My100 Pro Bono
Commitment to the community is a core principle of LSSC. Our attorneys have a long history of significant and far-reaching pro bono achievements and contributions. As part of the My100 initiative, every LSSC attorney will devote at least 100 hours to pro bono and non-profit board service matters each year. No exceptions. Information on our current My100 projects, as well as our previous significant pro bono achievements and contributions, appears below.
We invite you to join us with your own My100 commitment.
What are your My100 plans for this year?
I serve on the board of directors of the Juvenile Law Center (“JLC”), a non-profit organization that advocates for rights, dignity, equity, and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems. In addition to serving on the organization’s board, I provide pro bono representation on matters that further JLC’s mission. I volunteered at JLC in college and in law school and am delighted to continue to have the opportunity to support the organization’s important work.
I also focus my pro bono efforts on matters that implicate freedom of expression and government transparency—two issues about which I care deeply. This portion of my pro bono practice often involves collaborating with the ACLU and with non-profit news organizations.
I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Volunteer UP Legal Clinic, which we recently reconstituted as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. We are building and growing a legal clinic for the critically underserved population of southern New Jersey. I also will continue to serve on the ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Advisory Board.
Current pro bono matters include a First Amendment and Title IX challenge on behalf of a Pennsylvania teacher against his school district for alleged retaliation due to his advocacy for LGBTQ+ students. I also will continue to represent abused and neglected children as volunteer counsel with the Support Center for Child Advocates, as I have done since 2006.
Earlier in 2023, we successfully settled a partition action to keep our client in her home. Before we were hired, the court had ordered that her home to be sold over her objection and the house was already on the market. We were proud to be able to reverse the course for her and save her home for her and her children.
In 2022, we completed our successful First Amendment challenge to invalidate SEPTA’s advertising restrictions. Our client, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, sought to advertise regarding its investigative reporting into mortgage redlining practices in major cities, such as Philadelphia. We were ecstatic when the Supreme Court denied SEPTA’s petition for a writ of certiorari. I co-led that matter with the ACLU.
I plan to focus my pro bono efforts on collaborating with organizations, like the ACLU, working to protect civil rights. I have extensive experience litigating civil rights issues, and I look forward to continuing to use my skills to defend and uphold the rights of individuals.
In addition, I hope to devote time to various community service groups. In 2022, I helped raise over thirty-thousand dollars for pancreatic cancer research as part of the PurpleStride event in Washington, DC. In years past, I have volunteered for organizations like SquashSmarts and SquashBusters that teach squash and provide academic support to underserved students. I have also spent time volunteering at legal clinics, food banks, and women’s organizations.
I have supported the firm’s work on a variety of important pro bono matters, from challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s ChildLine registry system to preventing the forced sale of a client’s home by her ex-husband in a partition action.
I have also supported work to increase government transparency by assisting a reporter in attempting to obtain critical data from the Philadelphia Housing Authority concerning fire hazards in developments around the city. This year, I also joined members of the firm for a day of service led by Volunteer UP, a New Jersey legal services clinic, in which we assisted numerous individuals seeking to expunge their criminal records.
In law school, I was President of the Recording Artists Project, assisting emerging artists with legal questions related to their work. In Philadelphia, I volunteer at the Jefferson University Hospital, where I play piano for patients.
I am particularly interested in coastal environmental issues and have begun to get involved with the South Jersey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, promoting initiatives to clean local beaches, pass laws to limit plastic straw use, and encourage climate-conscious policy-making.
I currently lead a major constitutional challenge to the operation of Pennsylvania’s ChildLine registry system, which identifies and labels individuals as “child abusers” without first providing them with the right to defend themselves at a hearing, in violation of their due process and reputational rights. Our petition alleges that it is far too easy for one to be “indicated” for child abuse and listed on the Pennsylvania ChildLine registry for life, which causes serious reputational damage and results in a wide range of employment bars. Along with my co-counsel, Community Legal Services and Professor Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, we seek a judicial declaration that individuals accused of child abuse or neglect are entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard before being identified on the registry.
In addition, as I have since 2014, I continue my ongoing work and support of Project 440, Inc., a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that uses the power of music to provide youth development, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurial programs to high school students in Philadelphia and throughout the country.
I am the immediate past president of the Board of the Homeless Advocacy Project (“HAP”), a legal aid organization that serves thousands of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and advocates for the rights of Philadelphians living in poverty. I remain very active on HAP’s Executive Board.
In addition to my leadership on the HAP Board, I also volunteer directly to represent HAP clients in a variety of legal matters. In recent years, I’ve helped dozens of clients access Social Security benefits, obtain identification, and satisfy outstanding judgments. In one recent matter, I represented a homeless veteran in a successful appeal of a decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs denying him an increase of disability benefits.
SELECTED PAST AND CURRENT PROJECTS
Writ of Habeas Corpus and Prison Release After 20 Years
On April 16, 2020, John’s client took his first free steps out of incarceration in 20 years, 11 months, and 16 days, after obtaining the rare relief of a writ of habeas corpus and the vacation of a state court conviction and sentence. John was lead counsel in the proceedings before both the U.S. District for the District of New Jersey and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The District Court proceedings included an evidentiary hearing, and in the opinion granting relief, the Court specifically “thank[ed]” John and his team for their “able and vigorous advocacy,” their “thorough efforts and distinguished advocacy,” and for “play[ing] an integral part in ensuring that justice is fairly meted based on the merits of the arguments rather than the resources of the litigants.” [Disclaimer: this comment does not constitute a judicial endorsement of legal skills or ability.]
The Third Circuit affirmed the grant of habeas relief on April 8, 2020.
[To the left, John is pictured with his client and co-counsel Jason Levine of Hangley Aronchick.]
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year
In 2016, Tad received the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s prestigious Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award in recognition of his “outstanding volunteer efforts in providing legal services to those in need” and his “commitment to the development of pro bono legal services in the region.”
Homeless Advocacy Project
Jon is President of the Board of the Homeless Advocacy Project, a legal aid organization that provides legal services to thousands of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. In addition to his many years of service on HAP’s Board, Jon has represented numerous HAP clients in matters ranging from Social Security appeals to landlord-tenant issues.
Learn more about the Homeless Advocacy Project here: https://www.haplegal.org/
Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples
John was one of the leaders for the litigation team—along with others from his prior firm and the ACLU—that obtained the landmark ruling striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Whitewood v. Wolf in 2014. One year later, the Supreme Court of the United States finally held that no state could discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing them the right to marry.
Tad represented Jenna Pinchbeck, a Philadelphia-based actress, in responding to a cease-and-desist letter she received from attorneys for The Walnut Street Theatre regarding her public comments in support of women, BIPOC, trans, and disabled artists in the Philadelphia theater community. LSSC was proud to stand with Ms. Pinchbeck and strongly supports the important public issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion that Ms. Pinchbeck advanced.
Two-Time Winner of The Equal Justice Award
In 2004 and 2016, Tad received The Equal Justice Award from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia in recognition of his outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal representation in important matters that benefit the community at large.
Eli partnered with the ACLU in representing Montgomery County residents in a lawsuit alleging that the County Commissioners violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act when they terminated the public defender and his chief deputy. In settling the lawsuit, the Commissioners agreed to adopt new meeting procedures that provide greater transparency regarding County employment decisions.
Veterans Affairs Appeal
Jon successfully represented a homeless former Marine in his appeal of a Department of Veterans Affairs’ determination that his disabling anxiety and depression were not connected to his time in the Marines and, therefore, not something for which he was entitled to veterans disability benefits. After a hearing, the Department reversed itself, and the client was granted a substantial increase in benefits.
Local Gun Regulations
John and Jon co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of Pennsylvania county and local governments in support of a challenge brought by the City of Philadelphia and other plaintiffs to Pennsylvania’s prohibition on local regulation of firearms.
Juvenile Law Center
Eli is on the Board of Directors of the Juvenile Law Center, non-profit organization that advocates for rights, dignity, equity, and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems.
Learn more about the Juvenile Law Center here: https://jlc.org/
Representing Abused and Neglected Children
Since 2006, John has represented 15 abused and neglect children as volunteer counsel with the Support Center for Child Advocates.
In 2017, the Support Center named John a “Distinguished Advocate,” for his longstanding and dedicated work.
Learn more about the Support Center for Child Advocates here: https://www.sccalaw.org/
Eli co-authored a Third Circuit amicus brief on behalf of the Society for Photographic Education in support of the recognition of a First Amendment right to photograph the police.
First Amendment Rights
In 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States denied a petition for certiorari filed by SEPTA, leaving in place an important First Amendment victory by our client, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2018, Reveal sought to advertise on SEPTA vehicles to promote Reveal and its investigation into racially discriminatory home mortgage lending practices. But SEPTA rejected the ad as "political." John co-led the litigation team with the ACLU that sued in 2018. And after a bench trial, an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and a petition for cert in the Supreme Court, we won.
In addition to co-counseling with the ACLU on various litigations, John also serves on the ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Advisory Board.
Learn more about the ACLU of Pennsylvania here: https://www.aclupa.org/
Learn more about Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting here: https://www.revealnews.org/
First Amendment Rights
Eli partnered with the ACLU in representing journalists and formerly incarcerated community leaders in a successful challenge to the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Revictimization Relief Act. The Act would have permitted Courts to enjoin and penalize speech just because it was upsetting to a crime victim.
Prisoner Civil Rights
Through the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s Prisoner Civil Rights Panel, Jon represented a former inmate of a local jail who was assaulted after he was put on a gang hit list but left unprotected by the guards. After the matter resolved, the client sent a grateful letter, saying, “Even when you knew I did not have the money to pay for your representation you still did everything you could and sadly I never had an attorney who did his job as well as you […] with what you got for me I will be able to leave prison with a way of getting myself together to start a better life.”
“My 15-Year Pro Bono Matter” in The Philadelphia Lawyer
Tad authored an article entitled “My 15-Year Pro Bono Matter: How A Single Case Can Become the Endeavor of a Lifetime” published in The Philadelphia Lawyer recounting his lengthy involvement in a pro bono matter challenging the employment-prohibiting provisions of The Older Adults Protective Services Act.
Asylum for Political Refugee
John successfully obtained asylum for a Colombian national before the Board of Immigration Appeals, obtaining the rare reversal of an Immigration Judge’s prior denial of an asylum application. John’s client fled Colombia due to political persecution at the hands of a violent guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC). The FARC kidnapped and abused the client prior to his escape to the United States. Although the United States government vigorously opposed the application, John, serving as both trial and appellate counsel, was able to succeed before the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Tad is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Project 440, Inc. (www.project440.org), a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that provides youth development, college and career readiness, and entrepreneurial programs to students in the Philadelphia School District and the surrounding areas. In addition to his role as Board Chair, Tad chairs the Project 440’s Governance Committee and is heavily involved in the long term strategic and development activities of the organization.
Learn more about Project 440: https://project440.org/
Volunteer UP Legal Clinic
John serves as a board member on the Volunteer UP Legal Clinic Advisory Board. The Volunteer UP Legal Clinic provides much-needed legal assistance to economically disadvantaged clients in the region.
Learn more about the Clinic here: http://www.volunteeruplegalclinic.org.
Choral Arts of Southern New Jersey
In addition to performing with Choral Arts of Southern New Jersey, Tad previously acted as Vice-President and Trustee of the 501(c)(3) organization.
Public School Teacher
In a matter of significant public attention in southern New Jersey, John represented a public school teacher denied tenure. John led a high-profile appeal of that decision before the school district board that saw hundreds of students and parents rally in support of the teacher.
Tad has handled several cases in conjunction with Philadelphia VIP, a non-profit that provides free legal representation for needy individuals who face legal challenges threatening their basic human needs of housing, family, and income.
To learn more about Philadelphia VIP: https://www.phillyvip.org/.
Economic Consequences of Inefficient Tax Rates
Tad prepared and filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of economics professors from Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and other institutions that addressed the economic consequences of a local property tax system applying differing effective tax rates within the same jurisdiction.
Healing Justice Project
In April 2020, John prepared and filed an amicus brief on behalf of Healing Justice Project, a national nonprofit organization that serves individuals who have experienced trauma and inequity in the justice system due to a wrongful conviction. Through restorative justice and justice reform, Healing Justice provides post-trial support and recovery to crime victims, survivors, and their families in cases involving post-conviction claims of innocence and exonerations.
Learn more about Healing Justice Project here: https://healingjusticeproject.org/