Tulane Home Tulane Home

'Pillar' of Tulane Law Pro Bono Program receives Louisiana Appleseed's justice award

October 20, 2020 9:15 AM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



The first thing you notice in working with Prof. Tonya Jupiter is her irrepressible spirit. It is her signature, part of every interaction, and it belies the challenges of coordinating Tulane Law’s legendary Pro Bono Program.

Jupiter (L’94) is the Associate Director for Pro Bono and Advocacy Programs.  This year, she recruited law students to work more than 100 pro bono hours in a two-month period, enabling Louisiana Appleseed and Lagniappe Law to build the state’s first Legal Navigator, a self-help legal resource. For her “persistent work” generating interest in these projects, Jupiter has been honored by Louisiana Appleseed with the Access to Justice Pro Bono Good Apple Award.

The Award is given annually to a select number of volunteers who “have risen above the typical pro bono commitment” or to “to celebrate pillars within our communities whose daily lives align with Louisiana Appleseed's mission to increase Access to Justice, Opportunity, and Education,” according to Appleseed’s website.

“Louisiana Appleseed could not have chosen a finer exemplar of professionalism and service than Tonya Jupiter,” said Dean David Meyer.  “She models integrity, collegiality, and a passionate commitment to justice in her every dimension.  Our students, our community, and our profession are all in her debt.”

At the law school, Jupiter is the force behind making sure more than 600 law students connect with dozens of agencies and non-profits in need of assistance. Students work doing research, interviewing clients and drafting memos and briefs alongside licensed attorneys, assisting the community’s most vulnerable clients. The students gain experience with the legal process, earn mandatory pro bono hours for graduation and learn ready-for-practice skills; agencies and their clients get much-needed advocacy support.

In this work, Jupiter is an exemplary steward of Tulane's nationally-recognized pro bono program. In the Fall of 1987, Tulane became the nation’s first law school to require mandatory pro bono hours in the community as a requisite for graduation.  Currently, students are required to complete 50 hours of pro bono service during their time at Tulane Law.

Jupiter also is a faculty supervisor for the judicial externship program, meaning she helps students secure placements in both state and federal court chambers. In that role, she mentors students and encourages members of the judiciary to consider Tulane Law students when they have openings.

“Tonya models exuberance and enthusiasm for her work,” said Dean of Experiential Learning Stacy Seicshnaydre. “She is so creative and committed in her approach to the programs she oversees, it is almost impossible to say no when she asks for help on behalf of her students.”

Prior to joining Tulane in 2016, Jupiter was in private practice, working with various private firms where she concentrated on civil defense litigation, including toxic torts, general casualty, commercial and personal injury litigation. Jupiter clerked with the Hon. Michael G. Bagneris (L ’75) at Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.  

In 2019, she was a planner and organizer of the law school’s Black Law Alumni Reunion, which celebrated 50 years of black law student achievement.