The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Grannies Respond: Grassroots Activism for Immigrant Justice

This week we had the privilege of speaking with Catherine Cole, the Executive Director of Grannies Respond, about the impact the “Grannies” have made through their efforts to advance immigrants’ rights, and how Proskauer’s pro bono work has supported the Grannies in their mission.

Grannies Respond / Abuelas Responden, Inc. is a grassroots movement and nonprofit organization that supports immigrants seeking asylum and safety in the United States.  What inspired Grannies Respond to take on this mission?

In July 2018, the U.S. government’s separation of children from their families at the southern border broke many hearts.  Children as young as five months old were taken from the parents who had brought them here to escape life-threatening conditions in their home countries and to seek asylum.  Many people watched the news of the separations and felt helpless, but Dan Aymar-Blair, the creator of Grannies Respond, was discussing the separations at the border with friends and said “why don’t we put a bunch of grannies on a bus and go down there?”  Grannies are the heart of the family and would never stand for separations.  For our purposes, you don’t have to be a grandmother to be a “grannie” – we welcome everyone who supports the cause of immigrants’ rights.  Continue Reading

The Long Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment

With the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) finally receiving its 38th affirmative vote in January from the Virginia General Assembly and the resulting litigation to have the amendment added to the Constitution, it is worth revisiting the question that proponents and opponents alike have asked for nearly 100 years: why do we need the ERA?

To discuss the importance of and challenges to its passage, Proskauer partnered with the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York to host a panel discussion moderated by the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, retired New York Appellate Division Judge. Panelists included Maria Vullo, adjunct professor of law at Fordham University and co-founder of the ERA Coalition, Katharine Bodde, Senior Policy Counsel, NYCLU, and Wendy J. Murphy, adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England Law, Boston.  Continue Reading

Proskauer Honors Public Service at the Annual Golden Gavel Awards

Proskauer honored its lawyers and staff who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs this year at its 12th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony on January 22. The following is a list of recipients alphabetically by project.

Protecting Immigrant Youth

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Team New Orleans: Catholic Charities-Archdiocese of New Orleans – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

In collaboration with Catholic Charities-Archdiocese of New Orleans, this team successfully represented six immigrant children from Honduras and El Salvador in obtaining predicate orders from Louisiana juvenile courts finding that the children cannot be reunified with one or both of their parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and that it would not be in the children’s best interest to return to their home countries. These predicate orders open the door for these children to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, an immigration remedy that would protect these children from deportation and give them a pathway to lawful permanent residence in the United States. Continue Reading

NY Appellate Division Decision Provides Equity for Guardians of Limited Means

Last week, Proskauer obtained a critical victory for our client—a grandmother acting as guardian for her two learning-disabled grandchildren—in an appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department.  The appeal challenged a lower court holding that an amendment to New York’s Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (“KinGAP”) did not apply retroactively to beneficiaries, such as our client’s grandchildren, who entered the program before the amendment took effect.

KinGAP, established in 2011, enables foster-care children for whom returning home or adoption are not available options, to achieve a permanent placement with a guardian relative.  To subsidize the costs of caregiving for guardians of limited means such as our client, KinGAP provides monthly assistance payments pursuant to a statutorily prescribed form of agreement between the guardian and a local department of social services.

When our client entered into a KinGAP agreement in 2014, New York Social Services Law § 458-b(7)(a) made the duration of the subsidy dependent on whether the agreement was entered into before or after the child’s 16th birthday.  Continued assistance payments were available beyond the age of 18 only if the agreement commenced after the child was already 16 years of age.  Section 458-b(7)(a) thus drew a distinction between foster parents and adoptive parents on the one hand and guardians on the other because foster and adoptive children were entitled to assistance payments until they turned 21 notwithstanding their age at the time their subsidy agreements were commenced. Continue Reading

Justice in the Internet Age: Legal Access for Rural Americans

Thanks to advances in technology, the fight for equal access to justice has the potential of making enormous strides. A great example is the project Proskauer helped spearhead with the nonprofit Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), which is now connecting pro se litigants in family court throughout New York State with pro bono services through a convenient online platform. Programs like this represent a tremendous leap forward in ensuring adequate legal guidance regardless of one’s location, but the requirement of sufficient internet access leaves some in the dark.

The lack of sufficient, reliable internet connectivity disproportionately affects rural Americans – a disparity New York State calls “the digital divide.” In a recent report issued by Albany Law School, 573 rural lawyers were surveyed about the various challenges they face. Of significance, “the survey revealed repeated complaints about rural broadband/internet access and technology communication shortcomings in rural communities.”  A subpar technology infrastructure increases the cost of operation for these practitioners, especially when it comes to the many hours of driving that could be avoided if high-speed internet services and reliable cellphone service were universally available.   Continue Reading

Pro Bono for Immigrant Families: Shutting off Asylum at the Southern Border

When I volunteered in Mexico last spring with two Proskauer colleagues alongside the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI), I witnessed a growing humanitarian crisis. The U.S. “Remain in Mexico” Policy – officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – requires asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration proceedings, a requirement that puts thousands of people in danger. A report issued last week by Human Rights First confirms the danger by detailing current conditions faced by the more than 60,000 migrants now waiting in Mexico. In particular, the report finds: Continue Reading

A Promise to My Father: Helping One Veteran at a Time

My father, Colonel John J. Cassidy is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran. Last Wednesday, I celebrated his birthday and honored his service by volunteering at the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Veterans Legal Services Project clinic. It was a coincidence that Proskauer’s sponsorship of the clinic fell on my dad’s birthday, but the connection between my father and my involvement in the clinic has deep roots. I participate in the clinic because of my dad – to fulfill a promise I once made him.

My father administered my oath of office when I was commissioned to the Navy in 1992. In the years that followed, I relied heavily on his advice to find my way through the triumphs and trials of a young Naval officer. After completing my active service, I went to law school, raised a family and built my legal career. My father’s advice was still relevant to the business world and served to guide many of my steps along the way to becoming a partner at Proskauer. Continue Reading

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