What we do
Employing nearly 300 people, including almost 200 attorneys, The Law Department represents the City in litigation and in contractual and regulatory matters.
The Law Department:
- Represents the City’s interests in litigation.
- Negotiates, drafts, and approves City contracts.
- Assists the City in collecting unpaid taxes, fines, and other debts.
- Counsels City departments, agencies, boards, and commissions on regulatory compliance.
- Represents the City in child welfare and health matters.
- Prepares legislation for introduction in City Council.
1515 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: (215) 683-5001
As Chief Deputy City Solicitor, Kenneth S. Butensky leads the Law Department’s unit responsible for representing the City in civil tort litigation. Ken also counsels City agencies on liability exposure and risk avoidance. Ken teaches as an adjunct professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law and directs the Tort Litigation Unit’s co-op program with Drexel University Kline School of Law. Ken has prosecuted environmental and life-safety cases in the Code & Public Nuisance Litigation Unit. He has represented the City in tort litigation and pursued insurance carriers for coverages owed to the City. Ken supervised the Arbitrations Division in Tort Litigation for ten years prior to his appointment as chief deputy city solicitor. For fifteen years, he also served as general counsel to the City’s Board of License and Inspection Review. Before joining the Law Department, Ken served as law clerk to the Hon. Richard B. Klein, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Civil Trial Division. Ken is a graduate of Boston University and Temple University School of Law.
Jonathan Houlon is a 1995 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has practiced in the Child Welfare Unit of Law Department since 1996 and, in this capacity, has represented the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) in its mission to protect abused and neglected children. Jon began as an assistant city solicitor and then graduated to deputy and eventually chief of the CWU, a position he currently shares with Nicolette Burgess-Bolden. Jon has been recognized by Philadelphia HIAS for his work on immigration matters involving DHS youth and has also served as DHS’ representative on the Administrative Offices of the Pennsylvania Courts’ Older Youth Committee. In addition to his accomplishments in the legal profession, Jon has released 12 albums of his original compositions with his bands, John Train and The Donuts. With these combos, he has toured the world and elsewhere.
As First Deputy City Solicitor, Craig M. Straw (he/him) is responsible for advising the city solicitor in the oversight and management of the Law Department, which includes over 215 attorneys and 150 legal support staff. Based on his extensive litigation background, Craig provides litigation support and consultation on significant matters impacting City-wide initiatives, programs and policies.
Craig received his undergraduate and law degrees from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned his law degree while working for a City of Pittsburgh Council member, who recently retired from the Pennsylvania State Senate. After graduating from law school, Craig worked for seven years as an assistant city solicitor for the City of Pittsburgh. During his tenure with the City of Pittsburgh Law Department, he primarily handled civil rights litigation involving the City of Pittsburgh Police Department. In 2006, he joined the Civil Rights Unit of the City of Philadelphia Law Department. In 2007, Craig was named the chief deputy of the Civil Rights Unit and maintained that position until being named the first deputy city solicitor in March of 2016.
In addition to his responsibilities as first deputy city solicitor, Craig mentors aspiring and new attorneys as an adjunct professor in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program at Temple University School of Law, judging law school moot court competitions and being a faculty member of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.
As Chair of the Litigation Group, Diana Cortes (she/her/ella) oversees litigation matters and supervises the litigation units consisting of:
- Affirmative & Special Litigation,
- Civil Rights,
- Tort Litigation,
- Code & Public Nuisance Litigation, and
- Labor & Employment.
Prior to joining the Law Department, Diana was a litigator at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. in its Professional Liability Department. She represented municipalities, school districts, and police officers in civil rights litigation involving excessive force, wrongful arrest, due process violations, and malicious prosecution, among other matters.
Prior to Marshall Dennehey, she was an assistant district attorney for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she tried felony jury trials. She also worked in the Juvenile Division of the District Attorney’s Office, where she worked with juvenile victims of sex crimes in testifying against their adult perpetrators. Before the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Diana was an attorney at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP in its Litigation Department. There, her practice included a wide range of commercial litigation and white-collar criminal defense matters.
Diana began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Juan R. Sánchez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Villanova University School of Law and Cornell University.
Diana is a member of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group. She is also fluent in Spanish.
Valerie Robinson (she/her) is the chair of the Corporate and Tax Group where she is responsible for providing advice to the city solicitor, the first deputy city solicitor and other City officials on corporate (commercial, transactional, and regulatory) and tax matters. The Corporate and Tax Group consists of these five units:
- Commercial Law,
- Real Estate & Development,
- Regulatory Law,
- Tax & Revenue, and
- Property Assessment.
Prior to her appointment as the chair of the Corporate and Tax Group, Valerie served as an assistant and deputy city solicitor in the Finance and Contracts Division of the Law Department and as a senior attorney in the Intellectual Property Division. She has handled a wide range of commercial transactions. That includes construction and benefits contracts, as well as municipal finance matters, commission agreements for artwork, and licenses for film, performances, and events. She served as lead counsel for the City in the Papal visit and Democratic National Convention transactions. Her clients have included the Managing Director’s Office; the Greater Philadelphia Film Office; the Department of Parks and Recreation; the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; and the City Representative’s Office.
Born in New York City and raised in Michigan, she earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her Juris Doctorate from Villanova University School of Law.
Valerie is an active member of numerous social service organizations.
Chief of Staff Andrew Richman (he/him) has worked for the City of Philadelphia Law Department since 2009. He has served in his current position, as chief of staff, since January 2016, when he served under City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante. From 2009 to 2015, Andrew worked in the Code & Public Nuisance Litigation Unit, as both an assistant and deputy city solicitor. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and his law degree from Temple University in 2009.
Iveliz R. Crespo (she/her/ella) is the Law Department’s first-ever director of Professional Development, Diversity & Inclusion. Iveliz joined the Law Department in September 2018. In this role, Iveliz ensures that the department is meeting the training and professional development needs of our lawyers and staff, and reinforces our commitment to diversity and inclusion in hiring, retention, and other department functions.
Prior to joining the Law Department, Iveliz worked as a civil litigator in various non-profits representing some of the most marginalized communities. She has advocated on behalf of migrant farm workers and represented them in civil rights, labor trafficking, and employment law matters. She has also represented LGBTQ clients in a variety of legal issues that stem from their sexual orientation and gender identity.
She has also developed and facilitated trainings for government officials, judges, local area non-profits and law firms on trauma-informed legal services, LGBTQ and racial competency, implicit bias, and best practices. Additionally, Iveliz provides “Know Your Rights” trainings to local area high schools and youth groups.
She currently serves on the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns and on the board of the Hispanic Leadership Association (HLA).
Iveliz is a native of Camden, NJ and a current resident of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Rutgers Law School and is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Steve Ludovico (he/him) is director of administration for Philadelphia’s Law Department and has held this title since 2016.
He oversees the following departmental units:
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Contract Administration
Collectively, these units manage the department’s $21 million budget and personnel, representing roughly 350 staff members.
Ludovico received his BSBA from Slippery Rock University in 1998. After six years in the private sector, he spent fifteen years in higher education with Ithaca College, George Mason University, The Catholic University of America, Iowa State University, and Drexel University. In 2015, Steve joined the City of Philadelphia’s Office of The Managing Director as deputy administrative services director. In July 2016, Steve joined the Law Department in his current position as the director of administration.
In his free time, Steve enjoys playing tennis, softball and dodgeball. He was previously a board member for the Philadelphia Liberty Tennis Association.