Marsha Levick, the Juvenile Law Center co-founder, recently helped win a Supreme Court case that will give a second chance to about 480 Pennsylvania inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.
Now, she's being honored for that accomplishment and for 40 years of promoting kids' rights with the Philadelphia Award. Past recipients have included philanthropists, artistic luminaries and political leaders.
"I am so honored to receive the prestigious Philadelphia Award, and I thank the selection committee for valuing the work that I and my Juvenile Law Center colleagues do every day on behalf of kids," Levick said.
In addition to serving as co-counsel for Henry Montgomery, the plaintiff in Montgomery v. Louisiana, which made retroactive the court's ban on mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles, Levick's accomplishments in Pennsylvania includes leading the fight to dismantle the Luzerne County kids-for-cash scheme and extending foster care for kids who would have otherwise aged out of the system.
"It's extremely significant what she has done, defending and representing some of the most vulnerable in our society: juveniles who have committed very serious crimes and who are really not very much on a whole lot of people's radar," said Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina, chairwoman of the Philadelphia Award's board of trustees.
Sarmina said Levick's tenacity in Montgomery and in pursuing justice for the kids in Luzerne County caught the trustees' attention. "She has an extremely strong sense of justice," Sarmina said.
The award, first offered in 1921, comes with a $25,000 prize. In establishing it, Edward Bok explained, ""the idea of service as a test of good citizenship should be kept constantly before the minds of the people of Philadelphia."
Sarmina said this year's award, to Levick, will also be a reminder for members of the bar in Philadelphia, "that even after decades one should not lose their zeal in representing a client, and that excellence is not just a reward in court, but it's a personal reward as well. But it's certainly nice when you win in court."