Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Awards

The Peter M. Cicchino Awards for Outstanding Advocacy in the Public Interest are given annually to three persons during the Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner: a current second or third-year AUWCL student, an alumnus or alumna whose work is primarily in the United States, and an alumnus or alumna whose work is primarily abroad or in international law. The Cicchino Awards recognize and honor those students and alumni whose devotion to, and creative service in, the public interest exemplify the highest ideals of American University Washington College of Law.

Nomination Packet

The deadline to complete a nomination packet for the 2016 awards was March 18, 2016.

Peter M. Cicchino

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. 

In January 2000, the AUWCL faculty voted unanimously (with Professor Cicchino abstaining) to create these public interest awards in his name.  Professor Cicchino was a cherished figure at AUWCL and in the national public interest law community. He passed away on July 8, 2000.

Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner

This annual event is held in honor of beloved former AUWCL Professor Peter M. Cicchino, who passed away in 2000. Professor Cicchino was a brilliant scholar and teacher, and a brave and creative public interest lawyer, who among many other accomplishments founded the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City.

The Cicchino Awards Dinner is the academy awards of student public interest and pro bono work. Students are recognized at a sumptuous dinner before their peers, faculty and staff for a variety of awards and accomplishments, including: completion of the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, external pro bono and public service awards, post-graduate public interest fellowships, and the Cicchino Awards themselves.

The Seventeenth Annual Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner will be held on Monday, April 18, 2016. 

Please see below for the profiles of the Cicchino Award winners at the 2016 dinner. No Public Interest Entrepreneur Award was given in 2016, as that distinction is not awarded every year. Rather, it is awarded when an exceptional student or student group has developed an independent project that demonstrates a creative approach to a pressing social justice issue, addresses the identified issue, and fills a gap in the need for legal services. Please read below for details about the 2013 winner of the Public Interest Entrepreneur Award, Talila Lewis. In addition, click on this link to learn more information about the Public Interest Entrepreneur Award and its recipients.

2015-2016 Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Award Recipients

Regina Tamés Noriega, AUWCL LLM Class of 2001

Winner in Category of Alumna or Alumnus
Whose Work is Primarily Abroad or in International Law

A lawyer from the Universidad Iberoamericana with a Master's Degree in International Law and a specialization in human rights from American University, Regina holds a certificate in Health and Human Rights from Harvard University and a certificate in Bioethics and Law from the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM).

She has been the Executive Director of the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE) since April 2011. Before that, she worked in the Latin America and Caribbean Office of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), as well as the Mexican Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OACNUDH) and the National Commission of Human Rights.

Regina has also been a fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights, at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, at the Center for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

Regina has taught undergraduate and master's-level law courses on human rights in many universities including Universidad Iberoamericana, ITAM and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). Currently, she is teaching a course on gender and human rights in the law department of the Universidad Iberoamericana.

She is a pioneer in introducing the gender perspective into Mexican law, having helped found the Network of Latin American Academics in Gender, Sexuality and Law and is its current network coordinator.

Regina Tamés is part of the Civil Society Advisory Group for the Regional Office of UN Women; the Global Validation Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis; the Citizen's Advisory Board of the National Population Council; the Consultative Assembly of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination; the Board of Directors of Catholics for the Right to Decide; and a Founding Partner of Equis, Justice for Women.

In 2014, Regina was included in Forbes México's list of Mexico's 50 Most Powerful Women and in 2015, Mexico's Elle Magazine chose her as one of the 10 women who inspire them to accomplish their goals.

Lydia Edwards, AUWCL Class of 2006

Winner in Category of Alumna or Alumnus Whose Work is Primarily in the United States

Lydia Edwards is a current Equal Justice Works Fellow and public interest attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services. She is the recent recipient of the Racial Justice Fellowship from Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation fellow she will be using her Tax LLM to create cooperative businesses for the formerly incarcerated and undocumented immigrants.

Lydia was recently endorsed by the Boston Globe in her run to be Massachusetts' next senator. She also was named a 2015 Bostonian of the year.

Lydia is also the coordinator of the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers in that role she coordinates the statewide implementation of the landmark Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

Lydia graduated from American University Washington College of Law in 2006.

Judson Kempson, AUWCL Class of 2016

Winner in Category of Current Washington College of Law Student

Jud Kempson, AUWCL Class of 2016, came to the study of law after a career in public education. In 1994, Jud began his education career in San Francisco as a middle school teacher at Everett Middle School, which served predominantly low-income children of color in the Mission District. After several years as a teacher, he also served as a vice principal and principal at various middle schools in the Bay Area. At the end of his education career, Jud became the assistant superintendent of educational services for Burlingame School District.

At AUWCL, Jud has continued to deepen and develop his understanding of education law and policy, particularly in the areas of special education and civil rights. Beginning with the Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, Jud worked with high school students in the District to learn their constitutional rights. As a member of the Administrative Law Review, Jud analyzed the Department of Education's authority to promote the Common Core and served on the Note & Comment Editorial Board.

Jud has interned with the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education and the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, working on legal matters related to the enforcement of civil rights laws, including Titles IV, VI, and IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has also interned at New Leaders, Inc., an education non-profit dedicated to the recruitment, training, and placement of effective administrators in urban schools that serve predominantly low-income students and students of color. Lastly, working as both a student-attorney in the Disability Rights Law Clinic and as an intern with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice through Alternative Spring Break, Jud continues to be an advocate for those in need. He hopes to bring his experience as an educator to his new career as an attorney to secure and further students' civil rights in public education.

2014-2015 Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Award Recipients

Sarah Rempel , AUWCL Class of 2007

Winner in Category of Alumna or Alumnus Whose Work is Primarily Abroad or in International Law

Sarah is the Policy Director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., (CDM) where she works to secure stronger protections for migrant workers and to bring about lasting, systemic change in the guestworker programs. Sarah supports migrant workers in bringing their voices and experiences to policy discussions and debates, and she promotes policy changes that will improve migrant workers’ recruitment and working conditions. Recently, Sarah coordinated advocacy efforts that culminated in the signing of a ministerial declaration between the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, and the Mexican Secretary for Labor and Social Welfare, Alfonso Navarette Prida. As a result of CDM and allies’ petitions and the declaration signing, the governments conducted “Know-Your-Rights” education and outreach across the U.S. and Mexico and committed to act to protect migrant workers. Sarah also leads the advocacy committee of the International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG), a coalition of 18 organizations including unions, advocacy groups, and anti-trafficking groups who drafted groundbreaking legislation to protect migrants: ensuring that anti-trafficking legislation that regulates international labor recruiters or brokers was included in the Senate immigration bill. Prior to working at CDM, Sarah was an attorney advisor in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the Department of Justice. She volunteered with CDM in Zacatecas, Mexico, and clerked for the Honorable Robert B. Kershaw of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. During law school, Sarah was the Haywood Burns Memorial Fellow for Social Justice at Farmworker Justice and represented immigrant workers through the International Human Rights Law Clinic. Sarah received her J.D. with honors from American University Washington College of Law and her B.A. with highest honors from Bethel College (Kansas).

Edna Yang , AUWCL Class of 2002

Winner in Category of Alumna or Alumnus Whose Work is Primarily in the United States

Edna Yang is the Legal Director for American Gateways, formerly the Political Asylum Project of Austin (PAPA) where she oversees all of the legal programs and services for the agency. Edna also served as the Interim Executive Director for American Gateways in 2012. She began her work at PAPA in 2002 as the coordinating attorney for the Program Representing Immigrant Survivors of Abuse, providing direct representation to immigrants seeking relief under the immigration provisions of the Violence Against Women Act. She became the Legal Director for the agency overseeing all legal services and programs in 2006. In addition, Edna represents indigent immigrants before the Immigration Service, the Immigration Court, and in Federal Court. She also conducts training sessions for law enforcement officials and social service providers throughout central Texas and nationally about how to work with, and provide services to, immigrants in the community. She organizes outreach and educational sessions for immigrant members of the community. Edna served as a Council Member on the State Bar Immigration and Nationality Section from 2012-2014, and from 2004–2005, she served on the Austin Commission for Immigrant Affairs. She is a member in good standing of the State Bar of Texas. She is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Immigration Project, and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Edna received her B.A. in Russian Language and Literature and Political Science from the University of Michigan, and graduated with a J.D. and an M.A. in International Studies from American University. Edna was a student of Professor Cicchino and was one of the first students to win the award named after him, as the 2002 Recipient of the Peter M. Cicchino Awards in the Category of Current Washington College of Law Student.

Pious Ahuja , AUWCL Class of 2015

Winner in Category of Current Washington College of Law Student

Pious Ahuja is passionate about human rights, particularly concerning vulnerable populations—women and refugees. Prior to law school, Pious volunteered at Sakhi, an anti-domestic violence organization and at the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization founded after 9/11. During law school, Ms. Ahuja studied in the Hague and then worked at the Human Rights Law Network (“HRLN”) in New Delhi, India, where she led and participated in fact-finding trips to investigate conditions surrounding Rohingya refugee camps, hospital conditions for pregnant women, and legal and medical ramifications surrounding acid-attack victims. At HRLN, she also drafted a petition for a gender-caste-based acid-attack petition to provide rehabilitation services for acid-attack victims, which the Indian Supreme Court later accepted. Following that experience, Pious led a fundraising effort to raise funds for an acid-attack victim’s immediate physical and legal needs. To further raise awareness about acid-attacks, Pious helped organize a panel on acid-attack violence. Pious also established the AUWCL Chapter of Amnesty International (AIWCL). Through AIWCL, Pious organized a panel on Applying Human Rights and a Legal Framework to Gaza and Mechanisms to Address Violence Against Women in the United States and Abroad. Pious has also been active in the Alternative Spring Break at the Navajo Nation and in the Alternative Winter Break in New Orleans. Presently, Pious is a senior staffer with the Human Rights Brief, and a student attorney for the International Human Rights Law Clinic where she represents clients in irregular renditions, gender-based violence petition cases, and statelessness cases. Pious hopes to continue working with vulnerable populations and advancing their rights following law school.

Click on this link to view previous Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Award recipients.

2012-2013 Public Interest Entrepreneur Award Recipient

Talila A. Lewis, AUWCL Class of 2014

Talila A. Lewis is the founder and director of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf ("HEARD"), an all-volunteer nonprofit civil rights organization that promotes equal access to the legal system for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. HEARD's mission is to identify and remove barriers that prevent the deaf from participating in and having equal access to the justice system. HEARD’s volunteers investigate possible deaf wrongful conviction cases, educate justice professionals about Deaf Culture, conduct deaf prisoner and defendant research, and assist deaf and deaf-blind prisoners with access and civil rights issues. HEARD created and maintains a comprehensive deaf and deaf-blind prisoner database that includes information on more than four hundred deaf prisoners across the nation. This database informs HEARD's advocacy and helps ensure that deaf prisoners have contact with community members (through a unique pen pal project), and that they receive equal access to programs and services at jails and prisons across the nation. HEARD works steadfastly to build coalitions; educate and activate the masses; and to encourage and facilitate collective leadership within the community.

At WCL, Ms. Lewis organizes events in her capacity as Co-Director or the WCL chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and Co-Founder of the WCL Disability Law Society to engage the WCL community in meaningful dialogue and action focused on criminal justice reform and disability rights advocacy, being certain always to include the voices of survivors and marginalized community members. She has organized events about surviving death row, wrongful conviction, solitary confinement, barriers to successful reentry, forced institutionalization, prisoner abuse, and the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. She also teaches students and faculty American Sign Language.

This semester, Ms. Lewis designed a pilot program that extends the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Program to high school students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Next year, she will lead the implementation of this pilot program at Model Secondary School for the Deaf, the high school for deaf and hard of hearing students on Gallaudet University's campus.

Click on this link to learn more information about the Public Interest Entrepreneur Award and past recipients.