Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award
The Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award recognizes a lawyer who demonstrates a selfless, lifetime commitment to working in the public interest, both inside and outside the field of law.
Peter “Pete” M. Koneazny is this year’s award winner. On paper, Pete’s official job title is “Litigation Director,” but as one of his nominators more eloquently and powerfully put, “He is the moral center of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.”
Pete has spent his entire legal career – more than three decades and counting – working in the public interest at Legal Aid, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and the public defender’s office. Nominators share that being a legal aid attorney is often not easy – “the case load is huge, the clients can be difficult, and the victories sometimes seem small.” Yet, “With Pete’s perspective, small victories start to look less like Sisyphus’s mountain and more like the long ‘arc of the moral universe’ bending towards justice.”
Over the course of his career, Pete has challenged Milwaukee’s foster care system, famously fought a large auto title lender in a 13-year class action lawsuit, successfully challenged improper sentencing cases – and in sum, he has been a lifelong advocate for defending the civil and constitutional rights of people who otherwise would be left without legal help.
While it’s clear Pete is a skilled attorney, it’s also evident that he is a highly valued mentor. One of his nominators couldn’t stress enough that Pete is “very generous with his time,” italicizing his words so as to drive home the point. This seems to be the case outside of the office too, as Pete is a known face in the community. He’s actively involved with the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Housing Coalition, and the Milwaukee County Community Justice Council, where’s he currently hard at work on municipal court reforms that protect incarceration of indigent defendants unable to pay fines and provide alternatives to incarceration.
The list detailing Pete’s professional accomplishments is long, but as Pete’s former colleagues at the ACLU so simply put, “His years of work and commitment to the community more than merit this honor.”