City Bar Justice Center Summer-Fall 2011 Newsletter
City Bar Justice Center ’s Board of Directors Welcomes New Members
Carmita Alonso, Fragomen
Lisa M. Brill, Shearman & Sterling
Heidi Levine, DLA Piper
Hon. Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge New York City Family Court
Hon. Allan L. Gropper (Treasurer)
City Bar Justice Center Announces Winners of Third Annual Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Pro Bono Service
The City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar, has announced the winners of the third annual Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Pro Bono Service. Honoring volunteer lawyers for outstanding work on Justice Center projects, the awards were presented at a Celebration of Service reception on Monday, October 24th, as part of National Pro Bono Week.
This year’s winners are:
Richard Bernardo, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Kristopher Brown, Dechert LLP
Natalie Shimmel Drucker, Simpson Thacher/Goldman Sachs
Hugh Hill, Hogan Lovells LLP
Aviania Iliadis, Latham Watkins
Rene Kathawala, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Jae Kim, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP
Ben Kusmin, Cooley LLP
William Lang, Nixon Peabody LLP
Sean Porter, Dechert LLP
Robert B. Fiske Jr., Senior Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, delivered the keynote address and Jay Holtmeier, City Bar Fund Board Chair, presented the awards. City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour provided introductory remarks.
Jeremy G. Epstein , who passed away in May 2009, was a partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP and a board member at the City Bar Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society and the Fund for Modern Courts. He logged over 5,000 hours of pro bono and public service over the last 20 years.
Julia Milne of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP Finds Success in Coming to the aid of an Abused Mother
Ms. D married her husband in New York City in 2004 and they had a baby. Ms. D’s husband began beating her the day they married, often accusing her of lying to him and calling her derogatory names. He would come home intoxicated and beat her in front of their young son. He refused to let her work, yet denied her access to family funds. He threatened to kill her if she left him, and to report her to immigration if she called the police.
Five years of violence, physical abuse, and verbal abuse culminated one night when Ms. D was severely beaten and police were called and arrested the husband. Ms. D and her son moved into a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Because Ms. D assisted with the prosecution of her now ex-husband for domestic abuse, she became eligible for a U-Visa to stabilize her immigration status. The Justice Center’s Immigrant Women and Children Project (IWC) assists survivors of violence, abuse, and human trafficking in legalizing their immigration statuses. IWC matched Ms. D’s case with Julia Milne of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Julia began volunteering with IWC in the summer of 2010, joining nearly a dozen devoted Paul Weiss attorneys currently volunteering with IWC. Julia achieved success for her client in a matter of months, obtaining for Ms. D not only a U-visa but a work permit as well. The victory allows Ms. D to support herself and her son, now 7 years old. Thanks to Julia, in three years Ms. D will be able to apply for her green card. Suzanne Tomatore, director of the Immigrant Women and Children Project, describes Julia as very professional, devoted to doing great work and making her clients feel secure throughout the entirety of their immigration proceedings.
“Paul, Weiss and the City Bar Justice Center have worked together for years on behalf of clients like Ms. D and many others,” says Paul Weiss’ pro bono coordinator Rebecca Behr. “We are very proud of the pro bono work our attorneys do with the help of the City Bar Justice Center.”
Julia continues to work closely with IWC after her victory. She is currently assisting a young Ecuadorian woman, also the victim of domestic violence, with her visa application. The City Bar Justice Center and Immigrant Women and Children Project are tremendously proud and appreciative of Julia, and other volunteers like her, who continue to put their hearts into pro bono work.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP Shines Providing Counsel to Detained New York Immigrants through an Innovative City Bar Justice Center Project
The City Bar Justice Center is pleased to recognize Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP for their extraordinary dedication and support of the Center’s immigrant detention defense work.
For nearly two years the NYC Know Your Rights Project, a collaboration of the City Bar Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society and the NYC chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), operated a pro bono clinic for detained immigrants at the Varick ICE Detention Facility. Volunteer attorneys from participating law firms, including Orrick, conducted screening interviews and under the mentorship of immigration experts from AILA, determined whether immigration relief was available.
They then advised the client and made appropriate referrals to pro bono (or “low bono”) counsel. After the detention facility was closed in early 2010, the project adapted to the logistical changes in the system after consulting with participating law firms on the feasibility of attorneys providing extended pro bono representation in immigration court. Rene Kathawala, Pro Bono Counsel at Orrick and Scott Roehm, Orrick’s pro bono fellow, were leaders in providing their insights on the challenges of law firm associates representing detained immigrants before the Immigration Court. Their advice was crucial to the launch of a representation pilot project in January of this year, in which law firm associates provide pro bono assistance to immigrants with strong equities and ties to New York applying for cancellation of their removal from the United States.
Under Rene’s and Scott’s guidance, Orrick generously donated the firm’s technical assistance to the production of the project training materials, and turned out the largest number of attorneys in attendance at the training program. Further demonstrating the firm’s commitment, Orrick litigation associate Daniel Kahn was the first volunteer to roll up his sleeves and take on one of the case referrals, with Rene and Scott providing Dan support and mentoring throughout. The client, Mr. S, is a young man who came to the United States from El Salvador as a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder) when he was seven years old. A recent arrest for a misdemeanor, leading to his transfer to immigration custody, could not have come at a worse time as Mr. S’s mother was recently injured and could no longer work.
The decision by the Immigration Judge to grant cancellation of removal came down to a weighing of the equities. Despite the fact that Mr. S had a prior felony on his record, he attended several drug and alcohol programs while in custody and, prior to that, had been holding two steady jobs to help pay his mother’s bills. The client’s evidence was bolstered by former employers indicating that they would consider hiring Mr. S if he was released, and preparation that Mr. S made while incarcerated for his reentry, including addressing prior drug convictions. In addition, Mr. S secured the assistance of an excellent country conditions expert who had specific knowledge of how citizens of El Salvador who resided in the United States for a long time are treated upon their return home, especially when they have little or no family there anymore. On August 29, 2011 after Dan represented Mr. S. at a hearing in the Immigration Court, Mr. S was granted cancellation of removal and was reunited with his family at the hearing.
“After spending months in immigration custody, Mr. S will now get one last chance to make good on his mother’s many sacrifices that gave him a life in this country,” said Dan after the hearing. “I believe he will take full advantage.”
The problem of lack of counsel in the Immigration Court has exploded in the last five years as the number of detained New Yorkers has tripled. According to the New York Times, immigrants’ fate in deportation cases often comes down to whether they can afford a lawyer. Immigrants with legal representation are at least five times as likely to win their cases as those without, yet in New York only 40 percent of detained immigrants have lawyers. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens earlier this year addressed this topic stating “The need for legal representation for immigrants is really acute.”
Since the Justice Center began addressing the lack of counsel for detained immigrants, Orrick has been a tireless partner and the firm’s attorneys have consistently stepped up to the plate. The Justice Center is grateful for the work of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in addressing this glaring human rights abuse. Rene Kathawala was recognized for his leadership in establishing pro bono representation for detained immigrants with a 2011 Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service at the City Bar Justice Center.
City Bar Justice Center Hosts Legal Clinic for Eligible Claimants under the Reopened 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
On November 7, 2011 the City Bar Justice Center hosted the first legal clinic for potential eligible claimants under the reopened 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-347) (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivates the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 that operated from 2001-2003 and requires a Special Master, appointed by the Attorney General, to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.
The City Bar Justice Center would like to thank the following law firms and corporate in-house legal departments for their support at the first clinic:
Bank of New York Mellon
Cleary, Gotlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP
Crowell & Moring LLP
Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP
DLA Piper (US) LLP
Duane Morris LLP
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman LLP
Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Reed Smith LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
SNR Denton (US) LLP
Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP
Winston & Strawn LLP
A special thanks to Heidi Levine and DLA Piper (US) LLP for their involvement and support from beginning to end.
The next legal clinic for the reopened Victim Compensation Fund will take place at the New York City Bar Association on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 from 6:00-8:00pm.
Blank Rome LLP Empowers Low Income Microentrepreneurs through Access to Legal Counsel
In summer 2010, Blank Rome LLP came to the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) in an effort to expand and strengthen its pro bono practice. While the firm already had a robust pro bono practice tailored to the skills and desires of its litigators, it was interested in increasing the participation of its corporate and transactional practitioners in a way that would best utilize their expertise. The Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) was a perfect fit.
NELP, which assists moderate and low-income entrepreneurs in New York City, has trained 20 attorneys from the firm as pro bono volunteers. Since the initial training, Blank Rome has fully staffed two small business legal clinics in Harlem at the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center and will be staffing a third in the South Bronx later this month. At the clinics, volunteers counseled entrepreneurs one-on-one in half-hour sessions and attorneys from Blank Rome assisted 25 entrepreneurs with issues ranging from employment matters to legal structure and incorporation.
In addition to actively participating in legal clinics, two volunteers from the firm have given educational presentations for entrepreneurs at community-based organizations. Stuart Kaplan, a partner specializing in commercial real estate, presented on the topic of commercial leasing and Jay Lessler, a partner specializing in patent procurement and litigation, spoke on intellectual property issues for small businesses. 69 entrepreneurs participated in these sessions.
Legal clinics and presentations aside, Rustin Paul, an associate in mergers and acquisitions is currently engaged in an ongoing direct representation matter, working with a female sculptor to prepare business contracts.
“The Justice Center is pleased to recognize Blank Rome LLP for its exceptional pro bono work,” said Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives for the CBJC. “We would especially like to thank Partner Matthew Breitman for introducing the firm to NELP and for his continued enthusiasm and active participation.”
The City Bar Justice Center is grateful for Blank Rome LLP’s commitment to expanding access to legal counsel for microentrepreneurs and looks forward to continuing to grow the successful partnership.
City Bar Justice Center Welcomes Fragomen Fellow Barbara Camacho
The City Bar Justice Center warmly welcomes Barbara Camacho, the latest Fragomen Fellow. The Fragomen Fellow, a rotating two-year fellow placed at the CBJC from the immigration law firm of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP, oversees the NYC Know Your Rights project, a joint effort of several organizations working to provide access to justice to detainees at the Varick Federal Detention Center.
Barbara will focus on advocacy to enhance the access to and quality of counsel for detained immigrants in New York, as well as train, recruit, and mentor new volunteers. She will also supervise the follow-up on all open cases, and will continue the critical community education and outreach activities that the Project seeks to bring to detained immigrants.
City Bar Justice Center Welcomes Equal Justice Works Fellow Laura Matthews-Jolly
Laura Matthews-Jolly is the new Equal Justice Works Fellow at the City Bar Justice Center, where she provides direct representation to immigrant youth survivors of labor and sex trafficking.
Laura graduated from CUNY School of Law in 2010 and was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Melvin L. Gelade in the New Jersey Superior Court. Laura was a Fulbright Fellow in South Korea and worked as a paralegal in New York for three years. Her fellowship is generously sponsored by Greenberg Traurig.
“Funding EJW fellowships is a great way to make a big impact,” said Bill Silverman, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig and head of the firm’s pro bono efforts in New York, “but financial support is only part of it. We will work with Laura to help build a coalition of firms to address the legal needs of trafficking victims and raise awareness of a very serious crime that too often is ignored.”
Upcoming Events & Trainings
- Tuesday, November 15th (9:30 AM – 10:30 AM):A volunteer attorney from Citigroup will be giving a presentation on life planning documents at the University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital.
- Sunday, November 20th (2 PM – 5 PM): Presentation on life planning documents at the Afrikan Poetry Theater in Jamaica, Queens.
- Tuesday, December 13th (3:30 PM – 5 PM):Presentation for cancer patients and survivors on relevant health insurance issues including denial of coverage, the appeals process, and recent changes due to the new healthcare legislation at Brooklyn SHARE, Restoration Plaza.
- Thursday, January 26th (6 PM – 8 PM):A volunteer fromProskauer Rose LLP will give a presentation on employee rights and cancer-related employment discrimination for cancer patients and survivors at Gilda’s Club New York City.
- Attorneys from Reed Smith LLP will be volunteering at the following legal clinics:
Tuesday, December 6th (12:30 PM – 2 PM):at the Woodstock Senior Center.
Tuesday, January 10th (1:30 PM – 3 PM):at the Stein Senior Center.
- Wednesday, November 16th (4 PM – 6 PM):A small business legal clinic will be held at the Queens Business Solutions Center. Attorneys from Shearman & Sterling LLP,Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto LLP, Duane Morris LLP, and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP will be volunteering.
- Wednesday, November 17th (5 PM – 7 PM):Baker & McKenzie, Goldman Sachs & Co., Hispanic Federationand Hispanic National Bar Association are partnering with the City Bar Justice Center on a small business legal clinic in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
- Monday, December 5th (6 PM – 8 PM):Business legal clinic at Workshops in Business Opportunities (WIBO).
- Tuesday, December 13th (5:30 PM – 7:30 PM):Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Citigroup will provide volunteers for a small business legal clinic at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Business Library, held in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at New York City College of Technology.
- Wednesday, January 18th (4 PM – 6 PM):Dechert LLPwill provide volunteers for a small business legal clinic at the Queens Business Solutions Center.
- Tuesday, November 15, 2011 (2 – 4pm):Veterans Assistance Project clinic at the City Bar. Volunteer attorneys fromShearman & Sterling LLP and Goldman Sachs & Co. are volunteering.
- Wednesday, January 25, 2012 (2 – 4pm):Veterans Assistance Project clinic at the City Bar.
- Tuesday, February 28, 2012 (2 – 4pm):Veterans Assistance Project clinic at the City Bar.
Immigrant Women & Children
- Tuesday, December 6, 2011 (12 – 2pm):The Immigrant Women & Children Project will train volunteer attorneys fromUBS on filing immigration applications for crime victims.
- Thursday, December 15, 2011 (1 – 3pm):Staff from the Immigrant Women & Children Proejct will present webinars on identification and intake best practices regarding trafficked youth at the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services.
- Wednesday, January 11, 2012 (6 – 8pm): In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness day, the Immigrant Women & Children Project will host a panel discussion on emerging issues with trafficked youth in New York City.
- Tuesday, November 15 (2 – 5pm):The Lawyers’ Foreclosure Intervention Network will hold a training for new volunteer attorneys. Participating lawyers will be trained to represent homeowners in the foreclosure settlement conferences and in applying for available loss mitigation options.
Pro Bono Initiatives
- Tuesday, December 13 (6 – 8pm): Victims Compensation Fund clinic for eligible claimants under the reopened 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.