Notre Dame Law School held the second Rev. David T. Link Public Interest Banquet last month. Now an annual event, the banquet is organized by the Law School’s Public Interest Leadership Council (PILC) to honor Rev. David T. Link and his dedication to being a servant to humanity, God, and the Notre Dame Law School community.
The Law School honored Professor of Law Jimmy Gurulé and alumna Alyssa Phillips ‘17 J.D. both of whom have personified the legacy of Father Link and are committed to public interest work.
The banquet was organized by the Law School’s Public Interest Leadership Council, an inter-organizational group made up of the presidents of each of the Law School’s public interest student organizations.
Fr. Link lived an exemplary life of service. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law School, he served as the 8th dean of Notre Dame Law School for 24 years. Following the passing of his wife, Baraba, Father Link stepped down as dean and entered the seminary. He was ordained in 2008 in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, dedicating the remainder of his life to ministering to inmates and prisoners.
Fr. Link originated the phrase “a different kind of lawyer” to characterize the lawyers trained at Notre Dame Law School.
Dean G. Marcus Cole in his opening remarks shared his professional and personal relationship and friendship with Father Link. Notably, he shared a passage from Matthew 25, “The King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did, for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.’” Cole said that Matthew 25 is a direct command from Jesus himself. “It’s an instruction manual for how to enter heaven. David T. Link followed those instructions. He was a different type of lawyer.”
Cole also shared a significant anecdote about a fire that occurred in 1988 at the Morningside Hotel in South Bend resulting in the tragic death of one person. That event inspired Link to seek a way to support the less fortunate and the homeless, which ultimately led to the establishment of the South Bend Center for the Homeless.
The Public Interest Leadership Council co-chairs, law students Noah Austin and Megan Sarsfield, introduced the award winners for the South Bend Community Award and the Rev. David T. Link Impact Award.
The recipient of the South Bend Community Award was Professor Jimmy Gurulé. The award is given to a member of the local community who has advocated on behalf of the disadvantaged and marginalized, and who has upheld the dignity of the vulnerable.
In her comments, Sarsfield said, “Professor Jimmy Gurule views his job as not to teach us black letter law, but to teach us the skills to be good and efficient lawyers. And when appropriate, he has the students stop and take a step back to discuss the ethical and professional responsibilities we have to our clients.”
Gurulé is an expert in criminal, international, and national security law. His drive for addressing and correcting prosecutorial misconduct is evident in his work as founding director of the Law School’s Exoneration Justice Clinic. Gurulé previously served as the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice and as under-secretary for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“I say in absolute sincerity and honesty that there is no greater recognition that I could receive than to receive an award named in honor of David Link,” said Gurulé.
He also shared how appreciative he was of Father Link who hired him in 1989. “I’m confident that, but for David Link, I would not be standing here today. My legal career would have taken a very different path,” he said.
The 2023 Rev. David T. Link Impact Award recipient was Alyssa Phillips ‘17 J.D. for her work embracing Father Link’s legacy of advocating for justice.
Phillips, after graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 2017, served as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). Following her fellowship, she continued her work at CCH and currently serves as an education attorney focusing on outreach and the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness.
From the beginning, Phillips knew she would never be a typical lawyer. She says she doesn’t wear suits, has meetings in homeless shelters, and her work involves creatively securing essential services for her clients.
Reflecting on her work, Phillips acknowledged the influence of Father Link’s legacy, “Even though I never got to meet Father Link, I think of that legacy of doing good because that’s what we’re called to do. And that’s part of the legal work that often doesn’t get discussed,” said Phillips.
Members of the PILC Council pay tribute to Father Link, highlighting his dedication to service, faith, and being "a different kind of lawyer.” Their tribute emphasizes a legacy that will continue to shape legal professionals for years to come.
The PILC council members are Noah Austin, Maura Burke, Barrett Cole, Drew Garden, Will Golden, Rita Lake, Alexandra Lesnik, Ally Morcus, Ayanna Murphy, Annie Ortega, Adem Osmani, Megan Sarsfield, and Andrea Testin.
The students selected the award winners, developed the program for the evening, and served as the masters of ceremony including introducing the award winners.