April 25, 2018
Kirby Kenny, a third-year student who clocked 744 hours of legal service on behalf of clients, is Tulane’s Louisiana
State Bar Association Law Student Pro Bono Award recipient.
A Tulane Law School third-year student will receive the 2018 Louisiana State Bar Association Law Student Pro Bono
Award for her work on behalf of indigent clients.
Kirby Kenny, who has donated more than 740 hours of free legal work during her three years as a law student,
will receive the award at the Louisiana Supreme Court May 22.
“I’ve always been passionate about indigent defense, but this internship taught me to want to bring
systematic changes in the criminal justice system,” said Kenny, who has worked on cases where defendants
were wrongfully convicted or sentenced to the death penalty.
“Through Kirby’s commitment and work on behalf of death-sentenced, indigent individuals, she has modeled
compassion and dedication to pro bono work and the commitment to access to justice so fundamental to the
legal profession,” said Tonya Rhodes Jupiter, Assistant Director of Pro Bono Programs. “We believe Kirby embodies the maxim ‘To make a difference, be the difference’ and are so proud of her accomplishments in the public service arena.”
Kenny got the social justice bug during a juvenile delinquency class she took as an undergraduate at
the University of Georgia.That class led to volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club and a stint with
the public defenders’ office in Athens, where she saw first-hand how the parents of some of the same children
were overlapping with her work in the criminal justice system. At Tulane, she worked for Innocence Project
New Orleans and the Capital Post-Conviction Project through the LSBA.
Kenny spent the last two summers tracking down witnesses, searching for former prosecutors and defense
attorneys in cases involving wrongfully convicted men serving life sentences as well as others spending the rest of their lives on death row in Angola State Penitentiary.
Kenny said one case last summer brought the law to life for her. She got to know Robert Jones, who was living at the Innocence Project office while his case was under review. Jones, who was wrongfully convicted in the killing of a British tourist and the rape of a woman in a French Quarter crime spree in 1992 would spend more than 23 years in prison before being exonerated in January 2017.
“He was there all the time. I learned about his life, met his family,” she said. “When I got the news
that the DA was not going to pursue a new case, I was so happy. To think that someone who had spent more
than half his life in the confines of a prison was now free. . . it was overwhelming.”
Kenny also is among a handful of students that the Law School recently honored as part of its 30-year
anniversary of pro bono work with the Jackson-Ryan Pro Bono Advocate Award. This service award is named
in honor of former Tulane Assistant Dean Julie Jackson and Eileen Ryan, Program Coordinator, who
administered the Tulane Law School Pro Bono Program from its inception in 1988 until 2016.
Law students Drew Lafontant, Anthony Cooper, Nicole Siderits, Allison Skopec and Kirby Kenny were honored by two administrators who helped found Tulane’s Pro Bono program, Eileen Ryan (far left) and former Assistant Dean Julie Jackson (far right).
Kenny, who has accumulated the most recorded hours at 744, received the award along with other third-year law students:
• Anthony Cooper, who performed 308 hours of service through the Center for International and Environmental Law, teaching tax law, through the Payson Center for International Development and with Catholic Charities Immigration Services;
• Jamie Futral, with 583 hours of pro bono service through the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida and the Gulf Restoration Network;
• Drew Lafontant, with 727 hours through the Innocence Project and the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center;
• Alexandra Phillips, who performed more than 489 hours of pro bono service at the United States District Court for Southern District of Florida and the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor;
• Nicole Siderits with 574 hours of pro bono service largely for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and The Hite Law Group;
• Allison Skopec, who donated more than 249 hours at the Tulane Legal Assistance Program (TULAP), the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Louisiana, the Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office and the MacArthur Justice Center.
More photos here.
In all, the Class of 2018 performed more than 23,741 hours of pro bono service during their law school years. The Class of 2019 is well on their way to meeting this benchmark having already recorded 7,413 hours. Twenty-five members of the Class of 2019 where honored for recording 100+ hours, twice the graduation requirement.
Also honored during the Pro Bono Luncheon were the 30 for 30 Pro Bono Challenge Participants – students who accepted the challenge to record 30 hours of pro bono service between October 23 – March 30th in celebration of TLS 30th Anniversary of Pro Bono. These student volunteers recorded 1433 hours during the challenge, many of those with our partners: The Pro Bono Project and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
Since the beginning of Tulane Law’s pro bono program in 1987, the first in the nation, its students have performed more than 240,000 hours of legal assistance with public interest organizations, local, state and federal government entities and pro bono practitioners in the local community and around the globe.