The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

A Discussion on Veteran Healthcare and Post-Service Employment

Every November as Veterans Day approaches, Proskauer honors the service of our active military, veterans and their families. As part of our efforts, the Firm had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion on some of the most pressing issues that veterans and their families currently face. We were honored to be joined by Wanda Montalvo, PhD, RN, Executive Director of Jonas Nursing & Veterans Healthcare (JNVH) at Columbia University, and Timothy Cochrane, SVP of Business Development at American Corporate Partners (ACP), whose work is on the frontlines of veterans’ healthcare and post-service employment.

Under Dr. Montalvo and the Board of Directors’ leadership, JNVH connects some of the country’s most prominent advocates for healthcare investment with leaders, innovators and experts from the worlds of business, philanthropy and education. Since 2008, Jonas Philanthropies has awarded $25 million in scholarships to support more than 1,250 doctoral nursing scholars at 157 universities in all 50 states. Approximately 330 of these scholars are focused on advancing veterans’ healthcare.  Continue Reading

Criminal Justice Reform in America: Rethinking the Role of the Prosecutor

Until recently, conventional wisdom among prosecutors dictated that long prison terms were vital to public safety.  They took seriously the direction “to charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses,” and measured success in terms of trial wins and convictions.  Conventional wisdom, however, is changing from this purely punitive model as prosecutors are now beginning to recognize the great price we pay — both the dollar and human cost — for mass incarceration in America.

At a panel discussion earlier this week, “Prosecutors and the Criminal Justice Reform Movement,” Lucy Lang, Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution (“IIP”) at John Jay College, and Sam Rivera, Associate Vice President of Housing at The Fortune Society, discussed the role of the prosecutor in bringing about systemic change.

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NY State Legislature to Hold Hearings on Court Simplification

On November 13 and 21, 2019, the New York State Assembly and Senate will hold joint hearings on the court simplification reforms proposed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. The proposed amendment to the State Constitution would streamline the court system by:

  • Consolidating New York’s 11 trial courts into three tiers: Supreme Court, Municipal Court, and Justice Courts. The Court of Claims, County Courts, Family Courts, and Surrogate Courts would be abolished and merged into a Supreme Court that would consist of six divisions: family, probate, criminal, state claims, commercial, and general. New York City’s Civil and Criminal Courts, Long Island’s District Courts, and the 61 City Courts outside of New York City would likewise be abolished and merged into a new Municipal Court.  The proposed amendment does not affect the Justice Courts.  Nor would this reform affect how judges are selected (whether appointed or elected).
  • Removing the constitutional cap on Supreme Court judgeships. The court system would be able to allocate judicial resources where needed, as opposed to where they are constitutionally (and arbitrarily) apportioned.  This would reduce backlogs, such as in family court, and also result in a more diverse pool of judges at the appellate level (which would continue to draw only from the pool of Supreme Court judges).

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For Lawyers Representing Trafficking Survivors: Best Practices in Cooperating with Law Enforcement

Proskauer was privileged to host a panel presentation this month on the topic of representing victim witnesses in cooperating with law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers. The panel featured Jane Kim, Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Jessica-Wind Abolafia, Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative; Lori Cohen, incoming Executive Director of ECPAT-USA; and Bill Silverman, Proskauer’s Pro Bono Partner and former Assistant United States Attorney.

The panelists shared a number of insights from their various perspectives as attorneys within law enforcement, a nonprofit legal service provider, and a law firm’s pro bono program.  Several best practice tips emerged that will enable pro bono lawyers representing survivors of human trafficking to provide competent and trauma-informed legal assistance to their clients: Continue Reading

Combating Human Trafficking: How the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Leads the Way

The human trafficking industry preys on vulnerable young women throughout the world who seek to escape poverty, violence, and oppression. These women are often lured by sex traffickers through false promises of a better life, only to find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse. The trafficking industry earns profits of approximately $150 billion a year, nearly $100 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking victims do not profit, but they are often, in many jurisdictions, the ones being prosecuted.

Last week, Proskauer, along with the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, hosted Valiant (Val) Richey, the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Office of the Special Representative assists the 57 OSCE countries—including the United States—in their efforts to combat human trafficking. Continue Reading

Defending Visually-Impaired Pedestrians in Chicago with Disability Rights Advocates

Earlier this week, Proskauer—along with Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a nationwide nonprofit disability rights legal center—filed a putative class action against the City of Chicago on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC) and three individual plaintiffs with vision-related disabilities. The suit challenges the City’s systemic failure to provide accessible crosswalk signals for people who have significant vision impairments—a failure which violates both Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.

The complaint alleges that only 11 out of Chicago’s 2,670 intersections have accessible pedestrian signals (APS) which provide information to the visually-impaired. As a result, pedestrians with vision-related disabilities can safely cross fewer than half of one percent of Chicago’s intersections. In addition to placing visually-impaired Chicagoans in ongoing physical danger, the City’s failure to address these inadequacies represents continuing violations of federal law which requires, among other things, that public entities operate “each service, program, or activity” so that they are “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.150. Continue Reading

Proskauer Files Amici Brief in Six Federal Court Litigations Supporting Coalition Led by Justice in Aging

Proskauer serves as outside counsel to a coalition of nine nonprofit organizations—led by Justice in Aging—supporting dozens of states and organizations in their efforts to stay the implementation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s final rule establishing a new test for determining whether an immigrant will be a “public charge,” and thus should be denied entry into the United States. In filing this amici brief, Proskauer aims to help Justice in Aging and the coalition in their efforts to protect elderly immigrants.

We filed an amici brief in six federal court litigations:  three pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, two pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and one pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.  The plaintiffs in each of these cases assert a variety of claims, including that the Final Rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is contrary to the statutory scheme and is arbitrary and capricious, violates the Equal Protection Clause, and violates the Rehabilitation Act. Continue Reading

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