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June 1, 2005


Michael S. Greco, president-elect of the
American Bar Association, addresses the
sixth annual "Awards for Excellence in
Pro Bono and Public Interest Service."

Awards Presented For Pro Bono, Public Interest Work

        CHICAGO–Six individuals were singled out for their contributions in representing or helping others to represent the poor in federal civil cases at an awards ceremony Tuesday, May 31, 2005, sponsored by the United States District Court and the Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

        The attorneys involved were presented plaques during the sixth annual “Awards for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service” program held at the E.M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

        Michael S. Greco, president-elect of the American Bar Association, gave the keynote address.

        Through the presentation of these awards, the court and the Federal Bar Association recognize the efforts of attorneys who have performed pro bono and public interest legal work in the District Court, said Chief Judge Charles P. Kocoras.

        The awards were given as follows:

        Pro Bono Award–Douglas B. Harper, a sole practitioner, represented the plaintiff in Mickey v. Cook County (99 C 7281). As a Cook County Jail inmate, Mickey claimed that guards used excessive force against him. After extended discovery, Mickey declined a settlement offer and instead went to trial, where Harper’s representation prevailed. The judge in the case noted Harper’s dedication, diligence, outstanding performance and reasonableness.

        Pro Bono Award–Mark V. Ferrante, a sole practitioner, represented the plaintiff in Roby v. McClain (01 C 7324). Roby, while incarcerated at the Cook County Jail, was stabbed in the back during an altercation among inmates. Ferrante negotiated a settlement for Roby, with the judge in the matter praising his professionalism and commitment to the appointment in a difficult case.

        Pro Bono Award–Richard K. Hellerman of Arnstein & Lehr was one of the attorneys for one of the defendants in Synergy Associates Inc. v. Sun Biotechnologies (02 C 3320). He received the case after counsel withdrew following discovery. At trial, he won what the judge in the case called a notable victory in the breach of contract, fraud, violation of franchise disclosure act case.

        Public Service Award–Michelle A. Weinberg of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago was singled out for her public interest work in Pulphus v. Sullivan (02 C 5794). She represented four elderly women in their claims of fraudulent home improvement and predatory loan schemes, earning them substantial settlements.

        Special Recognition–James P. Chapman and Michael K. Fridkin provided special service to the District Court for their work, respectively, on the Federal Court Prison Litigation Project and the Federal Court Employment Law Project. These projects provide backup, assistance and written materials to lawyers appointed by the court to present indigent plaintiffs. Chapman is president of the Illinois Institute of Community Law and Affairs and Fridkin, now with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, did his work through the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

        The District Court in Northern Illinois requires that attorneys practicing as first chairs must be available to take one indigent, civil case a year on a pro bono basis. During 2004, some 180 attorneys were appointed to such cases.