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March 08, 2018 Pro Bono Matters

Co-Recipients of the 2018 Janet R. Spragens Pro Bono Award: Kathryn Sedo and Dale Kensinger

By Leslie Book, Professor Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova, PA


As current chair of the Tax Section’s Pro Bono Award Committee, it is my privilege to announce that this year’s co-recipients of the Janet R. Spragens Pro Bono Award are Kathryn Sedo and Dale Kensinger.

This award was established in 2002 to recognize one or more individuals or law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law. In 2007, the award was renamed in honor of Janet R. Spragens, who received the award in 2006 in recognition to her dedication to the development of low-income taxpayer clinics throughout the United States.

Kathryn has been an active member of the ABA Tax Section; for many years she directed the Low Income Tax Clinic at the University of Minnesota. This past fall, after she retired from the University of Minnesota, she served as a Visiting Professor and Clinic Director at the University of Michigan School of Law, her alma mater.  Over her long and distinguished career, Kathryn has mentored hundreds of law students and represented thousands of taxpayers. Known for her tenacious advocacy and creative lawyering, Kathryn has been involved with many cases that have had an important impact on legal developments for individual taxpayers, including most recently the case of Ibrahim v Commissioner, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Tax Court and held that a “separate return” means “married filing separately” and does not include a tax return claiming “head of household” status. Her impact on the law was recently the subject of a 2016 Pro Bono and Tax Clinic Committee Panel that reviewed the many cases where Kathryn’s lawyering led to important legal opinions.

Dale has also been a longtime active ABA Tax Section member whose career has been distinguished by his public service and commitment to lower-income taxpayers. After a distinguished career at IRS Office of Chief Counsel, he started a second career as a clinician, first as the Director of the Tax Clinic at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and then as a volunteer with the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he headed a pro bono project focused on tax and then assisted with the formation and current operation of its Federal Tax Clinic. He continues to volunteer over 500 hours a year with Harvard’s Tax Clinic, mentoring students and working with clients. Dale’s commitment to lower-income taxpayers is a model and a tribute to his passion for justice and ensuring that all taxpayers have access to quality representation.

The awards were presented during the Plenary Session of the Tax Section’s 2018 Midyear Meeting in San Diego. ATT readers are encouraged to view both recipients’ acceptance remarks here.