The Chicago Bar Foundation honored a veteran John Marshall professor and two of its alums for their contributions to the legal community. Professor Michael Seng and alumni Michael Pelletier and Brian K. Jones were honored at the July 15 Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation Pro Bono & Public Service Awards Luncheon.
Seng received the Leonard Jay Schrager Award of Excellence; Pelletier received the Richard J. Phelan Public Service Award; and Jones received the Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award.
Seng’s exemplary legal career has been a stellar example over the years for many John Marshall students. Before joining the faculty in 1976, he directed the Legal Aid Clinic in the Cabrini-Green Housing Project and was an attorney for the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.
A noted constitutional law scholar, Seng has worked to end discrimination through John Marshall’s Fair Housing Legal Support Center & Clinic, which he founded 20 years ago as an outgrowth of an externship program. He continues to teach students at the clinic and through outreach into communities as a speaker for annual training sessions hosted by the Fair Housing Legal Support Center. He testifies before government agencies on how to initiate or improve housing laws, and he directs research on housing discrimination to support discrimination claims.
Most recently, Seng and Adjunct Professor Sheila Murphy launched John Marshall’s Restorative Justice Program to teach young people in struggling Chicago neighborhoods how to end destructive behaviors and improve their lives and those around them.
Pelletier has dedicated his life to public service. He has spent nearly four decades with the Office of the State Appellate Defender. A 1976 John Marshall graduate, he joined the appellate defender’s staff as an assistant public defender working in Ottawa, Ill. He transferred to the Chicago office in 1978 and served as an assistant public defender until 1987 when he was promoted to deputy defender. In 2008, Pelletier was named State Appellate Defender.
When the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was transferred to the state office, Pelletier’s staff jumped from 19 to more than 100 attorneys and additional support staff. He is credited with devising a system that allows attorneys to spend the maximum amount of their time doing legal work and leaving the clerical work to the support staff. Pelletier also brought information technology specialists on staff to help devise a system that allows for easy access and maintenance of office reporting.
Jones is a partner and co-chair of Harrison & Held, LLP, where he focuses on estate planning and administration, business entities, tax and retirement planning. His work through the Chicago Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section included the founding of the Wills for Heroes Foundation, providing free estate plans to Chicago first responders and veterans. He received the Milton H. Gray Award for Outstanding Project Leadership from the CBA Young Lawyers Section.
Jones, a 2006 graduate of John Marshall, has been recognized by Super Lawyer Magazine the past three years, and Chicago Magazine as an “Illinois Rising Star.”