News coverage of some of our pro bono work includes the following:
NVLSP and Government Reach Historic PTSD Class Action Settlement for Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans with Pro Bono Help from Morgan Lewis
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and Morgan Lewis recently obtained a historic settlement victory for disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The settlement in the class action lawsuit Sabo v. United States will benefit thousands of veterans who were medically discharged due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) between 2003 and 2008, but were denied the benefits to which they were legally entitled. Read the news coverage:
- Businesses Backing Vets: Skills-Based Volunteering Helps Wounded Warriors
- Settlement Grants Class of Vets with PTSD Lifetime Disability Coverage
- VVA Praises Historic Settlement For Veterans Discharged with PTSD
- Veterans Lawsuit Reaches Settlement
- Vets With PTSD, Government Reach Settlement
- View the Press Release
Impact, the Morgan Lewis Way
During Pro Bono and Community Service Week, the Philadelphia office held its first Impact Day, during which volunteers participated in one of several different community service projects to address core community needs. Impact Day was featured on Generosity.org. Read the full article.
Members Thanked for Participation in the New York City Law Department's Public Service Program
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg honored more than 50 firms that have donated attorney time and legal resources to the New York City Law Department’s Public Service Program. Morgan Lewis associate Denise Backhouse was quoted as an alumni on her experiences with the Tort Trial Program. For the full story, read the press release.
Pro Bono Project Helps Seniors With a Taxing Problem: Efforts by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Attorneys May Become National Model, New York Law Journal
Morgan Lewis pro bono is now helping the elderly retain their homes. The struggling mortgage industry has caused many unaware retirees to lose title and equity to savvy real estate speculators. Many homeowners—who had paid off their mortgages ages ago—fall behind on their increased property tax payments, which causes their city to file a tax lien. Cities and counties often sell this debt to third parties, who become legally entitled to collect the tax—with an additional 5% surcharge and 18% interest—until restitution is made. This debt can then be auctioned to the highest bidder, who only has to wait six months before filing an action to foreclose with right of redemption. Often, a homeowner loses his or her house with little or no warning and over very little debt. Washington, D.C. associate Michael J. Wilson spearheaded a program, at the request of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Bar, that provides consultation sessions for two hours every Wednesday afternoon to elderly homeowners. Wilson's efforts have, to date, saved three elderly Washingtonians from homelessness. "This is a problem that's flying under the radar screen," says Wilson, "we need to set up some sort of safety net. We need to catch these people—mostly low-income elderly people—before they wind up in a black hole they can't get out of." Amanda Smith, firm pro bono partner, is analyzing Wilson's success in D.C. to see if it can be applied to places like Philadelphia and New York. Smith says Wilson's project "is a good example of how large-firm pro bono programs work best."
Pro Bono Programs Bring Civil Support: New Center Provides Free Aid in Non-Criminal Cases, Washington Post
Sixty-eight-year-old retiree Steve Williams of Washington, D.C. was more than a little confused after receiving a summons to appear in D.C. Superior Court because of supposed outstanding property taxes. Williams insisted he had kept up on the payments and could not understand why the District was claiming rights to sell a house he owned and had lived in for half of his life. Luckily for Mr. Williams, Morgan Lewis attorneys were waiting at the courthouse to sort out the District's claim and help make sense of "tax sales." After searching the District's electronic database, lawyers found a record proving Mr. Williams was current on all property taxes; aside from the formalities of paperwork, Mr. Williams could keep his house. The D.C. Bar, in conjunction with the Access to Justice Commission, contacted Morgan Lewis to establish a resource center at the Superior Court. The center opened in July 2007 under the supervision of firm pro bono committee chairman Mark A. Srere and associate Michael J. Wilson. Morgan Lewis attorneys are now able to provide free tax sales counseling to the disadvantaged for two hours every Wednesday afternoon.
God is in the Change: With Lord in Mind and Miniloans, Group Helps Neediest, Chicago Sun-Times
Opportunity International, a Chicago-based nonprofit microfinance organization, provides loans and other financial services to the poor in Third World nations, which allow its borrowers to stabilize their finances or start new businesses. Opportunity serves one million small business entrepreneurs, more than 85% of whom are women. Morgan Lewis partner Betsy Perdue has been on the board of Opportunity for 10 years and has seen the organization grow quickly, to where it now serves about one million loan and savings clients and provides microinsurance for more than 3.5 million individuals. Lending to the poor not only enables them to support themselves, it also gives them a sense of empowerment and dignity, and builds local leaders. "Once you empower someone to get on their feet," Betsy says, "they can take off."
Keeping the Swing in Duke Ellington: D.C.'s Public Arts School Gets a Creative Boost from Volunteers at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Legal Times
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the star of the D.C. Public School System, has been allowed to keep 53 of its teachers that were set to be terminated in June 2007 after the extensive efforts of Morgan Lewis attorneys and lawyers from the George Washington University. Due to its interpretation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the D.C. public school system had determined that all instructors without traditional state-certified teaching licenses could no longer teach at any public school in the district. While Ellington has the autonomy to control its personnel, finances, school governance, and curricula, it is still subject to the authority of the District of Columbia superintendent. The principal of the Ellington School, Rory Pullens, knew that a teaching license did not supersede years of professional experience in the arts; the loss of seasoned professionals of the arts would harm the school and its students: "How can you tell someone with 30 years of experience running a dance company that they are not qualified to teach dance? It's ridiculous," he said.
The joint effort between Morgan Lewis and the George Washington University lawyers gained a one-year emergency reprieve from the D.C. public school system, during which time alternative certifications for the instructors in question will be examined. Morgan Lewis's most recent victory for the Ellington school is just one of many successes in their eight-year partnership, which resulted in the school's original autonomy from the public school system in 2000. "From the start, Morgan Lewis was deeply involved in developing a sustainable model for the school. The firm established and obtained a tax exemption for the Ellington Project and went on to negotiate the school's management arrangement with the D.C. school system. This process involved many of the firm's practice areas, including attorneys from the labor and employment, tax, litigation, intellectual property, and finance groups." Read the article in its entirety.
Starting at the Top, American Lawyer
Morgan Lewis's commitment to pro bono, as highlighted by The American Lawyer, begins with its managing partner. Francis Milone, chair of Morgan Lewis since 1999, told firm partners at the 2005 annual partner retreat that Morgan Lewis would initiate a rededication to pro bono work, and that he would lead the effort. Soon afterward, Milone visited the 11 largest U.S. offices in the firm, advocating every lawyer's obligation to pro bono work—and set the example for others to follow by taking on a pro bono case himself. In 2006, Morgan Lewis lawyers clocked an average of 67.1 hours to pro bono matters, up 112 percent from the previous year. As a result, Morgan Lewis jumped 94 spots from its prior ranking at 116 to its current 22 in the American Lawyer's annual A-List.
Firms That Offer the Best of Both Worlds, The National Law Journal
Morgan Lewis's summer associate PICS Program was the focus of an article in July 2007 issue of The National Law Journal titled "Firms That Offer the Best of Both Worlds." The article states that Morgan Lewis is "one of the few firms that make [public interest work] available to all summer-associate hires." Eric Kraeutler, Morgan Lewis's firmwide hiring partner, began the program in 2001 to attract individuals who are dedicated to not only their clients, but to public interest and pro bono legal representation as well. "The PICS Program," Kraeutler says, "is a tremendous vehicle for attracting individuals who will succeed in our environment." Approximately one-third of Morgan Lewis summer associates participate in its PICS Program, which splits the summer employment between the firm and an approved public interest organization.
After Katrina: Helping New Orleans Public Defenders
Morgan Lewis associate Brian Privor was featured in a segment of ABC World News with Charles Gibson on March 1, 2007. Mr. Privor helped the New Orleans Public Defenders Office deal with a crisis-level caseload in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by working as a pro bono extern with the New Orleans Office of Indigent Defender Program. To read the related story from the ABC News site, please visit: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2917132&page=1.
With Full-Time Focus, Firm Doubled Pro Bono in 2006, The Recorder
Morgan Lewis's pro bono partner, Amanda Smith, is highlighted in a February 26, 2007 article in The Recorder. Childhood inspiration led to pro bono ambition for San Francisco's Amanda Smith. During her youth, Smith spent time in India with her parents. During that time, she was exposed to the vast poverty of that country and acquired a will to help others that would later fuel her motivations and goals in her professional career. Ms. Smith is featured in the article as Morgan Lewis's frontrunner in promoting pro bono work within the firm. Read the full story.
Morgan Lewis Mentioned in Corporate Counsel Magazine for Clinic in a Box, Corporate Counsel
Morgan Lewis was mentioned in an article that appeared in December's Corporate Counsel magazine. In "A Firm Commitment: Exelon Leans on Its Outside Counsel for Pro Bono Connections," the firm was recognized for its partnership with Exelon and the Philadelphia Bar Association's Homeless Advocacy Project to provide "clinic in a box," a three-hour clinic designed to secure birth certificates for homeless men, women, and children that served more than 200 persons in one session.
2006 Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting
On October 23, 2006, Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a national partnership project of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute, hosted its ninth annual Onsite Pro Bono Clinic in conjunction with the ACC Annual Meeting in San Diego. Co-sponsored by ACC's San Diego Chapter, Morgan Lewis, and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program (SDLVP), the clinic attracted 15 volunteer corporate attorneys who were extremely successful in helping to resolve the legal issues of a number of San Diego-area nonprofit organizations. Morgan Lewis attorneys Andrea Ordin, Melinda Riechert, and Amanda Smith conducted two training sessions, the first providing legal training to in-house volunteers on issues that may impact nonprofit organizations, and the second providing consultation to in-house volunteers on issues requiring resolution.
Public Housing Case Argued, Baltimore Sun
Morgan Lewis partner Peter Buscemi, of the Washington, D.C. office, is fighting the battle to desegregate the greater Baltimore area's public housing developments through pro bono work. For years now, the public housing situation in Baltimore, Maryland has lead to almost 100% segregation in the allotment and location of public housing residents. Mr. Buscemi argued the case against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis to require HUD to provide 6,750 special housing vouchers and new and rehabilitated units over the next 10 years. Mr. Buscemi wants to see an improvement in how information is made available to people seeking or currently residing in public housing.
Summer Success in Texas: Asylum Cases Test S.F. Interns, San Francisco Daily Journal
Four Morgan Lewis summer associates in the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices pulled off a double victory in immigration court, prevailing for two refugees who fled to the United States to escape persecution in their homelands. One of the refugees was granted asylum after Morgan Lewis summer associates established he would face continued persecution if he returned to his native country. The other refugee, a Honduran national, was granted withholding of removal, allowing him to live in the U.S. and work legally without the right to apply for permanent residence. The refugees, represented by Morgan Lewis summer associates, are just two of many individuals helped through the long-standing partnership of Morgan Lewis and the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), a program funded by the State Bar of Texas, the American Bar Association, and the American Immigrant Lawyers Association. Morgan Lewis Partner Brett Schuman, supervisor to two of the summer associates currently engaged in the ProBAR project and an alumnus of ProBAR, states, 'We do the best we can for people who wouldn't ordinarily have representation.' For the full story, read the Daily Journal article.
Cell Phone Ban Challenged
Norman Siegel, Esq., the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Morgan Lewis are representing parents of New York City schoolchildren and the Chancellors' Parent Advisory Council (the Petitioners) in a special proceeding against the New York City Department of Education; Joel I. Klein, as Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as Mayor of the City of New York (the Respondents).
The Petitioners are alleging that according to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, the Respondents' ban on bringing cell phones into New York City schools, in the name of enforcement of Regulations A04 and B05 of Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures (The Discipline Code) and Chancellor's Regulation A-412, Sections V.D-G, is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, an unauthorized exercise of power, and, in addition, that the Respondents' enforcement of the cell phone ban is unconstitutional under both the New York State and Federal Constitutions.
It is important to note that while the Petitioners do not dispute that there is a legitimate educational interest in restricting the use of cell phones in classrooms, no legitimate educational interest is served by overbroad regulations, which effectively prevent all New York City public school students from having access to a cell phone during their commutes to and from school and during after-school activities. Read the full story.
A Volunteer Perspective—Project Homeless Connect
"No man stands taller than when he reaches down on one knee to help someone else up." —San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Speaking to Project Homeless Connect Volunteers at the Bill Graham Auditorium.
Morgan Lewis attorneys have partnered with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Project Homeless Connect to offer assistance to the homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area. For most services available to the homeless, a California State-issued ID is required, but oftentimes those who need help don't possess an ID. From giving legal advice to helping to explain paperwork and filing, Morgan Lewis lawyers have helped the homeless in San Francisco meet government and local assistance requirements. Read the full story.
Attorneys Can and Do Make a Difference in a Day
Morgan Lewis associate Jonathan DeGooyer's client for the day, John, was a 60-something diagnosed schizophrenic with landlord troubles. John had lived in his apartment for years without incident. On this occasion, however, his regular social worker had gone on vacation, and John ran into confusion with his proctor and missed doses of his regular medication. Off of his medication, John became a nuisance to his fellow tenants. After the complaints against him piled up, John found himself in court with his landlord. With the help of Morgan Lewis's Jonathan DeGooyer, through San Francisco's Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP), John got his apartment problems solved and the cloud of misunderstanding lifted in just one day. Not only was John allowed to stay in his apartment, but he also gained an extra safety net when his landlord agreed to call the appropriate social worker first if John began to behave out of the ordinary again. Morgan Lewis attorneys have volunteered for the VLSP since January of 2006. Read the story in its entirety.
Philadelphia Lawyers to Be Played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Philadelphia Business Journal
In the midst of the much-celebrated Thompson pro bono case, here comes a movie deal. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have announced their intention to play the roles of Morgan Lewis partners J. Gordon Cooney and Michael L. Banks, respectively. Both attorneys from Morgan Lewis's Philadelphia office contributed 15 years of pro bono work in an effort to overturn Thompson's conviction. Wrongfully convicted in 1988, Thompson endured nine stays of execution over the 15-year period as Banks and Cooney sorted through the cacophony of mistakes and corruption surrounding the case. In 2003, Thompson was granted a retrial and was found innocent of the murder that had held him behind bars all those years. Disney's Touchstone Pictures will be the distributors of the motion picture. No production date has been set thus far. Read the full story.
Morgan Lewis Helps a Mother Attain Asylum and Reunite with Her Children
Morgan Lewis pro bono can put another victory under its belt. Morgan Lewis lawyers won amnesty for a mother who fled her native country to save her own life, and obtained the legal documentation required to reunite her with her two children in the United States. Houdou Conte fled her native Sierra Leone and sought refuge in the United States after being kidnapped, imprisoned, raped, and beaten by rebels. After pleading her case before immigration officers, Ms. Conte was detained in U.S. prisons outside of Washington, D.C. and separated from her children for more than seven years. On Friday, December 10, 2004, Houdou Conte was reunited with her children in New York. Ms. Conte's story, and the lengths that Morgan Lewis lawyers went to help her, is bittersweet— her warm reunion during the holiday season was preceded by years of legal obstacles. Read the full story.
Preserving Affordable Housing in the District of Columbia
The cost of living in the Washington D.C. area has increased exponentially in the past decade. Families who have been living at same address for generations are being forced out by increasing rental costs prices and by their buildings being sold out right from under their feet in "cloak and dagger" style transactions. More often than not, tenants are unaware of their rights regarding the selling and purchasing of the buildings in which they reside. Morgan Lewis partners Ralph Albright and Henry Liu, of the firm's Washington, D.C. office, stepped in to help with the underhanded tactics being employed by an increasing number of landlords. On the plate was a maneuver known as a 95/5 transaction. In such a transaction, an owner would transfer 95%of the controlling interest in a property to another party, retaining the remaining 5% with the intention of transferring it a later date. This transaction is often used by owners to avoid calling a transfer of ownership a "sale,"; by doing so, landlords can sidestep the right of first refusal that many tenants have a right to exercise during a legitimate transaction. Messrs. Albright and Liu were able to stop such a scheme in from affecting the clients in the pro bono case they assumed. Later, they were able to help the D.C. Council amend current law to classify a 95/5 transaction as a sale. Read the full story.