J. Denny Shupe and Harry J. Cooper Receive PBA Ernico Awards, June 21, 2018

J. Denny Shupe, a litigation partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP in Philadelphia and Harry J. Cooper, a Bucks County criminal defense lawyer, have each received a PBA Jeffrey A. Ernico Award in honor of their work in support of veterans.

PBA Pro Bono Coordinator David Trevaskis noted the importance of celebrating the good work of those who help veterans, sharing both the difficulty of such work when you are often dealing with people who have experienced difficulties with systems that should have provided support and the real sense of satisfaction that comes when you can make a veteran’s life better.

Cooper was honored for his support of the veteran’s outreach efforts of the PBA Pro Bono Office, beginning with his service starting in 2003 as a Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) volunteer and continuing with his efforts under the Lawyers Saluting Veterans program. A former chief of police in New Britain Township, Bucks County, Cooper’s pro bono efforts for poor veterans range from advice to direct representation in both criminal and civil matters. Cooper is a volunteer for the PBA YLD Wills for Heroes program that helps both first responders and veterans with basic estate planning.

Cooper is a past recipient of a PBA Pro Bono Award for “routinely providing more than 100 hours of such service each year, taking some of the toughest cases that come into the PBA Pro Bono Office, particularly for veterans facing a myriad of problems, both civil and criminal.” Cooper is also a gifted educator, having a long history of helping teach young people — as well as educators, law and justice professionals and others — about the law.

Cooper explained his sense of service as a product of lessons from his father as he grew up in a row home in Philadelphia. “We had the house at the end of the row but when it snowed we shoveled the entire block and my father would not allow us to take a penny from anyone for doing it,” he explained. Cooper said he asked his father why and his father told him that they helped others out because others “were unable to do it themselves.” That simple message that you help others because you can has informed Cooper’s approach to pro bono service.

Shupe was recognized for his service as an excellent model for leadership in pro bono and public interest legal service. Shupe, an Air Force Academy graduate and retired Air Force officer and command pilot, currently chairs the Special Problems in the Administration of Justice Committee (U.S.) for the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL). He is one of the leaders in the ACTL’s nationwide effort to develop and implement a groundbreaking project to address the more than four-year backlog in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ processing and selection of disability award appeals for veterans, delays that deny constitutional due process and can deny veterans the financial resources they need for daily living.

Shupe has also been instrumental in connecting his national pro bono and community service work to more local efforts for currently serving military personnel, their families and veterans. He has helped the Military Assistance Project find volunteer attorneys to meet the legal needs of service members and veterans. He serves as an adviser and mentor for Penn Law Veterans. In recent years, while he was co-chair and chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Military Affairs Committee, Shupe also supported the Veterans Multi-Service Center, which has Pennsylvania locations in Philadelphia, Coatesville and State College, as well as Millville, N.J.

Shupe served on the board of the USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey as a member and former chairman, and also was elected as the national chairman of the USO Affiliate Council, where he assisted with national fundraising and service delivery programs for actively serving armed services members and their families. Since leaving the USO board, he has continued to support the efforts of the local Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey USO organization. Shupe has also provided direct pro bono representation in cases ranging from prisoner rights to family law matters.

Shupe spoke of the importance of serving others, especially veterans, and tried to explain why such service was so important to him. He never quite finished that explanation, as emotions welled up inside him, but there was need for him to say anymore as his passion for helping others was palpable. Schnader’s Dennis Suplee, a past chairman of the firm, provided brief remarks honoring the awardees.

Presenting the awards on behalf of PBA President Charles Eppolito III were PBA Past President Thomas Wilkinson and Kathleen Wilkinson, longtime PBA leader and a former Philadelphia Bar chancellor.

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