Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity Selected for Pennsylvania Bar Foundation Goffman Award for Pro Bono Service

PBA President Mike McDonald (left), joins staff of PLSE and Wesley R. Payne IV, Chair of the Goffman Award Committee
PBA President Mike McDonald (left), joins staff of PLSE and Wesley R. Payne IV, Chair of the Goffman Award Committee

The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation presented its 2024 Louis J. Goffman Award to Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) in recognition of its Pardon Project on May 9 during the Pennsylvania Bar Association Annual Meeting in Hershey.

The Goffman Award is named for a late Pennsylvania Bar Association president and recognizes individuals and organizations committed to outstanding pro bono service.

PLSE, a nonprofit legal aid organization founded in 2010, provides free legal advice and representation to low-income Philadelphia residents who have experienced the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. Through individual representation, strategic litigation, community education, research and legislative support, PLSE advocates for a more equitable social environment for those with criminal records. It seeks expungements in criminal court and pardons from the governor; educates community leaders; empowers under-resourced communities; and leads legislative, administrative and systemic reform.

Through the pro bono work of lawyers and law students, and help from community partnerships, the PLSE Pardon Project strives to clear the criminal records of clients who have obtained expungements and have had an extended period of no new convictions. This effort also aims to remove the barriers for individuals seeking jobs, education, housing, credit and other opportunities. PLSE created a network of “pardon hubs” throughout Philadelphia where individuals can access information and get assistance. It also developed a free pardon coach toolkit to train volunteers. Its documentary Pardon Me shares the stories of two people who have navigated the pardon process, defines what a pardon is and outlines the steps involved with granting a pardon in Pennsylvania.

About the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation

The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, improves the public’s understanding of the law and its appreciation of democracy and strives to ensure that citizens, particularly Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable, have full access to our legal system. The foundation accomplishes its mission by making grants, seeking financial support from individuals and organizations both within and outside of the legal community, and encouraging bar members to donate their time, talent and expertise in service to the public. Follow the foundation on Facebook.

  • Pro Bono