The goal of Duane Morris' pro bono program is to provide free legal services to those in our communities least able to afford legal services, and usually to those who have a dire need of such services. Accordingly, the focus of our pro bono work is providing quality legal services to individuals and organizations that serve the community: (i) through provision of services to low-income individuals; (ii) by furthering economic development in low-income areas; or (iii) by pursuing other charitable endeavors.
We are proud of the thousands of pro bono hours of legal service donated by Duane Morris attorneys and of the against-all-odds accomplishments of our clients. Our representation of often-marginalized groups, such as survivors of trafficking and domestic violence, has made us a stronger and more compassionate Firm. Working with immigrant children fleeing violence in Central America has reminded us of the freedom and security we often take for granted and reinvigorated our commitment to the rule of law. Representing community-based organizations has strengthened the communities where we live and practice and expanded our networks. And for our highest calling, serving those who served us first, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans with a small token of appreciation in the form of assisting them with disability appeals, discharge upgrades and general civil legal matters.
Pro bono service has been an integral part of Firm culture and a backbone of our value system since the Firm’s founding more than 110 years ago. Today, the Firm gives all associates and special counsel 100 hours of credit annually and partners 50 hours of billable credit annually for their pro bono service. We have signed on to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, striving to provide at least 3 percent of the Firm’s billable hours to pro bono matters. We also provide extensive pro bono service in all 20 of our U.S. offices and many of our international offices, including London, Singapore and Myanmar. We have a dedicated three-person pro bono team that is responsible for recruiting pro bono opportunities and managing more than 500 matters, which range from U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs and federal litigation, to local landlord tenant court and citizenship applications. This year, we added a social worker to the management team to help with unique program development and community outreach.
2016 Duane Morris Pro Bono Award
Associate, Trial Practice Group | Philadelphia Office
The award honors the outstanding service of any attorney or group that exemplifies Duane Morris’ commitment to pro bono service and has made a significant impact on an individual or community.
2016 Duane Morris Pro Bono Leadership Award
Partner, Employment, Labor, Benefits & Immigration; Chair, Immigration Practice Group | Washington, D.C. Office
The award recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the spirit of pro bono: a selfless, longstanding and unwavering commitment to pro bono service; a leader by example, who accepts pro bono matters without fanfare; and a pro bono contributor who encourages and mentors other firm attorneys in pro bono service.
Legal Clinic for the Disabled
Duane Morris is a recipient of The White Hat Award from the Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD). The White Hat Award recognizes individuals and organizations that have done outstanding work for LCD and its clients. The Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD) provides free legal services to low-income people with physical disabilities and to the deaf and hard of hearing.
City Bar Justice Center
Arthur Dresner (New York) received the City Bar Justice Center’s 2016 Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Nominated by our pro bono client, the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP), Arthur has assisted numerous start-up entrepreneurs with establishing brand distinctions, including trade-name and trademark guidance, as well as trademark registrations at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. NELP was established in 2003 by the City Bar Justice Center to provide low- to moderate-income microentrepreneurs with the legal services necessary to start their businesses on a secure foundation.
New York Law Journal's "Lawyers Who Lead by Example" 2016 List
Michael D. Schwamm (New York) has been named to the New York Law Journal's "Lawyers Who Lead by Example" 2016 list for his pro bono efforts providing crucial legal services to poor or nearly poor New Yorkers. Michael has devoted hundreds of hours to pro bono service, representing more than 15 Lawyers Alliance's nonprofits.
D.C. Mayor's Office for Veteran's Affairs Commendation
Chris Tyson (Washington, D.C.) was celebrated in "Appreciation for Exemplary Achievements, Leadership, and Commitment to the Veterans Community in the District of Columbia" for his leadership in developing a pro bono project with the Veterans Legal Assistance Project of Neighborhood Legal Services Program, which is the first pro bono program aiding veterans in D.C.
Valentine Brown and Harvey Gurland accepting the
Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award
Supreme Court of Florida
Duane Morris was honored with the Supreme Court of Florida Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award for 2016. The annual award recognizes a law firm that has contributed significant hours and effort to pro bono legal services to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford those services and shows an extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE)
Duane Morris was awarded the 2015 Pro Bono Superstar Firm Award by Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). The office has helped eight trafficking survivors to vacate criminal convictions related to their trafficking, as well as make new Illinois law. CAASE works to end sexual violence by changing the culture, institutions and individuals that are responsible for sexual exploitation through policy reform, community engagement and legal services.
Circle Urban Ministries
For more than five years, Duane Morris' Chicago office has provided a variety of pro bono legal services to Circle Urban Ministries. In recognition of the Firm’s assistance in real estate, corporate, housing and employment matters, Circle Urban Ministries presented the Firm with a Corporate Partner Award. Since 1974, Circle Urban Ministries has worked to combat poverty, improve the educational, social, and vocational opportunities for at-risk youth, and help stabilize low-income families by providing quality social services and community development to Chicago's Austin community. This includes after-school programs, a Charter school, church, food pantry, 96-bed women’s shelter, legal clinic and medical clinic.
“Duane Morris is the epitome of what every law firm should be—generous and stand-up lawyers who do not perform pro bono work for fame or recognition, but simply because it is the right thing to do.”
Executive Director, Dade Legal Aid (Fla.)
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Christopher Yeh and Jolie-Anne Ansley
Jolie-Anne S. Ansley (San Francisco) and Christopher B. Yeh (Los Angeles) were named Keta Taylor Colby Award recipients by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR). The Colby Award recognizes pro bono attorneys who have provided outstanding representation to poor and underrepresented people through the LCCR’s Second Chance Legal Clinic.
Lawyers Alliance for New York
Duane Morris received the 2015 Cornerstone Award by Lawyers Alliance for New York. Lawyers Alliance provides pro bono legal services to nonprofit groups that are improving the quality of life for low-income individuals in New York. The firm has partnered with Lawyers Alliance for more than 15 years and has provided pro bono services to more than 40 nonprofit clients since 1999.
Tahirih Justice Center
Phillip Chong (Baltimore) was honored with the organization’s 2015 Maryland volunteer attorney of the year award for his selfless service to immigrant women and girls fleeing extreme gender-based violence in the United States.
Senior Partners for Justice of the Boston Volunteer Lawyers Project
Tony Martin (Boston) was honored with the 2015 Meg Connolly MVP award for aiding a grandfather seeking visitation with his disabled granddaughter before the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. Tony’s advocacy clarified the definition of an interested party in guardianship actions under the Uniform Probate Code and set precedent in states adopting the Code.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Duane Morris was honored with a 2014 Pro Bono Service Award by the nation’s largest legal services and civil rights organization focused on serving, empowering and advocating on behalf of the Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. The award recognized the Firm’s multi-office and cross-practice pro bono effort to perform a constitutional analysis of a proposed City of Monterey Park, California, ordinance that sought to require the use of the modern Latin alphabet (i.e., English) on business and commercial signs. The ordinance initially divided the city and would have had a disparate effect on certain Asian businesses in the historically immigrant community. The team’s analysis that the ordinance was unconstitutional, along with subsequent public backlash, pushed legislators to allow the bill to “die.” The organization commended the Firm for its “critical pro bono support” and for being “an example of how the nonprofit and private sectors can work together in support of equality in creative and meaningful ways.” To show its gratitude, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles held a harmony celebration to thank Duane Morris and other collaborators for their assistance. The representation was led by Cyndie Chang, Managing Partner of the Los Angeles office, Paul Killion of the San Francisco office, and Wayne Mack and Meredith Carpenter, both of the Philadelphia office.
Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Jim Holman (Philadelphia) was named the 2014 volunteer of the year for his nearly 25 years of pro bono service to PVLA and the metropolitan arts community. Since 1991, Jim has represented artists and arts institutions in a wide variety of business and related matters.
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
Kenneth Franklin (Atlanta) was honored with the AVLF 2014 domestic violence Project volunteer of the Year Award. Kenneth has represented over two dozen survivors in the past two years in various civil legal matters, as well as organized trainings to prepare other volunteers to represent additional survivors.
Texas Civil Rights Project
Michael E. Clark (Houston) was recognized with a 2014 Kristi Couvillon Pro Bono Award for his commitment to pro bono service. Michael represented a young woman whose privacy rights were violated when she was outed by her teachers without her consent. His work led to a change in policies and training on LGBT nondiscrimination, privacy and bullying for more than 500 educators.
New York State Courts Access to Justice Program
Reshma Shah (New York) and Kevin Potere (New York) were awarded the program’s Pro Bono Award for their outstanding work and dedicated service in the New York City Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program.
Duane Morris recognizes the sacrifices that service members have made for our country and is committed to helping them solve significant problems that have arisen as a result of their service. We assist veterans and their families with disability benefits appeals, discharge upgrades, homelessness prevention and many other civil legal needs. Our attorneys also represent organizations dedicated to empowering military service members, veterans and veteran-owned small businesses.
Unanimous SCOTUS Ruling in Pro Bono Veterans Case
On June 16, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Federal Circuit 8-0, ruling in favor of Kingdomware Technologies and veteran-owned small businesses in Kingdomware Technologies v. United States. The unanimous ruling means veterans will have (as Congress intended) expanded opportunities to compete for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) business under the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006. Luke McLoughlin represented the National Veteran Small Business Coalition, several other national veterans organizations and individual veteran-owned businesses as amici in support of Kingdomware. The decision affected 200,000 service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses across the United States.
At issue was the Federal Circuit’s restrictive interpretation of the Act. The Federal Circuit allowed the VA to ignore the Act's mandate for competitive bidding by veteran-owned small businesses, and rely instead on its unilateral discretion in awarding contracts. In practical terms, this interpretation resulted in roughly $10 billion of the VA's $18 billion in annual purchases being exempt from bidding by the veteran-owned small businesses. The Court’s ruling restored to veterans the competitive bidding opportunities Congress intended.
For more information about the case, read the Duane Morris Alert.
"On behalf of the Board and members of the National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC), as well as the entire veteran small business community, I want to thank [Duane Morris] for your efforts. … The Court’s ruling … sets a high bar for the VA to maintain and will no doubt open up many contracting opportunities for service-disabled and veteran-owned small businesses. Many will benefit from your work and not even realize the significance of the Court’s ruling. Those of us who have been fighting the fight for many years truly know and understand the significance of your work!"
—SCOTT DENNISTON, Executive Director, National Veteran Small Business Coalition
U.S. Court of Appeals For Veterans Claims Restores EAJA Fees Earned by Law Students at Harvard’s Veterans Law Clinic
A novel interpretation of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), adopted by the VA, prevented an award of fees to Harvard Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic for law student work on veterans disability benefits claims. The VA opposed EAJA fees claiming the Harvard Clinic was an educational setting and students derived a personal educational benefit. Veterans clinics around the country mobilized around the issue, due to its far-reaching consequences for all law school clinics and their regular reliance on EAJA fees for daily operations. In response, Duane Morris volunteered to represent dozens of amici, advocating the real-world need for access to attorneys' fees to help supplement the cost of free legal assistance. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims agreed, confirming the importance of pro bono clinics and noting how the "labyrinthine corridors" of the VA system create a "seemingly interminable struggle to obtain disability benefits." EAJA fees for law clinics in VA matters remain safe.
Appellate Victory for Vietnam Veteran with Hearing Loss
Duane Morris assisted a client, who served as a field artilleryman during the Vietnam War and now suffers from bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus. Since 2005, he has sought and appealed improper denials for service-connected disability benefits. The Firm successfully represented him before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), arguing that the VA Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) failed to provide the client sufficient assistance in substantiating his claim and to provide audiology examinations concerning the cause of hearing loss. The CAVC remanded the case, ordering the VA to provide the veteran with a new audiology team, new medical opinions and the opportunity for the veteran to provide any additional relevant evidence for the VA to consider.
U.S. Sailor's Mother Gets Legal Status in the United States After 20 Years
In the early 1980s, Juan and Josefina moved to the United States from Mexico, settling in Houston as they raised five children, who are U.S. citizens. Juan worked as a truck driver and Josefina worked various jobs, including as a seamstress, strawberry picker and house cleaner. When their eldest child, Marisela, finished high school, she enlisted in the Navy to serve the country that had given her and her family so much. While Marisela was serving as an engineer on the USS Iwo Jima, Juan was deported from the United States. Through 8 the American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Project, Marisela contacted Duane Morris immigration attorneys to seek help to secure her mother’s legal status in the United States. Duane Morris helped the family to prepare a Parole in Place for Military Families application. This program was designed to give active duty military members peace of mind while serving the U.S. to know undocumented family members are protected from deportation. The application was approved and now we are securing the mother’s lawful permanent residency in the United States.
Veterans Week of Service
Each year, Duane Morris holds a Veterans Week of Service, during which Duane Morris' U.S. offices collaborate with local organizations to lead civil legal clinics and trainings for more than 200 attorneys. In 2016, we teamed up with clients and community-based organizations to initiate representation in dozens of discharge upgrade and service-connected disability claims, combat-related special compensation, bankruptcy, commercial debt discharge, housing matters and corporate governance matters for veteran-related nonprofits.
Duane Morris Attorneys Pursue Justice and Benefits for 50+ Veterans
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The chief problems of post-Gulf War era service are post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). When service members are unable to access mental health services, they often attempt to self-help against night terrors and feelings of hopelessness or self-harm, turning to alcohol, drugs or acting out in other ways. Many service members with undiagnosed PTS and TBI receive less-than-fully honorable discharges from the military. Similarly, thousands of Vietnam Era veterans received less than fully honorably discharges after acting out due to PTS, which had yet to be identified as an illness. Receipt of a less-than-fully honorable discharge is stigmatizing and prevents service members access to healthcare, mental health services, disability benefits and educational and employment opportunities. Duane Morris attorneys represent more than 50 service members in these delicate cases seeking to upgrade their discharge statuses, obtain access to healthcare or restore benefits, as well as helping them return to treatment, college and gainful employment. This area of advocacy is growing rapidly as the number of less-than-fully honorable discharges related to PTS and TBI increase. Research shows the number of misconduct charges reflects the number of service members injured in combat, and with the ongoing downsizing of the military, scores of service members with undiagnosed and untreated PTS are likely to be discharged less-than-fully honorably.
Veterans4Diplomacy Gets Help from Duane Morris Corporate Practice Group
Veterans4Diplomacy (V4D) identifies and mentors talented, diverse, high-achieving student veterans who seek to continue their public service by becoming foreign policy leaders, guiding them to obtain appropriate undergraduate and/or graduate degrees and providing networking opportunities among international affairs leaders. Duane Morris attorneys advise V4D concerning how best to position V4D for financial growth, which will allow more veterans to enter their program by addressing issues, such as obtaining IRS tax-exempt status, drafting a formal fundraising policy and advising on other startup issues. Currently, V4D is positioned for success as it expands its reach in the international community.
Duane Morris Chicago Office Hosts Inaugural Illinois Veterans Treatment Court Summit
The Chicago office hosted local judges, attorneys and medical professionals to learn about injuries and mental health illnesses affecting veterans, as well as to discuss best practices for aiding veterans through medical and legal programs. Central to the discussion was providing better care for veterans suffering post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other physical and mental health illnesses resulting from service. The event was supported by the Illinois Governor’s General Counsel, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Bar Association.
The need for pro bono immigration services has never been greater. Unrest in multiple regions of the world renews the call of the American dream leading immigrants to come from all over the world, and for those who are already here to remain, whether they have legal status or not. Duane Morris pro bono attorneys assist legal and undocumented immigrants with numerous types of immigration proceedings, including representation in removal proceedings, representing asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and assisting with special immigrant juvenile status cases.
Helping an Adoptee Who Learned She's Not a U.S. Citizen
At 9 months old, Thuy Tran was airlifted to an Arkansas refugee center during the last days of the Vietnam War. Adopted by a military family, she moved to South Jersey—no longer Thuy Tran but Denise. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that she received shocking news: She wasn't a U.S. citizen. She didn't even have a green card. In the eyes of the government, she was an "illegal alien," who could be deported to Vietnam.
Years ago, when international adoption was relatively new, many parents wrongly believed that adoption and immigration were the same thing. Until 2000, they were two separate processes.
The good news is Denise had advocates on her side. In 2015, Duane Morris pro bono counsel Valentine Brown, came onto the case. Last year Denise was notified: Report on April 1 to take the oath of citizenship. To read more about Denise's and other adoptees' stories, visit Philly.com.
The Path to Citizenship
Duane Morris helped lead Philadelphia's city-wide American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Citizenship Day 2016, which served Philadelphia and four surrounding counties providing pro bono representation to more than 140 naturalization applicants from dozens of countries. Duane Morris attorneys personally screened more than 50 applicants and aided 15 eligible legal permanent residents in naturalizing.
Political Asylum Granted to El Salvadoran Youth After Four-Year Battle
Mariano escaped gang violence and retaliation threats against his family in El Salvador. Taking the long trek to the United States shortly after his 17th birthday, he was apprehended by immigration officials at the border and detained. An uncle, living in New Jersey, secured Mariano's release and helped him enroll in high school. During removal proceedings, Mariano had to regularly miss high school to attend deportation hearings to attempt to regularize his status. An ESL teacher at his high school contacted Duane Morris to ask if we could help. With representation from the Duane Morris Immigration Group, Mariano was able to demonstrate that his family was a particular social group, as it had been regularly targeted by the MS-13 gang for murder and beatings, and that the El Salvadoran government could not protect him. He is now an asylee and will soon be a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Duane Morris and Rutgers School of Law Launch New Chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP)
Teaming up with Rutgers School of Law-Newark, Duane Morris launched a new chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). The program aids vulnerable Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan refugees outside the U.S. with applying for refugee status and Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). Working with teams of law students, we are preparing and appealing SIV and refugee claims. One of our current matters involves a former interpreter for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan whose application was denied due to a clerical error regarding employment records. Supervising Marines report that our client was responsible for saving the lives of at least seven American soldiers during the Battle of Sangin in 2010 and 2011, and enabling several key discussions with Afghan elders. A decision on our appeal is yet to be issued.
From Asylee to Citizen: A Dream 24 Years in the Making
When our client was a teenager, her family fled political unrest in Columbia and obtained political asylum in the United States. She married a U.S. citizen, together raising two children. Up until this year, financial constraints prevented her from seeking counsel and applying for U.S. citizenship. Learning about Citizenship Day, our client decided her chance finally arrived. Duane Morris attorneys represented her through the application and interview process. After 24 years as a lawful permanent resident, she achieved her dream becoming a U.S. citizen. With her new status, she planned to vote in her first presidential election.
Duane Morris salutes the indomitable human spirit. Recognizing the need for new beginnings, clean slates and renewed hope, our attorneys provide thousands of pro bono hours to survivors of human trafficking and victims who were exploited and wrongfully convicted. We are humbled and inspired by the strength of our clients and the depth of their resiliency in spite of daunting circumstances.
Deloitte and Duane Morris Celebrate Impact Day 2016
Duane Morris' New York office partnered with Deloitte's Impact Day to provide Girls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS) and its members and alumni with a "more than a survivor" career day. GEMS serves girls and young women survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
During the career day, Duane Morris attorneys Nanette Heide and Lily Gao, along with Deloitte's Magdalena Aliga Jarosz, Elene Karanicolas, Elizabeth Gagnon and Helen Weintraub, discussed their careers and the lessons learned throughout their various occupations in fashion, accounting, corporate law and public relations. GEMS members practiced marketing pitches, discussed interview questions and learned about operating a bakery from Sweet Generation, a woman-run business in New York that supports internship programs for at-risk youth and teaches job readiness in their creative bakery space.
Duane Morris and Deloitte team members also learned about the commercial sexual exploitation of children in New York and packed crisis bags for survivors as they enter the GEMS program.
Pro Bono Partner – GEMS
Founded in 1998, Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) is the only organization in New York state specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
As a proud supporter of GEMS, more than 40 Duane Morris attorneys have:
- Donated more than 4,500 pro bono hours
- Worked on nearly 450 motions and legal labs
Illinois Survivor Becomes National Leader
Trafficked, beaten and subject to unimaginable emotional abuse for more than 20 years, our client escaped in 1997 and dedicated her life to helping others escape similar circumstances. She founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving Chicago girls impacted by the sex trade, worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to provide desperately needed services to trafficked girls and women and won numerous awards for her work. Nevertheless, our client’s prostitution convictions kept her from achieving further goals, including becoming an adoptive parent, working with at-risk youth and opening a crisis center for her organization.
Working in conjunction with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Duane Morris attorneys assisted the client in expunging her criminal convictions under the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Crimes Trafficking Act. The Act allows state courts to vacate prostitution-related convictions if the petitioner can show they were a victim of trafficking at the time of the conviction.
Pro Bono Partner – CAASEChicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) envisions a community free from all forms of sexual exploitation, including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade. CAASE addresses the culture, institutions and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation. The organization’s work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement and legal services.
Highlights of Duane Morris’ work with CAASE:
- Currently helping eight trafficking victims vacate their criminal convictions for prostitution
- Honored with the 2015 Pro Bono Superstar Firm Award
Expanding Legal Protections for Victims of Trafficking
Collaborating with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Duane Morris attorneys helped expand the types of convictions that may be vacated under Illinois’ Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act. In addition to successfully vacating prostitution convictions relating to our client’s trafficking, Duane Morris attorneys argued that the Act should be construed to permit vacatur of other convictions that were the direct result of a survivor’s trafficking. In doing so, Duane Morris attorneys helped set a precedent in Illinois, which will aid many more survivors to vacate convictions from their criminal records wherein they really were the victim, not the criminal.
Collaborating to Educate and Prevent Child Exploitation in Our Communities
It is estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 U.S. adolescents annually are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. The average age at which children are targeted by traffickers is 12–14 years old. As a result, mentoring, education and support are key, both for youth and adults. Duane Morris’ New York office teams up with Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), which helps hundreds of domestically trafficked girls and women flee their traffickers and develop their full potential. Our attorneys represent survivors in motions to vacate prostitution-related criminal convictions, lead know-your-rights workshops, host civil legal clinics and provide legal counseling and representation to survivors concerning the myriad of civil legal issues they confront. Among other measures, the New York Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act provides specialized services for survivors recognizing their status as victims of crime and the unique traumas they face. The law also permits the vacatur of prostitution-related convictions that are the result of survivors’ trafficking, thus affording survivors lives unencumbered by criminal records.
Cross-office, cross-practice pro bono efforts, with teams in Duane Morris’ Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Boca Raton and Miami offices, also aid domestically trafficked girls and women in their communities.
On June 10, Duane Morris participated in Deloitte’s Impact Day 2016 to provide GEMS and its members and alumni with a "more than a survivor" career day.
Children are among the most legally underrepresented and vulnerable members of society. In the United States, 22 percent of all children live in families with incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Income Guideline. The need is actually even greater, as this figure does not reflect children living without parents or those entering into the United States unaccompanied. For nearly three decades, representing children in all types of legal proceedings has been a hallmark of the Duane Morris Pro Bono Program.
Supporting Student Artists in New York
NYC SALT turns dreams into reality for low-income students living in areas of New York City where only 37 percent of adults achieve higher education. Through high-end photography and portfolio instruction, mentorship and college preparation, NYC SALT has achieved 100-percent high school graduate and college acceptance for NYC SALT student artists. Duane Morris attorneys provide a variety of support to NYC SALT, including real estate and corporate work, as well as serving as photography mentors for students. In 2016, the New York office hosted a photography exhibit produced by NYC SALT high school artists-in-residence, during which all participating students sold their original photographs.
Protecting Children in Foster Care
Our client’s parents self-surrendered their young children to foster care through the Department of Human Services (DHS) when they became homeless, seeking to ensure their children’s safety and wellness over family unity. While in foster care, our client—a bright middle school student—was sexually assaulted by the biological son of her foster mother. After DHS failed to properly report or investigate the client's report of assault, Duane Morris attorneys stepped in, seeking to ensure our client had proper medical treatment and, at our client's wishes, that the son was held accountable, received therapy and DHS allowed no other young women to live in his home. Now reunited with her parents, our client is excited to start middle school and is reveling in historic fiction novels.
Encouraging Potential: City Year
City Year Philadelphia has done the research: More than 15,000 Philadelphia students are at risk for dropping out of high school. Students who drop out are eight times more likely to become incarcerated and three times more likely to be unemployed. Duane Morris' Philadelphia office teamed up with SAP to support the City Year Team serving at James G. Blaine Academic Plus School in North Philadelphia. Beyond supporting Blaine students, our attorneys and professionals hosted collegiate City Year team members for a professional development day that focused on mock interviews and résumé reviews, as well as crafting elevator pitches, LinkedIn profiles and reviewing job search social media do's and don'ts. In addition, we teamed up for a pro bono legal clinic at the school, which provided legal advice and support to parents, teachers and community members.
Duane Morris Assists Pro Bono Clients in Securing Commutations from White House
Duane Morris successfully represented pro bono clients Curtis Bell and Christopher Pfaff in obtaining commutations of their sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Bell has served 22 years of a life sentence and Pfaff has served 12 years of a 21-year sentence.
Working with the American Bar Association and Clemency Project 2014, Fisher, Priselac and Ruddy petitioned President Obama, through the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, for Bell’s and Pfaff’s release under the Justice Department’s program to commute and pardon exemplary, non-violent offenders who already served more than 10 years and would have already been released under current sentencing guidelines.
New Evidentiary Hearing Granted for Man Convicted of Arson Based on Faulty Science
In 2006, a Duane Morris client was convicted of arson and sentenced to 52 years of imprisonment. At issue on appeal was the scientific value of the arson evidence used to convict him, specifically burn pattern analysis and the use of a detection canine without laboratory confirmation, both of which have since been discredited by the greater fire science community. Working with an arson expert, a team of Duane Morris attorneys from several offices successfully helped secure a new evidentiary hearing, filing an amicus brief in Kentucky District Court in support of his motion to vacate judgment and conviction.
Support for the Innocence Network
Local Innocence Project offices and the global Innocence Network provide pro bono counsel to individuals seeking to be exonerated of crimes for which they were wrongfully convicted, as well as ensuring the scientific basis of testimony in science-dependent cases are fully examined. Duane Morris proudly supported Innocence Projects in more than 40 cases across 10 offices.
Pursuing Clemency for Non-Violent Offenders
Duane Morris teamed up with the national Clemency Project to represent federal prisoners who likely would have received shorter sentences if sentenced today. Our pro bono attorneys screened prisoners and assisted qualifying individuals—nonviolent offenders incarcerated for low-level offenses who have served at least 10 years in prison with good conduct—in preparing clemency petitions for consideration by the U.S. Department of Justice.
One client, a 38-year-old man, grew up in extreme poverty in a North Carolina housing project called "The Bottom." His mother—who our client refers to as "my hero"—struggled to single-handedly support the family. When our client was 18 years old, his older stepbrother tragically was murdered. Reeling from the loss, our client said he was young, immature and wanted to fit in, and he made bad decisions that landed him in prison. He already has served more than 10 years in federal prison for a single drug offense involving a small amount of crack cocaine.
Today, our client has obtained his GED and completed two drug rehabilitation programs. He is employed through the Federal Prison Industries, sewing pants for the Army and attends bi-weekly religious services in prison. Duane Morris attorneys prepared his clemency petition and are eagerly awaiting news of whether he will be selected for early release.
Serving the Clients of Justice Without Borders: An Organization Bridging the Gap
While many survivors of human trafficking and exploitation have access to legal assistance in their host countries, frequently survivors must return home before completing civil litigation. Often, when survivors return to rural communities, they are unable to maintain contact with their lawyers and cannot return to host countries for hearings, resulting in waiving their legal claims. Justice Without Borders (JWB) bridges the gap, creating international lifelines to legal aid that offer 21st-century solutions to the transnational challenges survivors face. Operating in Southeast Asia, JWB collaborates with local organizations along key migration routes to ensure victims can access legal aid, wherever they are. Our attorneys have aided JWB with incorporation in the United States and obtaining IRS tax-exempt status, protecting JWB's trademarks and providing employment advice. Additionally, Duane Morris’ Singapore and Shanghai offices represent a construction worker in JWB’s first civil action. After being injured on the job and denied compensation, our client was fired and sent home from Singapore to China. He also was required to pay an agent of his employer thousands of dollars in illegal kickbacks in order to work in the first place. Duane Morris attorneys are working to secure overdue compensation and damages resulting from his exploitation.
Active in cities across the United States and around the globe, Duane Morris plays a vital role in strengthening the communities in which Firm employees live and work. Working to expand access to justice, Duane Morris collaborates with numerous legal services organizations and other community-based nonprofits to support community building efforts and provide pro bono legal representation. Attorneys across the Firm provide pro bono assistance concerning domestic violence, housing, guardianship, disability benefits, landlord-tenant, nonprofit incorporation, governance, protection of intellectual property, tax-exempt status and many other criminal and civil legal matters.
The Comfort Cub
Marcella Johnson suffered debilitating physical pain in her arms and chest a week after her newborn son George died. Nothing seemed to calm the pain, until she was handed a terracotta pot of flowers from her son's gravesite, which weighed about the same size as him. Feeling foolish, Johnson began researching her symptoms and learned about a rare condition, Takotsubo Syndrome, which afflicts people suffering trauma. Mothers documented carrying sacks of flour and pineapples the exact size as their infants’ would have been; Johnson's arms hurt because they were empty.
In response, Johnson created The Comfort Cub®, a weighted, therapeutic teddy bear that mimics the weight distribution of an infant. Johnson distributes the bears at hospitals throughout San Diego, and increasingly nationwide, so that no mother leaves the hospital empty handed. The bears also have proven effective during adoptions, to those in foster care, to veterans suffering post-traumatic stress and to those with autism, Alzheimer's and dementia. In addition to helping Johnson incorporate a nonprofit organization through which she distributes the bears, Duane Morris attorneys represent Johnson in protecting her intellectual property in the United States, most recently foreclosing a trademark infringement by a Canadian company.
"I was being bullied by a larger company who knew, that as a small nonprofit, we did not have the financial means to properly defend ourselves against their unlawful use of our trademark. Had Duane Morris not taken me on as a pro bono client, my work . . . may not have been able to continue. Because of your generous assistance, we are now reaching out to more families in need than ever before. I cannot begin to adequately express my gratitude to you for being there when we most needed you!"
—MARCELLA JOHNSON, Founder, The Comfort Cub®
New York City Opera
As widely reported in the press, the New York City Opera, also known as the People's Opera for its low-cost tickets and accessibility, emerged from bankruptcy in 2016 after a reorganization and restructuring plan was confirmed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Since 2013, Duane Morris attorneys have represented NYCO Renaissance Ltd., cofounded by Roy Niederhoffer, a hedge-fund manager and philanthropist, and Michael Capasso, in its bid to revive the opera. In September 2016, NYCO opened its first full season since emerging from bankruptcy with a double bill of the ever-popular Pagliacci and Rachmaninoff’s Aleko to be performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.
"Throughout New York City Opera's lengthy path back to production, Duane Morris' expert team has provided invaluable guidance in navigating the myriad complexities of the bankruptcy process. Now as NYCO is once again performing for enthusiastic audiences at Lincoln Center, Duane Morris continues to provide outstanding counsel in all areas of business, including the ongoing union negotiations so crucial to the company’s future."
—PACIEN MAZZAGATTI, Conductor, NYCO
Start Small Think Big
Start Small Think Big (SSTB) helps low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs build and sustain thriving businesses. Its work stimulates economic activity in New York City’s most underserved communities and encourages personal financial security and stability. More than 95 percent of SSTB's clients are minority and/ or women-owned businesses. Seventy-five percent of SSTB clients are located in highly impoverished areas. Businesses vary from chocolatiers and restaurants, to home goods, technical services and childcare. In addition to providing a variety of legal assistance to SSTB client entrepreneurs, Duane Morris attorneys represent SSTB in connection with the drafting of legal documents and templates that SSTB uses to facilitate quicker and more efficient delivery of legal services.
"The New York Office has been extremely generous in providing Start Small with the benefits of their time and leadership skills, most recently by pioneering a plan to assemble teams of legal and financial advisors to provide integrated advice to Start Small clients with more complex investment and related issues. This initiative, which as far as we know is the first of its kind, will significantly extend the range of services that Start Small is able to provide to low and moderate-income entrepreneurs." —Jennifer DaSilva, Executive Director and Founder, Start Small Think Big.
—JENNIFER DASILVA, Executive Director and Founder, Start Small Think Big
Duane Morris also has assisted other organizations, including Engineers Without Borders USA, Emily's Entourage, Mercy Housing, Venture For America, Grid Alternatives and BeachGlow Concerts.