Washington, D.C. – The Pro Bono Institute has awarded the Honorable Robert A. Katzmann the Chesterfield Smith Award in recognition of his dedication to pro bono, particularly in the field of immigration law. The award was presented to Judge Katzmann by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg at a reception on March 4.
Judge Katzmann has long been a champion of pro bono, stemming from his work at the Governance Institute and the Brookings Institution on the seminal book, The Law Firm and the Public Good. The book examines, through essays by esteemed contributors, the role of law firms in pro bono work.
“I first met Judge Katzmann when he asked me to work on The Law Firm and the Public Good,” said PBI President and CEO Esther Lardent. “As long as I’ve known him, Bob has been a champion for those most in need of legal assistance. His unique understanding of the intersection between scholarship, policy, and access to justice is astounding and inspiring.”
Appointed to the bench in 1999, Judge Katzmann has been a champion for the rights of immigrants via the legal system. As the child of a refugee from Nazi Germany, Katzmann is acutely aware of the need for a fair immigration process. As a federal judge, he has seen firsthand the deficiency in the existing process. Noticing the growing number of immigration cases in federal appellate court, coupled with inadequate lawyering and a lack of access to justice, Judge Katzmann led an effort in New York to improve and rationalize the justice system for immigrants. Katzmann considers this effort a part of his – and every judge’s – responsibility to improve access to justice. The end result: a working Study Group on Immigrant Representation, composed of attorneys, civic leaders, nonprofit providers, judges, other governmental officials and academics, who meet regularly to develop and implement practical ways to facilitate access to counsel.
Judge Katzmann commented, “It has been a privilege to launch the Study Group on Immigrant Representation and to work with so many dedicated lawyers, giving of their time pro bono, to help meet the vast unmet legal needs of the immigrant poor. And it is a high honor to receive an award from the Pro Bono Institute whose work I have so long admired.”
Judge Katzmann’s professional perspective as an academic, think-tank fellow, and federal judge has given him incredible insight into pro bono. His long-time commitment to seeing that those most in need are given fair access to the judicial system has drawn the attention of his peers on the bench, high-powered attorneys, government officials, and academics alike, and has resulted in greater attention being focused on the plight of immigrants.
The Pro Bono Institute’s Chesterfield Smith Award, presented in conjunction with the law firm he led, Holland & Knight LLP, honors the work of Chesterfield Smith, a superb lawyer, respected firm leader, and pro bono advocate who fought for equal justice throughout his career.
About the Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a non-profit organization with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. In doing so, PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective. PBI administers a number of projects designed to enhance access to justice, including: the Law Firm Pro Bono Project®, Corporate Pro BonoSM, Second Acts®, Global Pro Bono, and Public Interest Pro Bono.