Bridget Pranzatelli ’24 is the recipient of the 2024 Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award. She is recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Crimmigration Clinic, leadership in Harvard Defenders, and her extraordinary commitment to pro bono service.

The Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award honors the legacy of Professor Andrew Kaufman ’54, under whose direction the Pro Bono Program at Harvard Law School was established and nurtured. The award’s recipient is a member of the J.D. class who has displayed an outstanding commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services to disadvantaged communities.

“I am so grateful to be receiving this award,” Pranzatelli says. “It has been such an honor to get to represent some of the kindest, funniest, most generous people through both Harvard Defenders and the Crimmigration Clinic. To get to do this work alongside the most thoughtful and radical students this school has, with the guidance of the most caring and deeply dedicated supervisors — it’s like winning the lottery. My supervisors Phil, John, and Eleni are exemplary advocates, mentors, and people. My classmates inspire me every day as they fight for a more just and loving world. I am so grateful and honored to have gotten to stand alongside them.”

Pranzatelli jumped into pro bono work as soon as she arrived at Harvard Law, joining the student practice organization Harvard Defenders. Defenders offers pro bono representation to low-income Massachusetts residents in criminal show-cause hearings. Starting her 1L year, Pranzatelli spent many hours working on clients’ cases on top of her academic work. She took the helm of Intake Director as a 2L, and this year, Pranzatelli served as the organization’s Executive Director alongside President Kamille Bernard ’24.

“They have set the tone for an organization which is dedicated to high quality client representation and been supportive of fellow students,” says Defenders clinical instructor John Salsberg. “Their enthusiasm and zeal for the work has been infectious. Their openness and caring for everyone at Defenders has made it a place everyone wants to be.”

The first semester of her 2L year, Pranzatelli joined the Crimmigration Clinic, which she would continue in as an advanced student every following semester. The clinic works on cutting-edge issues at the intersection of criminal law and immigration law, including client representation and legislative advocacy components.

“She consistently set herself apart with her attention to detail, ability to collaborate well with others, and her ability to work under pressure,” says Phil Torrey, assistant clinical professor law and director of the Crimmigration Clinic. “She took particular care to make sure that her clients’ needs were met and that the advocacy being pursued on their behalf was top rate.”

Pranzatelli has worked on an extensive array of clinic projects. Her first semester in the clinic, she worked on two large-scale affirmative litigation projects concerning detention facilities in the New England area, quickly taking on leadership roles and driving the projects forward. This year, she drafted a petition of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court for a longtime clinic client whose case posed a question about derived citizenship.

While working on litigation against a local detention facility, Pranzatelli and her team determined that the greater need was representation of individuals inside the facility. “She then single-handedly led an effort to connect individuals who posted bond with organizations that could pay those bonds and allow individuals to be released,” says Torrey. Pranzatelli and her team members would meet individuals who were released on bond and help get them home on train or bus. “Thanks to Bridget, several individuals were released from custody and reunited with their families.”

This year, Pranzatelli represented individuals in immigration detention on bond motions and parole requests to secure their release from detention. She has immersed herself in every step of this process — drafting bond motions, preparing letters of support for clients’ family members, and filling out asylum applications. She even represented a client in oral argument in immigration court this spring over a complicated bond motion. “She handled it brilliantly,” commends Clinical Instructor Eleni Bakst. “She fielded numerous questions from the immigration judge, ultimately winning bond for her client. The judge even complimented her afterwards on what a strong argument she had delivered.”

The connection to clinic clients and mission to serve them with the strongest possible advocacy has been a driving motivation for Pranzatelli throughout her time in law school.

“I remember small moments of levity and connection, amidst the big, systemic violence,” she says. “I remember laughing with an incarcerated client about his plans to sequester his dorm’s TV remote, so he could watch the Grammys without his dormmates changing the channel back to sports. That was hilarious. What’s awful about this work is we can never restore people one hundred percent. I can never give someone back the time they spent in jail, or the energy they spent on their case instead of on their ambitions. All we have are these small moments of connection, these small wins, to restore some idea that the world, amidst its cruelty, has humane and funny and loving moments.”

“Getting to directly represent clients who were so generous with their time, their stories, and their trust was, and is, the greatest honor of my life.”

Pranzatelli united her Harvard Defenders and Crimmigration Clinic education by instituting “Padilla” trainings with Bernard for all Defenders students, so that students working with non-citizens are able to provide accurate information about the immigration consequences of their criminal cases. “Her initiative to implement ‘Padilla’ training throughout the organization is a testament to her proactive approach to addressing systemic issues within the legal system,” says colleague Bolatito Adetula ’24. “Bridget has empowered vulnerable populations with crucial information. Her dedication to advancing access to justice and promoting equity serves as an inspiration to her peers and the legal community at large.”

“Defenders and the Crimmigration Clinic completely transformed my law school experience,” reflects Pranzatelli. “I did not know what to expect when I came to law school, but endless philosophical experiments were not going to cut it. Instead, getting to directly represent clients who were so generous with their time, their stories, and their trust was, and is, the greatest honor of my life.”

Pranzatelli has also volunteered hundreds of hours with the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), preparing applications for relief for detained individuals. She visited detention centers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and continued working with family members to gather documents, answer questions, and submit applications. “Bridget consistently exceeds expectations in her work on behalf of detained noncitizens,” says PAIR attorney Daniela Hargus. “Her tireless persistence results in excellent legal advocacy, and her compassion holistically uplifts those she serves.”

Pranzatelli spent a summer at the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. This January, she conducted an independent clinical project with the Law Centre Northern Ireland, representing individuals seeking asylum and working on a policy brief arguing for more protections on behalf of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers. She also served as a teaching fellow for the Crimmigration Clinic’s seminar, for which she previously received the Dean’s Scholar Prize.

After graduation, Pranzatelli plans to move back to Washington, D.C., where she looks forward to being close to friends and family. “The clinic and Defenders taught me that it’s all about the community you build along the way.”

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