Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP Chairman Arthur Makadon dedicated the Alan J. Davis Award at Ballard's Philadelphia office on Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

The award is named for an esteemed Ballard litigator and former city solicitor who died suddenly last year. Ballard created the annual award in his memory to honor an individual or group at the firm for exemplary legal representation in a matter involving the public good. The award carries a prize of $25,000, which the firm donates to an organization of the winner's choosing.

"Alan was committed to supreme craftsmanship and gifted thought in everything he did, and his life work was to make the city a far better place," Makadon said.

The first award winner is Ballard associate Jason A. Leckerman, recognized for his advocacy on behalf of a Guinean refugee who could not hear, speak, or communicate through sign language. Mr. Leckerman split his prize money among three agencies: HIAS & Council Migration Service of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, and Berks Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services. In addition to being honored with the Alan J. Davis Award, Mr. Leckerman received the Pennsylvania Bar Association's 2008 Pro Bono Award at the ceremony.

Two years ago, Mr. Leckerman was asked to ascertain whether the young refugee had a claim for asylum. Working with translators to create a method of communication for his client, Mr. Leckerman learned that she had suffered female genital mutilation as a child. Her parents had both died, leaving her alone and vulnerable on the streets of Conakry, the capital of the African nation of Guinea, where soldiers raped her. With the help of a worker at a U.N. refugee program, she made her way to the U.S. Mr. Leckerman worked with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and experts on genital mutilation and conditions in Guinea to build a case, including evidence that returning the young woman to Guinea would be a virtual death sentence. Mr. Leckerman made a compelling case for humanitarian relief and secured a green card for the woman. He continued his advocacy by locating an interpreter to teach the woman sign language and secured the state's agreement to pay for the instruction and help her find a job. Mr. Leckerman's work exceeded the normal scope of pro bono representation.

 

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