Philly city solicitor leaves to teach at Penn Law

After two years as the city’s top lawyer, Sozi P. Tulante has called it quits.

“The burn-out rate with this job is high,” Tulante said Tuesday, hours after giving Mayor Kenney his resignation. “We’ve done a lot of things in a short period of time.”

Tulante is going on to teach full time and advise law students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School starting March 19, he said. Tulante was already an adjunct professor at the school, teaching prosecutorial ethics.

The former assistant U.S. attorney said he was looking forward to “being a geek, a nerd,” at Penn. He also wants to spend more time with his children,  ages 4, 7, and 9.

“The sweet spot was two years. I said I would evaluate at two years and see if it made sense for me to continue,” Tulante said, noting that many previous city solicitors have also served for two-year stints. One exception was his predecessor, Shelley Smith, who served as city solicitor for all eight years of the Nutter administration.

Tulante’s last day in City Hall will be March 9.

Tulante, 41, said he is proud of the work he did — from suing the Trump administration over its anti-“sanctuary city” policies to implementing and fighting for the city’s sweetened-beverage tax. He feels confident in the 216 city lawyers he leaves behind to continue what he started.

Under Tulante’s leadership, the city filed lawsuits against Wells Fargo for allegedly engaging in discriminatory lending practices, and against prescription opioid manufacturers for marketing practices that city officials say have fueled the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia. In court, Tulante took the stand to argue against the Fraternal Order of Police’s attempt to invalidate the policy that police officers’ names be released within 72 hours of an officer-involved shooting. He also argued a child welfare case of a 2-year-old who had chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.  And in what is likely his proudest moment, he argued in court on behalf of the city’s “sanctuary city” policy.

“The ability to vindicate and protect the rights of immigrants,” he said. “ I was very proud of that. … It was very meaningful for how people view this city.”

Tulante himself is an immigrant. He and his family came to Philadelphia from what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he was 8. The Tualntes were refugees fleeing a regime that had held Tulante’s father as a political prisoner. Tulante grew up in North Philadelphia, attended Philadelphia public schools, and earned degrees from Harvard University and its law school. He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for six years before taking the city solicitor job.

In a statement, Kenney said he was “indebted” to Tulante for the work he did on behalf of the city.

“He has expanded the number of attorneys in the Child Welfare Unit, promoted diversity in hiring and within the office, boosted morale among the entire staff, strengthened the relationship with Council, and … brought dynamic litigation on behalf of the city to protect the rights of Philadelphia residents and taxpayers,” the mayor said.

Kenney named Marcel Pratt, who has been the Law Department’s head of litigation since 2016, to succeed Tulante. Pratt, 33, will have to be confirmed by City Council.

Before joining the city Law Department, Pratt, a Philadelphia native, was an attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP handling antitrust litigation, class action defense, and intellectual property licensing disputes. Earlier, Pratt was an attorney in the city’s Civil Rights Unit.

Of Pratt, Tulante said: “He’s been the linchpin and brains of the affirmative litigation. He’s closer to the cases than I am.”