Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition is fortunate to work with many outstanding attorneys in protecting immigrants’ rights. Recently, a group of talented pro bono attorneys at two of our long-term partner firms collaborated in cutting-edge litigation in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Top-notch appellate advocacy by Susan Baker Manning, Patrick Harvey, and Clara Kollm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and by Steven H. Schulman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP led to a landmark decision earlier this year that bolsters due process for all people in immigration proceedings, and especially for those who must proceed without the benefit of counsel.
Across DC, more than 13,000 students have special education needs. But getting the right education to meet those needs is a far reach for many. More often than not, students and their families call on lawyers to ensure they get the right evaluation, plans and services to put their child on track. And the urgency to ensure children’s special education needs are met has skyrocketed over the past 18 months as many students are waiting for delayed evaluations or haven’t received the services they deserve due to virtual learning barriers. Attorneys Steve Harvey and Keith Howard have known each other since 2004. They shared the same passion from the start of their legal careers – pursuing justice for low-income families by representing children in special education cases. Since 2017, they have partnered together to represent students with special education needs in over a dozen pro bono cases for Children’s Law Center.
Nadira Clarke, Baker Botts partner, and Washington, D.C. Section Chair of the firm’s Environmental Safety & Incident Response Group, has leaned into leadership roles, mentorship opportunities, pro bono work, and more since joining Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees in 2018. Indeed, when it came to encouraging pro bono engagement with Legal Aid, Nadira resolved to model the behavior she wanted to see in her colleagues. Having previously handled sex-based discrimination litigation and immigration matters, Nadira is no stranger to pro bono work. Yet, she was willing to dive into a new area of law and has been accepting child custody case referrals from Legal Aid in recent years. Nadira is making an indelible impact on Legal Aid as an organization, the professional development of the colleagues she supervises and mentors, and, most importantly, the lives of the clients she represents.
Without pro bono support, only crime victims with the financial resources to hire skilled attorneys would benefit from the formidable array of victims’ rights laws and benefits applicable in the District of Columbia. The natural inertia of the criminal legal system and the highly adversarial interests of those involved creates an environment where victims’ rights are susceptible to encroachment. Since the incredible majority of crime victims cannot afford their own attorneys, crime victims are often left without even knowing they had rights that could have been enforced. Blair Decker has stepped into this gap to accept a wide range of pro bono opportunities at NVRDC and has positively affected our work with crime victims and surviving family members of homicide victims, and has facilitated a broader systemic transformation in a variety of ways.
Understanding all too well the struggles of people with few resources and language barriers, Phillip Dehoux jumped at the chance to help out in any way he could with Christian Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. “I’ve worked on a few estate planning and probate cases, helped out on an SSDI case, and worked on guardianship matters. It’s been very rewarding work in that I not only feel fulfilled, but I also get to help people who had nowhere else to turn because they couldn’t afford a private attorney.”
Erhan Bedestani, a law student at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, loves pro bono work because he is motivated to help others and he also learns by doing. Pro bono provides an opportunity to take the academic material learned in law school and apply it to real legal issues members of our local community are dealing with. Erhan feels strongly about pro bono work and said “I love that I can help others and at the same time further reinforce my legal education. “
The Rising for Justice Expungement Program is proud to work with many pro bono attorneys who make it possible to expunge hundreds of D.C. records every year. Our Pro Bono Partners, as we refer to them, each become an important figure in our clients’ lives. Pro Bono Partners support and represent clients throughout the expungement process. Lauren Taylor stands out in her commitment and positivity to this work.
Nicholas Nyemah, Dominique Casimir, and Daniel Dovev from Arnold & Porter LLP, recently won an asylum claim for an LGBT man from Swaziland who faced death in his home country. Working with their mentors from CAIR Coalition, the team’s case was one of the first before a new immigration judge. There were a number of unusual challenges in the case and the team identified and tackled each one with sharp precision and elegance. Their arguments were so compelling that DHS stipulated to 90% of the elements. The hearing lasted less than 30 minutes and the client is now reunited with his community here in the United States.
For Tracey Ohm, of counsel at Stinson Leonard Street LLP and dedicated D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center volunteer, the reward of pro bono work isn't out-of-the-park wins. It's the gratitude she gets for the simple act of being an advocate. "The clients are so grateful to have someone standing up for them," she said. "That's both what I enjoy and what keeps me going."
Amanda McGinn, an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, had just presented her Children's Law Center pro bono caregiver custody case before a DC judge, alongside co-counsel, Megan Greer, a counsel at Akin Gump. While daunting, Amanda knew that together, and through the resources Children's Law Center provides its pro bono teams, she and Megan could use their legal skills to help children thrive.
If you are looking for a pro bono opportunity to help a family achieve stability and hone your litigation skills, consider representing a parent in a child custody case. Just ask Kirkland & Ellis associate Nickolas Barber who, over the course of a year representing the father of two young sons referred from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, appeared in court seven times, including for two evidentiary hearings and a full-day trial.
Brendan McNamara, a staff attorney at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, has made a consistent effort over the last three years to represent elderly clients referred to the firm through Legal Counsel for the Elderly's (LCE) Pro Bono Project. Brendan's experience illustrates why pro bono attorneys are so important to the lives of low-income and modest means individuals.
By Aoife Delargy This spring, law students from American University, Catholic University, Georgetown, and George Washington University sponsored the DC Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono Service Project. Held for two weeks last March, students from these local law schools spent their spring breaks engaged in hands-on, legal volunteer work. (more…)
By Maureen Thomas Major General Mike Nardotti (US Army, Retired and former The Judge Advocate General, US Army) is a Senior Partner at Squire Patton Boggs. The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program recently recognized Mike for over 20 years of service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors, as a member of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps. Over the past 25 years, lawyers like Mike from Squire Patton Boggs have supported The Veterans Consortium with over 92 engagements in federal courts, participated in specialized Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims trainings, and assisted TVC in dramatically improving our ability to provide free legal services to veterans and their loved ones. (more…)
Kaley, age 13, was living with her grandmother in El Salvador when local gangs began to target her and her family. Her grandmother owns a local diner where neighborhood police officers and prosecutors often ate; as a result, gang members decided that she was pro-government and anti-gang. Gang members assaulted Kaley’s grandmother and targeted Kaley, threatening to kidnap and assault her. Kaley fled the country. (more…)
By Children's Law Center Sleigh bells ring, judge is listening—is not your typical holiday medley. But it provided the soundtrack last December for five-year-old Charlie Young while Alexis DeBernardis, his pro bono counsel, fought for him in his custody case. (Names have been changed to protect client anonymity.) Alexis is an associate at Crowell & Moring, but she also volunteers as a pro bono lawyer with Children’s Law Center (CLC). (more…)
By Priya Konings Representing unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children is challenging, and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) is always looking for pro bono lawyers with the time, patience, and enthusiasm to handle a pro bono immigration case for our clients. When Lara Burke of Bruch Hanna came to us, we knew that we'd found someone who could rise to the occasion. (more…)
By Melanie Orhant Ryan Guilds is a lawyer at Arnold & Porter Kay Scholer and board chair of Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC). Over the past eighteen years, he's found that pro bono work offers the chance to do "that not only feels good but also gives you skills as a lawyer." And Ryan has done pro bono work in spades. Ryan's pro bono work started before he was actually a lawyer. While a 1L at the University of North Carolina School of Law, he worked on capital cases and developed an interest in prisoner's rights. (more…)