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Penn Law students put their books away last Wednesday night for a chance to bid on prizes ranging from a weekend stay in Las Vegas to lunch with former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. In order to support first-year law students, the Equal Justice Foundation -- a student organization that funds law students who do public interest work over the summer -- hosted an auction night at the Law School for a crowd of over 400 law students, professors and community members. "I got funding when I was a first year, and now I want to give back to some of the younger students," said third-year Law student Scott Weiser, who planned to bid on a picnic with one of his professors. The fundraising event featured almost 300 items in a silent auction and 50 items in the live auction. The auction featured such items as lunch for three at the Center City dining landmark Le Bec-Fin with Law Professor Bruce Mann, tickets for two to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and a summer getaway to Martha's Vineyard. While the first item -- the winner's name as a character in author Bonnie McDougall's next murder mystery -- sold for just $75, the bids soon jumped to as much as $500 for the opera tickets. Some students expressed surprise at the high prices. "The bids are much more than I expected," third-year Law student Locksley Rhoden said. "People are being generous and are really just jumping into it." Auction chair and third-year Law student Andrew Morton explained that the auction has grown tremendously over the past five years. "Five years ago, the auction raised $2,000 and was basically a glorified bake sale. Tonight we're on track to raise $50,000," Morton said. And the Equal Justice Foundation hopes to continue this growth in future years. "This event has unlimited potential. Once the renovations [to the Law School building] are done, we can accommodate even more people," said Morton, pointing to the standing-room only auditorium. Featuring Law School alumni, Robert Toll -- the chief executive officer of Toll Brothers -- and Renee Chenault, the NBC Channel 10 news anchor, as guest auctioneers, the auction was unique among other Law School events. "This is the most law students you'll ever see in one place," Weiser said. "And more professors come to the auction than to the more prestigious Law School events." Penn Law Professor Ed Rock attended the event to watch himself be auctioned off, as he and fellow Professor Heidi Hurd offered to wash the winner's car while on rollerblades. "I'm offering my services tonight, and maybe I'll bid on something too," Rock said. The fact that the Law School is still without a permanent dean, despite a 15-month search, also provided comedic fodder for the organizers of the event. One third-year Law student jokingly asked for a bid of a mere 50 cents for the position of dean of an Ivy League law school. Last year, the Equal Justice Foundation funded 24 students' government and public interest work. This year they are hoping to fund even more. "Not only does it help the students, but the important work they do might otherwise not be done," Morton said.

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