The Pro Bono Institute has announced that it has selected New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as the second recipient of the 2013 Chesterfield Smith Award for his exceptional commitment to pro bono and public service. The award was presented on March 15 at the PBI Annual Conference Reception.
In his current position, Chief Judge Lippman’s focus has been advancing and improving legal assistance and access to justice. He has been the leader and catalyst in New York for numerous groundbreaking initiatives, including the appointment of an active and engaged access to justice commission and developing pro bono initiatives for emeritus lawyers. Most notably, Chief Judge Lippman instituted the first-ever pro bono requirement as a condition for admission to the bar in New York State.
Through Chief Judge Lippman’s efforts, state level funding has increased dramatically for civil legal services to the poor and indigent defense. In criminal matters, he is the prime mover of efforts to make all aspects of the current system more just including pre-trial incarceration, the bail process, addressing claims of innocence, and treatment of juvenile defendants.
“We are thrilled to present Chief Judge Lippman with the Chesterfield Smith Award. His accomplishments over the years have been impactful and inspiring,” PBI president and CEO Esther F. Lardent said. “He possesses a unique vision that has enabled him to help shape the way the entire legal profession approaches and does pro bono.”
Chief Judge Lippman’s untiring advocacy has had an impact, not only in his home state but throughout the nation. The courageous initiatives he has piloted in New York are quickly becoming best practices for all responsible jurisdictions, and he has raised the bar for judicial support for equal justice for all.
“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award from the Pro Bono Institute,” Chief Judge Lippman said. “I hope it will inspire others so that, working together, the courts, government, legal aid programs, and the pro bono community of law firms and in-house legal departments can take the steps needed to make the promise of our legal system a reality.”
Chief Judge Lippman’s career in the New York court system spans four decades starting with a position as an entry level court attorney and including service as a law clerk. He has served as Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and as the longest-tenured Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Courts before assuming his current position.
The Pro Bono Institute’s Chesterfield Smith Award, presented in conjunction with Holland & Knight, the firm Mr. Smith founded and led, honors the memory and work of the late Chesterfield Smith, a superb lawyer, respected firm leader, and pro bono champion who fought for equal justice throughout his career.