BY DAVID WELKER
Jessica Budnitz ’01 and Gary Slossberg ’03 (who won the award for service during his 3L year) were the recipients of the award this year. Representatives of various student organizations sponsoring and financing the award, including the Law School Council, selected them for the award.
The awards were preceded by a passionate speech against the death penalty by Kate Lowenstein. Lowenstein is an organizer for Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, an organization consisting of people who have had a family member murdered or executed and who are against the death penalty. Lowenstein’s father, Al Lowenstein, was a murder victim. Interestingly, Al Lowenstein was also a mentor to Gary Bellow when he was a student at Yale Law School. Lowenstein said that her views against the death penalty were challenged when her father was killed, but talking to the families of other victims led her to reaffirm her opposition to the death penalty. She does not believe that retribution is a proper function of the criminal justice system.
Jessica Budnitz was the next speaker. She is the founder and executive director of Juvenile Justice Partners, a newly created legal clinic that provides child-focused legal representation. Budnitz’s speech focused on her philosophy that advocates should work in true collaboration with child clients rather than assuming they know what is best for them without the children’s input. Before Budnitz founded Juvenile Justice Partners, she worked on various projects, including representing indigent juveniles in criminal proceedings and interning as a public defender in Washington, D.C.
Gary Bellow, for whom the awards are named, started the law school’s clinical program in 1971. Among his advocacy projects, he worked as a public defender in Washington, D.C., represented indigent clients in the Boston area and litigated on behalf of migrant farm workers. Bellow was described as someone who rebelled against bureaucratic restraint when he perceived it as hindering his public interest work. For example, he allocated funding to buy a bus to reach migrant farm worker clients in the fields without obtaining proper permission. He was known for acting first and justifying his decisions later when he felt he was serving a more important cause.
The awards were followed by a few words from Dean Kagan praising the winners for their dedication to public service.