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MJF Confers Outstanding Service Awards at November Ceremony

NOVEMBER 16, 2012—This year's Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) Annual Awards Celebration took place Nov. 15, 2012, at International Market Square in Minneapolis. MJF honors the exemplary service of Minnesota legal professionals to low-income clients each year with its Outstanding Service Awards.

The Direct Legal Service Award went to Susan Stokes (’89), executive director of Farmers' Legal Action Group. She has directed FLAG's outreach to immigrant and refugee farmers, actively advocated for justice and opportunity for low-income family farmers, supervised FLAG's litigation, and authored many of its amicus briefs.

The Private Practice Award went to Michael Ponto (’89), a partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, winner of its 2011 John C. Benson Award for outstanding pro bono service, and a recipient of the 2012 Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Diversity in Business Award for his work to support and promote an inclusive working environment. His recent pro bono practice focuses on advancing the rights of GLBT persons.

MJF selects one student from each Minnesota law school each year to receive the Law Student Volunteer Award, and the Law School's recipient was John Cetta (’13). He has worked as a law clerk and certified student attorney for the Public Defender's Office in Anoka and Hennepin Counties, represented indigent criminal defendants as a student director of the Misdemeanor Defense Clinic, and served on the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Board.

Keynote speaker at the awards celebration was Phil Duran (’00), president-elect of the Minnesota State Bar Association, a founding member of the Lavender Bar Association, and legal director at OutFront Minnesota, the state's largest GLBT advocacy organization. He is also a staff attorney for the Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits, where he helps start-up organizations with incorporation, tax, and other issues. He chairs the Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity subcommittee of the Minnesota Judicial Branch's Committee for Equality and Justice. Following his presentation, Duran joined a panel discussion with other LGBT leaders and lawyers and led a Q&A session.

MJF was formed in 1982 by a group of Law School students wishing to help meet the legal needs of the low-income community. Since then it has secured legal aid for thousands of under-represented Minnesotans by coordinating the efforts of volunteer law students and attorneys.


Susan Stokes

Susan Stokes (’89)


Michael Ponto (’89)


John Cetta

John Cetta (’13)


Phil Duran

Phil Duran (’00)