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The City Bar Justice Center Celebrates Recipients of its 2022 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award

by Samantha Darris October 28, 2022

Pictured above are the 2022 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award winners, with Keynote Speaker Justice Tanya R. Kennedy, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York City Bar Association President Susan Kohlmann, City Bar Fund Chair Carol Villegas, City Bar Justice Center Executive Director Kurt Denk, and City Bar Justice Center Director of Pro Bono Initiatives Cassandra Celestin. 

In observance of the American Bar Association’s National Celebration of Pro Bono, the City Bar Justice Center held its 2022 Celebrate Pro Bono Awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 25. Each year, the Justice Center recognizes pro bono volunteers across our dozen civil justice projects who demonstrated an exceptional commitment to our clients and championed our team’s mission to advance access to justice. 

This year, eleven volunteers were nominated to receive the 2022 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award: Abigail F. Cousins, Alison G. Greenberg, Anthony C. Coles, Beth G. Schwartz, Christopher Kochman, David Wise, Erin P. Kelly, Janine Tramontana, John M. Conlon, Julia L. Davis, and Max Ian Fiest. 

Susan Kohlmann, New York City Bar Association President, offered opening remarks and Justice Tanya R. Kennedy, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Supreme Court of the State of New York delivered the event’s keynote address. Carol Villegas, City Bar Fund Chair, presented awards and closing remarks were given by Cassandra Celestin, the City Bar Justice Center’s Director of Pro Bono Initiatives, and Kurt Denk, the organization’s Executive Director. 

Justice Kennedy’s inspiring speech recognized how privilege serves as a catapult for service and social justice: 

“Each one of you is a credit to the human race, and also to our profession. Each one of us in this room is privileged. We are privileged to receive an advanced degree, we are privileged to be a member of this esteemed profession, privileged to be gainfully employed, privileged to work remotely during the early days of the pandemic while essential workers placed their lives on the line for us all …. With that privilege comes a responsibility …. There is absolutely no doubt that tonight’s honorees not only recognize their privilege, but have willingly accepted the call to serve .… Tonight’s honorees are social engineers, they’re change agents whose pro bono activities serve as laboratories where they transform the lives of others through the pursuit of justice …. To provide a voice to the voiceless, and to protect the vulnerable and underrepresented …. We are all destined for greatness. It is certainly not because of our degrees, it is not because of our titles, it is not because of our economic status, it is not because of where we live, or the fabulous vacations, or vacation homes we go to or we have. It doesn’t matter. Because we can all serve. So therefore, let us go forth and be great.” 

Emphasizing the social impact of pro bono and making a call to action, Mr. Denk closed the ceremony comparing the number of New Yorkers benefited by City Bar Justice Center services each year – which is nearly 25,000 – with the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden: 

“Because our services benefit 25,000, but Madison Square Garden only holds 20,000, that means, metaphorically, that another 5,000 remain standing in line. The pro bono leadership we honor tonight is the type of advocacy that not only boosts our services numbers, but also looks at the underlying reasons why 5,000 remain out in the cold. So I leave you this evening with respect and admiration for our awardees… and with thanks… but also with an ask, for each person here tonight: what concrete thing will you commit to, this evening, so more of those 5,000 can get inside?… Please, amidst the good cheer and positive energy of this evening, let’s each of us make a concrete commitment to paying that energy forward on behalf of our neighbors in need.”  

Thank you to everyone who attended, including friends, family, and colleagues for making the awards ceremony an uplifting and meaningful evening. To our 2022 award recipients, a heartfelt congratulations! 


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