Some of the student award winners (all Class of 2024) of the evening: (L to R) Pierre St. Perez, Daniel Bromberg, Merrick Black, Isaac Belenky, Miriam Mars, and Mimi Goldberg.

Alumni and Students Honored for Public Service Achievements 

Cornell Law School alumni, students, professors, and staff gathered on March 21 to celebrate outstanding contributions to the public interest at the 19th Annual Exemplary Public Service Awards ceremony. Hosted by Michaela Azemi, the Law School’s director of public interest and community engagement, at the New York City Bar Association, the ceremony also saw the inaugural presentation of the Barry Strom Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award. 

“Our legal system literally cannot function unless there is meaningful access to legal services for all,” said Jens David Ohlin, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. “To fulfill law schools’ academic and community service missions as providers of pro bono service and as purveyors of civic discourse and debate, we must remain uniformly intellectually superb, as can only occur if we recruit and educate for excellence.” 

Six alumni were honored with the 2024 Public Service Awards. Vivian Hernandez ’12 is a capital defense counsel at the Military Commissions Defense Organization who is currently defending a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay. Steven Koch ’16 is a counsel at the New York State Senate and advocates for housing nondiscrimination. John Mills ’08, a founder and principal attorney of Phillips Black, has an extensive record representing people sentenced to death or juvenile life without the possibility of parole. Carol Ode ’82, a Vermont state representative, successfully championed a law banning child marriage in her state. Rose Petoskey ’15, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, is the Biden administration’s senior advisor and director of tribal affairs, where she is a strong voice for tribes’ self-determination and sovereignty. Karen Phillips ’05 fights for racial equity and social justice as an assistant managing attorney at the Northwest Justice Project, a Washington State legal aid organization.

The Rising Star Awards went to Sarah Estabrook ’17, a supervisory asylum officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a leader in the Public Sector Alumni Network; Nathalie Greenfield ’21, a capital defender at Phillips Black who has represented clients around the world and has published research on women on death row; and Cristina Quiñones-Betancourt ’14, who represents tenants resisting gentrification, displacement, and structural racism in New York City as the director of fair housing at the Communities Resist legal aid nonprofit.

Andowah Newton ’06, who received one of the Pro Bono Awards, recounted her experience of sexual harassment and assault while working at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as vice president of legal affairs, and how the company dismissed her concerns and ultimately fired her. She initially struggled with the decision of whether to seek accountability. However, Newton kept going, ultimately testifying before Congress to help pass a law abolishing forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment victims and attending the bill signing at the White House.

“Despite my fears, I was in a position to demand change,” Newton said. “And I’ve learned that even the smallest acts of courage can have unforeseen yet powerful consequences and ripple effects on our entire system.”

The other Pro Bono Award recipient, Samantha Singh ’19, is an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton who logged more than 700 hours of pro bono work last year and is on track to exceed that in 2024. In her acceptance, Singh mentioned that just two weeks earlier, a judge had finally reduced a disproportionate and “bone-crushing” sentence being served by one of her clients to time served and released him from prison after twenty-one years.

Professor Emeritus Barry Strom, who anchored the Cornell Legal Aid Clinic over a three-and-a-half-decade Law School career, presented his namesake award—which he promptly dubbed “the Barry”—to Barbara Babb ’81. Babb, a professor emerita at the University of Baltimore School of Law, is a family law pioneer who has pushed court systems across the nation to consider children and families’ particular needs. Recruited from a legal aid career, Babb helped revamp the school’s clinical program and founded the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts, which, she said, “advocates for reforms to the family justice system nationwide so the system really acts in a way that focuses on actually helping the families and children who enter the court system.”

Azemi honored several third-year Law School students for their contributions to the public interest. The Freeman Award for Civil-Human Rights, which honors students who have made significant contributions to the public interest during their time at Cornell, went to Merrick Black, Daniel Bromberg, and Mimi Goldberg.

The Stanley E. Gould Prize for Public Interest Law is presented to students who have shown outstanding dedication to serving public interest law and public interest groups. This year, the prize was given to Isaac Belenky ’24, Miriam Mars ’24, Pierre St. Perez ’24, and Konner Robison, who was honored posthumously after he tragically passed away in November, and whose award was accepted by his widow, Claire. 

Azemi recalled Robison’s leadership as a “cornerstone of public interest at Cornell Law School,” and his work with her and with other members of the Cornell Law Veterans Association to launch the Veterans Law Practicum last fall. “But for Connor’s dedication and brilliance,” Azemi said, “this new clinic wouldn’t exist.” 

The Seymour Herzog Memorial Prize, which is awarded to students who demonstrate excellence in the law and commitment to public interest law, combined with a love of sports, went to Katherine McCullough ‘24, Sawyer Nash’24, and Josiah Rutledge ‘24.

During her remarks, Petoskey mentioned a time during her 1L year when she was struggling and went to Professor Faust Rossi for help. “He told me, ‘you know, you’re going to make it,’” she said.

“And so, to the law students in the room: You’re going to make it, and you’re going to do great things.”

New York Annual Luncheon Highlights the Aspirations of “Lawyers in the Best Sense”

“No matter what I’m doing in the future, because I went to Cornell, I feel confident that whatever I’m doing will be something great,” said Lisa Vigilante ’25. Her enthusiasm and optimism was shared by her fellow Cornell Law School students speaking at this year’s New York Annual Luncheon. At the January 25 luncheon program, entitled “Embracing Excellence: Cornell Law Students on Their Journey to Legal Impact,” six current law students shared with alumni their aspirations and reflections on the potential power of a Cornell Law degree. 

“What I love about Cornell is that I just have good choices. I feel like I’m deciding between good, better, and best,” says Patrick George ’24, who arrived at Cornell Law after serving fourteen years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, then the Reserve and the intelligence community. “Cornell has a different vibe from other law schools. It was small enough for me to make an impact and to feel like I could contribute while in law school. We often say, ‘to do the greatest good’ and ‘lawyers in the best sense’—that appealed to me.” George served as co-president of the Cornell Law Veterans Association where he led its efforts to establish the Veterans Law Practicum.

From left: Joshua Eisenberg ’00, Sheila Fischer Kiernan ’00, and Shane Cooper ’03

In fact, all six panelists expressed a desire to use their Cornell experience and degree to improve lives and give opportunity to others who aspire to a Cornell Law degree. That impressed panel moderator Donald Frederico ’79, president of the Cornell Law School Alumni Association. “We have six people with a wide variety of experiences and yet there’s a real common thread in everything you say. Your commitment, not only to excellence in your profession, but also to serving the public, to serving the common good, whether it’s something you do on the side as a volunteer or as your primary focus as a lawyer, I find that very inspiring.”

In fact, all six students expressed a desire to “give back” and use “the privilege and power” of a Cornell Law degree, whether through mentorship, pro bono work, or philanthropy. That’s why Dalton Sousa ’25 is planning to continue his work with Foley Hoag. He says big law offers big salaries and “a life changing opportunity to build wealth that allows us to help people.” Specifically, Sousa says he wants to help other students of color have opportunities for a career in law.

Carolyn Click ’24, a Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek) law student who served as president of Cornell’s Native American Law Students Association, says she will join Latham & Watkins after graduation, with a passion for intellectual property law and a pro bono practice. She was drawn to Cornell from her home in Oklahoma, partly because of the presence of Indigenous nations in upstate New York. “It’s important not to forget where you came from and the values that shaped you.”

No matter where they come from, Cornell students find both fellowship and inspiration. LL.M. student Madeleine Bel, LL.M. ‘24, worked in France and England before coming to Cornell. She is grateful for professors who encourage open discussion and a welcoming and vibrant learning environment. “Every day, I’m working with people from Israel, Columbia, Chile, India, and it’s very rich to work with them.” 

Fellow LL.M. student Alan Luo, LL.M. ‘24, a Canadian law graduate attending Cornell Tech, says he truly values the fact that Cornell attracts students from around the world who share a common interest: “It was incredibly mind opening to discuss, for example, how we can advance current policies in artificial intelligence to make things more equitable for everyone in society—how we can innovate to make the world a more peaceful place.” 

In expressing his gratitude to the panelists and the students and alumni in attendance at the luncheon, Dean Ohlin closed the program by paying tribute to the caliber of Cornell’s law students which he called “the cornerstone of our vibrant community.” He noted the meaningful connections made at these sorts of gatherings that can enrich the law school experience and inspire philanthropic support “essential to ensuring the continued legacy of Cornell lawyers.” 

10th Annual Alumni & Student Mosaic Mixer 

On January 6, 2024, 121 alumni, students, faculty, and staff gathered in New York City to celebrate Cornell Law School’s longstanding and rich tradition of diversity at the 10th Annual Cornell Law School Alumni & Student Mosaic Mixer. Prior to the mixer, alumni hosted a panel discussion entitled “Navigating Workplace Unwritten Rules” for the students who traveled to the city for the event. The alumni offered advice and guidance on the “do’s and don’ts” that can make or break the start of one’s career in a law firm— something they don’t teach in law school. After the discussion, which included a lively question and answer session, the panelists and students joined the rest of the alumni, faculty, and staff for an evening of networking and social enjoyment. The panel program and reception were hosted by Melissa Colón-Bosolet ’07 at Sidley. 

Dean Ohlin Visits Alumni in Hong Kong and Japan 

Cornell Law School’s global reach was celebrated in December during a trip to Asia by Dean Ohlin and Aimée Houghton, associate dean for Graduate Legal Studies. Alumni spanning different graduation years and career paths gathered in Hong Kong at a reception hosted by Jonathan Zhu ’92, to reconnect and meet Dean Ohlin. In Tokyo, sixty alumni and guests gathered for a reception hosted by Takayuki Kihira, LL.M. ’06, and Shinya Watanabe, LL.M. ’84, where attendees heard brief remarks by Dean Ohlin, Dean Houghton, and other distinguished Cornell Law School alumni in attendance.

From left: Dean Ohlin, Jonathan Zhu ’92, Clay Adler, A.B. ’93, and Steven Li

In Memoriam

John C. Alsina ’80 

Ed W. Bergmann ’66 

Kenneth Albert Caschette ’81 

Daniel F. Cashman ’73 

Peter P. Cecere, LL.B. ’64 

David Y Choi ’99 

Ronald G. Cohn, LL.B. ’59 

Bruce H. Detwiler ’75 

Leonard Feldman, LL.B. ’54 

James A. Gabriel ’72 

Lyell G. Galbraith, LL.B. ’60 

Paul S. Goldstein, LL.B. ’58 

Dale Goodfriend Jr., LL.B. ’63 

Malvern Hill Jr., LL.B. ’54 

John W. Hudanich ’59 

Alfred L. Jacobsen III, LL.B. ’58 

Christopher J. Karis ’97 

Gerald M. Kleinbaum ’58 

Clinton A. Krislov ’74 

Sarel M. Kromer, LL.B. ’63 

C. Thomas Kunz ’75 

Richard M. Lucash ’74 

John Jay Mangan ’67 

David L. Maulsby Jr. ’68 

Richard H. May, LL.B. ’60 

William Z. McNamara, LL.B. ’59 

Kendall A. Minter ’76 

Eugene C. Nicolato, LL.B. ’54 

Faust Frank Rossi ’60 

Samuel C. Sanford ’57 

Hon. Gary L. Sharpe ’74 

John G. Shea, LL.B. ’56 

Jack L. Smith ’71 

L. Richard Stumbar ’74 

Seale W. Tuttle ’72