Councilmember Helen Gym introduces resolution honoring Jennifer Clarke for 15 years of Law Center leadership

On February 25, 2021, Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym introduced a resolution “honoring and commending Jennifer R. Clarke for her 15-year tenure as the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center and her strategic, pioneering, and transformative work to expand access to justice that has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Pennsylvania and the nation.”

View the full resolution here.

WHEREAS, Throughout her career as a courageous, kind, and steadfast leader in the legal and public interest communities, Jennifer R. Clarke has been motivated by a deep commitment to creatively using the law to remedy systemic inequality and to improve the lives of her fellow citizens; and

WHEREAS, In 2006, Clarke resigned from her partnership at Dechert and became the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center, a not-for-profit public interest law firm that uses high-impact legal strategies to advance the civil, social, and economic rights of communities in the Philadelphia region facing discrimination, inequality, and poverty. As Executive Director, Clarke was responsible for leading all aspects of the organization including strategic direction, legal quality, finances, administration and personnel; and

WHEREAS, After becoming the first woman Executive Director at the Law Center, Clarke pursued claims on behalf of children in Florida to enforce children’s health care provisions of the Medicaid Act. There, Clarke and co-counsel Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP led the effort to secure compliance with federal laws and regulations requiring the state to provide medical and dental care to approximately 1.6 million children enrolled in Medical Assistance in Florida; and


WHEREAS, Under Clarke’s leadership, the Law Center has led the way in the most important voting rights cases in Pennsylvania in the last decade. Significant victories for Pennsylvania voters include ​Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,​ in which the Law Center, in conjunction with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, and Arnold & Porter LLP, worked tirelessly to successfully challenge Pennsylvania’s photo ID law, at the time the strictest in the country, which could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of citizens, including seniors, veterans, the disabled, and students. In 2017, the Law Center and Arnold & Porter LLP successfully represented 18 voters from each congressional district in a challenge to Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map—one of the most egregious examples of partisan gerrymandering in the nation, resulting in a new, fair map for Pennsylvania voters. Last year, the Law Center joined a broad coalition of civil rights organizations to represent voters fighting back against attempts to nullify their vote and restrict their access to the ballot box in a series of cases before and following the General Election; and

WHEREAS, Recently, under Clarke’s leadership, the Law Center is collaborating with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to take on the public health epidemic of gun violence, developing new legal theories and strategies for regulating firearms under Pennsylvania’s current gun laws, which have blocked virtually all attempts at local gun control. The Law Center has intervened on behalf of two mothers who lost their sons to handgun violence in a case involving the enforcement of the City’s lost and stolen gun ordinance, and has filed a major lawsuit, against the Commonwealth challenging the constitutionality of the state’s firearm preemption laws. Of the twelve plaintiffs in this lawsuit, nine are mothers and grandmothers who have lost their sons to gun violence on the streets of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In addition to litigation, Clarke has been the driving force behind the creation of the PA Safety Alliance, an unprecedented coalition of teachers, doctors, faith leaders and others, who are committed to making gun violence prevention a priority in Harrisburg; and

WHEREAS, Clarke’s positive impact on civic institutions extends well beyond the legal community in Philadelphia. When the original Caring Center, an exemplary non-profit early childhood education provider that served a culturally, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse population, lost its home and their long established child care program was in jeopardy, Clarke was part of a small group of determined parents who formed a non-profit corporation to carry on what had become a tradition of excellent child care, something which is critical for women’s advancement in the workplace; and

WHEREAS, Throughout her career, Clarke has stood as an example of engaged citizenship, trailblazing leadership, and commitment to the principles of equality. Her leadership of the Law Center has led to long-lasting victories for renters seeking safe housing, voters seeking a free and equal voice, families seeking quality healthcare for their children, and so many others. The City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are fortunate to have her as a champion; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, THAT THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, honors and commends Jennifer R. Clarke for her 15-year tenure as the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center and her strategic, pioneering, and transformative work to expand access to justice that has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Pennsylvania and the nation.