Benjamin Lerner Receives 2023 Alumni Impact Award
The Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) at University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School awarded Benjamin Lerner of Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas (Retired) its 2023 Alumni Impact Award.
“I’ve gotten my share of awards,” said Lerner in the announcement. “This one is really special for two reasons: First, it comes at the end of my career in public service. It’s an affirmation of my life’s work. Second, the fact that the award comes from the Toll Center at the Law School is particularly significant for me because it was at Penn that I started learning about the practice of law in the public interest.”
Recipients of the Alumni Impact Award are chosen for their remarkable contributions to societal good. Lerner helped push forward the criminal justice reform movement in Philadelphia, an early advocate for system changes and alternative sentencing. He served as the chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1975 to 1990, during which he represented criminal and juvenile defendants as well as child advocacy and mental health cases. He persuaded Penn Carey Law School to maintain its Criminal Defense Clinic, which continues to this day.
For more than a decade, Lerner presided over the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas' Homicide Trial Division, increasing the funding for experts and investigators in indigent homicide cases. He developed the idea of "dual jurisdiction," which allows for older juvenile defendants to return to juvenile court for treatment and rehabiliation.
Lerner received his award during the TPIC annual Pro Bono Recognition Dinner in April.