Eighteenth Annual Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner

Members of the Peter Cicchino Family with award recipient Jeanne M. Atkinson' 92.


On Thursday, April 13, AUWCL hosted the Eighteenth Annual Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner. This annual event is named in honor of a beloved former Washington College of Law Professor, Peter M. Cicchino, who passed away in 2000. Professor Cicchino was both a brilliant scholar and teacher and a brave and creative public interest lawyer.

The program honors a current student who has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to public interest during their time on campus, as well as two alumni for their remarkable public interest work, both domestically and internationally. Ninety-five members of the AUWCL Class of 2017 who completed the Pro Bono Honors Pledge were also recognized. The class as a whole performed over 37,754 hours of pro bono work.

Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a leading expert on racial justice, criminal justice, and discriminatory policing, was the keynote speaker.

This year's awardees included:

Jeanne M. Atkinson '92, Winner in the Category of Alumna or Alumnus Whose Career has Spanned 15 years or more

Jeanne M. Atkinson, the Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network since 2013, has long been active in protecting the legal rights of vulnerable people. A longtime immigration attorney, Atkinson previously served as the Director Immigration Legal Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the director of their Refugee Center. Atkinson was also a partner in establishing the Family Justice Center in Montgomery County, Maryland, and is currently a member of the advisory board of Catholics for Family Peace, two organizations dedicated to the prevention of domestic abuse and the care of its victims.

Since joining CLINIC, Atkinson helped launch the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, which provides pro bono representation for detained families located in Karnes and Dilley, Texas. She also founded and co-chairs the Committee for Immigration Reform Implementation, a 27-member consortium which, through training, online resources and national conferences, has increased the capacity of people and agencies dedicated to serving immigrants nationwide.

Organizations including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have often turned to Atkinson for her expertise. In 2013, she took part in a delegation with the USCCB to southern Mexico and Central America to examine the “push factors” that lead people from the region to migrate north.

Aaron C. Morris '05, Winner in the Category of Alumna or Alumnus Whose Career has Spanned 5-15 years

Aaron C. Morris is Immigration Equality’s Executive Director. Prior to becoming ED, Aaron led the organization’s law and policy programs. He has supervised Immigration Equality’s legal services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and lobbying efforts. During his nine years with Immigration Equality, Aaron has built close relationships with members of Congress, with top government agents at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, and with the White House.

As a national leader in LGBTQ immigration law, Aaron was invited in 2015 to provide oral arguments as amicus counsel before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Godoy-Ramirez v. Holder. As amicus, Aaron explained to the Court that an immigration judge had fundamentally misunderstood what it means to be transgender when she concluded that transgender women were safe in Mexico because that nation’s capital had recognized marriages for same-sex couples. The case was one of three that were argued at the same time, resulting in a published decision positively changing the law in nine states.

Morris developed his interest in immigration law while at WCL. As a student attorney in the International Human Rights Clinic at WCL, he worked under the supervision of then faculty member Muneer Ahmad who later helped Morris secure a position as immigration law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. In 2014, he was named by the LGBT Bar Association as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.

Blake Paradis '17, Winner in the Category of  Current Washington College of Law Student

Blake’s personal, professional, and academic pursuits have all demonstrated a passion for public service. Before beginning at AUWCL, Blake was the Communications & Outreach Manager at racial justice nonprofit in Oakland, CA; World Trust Educational Services. Learning the underlying systems promoting inequality and working with community members on issues of social justice inspired her to pursue a law degree.

While at AUWCL Blake has been extremely engaged, especially the public interest community on campus. Blake has been a dedicated member of the Human Rights Brief since her 1L year and is now Co-Editor-in-Chief of the publication. She is also a Senior Staff Member of the Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, a Dean's Fellow with the Office of Public Interest, and a Student Attorney with the D.C. Law Students in Court Clinic, where she represents low-income tenants facing eviction. She has previously held positions as a Student Advisory Board Member for the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Alumni Chair on the EJF Executive Board. She also participated in the Action for Human Rights alternate winter break where she worked with Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) and Southeast Legal Services, assisting the organizations with legal research.

Off campus Blake has interned with organizations focused on protecting constitutional and civil rights across issue area including; Alliance for Justice (AFJ), a progressive civil rights advocacy organization; the Government Accountability Project, a public interest litigation nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rights of whistleblowers; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); The Legal Aid Society of New York, working on systemic criminal justice issues in New York City; the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS); and Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit focused on addressing civil rights abuses in the criminal justice system.  Blake will begin her postgraduate work as a Law Clerk with Senior Judges at D.C. Superior Court and a Fellow with the Justice Policy Network.


Peter M. Cicchino was an Assistant Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), where he taught Constitutional Law, Torts, Jurisprudence, and Sexual Orientation and the Law. He joined the AUWCL faculty in 1998 after a distinguished career in public interest law. He founded and directed the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center, and, in that capacity for four years, provided legal representation for lesbian and gay street youth in New York City. He also served as a staff attorney in the national office of the ACLU and clerked for Justice Alan Handler of the New Jersey Supreme Court. 



Dean Camille Nelson giving welcome remarks
Dean Camille Nelson giving welcome remarks
Jeanne M. Atkinson '92 with Office of Public Interest Asst. Director Angie McCarthy
Jeanne M. Atkinson '92 with Office of Public Interest Asst. Director Angie McCarthy
Student award winner Blake Paradis '17
Student award winner Blake Paradis '17
Keynote speaker Vincent Warren
Keynote speaker Vincent Warren

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