CHICAGO, November 7, 2017—Duane Morris LLP partner Lisa T. Scruggs received the third annual Duane Morris Pro Bono Leadership Award, which recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the spirit of pro bono: a selfless, long-standing and unwavering commitment to pro bono service; a leader by example who accepts pro bono matters without fanfare; and a pro bono contributor who encourages and mentors other firm attorneys in pro bono service. Scruggs was honored with the award at Duane Morris’ annual firm meeting.
Scruggs received the award in recognition of her successful completion of multiyear representation in two pro bono cases central to ensuring equal access to appropriate education for all children. In the first, Chicago Urban League v. Illinois State Board of Education, Case No. 08-CH-30490 (Ill.Cir.Ct. 2017), Scruggs persuaded the defendants to reform Illinois’ method of allocating money to school districts so that funding is distributed based on the needs of each school district and student. Previously, Illinois had the nation’s most pronounced disparity in per-pupil funding between its lowest and highest poverty districts. Illinois’ funding policy annually deprived students of nearly $750 million and had a disparate impact on students in predominantly African American and Latino school districts. She additionally represented the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS), amicus curiae, before the Supreme Court of the United States, arguing that the appropriate “educational benefit” standard for children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is more than a de minimis benefit. Scruggs contended that a de minimis standard also would be inconsistent with charter schools’ goals of setting high expectations for all students, including those with special needs.
Scruggs’ dedication to pro bono service and the public interest, as well as mentorship and education, has been a theme throughout her career. She is a founding board member of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago, the city’s only all-girls public school. It was established to help ensure better education for disadvantaged young women on the South Side of Chicago. Scruggs also worked with the Chicago Public Schools in a number of capacities, most notably serving as senior policy advisor to the chief executive officer and as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission to Evaluate Magnet and Selective Schools Admission Policy. She also served as an expert review panelist for grant competitions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, including the Race to the Top-District competition.
Scruggs is an experienced litigator with matters involving a wide range of issues including complex commercial, real estate, business torts and unfair competition law, civil rights and constitutional law. She provides litigation and counseling services for schools and school reform organizations, including individual charter and private schools, charter school networks, charter and education management organizations, school districts and other education nonprofit and for-profit organizations and service providers. Scruggs has handled a wide range of litigation, transactions and policy matters relating to new school development, teacher evaluation, credentialing and certification reforms, public/private education ventures, virtual education, school finance, and parent and student civil rights. She has been selected as a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, joining a cohort of leaders who are “reimagining America's public schools.”
Scruggs is a 1998 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where she was articles editor for the University of Chicago Roundtable. She holds an M.A. in education policy (1994) from the University of Chicago, and she is a 1993 cum laude graduate of Georgetown University.
About the Duane Morris Pro Bono Program
Duane Morris’ Pro Bono Program provides free legal services to those in our communities least able to afford them. The importance of pro bono work and volunteerism has been an integral part of Duane Morris’ culture and a backbone of our value system since the firm’s inception more than 110 years ago.
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