Fall 2010

City Bar Justice Center Fall 2010 Newsletter


Volunteers Recognized at Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Outstanding Pro Bono Service

In celebration of National Pro Bono Week, the City Bar Justice Center presented the second annual Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for outstanding pro bono service on October 25, 2010. The following attorneys were recognized for their contributions:

Burke Blackman, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
John Schmitt, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
Mara Byrne, Citigroup
James Cassidy, Adams & Salter LLP
Robert Gingher, Dickstein Shapiro LLP
Daniel Gomez, Verizon
Katharine Parker, Proskauer Rose LLP
Maia Ridberg, Covington & Burling LLP
David Rubin, Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP
Heidi Schmid, Linklaters LLP
Terry Wells, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Sidney H. Stein, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, delivered the keynote address, and Austin T. Fragomen, Jr., City Bar Fund Board Chair, presented the awards. City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour and City Bar Justice Center Executive Director Lynn M. Kelly also spoke.

“Pro bono service is indispensable in making access to justice available for all New Yorkers,” said Kelly. “The City Bar Justice Center relies on volunteer lawyers, and the talent and insight they bring to each project. We are pleased to have been able to recognize some of the outstanding lawyers giving back to help needy New Yorkers.”

City Bar Justice Center Facilitates Corporate-Law Firm Partnerships

The City Bar Justice Center’s Office of Pro Bono Initiatives has long been involved in assisting law firms and corporations in designing and operating their own in-house pro bono programs. Several years ago, the Pro Bono Initiatives team developed dual guides to starting and sustaining pro bono programs, one tailored to a law firm setting and the other to a corporate in-house legal department. Both were filled with model policies and considerations. Since the development of the manuals, the Justice Center has assisted numerous law firms and over 25 corporations with their pro bono programs.

Once law firms and corporations have established their own pro bono practices, partnerships around pro bono work provide excellent opportunities for law firms and their corporate clients to continue to foster their professional relationships while giving back to the community. The Justice Center was ahead of the curve in identifying this perfect storm and has been instrumental in designing such partnerships.

Thanks to assistance from Pro Bono Initiatives, on Tuesday, October 19, 2010, the City Bar Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) partnered with Goldman Sachsand Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, the Hispanic Federation, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association to host a legal clinic for Latino entrepreneurs. Thirty six volunteer attorneys met with 25 clients to give legal advice and information on issues ranging from incorporation to contracts, employment, and commercial leasing. Since NELP operates on a clinic model and practices in an area of law familiar to corporate lawyers, it is a popular project for partnerships. Just within the last few months,MetLife and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP have also sponsored NELP clinics and Barclays Capital and Linklaters LLP will be hosting a clinic before the end of 2010.

In honor of Veterans Day, Shearman & Sterling LLP andGoldman Sachs continued their special relationship with the Veterans Assistance Project and sponsored a legal clinic on November 11, 2010. At the clinic, volunteer attorneys provided legal assistance to veterans in conjunction with their claims for service-connected disability. This was the third veterans clinic sponsored by this partnership.

The City Bar Justice Center is grateful for the work that these firms and corporations are doing to provide access to justice for New York City’s most vulnerable.

The Public Service Network: 1,000 Volunteers Working for the Public Good

The Public Service Network, a City Bar Justice Center initiative, is celebrating the placement of its 1,000th volunteer this month. Formed in 1997, the Public Service Network encourages lawyers to engage in public service by matching attorneys with legal and non-legal volunteer opportunities in the nonprofit sector.

The Public Service Network has partnered with over 300 nonprofit organizations that work in areas including human rights, education, social services, the environment, labor rights and racial justice. Attorneys have been matched with nonprofits, including Advocates for Children, the New York Women’s Foundation, El Museo del Barrio, Pro Bono Partnership, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and the Jazz Foundation of America, where they work on projects that range from direct client representation to board membership, policy research and mentoring youth.

The Network’s attorneys are making a difference. To date, the Network’s volunteers have contributed over 150,000 hours of service, valued at more than $20.5 million, to New York City’s most vulnerable populations. The results of such service: orphaned children learn to read, veterans are granted long overdue disability benefits, the groundwork is set for a trial advocacy program in Nigeria, and victims of domestic violence receive protection.

When the Network was originally formed under the leadership of Dean John D. Feerick, during his tenure as President of the New York City Bar Association, it was focused on seeking opportunities for attorneys who were preparing for retirement and wanted to use their skills in service of the community. Over time, the Network has grown to serve attorneys in all stages of their careers. In 2010, 59% of the Network’s new clients were junior level attorneys-many in job transition-and 29% were recent graduates.

Attorney Elana Kermaier is one such volunteer. After having her second child and moving from Hong Kong back to New York, Elana wasn’t ready for a full-time position but was looking for a volunteer opportunity in which she could explore her interests in family and matrimonial law. She was placed with inMotion, Inc., where she assisted women with filing their pro se paperwork to initiate divorce or child custody proceedings. Elana found that the assistance provided by the Public Service Network was very helpful in navigating this transitional stage of her life.

To learn more about receiving a match through the Public Service Network, contact Network Coordinator Kendal Nystedt at knystedt@nycbar.org.

Lawyers Foreclosure Intervention Network Honored During National Pro Bono Week

On October 25, 2010, The New York State Bar Association, the New York State Courts, and the Office of the Mayor of The City of New York jointly honored the City Bar Justice Center’s Lawyers Foreclosure Intervention Network for its work in assisting New Yorkers in financial crisis. The Lawyers Foreclosure Intervention Network recruits, trains, and mentors pro bono attorneys to assist distressed homeowners in an effort to preserve homes and minimize damage to creditworthiness. Congratulations!

Immigrant Pro Bono Project Transformed: Varick III

The City Bar Justice Center is working with pro bono law firms to transform the NYC Know Your Rights Clinic for detained immigrants into Varick III – a new full representation model. The Justice Center will be hosting a training for pro bono attorneys interested in representing detainees on January 28, 2011 at the City Bar. Interested attorneys should contact Project Coordinator Chris Blank at cblank@nycbar.org.

In December 2008, the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and The Legal Aid Society launched the NYC Know Your Rights Project at the Varick Federal Detention Facility. Under the original model, “Varick I”, volunteer attorneys from participating law firms conducted interviews with Varick detainees to determine whether immigration relief was available and to make appropriate referrals to pro bono (or “low bono”) counsel. An AILA mentor was available at each clinic. The clinic counseled over 400 detained immigrants and issued a groundbreaking report finding that over one-third of detained immigrants had a legal claim, but no lawyer to assert it. The Project was featured in a front page New York Times article in November 2009.

In February 2010, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) closed the Varick detention facility and awarded a Legal Orientation Program contract to The Legal Aid Society for all detainees in metropolitan area facilities. The City Bar Justice Center is now unveiling “Varick III”, a full representation model. Under Varick III, volunteer attorneys will receive removal cases screened by the Justice Center for cancellation eligibility and suitability for pro bono representation. Volunteer attorneys will represent detainees, with the assistance of an AILA mentor and backup from the Justice Center, on cancellation of removal cases for long-term permanent residents with strong ties to the New York City community. Because the stakes are so high, namely the permanent banishment of the client who may be the breadwinner for an extended family, full representation by pro bono counsel is the next step in helping clients with possible legal defenses. Together with our partners, the Justice Center will work hard to ensure pro bono attorneys are supported in taking on this challenge.

A number of firms have already stepped up and are currently handling a full representation case of an immigrant from Varick:Linklaters LLP, Dechert LLP, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP,Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP.

City Bar Justice Center’s Board of Directors Welcomes New Members

William Viets, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Paul Schoeman, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
Barron M. Tenny, The Ford Foundation
Robin Maxwell, Linklaters LLP
Jay Holtmeier, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Michael Delikat, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Kwanza Butler, Time Warner, Inc. 
Jeffrey Taylor, Ernst & Young

City Bar Justice Center Welcomes New Fragomen Fellow

The City Bar Justice Center is pleased to welcome our new Fragomen Fellow, Michael Almonte. Michael is a 2007 graduate of Brooklyn Law School where he was on Law Review and won several academic prizes. He has a B.S. cum laude in Industrial and Management Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and he joined Fragomen in 2008 after spending a year as an immigration law clerk with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Michael is now directing the Immigrant Outreach Project. Welcome Michael!

Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP has sponsored a full time fellowship at the City Bar Justice Center since 2007. The Justice Center is delighted that the National Legal Aid & Defender Association accepted the Justice Center’s nomination and honored Fragomen with the 2010 Beacon of Justice Award.

Refugee Assistance Project

Ms. Y fled the Sudan to escape a forced marriage to her first cousin. Having been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child, Ms. Y also feared that her cousin would force her to undergo another, more severe form of female circumcision, as is the tradition in his family.  Volunteer attorneys Jeff Lichtman and Vincent Napolitano of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLPworked tirelessly preparing Ms. Y for her asylum office interview, which she handled with great poise and confidence. Ms. Y was granted asylum and can now look forward to starting a new life here in the United States.

Cancer Advocacy Project

After being diagnosed with liver cancer, Mr. X was told that his only option for survival was to have a liver transplant and that there was little chance of finding a match in time. Pursuing other opinions, he found an out-of-network physician who recommended an immediate liver resection rather than a transplant. Happily, Mr. X had the resection, recovered, and is now in remission, but his insurance carrier denied coverage for the medical services and surgery, basing the denial on “out-of-network” care. Thanks to the advocacy and perseverance of volunteer attorney Flora Tartakovsky, an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law, the insurance company was compelled to reverse its decision and pay the client’s treatment costs, totaling approximately $75,000.

What’s Happening at the CBJC

Consumer Bankruptcy Project

Tuesday, November 16 (2-5pm) – Volunteer attorneys fromPaul Hastings will meet with debtors to conduct intake interviews and assist in gathering the data needed to commence Pro Se Chapter 7 filings.

Elderlaw/Cancer Advocacy Projects

Tuesday, November 30 (6-7:30pm) – Presentation on the topic of “The New Healthcare Legislation & How it Will Affect Cancer Patients and Survivors” will be held at Gilda’s Club.

Wednesday, December 8 (12:30-2pm) – Volunteers from Reed Smith LLP will staff a legal clinic at the Woodstock Senior Center. Seniors will have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with a volunteer attorney to discuss a range of legal matters.

Lawyers Foreclosure Intervention Network

Wednesday, December 15 (1-5pm) – The Foreclosure Project will be hosting a free CLE training for volunteers who are willing to take on cases with the Project. Participating lawyers will be trained to represent homeowners in the settlement conferences now mandated for residential foreclosure actions, as well as assist homeowners with applications for loan modifications through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program. For homes that cannot be saved, volunteers help homeowners secure an orderly transition with minimal damage to credit. Interested attorneys should contact Ben Seibel at bseibel@nycbar.org.

Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The Legal Clinic for the Homeless holds regular clinics where attorneys and legal professionals meet with homeless shelter residents and conduct intake interviews. Through both informal advocacy and administrative hearing representation, volunteers help clients with their public benefits issues. A list of upcoming clinics follows:

  • Friday, December 10– Student volunteers from Columbia Law School will visit the Regent Family Residence.
  • Thursday, November 18and Thursday, December 16 – Volunteers from Reed Smith LLP and Herrick, Feinstein LLP will visit at the Clinton Family Inn.
  • Tuesday, December 14– Volunteers from Citigroup will visit the Briarwood Family Residence.
  • Friday, November 19and Friday, December 17 – Volunteers from Hunton & Williams will visit the Icahn House East.

Immigrant Outreach Project

Wednesday, December 15 – The Immigration Outreach Project is giving a community presentation at the Bronx Family Center. Project staff will give a bilingual (English/Spanish) presentation covering the different types of immigration visas and ways to adjust status.

Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project

Thursday, November 18 (6:30-8pm) – A presentation on the topic of “Determining the Best Structure for Your Small Business” is being held in partnership with the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC). An attorney will discuss the legal aspects of starting up a small business, and a Certified Public Accountant will discuss relevant tax issues.

Tuesday, November 23 (6:30-8pm) – A volunteer fromDechert LLP will present on the topic of “Basics of Business Contracts”. Presentation held in partnership with the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC).

Tuesday, December 14 (5:30-7:30pm) – Volunteers fromDebevoise & Plimpton LLP and MetLife will staff a small business legal clinic in partnership with the Brooklyn Business Library, the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of the New York City College of Technology. The clinic will take place at the Brooklyn Business Library.