Feature

Helping Others Together: The Fight for Racial Justice

May 20, 2021

In the fall of 2020, associate Kevin Benedicto embarked upon on a virtual mission to serve a public interest organization best known for serving others. Through an initiative of the firm’s Mobilizing for Equality Task Force, he would spend six months seconded as a fellow to provide fulltime support to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (the Lawyers’ Committee) while the communities that relied upon his services fought against everyday injustices to survive in the middle of an unprecedented global health crisis.

Here Kevin discuss why he felt it was important to give back and his experience helping those who help others.

What drew you to this secondment opportunity?

Kevin: I was most drawn to this opportunity because of the timing. Given the massive historical importance of the 2020 US presidential election and the renewed calls for racial justice and civil rights across the country, I could not pass up the chance our firm provided to play even a small part in ensuring that the right to vote was protected and the election was conducted in a fair and just manner.

What can you tell us about the organization you were seconded to and the support it provides to the communities it serves?

Kevin: The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan organization that is also one of the nation’s oldest legal civil rights organizations. It was founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.

Describe a project that you contributed to, its challenges, and the desired outcome.

Kevin: I was part of a team at the Lawyers’ Committee that brought litigation on behalf of a broad coalition of civil rights organizations and a Native American tribe in Georgia that is challenging the legality of the state’s recently passed legislation imposing significant restrictions on voting. This law is just one of many being considered by state legislatures across the country that would restrict voting rights for many Americans.

Tell us about an assignment you worked on that was particularly rewarding and why?

Kevin: In October 2020, an electrical issue in Virginia caused the state’s voter registration website to go offline on the last day of online voter registration. I was able to speak to voters who encountered issues and were unable to register, and was able to tell these voters that I was a lawyer, I was there to help, and that I would do everything I could to ensure they could register to vote. We were able to help bring an emergency motion in court to extend the registration deadline by 72 hours. Because of the work we did, 24,000 additional people were able to register to vote during that time and have their voices heard.

Why is pro bono important to you?

Kevin: The law can be daunting and hard to understand, and lawyers have the tools to navigate it. But as the axiom goes, to whom much is given, much is required, and pro bono allows us to apply our legal skills to help those who so desperately need our help and do not have the resources to otherwise get it.

 

Kevin Benedicto