Justice Michael A. Musmanno was truly one of the greatest champions of justice this country has known. He was a first generation American, who, born in humble circumstances, worked in the coal mines and steelmills in his youth, earned his way through college and law school obtaining several graduate degrees from institutions such as Oxford University and Harvard University and thereafter rose to the top of the legal profession.
As a Pennsylvania legislator, he was well known for his vast efforts to bring about social reforms, clean elections and economic aid to the disadvantaged. His fight for working people through humanitarian legislation was admired by both friend and foe. Following distinguished service to his country in both World Wars and awards of numerous decorations, he was honored by the President of the United States and the United States Army by appointment as the Military Governor of Italy. Thereafter, he presided at the Nuremberg trials and rendered decisions commended by the Bench and Bar of two continents.
Justice Musmanno served for twenty years on the Trial Court of Allegheny County. He was then elevated to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania where his opinions, whether minority or majority, achieved national recognition for their logic, compassion and eloquence, making a revolutionary impact on the law of Pennsylvania.
The Justice Michael A. Musmanno Award was established by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association in 1979, with the first Award Dinner held in the fall of 1980. The award is given annually to the person who best exemplifies the same high integrity, scholarship, imagination, courage, and concern for human rights as exhibited by the late Justice.