The Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award is given each fall at a gala celebration in Camden, in recognition of Mary Philbrook, the first woman admitted to the New Jersey Bar. The Alumni Association, the Law School and the Burlington and Camden County Bar Associations co-sponsor the event. 

33rd Annual Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award Celebration

Sponsored by the Women’s Law Caucus, the Association for Public Interest Law, the Rutgers Law–Camden Alumni Association, and the Camden County Bar Association, the Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award celebration is a tradition at Rutgers Law School's Camden location that began in 1986.

The 33rd Annual Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award Celebration honoring Susan L. Burke took place on Thursday, October 25th, 2018 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Rutgers University–Camden Campus Center. 

2018 Mary Philbrook Award Honoree: Susan L. Burke

In June 2015, the National Law Journal named Susan L. Burke one of the top 75 female attorneys in the nation.  Ms. Burke is an experienced litigator with 30 years of experience, specializing in bringing federal class action or mass tort lawsuits to reform broken systems or fix societal problems. 

Presently, Ms. Burke serves as lead Multi-District Litigation (MDL) counsel in the KBR Burn Pit MDL, pending in federal court in Maryland.  In that case, Ms. Burke represents military personnel harmed by Halliburton/KBR’s misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ms. Burke also serves as lead counsel in a nationwide fraud case against a medical device manufacturer.

Ms. Burke’s past work in American federal courts has had a global impact: As lead counsel for Iraqi victims, Ms. Burke achieved a legal first by negotiating multi-million dollar settlements with defense contractors involved in the Abu Ghraib torture, and with Blackwater, a private mercenary company responsible for the Nissor Square massacre.  Ms. Burke also served as lead counsel in a series of lawsuits seeking to reform the military’s deficiencies in prosecuting rape and sexual assault. Her work on this issue was profiled in the Academy-award nominated documentary “The Invisible War.”

Further, Ms. Burke has prevailed in upholding campaign finance reform, served as counsel advocating for people with mental illness and other disabilities, and prosecuted civil cases against health care providers for paying kickbacks and overbilling Medicare and Medicaid.

Ms. Burke has appeared as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, Nightline, CNN Christiane Amanpour, PBS Newshour, and many other television news shows. Ms. Burke and her legal work have been profiled by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Daily News, and The Baltimore Sun, as well as other news outlets.      

A Tradition of Honoring Public Interest Advocates
  • Mary Philbrook's Life and Legacy
  • Past Honorees
  • Past Student Award Recipients
  • The Mary Philbrook Award Celebration Tradition in Camden

Mary Philbrook was born in Washington, D.C., on August 6, 1872. The daughter of a feminist and a lawyer, she only received formal education through high school, and a course in stenography. Mary became educated in the law only through a job with the firm of Russ and Oppenheimer, located in Hoboken, N.J., where she met James Minturn, who later became a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. It was Minturn who encouraged Mary's interest in the law and made a motion for Mary to be admitted to the New Jersey Bar on February 20, 1894. Mary's petition for admittance rested on her rights as a citizen and the equal protection guarantees to citizens of the state. However, she was denied admission by the Court despite the fact that over 300 women were practicing attorneys in 30 other states.

In 1895, a bill was passed in New Jersey stating that "no person would be denied admission to examination for license to practice as an attorney..." and following another motion by Minturn, Mary was admitted to the New Jersey Bar on June 6, 1895. Subsequently, Mary became the first woman appointed to Chancery Court and the second to be a notary public. In 1906, Mary also became the first New Jersey woman to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

After beginning to practice, Mary began a lecture series in which she endorsed "plain justice," upholding that women not receive any special treatment. She moved her practice to Newark and began working for Legal Aid, as well as championing such causes as child labor reform, extension of the probation system, a state reformatory for women, and separate juvenile courts. Her volunteerism even extended to taking in street children into her own home until she could find adequate placement for them. She participated in investigations into white slavery, leading to the passing of the Mann Act, while also fighting for the right to vote.

After 1919, however, Philbrook's focus became the complete emancipation of women, especially in New Jersey. She resigned from a position for the City of Newark in protest because she was being treated differently from the men, assigned only cases in family law, and not given the same desk or office space as other legal assistants in the office. During that period, women's rights made many advances, with the adoption of an international treaty by the Pan‐American states at Montevideo.  The treaty included an equal rights provision, and with the 1937 League of Nations Assembly, appointment of a committee to examine the legal status of women around the world. Mary then proceeded to organize several committees and write various petitions to amend the state constitution to include an equal rights provision and reword the preamble to affirm women's rights.  Mary's final major triumph was the replacement of references to "men" in the New Jersey Constitution with references to "persons."

After prolonged illness, Mary Philbrook passed away on September 2, 1958. We should all be grateful for the many achievements she accomplished throughout her life.

2000

  • The Honorable Lillian Ransom, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia
  • Frank P. Cervone, Esq., Director, Support Center for Child Advocates, Philadelphia

2001

  • Renee Steinhagen, Esq., Executive Director, Public Interest Law Center, New Jersey
  • William H. Buckman, Esq. ‘78, Private Practitioner, Morristown, N.J.

2002

  • Alba E. Martinez, Esq., Former Commissioner, Department of Human Services, Philadelphia

2003

  • The Honorable Judith H. Wizmur ‘74, Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge, Camden, N.J.

2004

  • Judith Bernstein-Baker, Esq,. HIAS and Council, Migration Service of Philadelphia
  • Carole Wood, Esq., Immigration Coordinator, Camden Center for Law and Social Justice

2005

  • The Honorable Theodore A. McKee, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

2006

  • Catherine C. Carr, Esq., Executive Director, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

2007

  • The Honorable Deborah Poritz (ret.), Chief Justice, New Jersey Supreme Court

2008

  • Carol E. Tracy, Esq., Executive Director, The Women’s Law Project, Philadelphia

2009

  • Yvonne Smith Segars, Esq., Public Defender for The State of New Jersey

2010

  • Drewry Nash Fennell, Executive Director, Delaware Criminal Justice Council

2011

  • Harold B. Garwin, Esq., Executive Director, Community Health Law Project

2013

  • The Honorable Virginia Long (ret.), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court

2014

  • Tiffany Palmer ‘98, Social Justice Activist and Shareholder, Jerner & Palmer, P.C.

2015

  • The Honorable Marsha H. Neifield, Presiding Judge of Philadelphia Municipal Court
  • Sally Goldfarb Professor of Law, The Domestic Violence Program, Rutgers Law School

2016

  • Michael Taub, Staff Attorney and Director of the Veterans Project of the Homeless Advocacy Project

2017

  • Harold Katz '77, Deputy Public Defender, New Jersey Office of the Public Defender
  • Joseph Moran, Acting First Assistant Deputy Public Defender, New Jersey Office of the Public Defender
 

Listed By Law School Graduation Year

Nii Obeng (Sonny) Ankrah, 1999 
Jacqueline Caban, 1999
Meredith Schalick, 1999
Kevin Walsh, 1999
Jean Connolly, 2000
Elizabeth Livingstone, 2000
Kay Radwanski, 2000
Robert Wright,  2000
Kelly Coia, 2000
Susanna Gray, 2000
Valarie McPherson, 2000
Karen Francis, 2001
Christine Heer, 2001
Danielle Joseph, 2001
John Price, 2001
Marisa Krause, 2001
James Lubrich, 2001
Zoe McLaughlin, 2001
Michael Schleigh, 2001
Mellany Alio, 2002
Lynne Killmeyer, 2002
Jodina Hoobler-Hicks, 2002
Megan Willoughby, 2002
John Cardwell, 2002
Sharon L. Piccioni, 2002
Lisa Raufer, 2002
Dalia Zaza, 2002
Ellen Bailey, 2003
Matt Burns, 2003
Jared  Littman,  2003
Blaise  Pittman,  2003
Debra   Rainey,  2003
Kimm Tynan, 2003
Rachel Fais Partyka, 2003
Stephanie Sanderson, 2003
Carolyn Buccerone, 2004
Keith Campbell, 2004
Trevor Kwan, 2004
Bill  McLaughlin, 2004
Belinda  Roberts,  2004
Krista Trani, 2004
Oliver Cleary, 2004
Keith Walsh, 2004
Matthew Abatemarco, 2005
William “Rob” Frantz, 2005
Daniella Gordon, 2005
Shawnda Grady, 2005
Maggie Niebler, 2005
Joseph Turk, 2005
Temperance Williamson, 2005
Kristy Hausinger, 2005
Kyle G. Phillips, 2005
Macavan Baird, 2006
Sam Hoffman, 2006
Amanda M. Lanham, 2006
Robert “Reb” Loucas, 2006
Kristina Rencic, 2006
Jennifer Shamwell, 2006
Dina Wizmur, 2006
Lisa Junghahn, 2006
Kevin Leipow, 2006
Bridget Coyne, 2007
David Gallivan, 2007
Maria Hernandez, 2007
Jeffrey Klamut, 2007
Robert O’Brien, 2007
Matthew Rudolphi, 2007
Sarah Wang, 2007
Lloyd Freeman, 2007
Wesley Huber, 2007
Kimberly Wong, 2007
Marissa Band, 2008
Carrie S. Ford, 2008
Ariel Gornizky, 2008
Esther Huang, 2008
Tiffany Dionne Johnson, 2008
Zorayda J. Moreira-Smith, 2008
Catherine Salansky, 2008
Gregory B. Thomlison, 2008
Joseph A. Venti, 2008
Michelle A. Westcoat, 2008
Lynda Hinkle, 2009
Shana Mattson, 2009
Nhan Tu, 2009
Catherine Williams, 2009
Conor Wilson, 2009
Laura Ann Pontelandolfo, 2009
Melissa Bowe, 2010
Lisa Geis, 2010
Amanda Harber, 2010
Cori Harvey, 2010
Jonathan Klein, 2010
Andrew Linenberg, 2010
Chris   Markos, 2010
Noah Marlier, 2010
Melissa  Osorio, 2010
Jenna Fliszar, 2010
Suehail   Perez, 2010
Beverly Beaver, 2011
Brian Robert Brotman, 2011
Jason Fortenberry, 2011
Jeanette Kwon, 2011
Kate Reilly, 2011
Michael P. Sawka, 2011
Erik L. Solivan, 2011
Michael Christian Younker, 2011
Jocelyn Fowler, 2011
Christine McDevitt, 2011
Theodora Stringham, 2011
Elliott Almanza, 2012
Alysa Castro, 2012
Brandon  Croker,  2012
Matt  DePasquale,  2012
Elena Fikaris, 2012
Jacquie Huynh-Linenberg, 2012
Wali Rushdan II, 2012
Brisa De Angulo, 2012
Parker Palmer, 2012
Kayci Petenko, 2012
Abraham Tran, 2012
Jennifer Kim, 2013
Jennifer Martin, 2013
Colleen McCafferty, 2013
Michael Perez, 2013
Jonathan Sacks, 2013
Ryan Schaffer, 2013
Matan Shmuel, 2013
Kiomeiry Csepes, 2013
Amanda Dalton, 2013
Maura Burk, 2014
Iveliz Crespo, 2014
Tiara Greene, 2014
Samantha Gross, 2014
Maureen Ingersoll, 2014
Ragner Jaeger, 2014
Stephen Raab, 2014
Amanda Follett, 2014
Kathleen Kelliher, 2014
Michelle Ringel, 2014
Justin Kozinn, 2015
Matthew Lewis, 2015
Staven Salinger, 2015
Amy Sobotka, 2015
Jacquelyn Suarez, 2015
Xiomara Uran, 2015
Alexi Velez, 2015
Ryann Aaron, 2016
Linwood Donelson, 2016
Frantz Duncan, 2016
Alexis Franklin, 2016
Caitlin Faye, 2016
Amanda O'Keefe, 2016
Jason Kanterman, 2016
Leigh Kelsey O'Donnell, 2016
Sade Calin, 2017
Carly Campoli, 2017
Mary-Kate Collins, 2017
Rachel Lamb, 2017
Kathryn Morris, 2017
Kisha Pinnock, 2017
Emily Preziosa, 2017
Allan Zhang, 2017
Amanda Deptula, 2017
Brooke Lewis, 2017
Christopher Bustamente Osario, 2018
Daniel Dowdy, 2018
Blair Gerold, 2018
Eric Macias Intriago, 2018
Sandra Reed, 2018
Domenico Stockton-Rossini, 2018
Amelia Vangellow, 2018
Shahidah Williams, 2018

The Philbrook Celebration began in 1986, as the successor event to the Rutgers Women’s Law Caucus’ networking dinner.  The Rutgers Women’s Law Caucus was founded in the 1970s to advocate for equal treatment for women in the legal profession and in society, educate its members and the law school community about legal issues affecting women’s lives, and provide opportunities for women law students, faculty, attorneys and judges to network with each other.  In 1986, at the suggestion of Professor Ann Freedman, its faculty advisor, the Women’s Law Caucus joined with other law school student organizations, interested faculty and alumni to re-invent the WLC’s annual gathering of students, faculty and alumni as the Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award Celebration. Professor Robert F. Williams suggested naming the award after Mary Philbrook because of her path-breaking achievements as New Jersey’s first woman lawyer, her role in obtaining the equal rights provision of the 1947 New Jersey state constitution, and her outstanding career as an advocate for social justice and equality.  Val Myntti, ’87, the chairperson of the original Philbrook Celebration, and the Honorable Betty J. Lester, of the Superior Court, Essex County, New Jersey, the first Philbrook honoree, helped us start the enjoyable Philbrook tradition of combining a wonderful social occasion with inspiring reflections on a life and career shaped by dedication to the public interest.  Linda J. Wharton, ’81 (also our 1992 Philbrook honoree), and Dean Angela V. Baker, ’85, are members of the first Philbrook organizing committee who continue to be involved today.  

In 1998, when Professor Louis S. Rulli, ’74, was the Philbrook honoree, the law school’s Alumni Association became a co-sponsor of the event with the Women’s Law Caucus.  The next year, at the suggestion of Professors Rulli and Freedman, the event sponsors inaugurated the Mary Philbrook Student Public Interest Awards, which have allowed the law school community to recognize dozens of outstanding students for their dedicated work on behalf of social justice and equality.  In 2000, the Association for Public Interest Law joined the Women’s Law Caucus and the Alumni Association as a co-sponsor of the program, helping to take the event to another level.  In 2005, the Camden County Bar Association became the event’s fourth official sponsor, and Professor Freedman was honored for her role in promoting the spirit of Mary Philbrook in the Rutgers Law School community and for her ongoing leadership in creating each year’s celebration. 

From 1986 to the present, the Mary Philbrook Award Celebration has benefited from outstanding leadership on the part of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and members of the bench and bar.  While their names are too numerous to list, we want to express our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has helped create the distinctive tradition which has now continued for a quarter of a century. 

Over the years, Lisa Alston, Diana Avella, Jay Cholera, Linda Comuso, Christen Conway, Kate Cranston, Susan Doughty, Rob Goodman, Theresa McCuen, Colleen McNally, Pam Mertsock-Wolfe, Teresa Moffett, Zaharati Morfesis, Donna Rabena, Jane W. Rhodes and Carol Shaner have provided staff support above and beyond the call of duty.  The Campus Center staff, Dining, Events Office, Facilities, Rutgers Camden IT, and Media Relations Departments have provided expert and invaluable assistance.  Associate Chancellor Mary Beth Daisey, the Honorable Jack  Sabatino, Deans Victoria Chase and Angela V. Baker, and Professor John Beckerman have assumed critical leadership roles and helped mentor the students involved in creating the event.  Former Assistant Dean Eve Biskin Klothen played an important role in embedding the Philbrook celebration in the law school’s culture, expanding the event’s support for student public interest work and strengthening ties with the legal community. Special thanks are due to the outstanding honorees who have graced us with their presence and inspired us by their work, as well as to Chancellor Phoebe Haddon, former Chancellor Wendell Pritchett and former Deans John Pittenger, Rick Singer, Paul Robinson, Roger Dennis (also our former Provost), Jay Feinman, Rayman Solomon (another former Provost), John Oberdiek, and current co-deans Michael Cahill and Ron Chen, who have always provided generous support, financial and otherwise, to make this event possible.