By Michael Lukens
It takes a special and dedicated pro bono team to fight for a noncitizen facing deportation and exile from his family. Cases like these often combine immigration law and criminal issues and require lawyers willing and able to articulate why their client, despite past mistakes, deserves to stay in the United States. This year, Williams & Connolly‘s Will Ashworth and Shauna Kramer successfully made that case—and did so with poise, strength, and compassion.
Will and Shauna represented a man from Bosnia-Herzegovina who survived the Bosnian War and fled with his family to the United States. Yet after arriving as a refugee and securing a green card, the client’s war-related trauma continued to haunt him. He coped by abusing drugs and supported his drug habit by shoplifting; eventually, he was convicted of shoplifting three times and placed in deportation proceedings.
After meeting their client, Will and Shauna worked tirelessly to keep him here. Rachel Jordan, the CAIR Coalition staff attorney who mentored Will and Shauna, saw their work firsthand: “They had an immense depth of compassion for their client, and they were remarkably resourceful through all of the ins and outs of a very complex case. They thought out game plans for all of the potential twists that the case could take, and that allowed them to be prepared for anything.”
Will and Shauna’s creativity, ingenuity, and dedication paid off. During the removal hearing, they persuaded the Immigration Judge that their client could and should remain in the United States with his family.
“The moment when the Immigration Judge granted our application was the most fulfilling moment of my legal career thus far,” said Shauna. “I will never forget the feeling I had when our client realized that he could go home to his family, became very emotional, and thanked us profusely—it was one of those experiences that reaffirmed why I wanted to become an attorney in the first place and how important it is to use our training to give back.”
Needless to say, everyone at CAIR Coalition is grateful for Will and Shauna’s remarkable effort on behalf of their client: “Will and Shauna are one of the best pro bono teams I have ever worked with,” said Rachel. They were not only a joy to work with, but their compassion and zeal serve as a model for all of our pro bono teams.
Michael Lukens is Pro Bono Director at the CAIR Coalition and Co-Chair of DC Pro Bono Week 2016.