle, and participated in the Consumer Law Clinic, a four-hour walk-in clinic at the D.C. Superior Court for people with small claims and related issues.
2008 – Francis X. Crowley
Francis X. Crowley was recognized for his commitment to pro bono in a variety of areas. Mr. Crowley has been recognized by the Support Center for Child Advocates as one of their “Distinguished Advocates” at their Annual Benefit and Award Ceremony. He was also instrumental in developing and supporting a special project to assist indigent parishioners of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; has represented immigrant victims of persecution who are seeking asylum in the United States; assisted pro bono clients in tangled title cases through Philadelphia VIP; and has helped senior citizens dealing with contractor fraud through the SeniorLAW Center.
2007 – Michael J. Feinman and Cherylle Corpuz
Michael J. Feinman received the award for his tireless efforts on behalf of nonprofit organizations in New York through Lawyers Alliance of New York. For over 14 years, Mr. Feinman has worked to revitalize blighted communities and to support economic development projects by providing valuable real estate assistance to nonprofit organizations in developing areas of the city. Cherylle Corpuz was also honored for her extensive immigration pro bono work. Working with other Blank Rome attorneys, Ms. Corpuz represented asylum seekers from Iraq, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Albania, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jordan, and the Ukraine. She was also instrumental in establishing the Firm’s “Safety in Numbers” pro bono program.
2006 – Michelle Altieri
Michelle Altieri was recognized for her pro bono efforts in representing a domestic violence victim who suffered from physical and emotional abuse and had been threatened by her husband with an illegal AR15 assault rifle. Through Ms. Altieri’s efforts, a Final Restraining Order was entered for the client and the court awarded the client sole legal and physical custody of her son.
2005 – Michael P. Broadhurst and Louis Kozloff
Michael P. Broadhurst and Louis Kozloff were both recognized for their extraordinary commitment to child advocacy. While advocating for abused and neglected children in dependency proceedings, Mr. Broadhurst and Mr. Kozloff developed the “Child Advocacy Privacy Rights Program.” This program seeks to educate defense counsel, prosecutors, and the judiciary on the importance of protecting the privacy rights of children in neglect and abuse proceedings.
2004 – Katia Fano
Katia Fano was recognized for her efforts on behalf of a young man from Columbia who was persecuted because of his sexual orientation.
2003 – Matthew D. Lee
Matthew D. Lee received the inaugural Edwin P. Rome Pro Bono Achievement Award for pro bono work in the Philadelphia community. Mr. Lee’s many pro bono achievements include the successful defense of a nonprofit social service organization in a wrongful termination employment law suit; successful representation of an elderly Russian immigrant whose adult day-care services had been terminated; and a political asylum case.