Professor Becki Kondkar has been awarded the Association of American Law Schools' 2024 Pro Bono Access to Justice Award, which recognizes just one individual or program in the nation each year for their role in removing barriers to justice for people unable to afford legal representation.
Highlighting her leadership role with the law school’s Women’s Prison Project (WPP), the selection committee noted Kondkar’s “unmatched commitment to advancing access to justice, removing barriers, and championing the rights of survivors of intimate partner violence.”
"I’m honored to receive this recognition, but the WPP’s successes are attributable to the hard work and brilliance of our entire WPP team," said Kondkar. "I’m grateful to work with colleagues who I learn from and am inspired by every day."
The WPP, jointly founded by Kondkar and Criminal Justice Clinic Director Katherine Mattes, seeks to free women unjustly incarcerated for killing an abusive partner or for participating in crimes under the duress of an abusive partner.
Since WPP’s founding less than four years ago, the team has won the release of 12 women, most of whom had been serving life without parole sentences under Louisiana’s harsh mandatory sentencing laws, and many of whom had been convicted by one of Louisiana’s notorious non-unanimous juries.
“Professor Kondkar is a compassionate and fearless advocate for her clients, a thoughtful teacher for her students, and a visionary leader for the Women's Prison Project,” said Professor Stas Moroz, who works with Kondkar as part of the WPP team. “She is one of the few attorneys in the country with expertise in representing survivors of gender-based violence in both the criminal and civil legal systems. While many traditional domestic violence clinics focus on family issues only, because of Kondkar's vision and expertise, students in the Domestic Violence Clinic can advocate for survivors in both the civil and criminal legal systems.”
Kondkar joined Tulane’s Domestic Violence Clinic in 2006 as an assistant Director; she became Director in 2015. During her tenure as Director, Kondkar has raised nearly $6 million in private and federal funding to expand both the number of survivors the program serves and the learning opportunities available to law students.
Under her leadership, the law school’s Domestic Violence Clinic has grown from a single faculty member to an inter-clinical program of 8 faculty and staff who work with teams of law students to address the legal needs of abuse survivors deeply underserved by the legal community.
“Professor Kondkar brought me onto the Women’s Prison Project team in its gestation,” said WPP Director of Strategic Initiatives Kesana Durand (L’09). “Her vision to incorporate the perspectives of seasoned criminal defense attorneys and top-notch investigative capacities along with expertise in intimate partner violence has allowed WPP to accomplish feats that no one thought possible – like convincing a judge that a mandatory life without parole sentence for a survivor who killed her abuser is unconstitutional. As a result, this client has now spent her second Christmas home with her family after nearly 20 years of incarceration.”
As Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic, Kondkar has trained hundreds of law students while pioneering an innovative model for holistic client advocacy that allows students to explore issues of gender-based violence across multiple legal forums and substantive areas of law. The Clinic’s students represent abuse survivors in civil and criminal cases, in pardon and parole hearings, and before administrative bodies, while also examining the legal, institutional, and structural barriers to survivor safety and justice.
“Becki Kondkar inspires by example and teaches her students how to be fierce advocates for survivors by doing the hard work. She has redefined not only what it means to fight for survivors of intimate partner violence, but also raised a new generation of lawyers that are trained to do the same,” said Courtney Crowell (L’19), who worked with the WPP as a student. “Her passion and persistence in this field has saved lives and built careers, and she deserves this recognition for her efforts.”
Kondkar will receive the award at the Fourth AALS Awards Ceremony on January 4, in Washington, DC.