Michael A. Ponto, a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, has received the Minnesota Justice Foundation's "Private Practice Lawyer" award. This award is presented to an attorney in private practice who has demonstrated a commitment to providing pro bono legal representation to low-income and disadvantaged clients and/or is working to expand services to these groups.
Ponto, a partner in the firm's litigation practice, has provided pro bono representation to multiple clients in a range of matters involving LGBT civil rights and holds a strong record of pro bono advocacy for protection of wilderness areas. He has been a pioneer in addressing the in-school harassment of LGBT and gender non-conforming students. He led the firm's successful collaboration with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights to address concerns about anti-gay policies and harassment in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the largest school district in Minnesota. The litigation undertaken by the firm and the legal services organizations ultimately resulted in a sweeping settlement and a consent decree that requires the district to implement new protections designed to prevent harassment of students who are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming.
"I am humbled to be recognized in this manner by the Minnesota Justice Foundation," commented Ponto. "The true heroes in these cases are our clients, who demonstrated enormous personal courage and determination in speaking out against discrimination."
Ponto graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, magna cum laude, and received his M.A. from Brown University and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, summa cum laude.