The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Restoring Voting Rights for Individuals with Criminal Records and the Need to Inform Them of Their Rights

A critical part of criminal justice reform is making it easier for those with criminal records to reenter society. This means greater job training, more employment opportunities, affordable housing, and stronger laws prohibiting discrimination and facilitating the expungement of old convictions.  Successful reentry into a free society, however, requires more than just the basic needs of life. It also requires the restoration of basic rights, and there is no more basic right in a democracy than the right to vote. Continue Reading

Proskauer Files FOIA Complaint Seeking Information on Deported Mothers and Newborn Children

News sources have widely reported that beginning in 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began expelling from the United States immigrant women who recently gave birth, as well as their U.S. citizen infants.  These actions were part of the former administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which, among other things, intentionally separated thousands of families at the border.  Regardless of any right to asylum, these women were expelled from the country days after giving birth.  Even though their U.S-born children would have been U.S. citizens, many mothers were not even given birth certificates for their children.  Making matters worse, these women were often forced into dangerous conditions, having to sleep in shelters or on the streets in Mexico with their newborns. Continue Reading

Addressing Disparities in Health and Health Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the ongoing pandemic exacerbating pervading health disparity and economic inequality issues in the United States, we brought together three experts to discuss their work and the impact of COVID-19 on these important topics.

Our discussion was led by Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist and senior medical correspondent for WCBS-TV, Dr. Max Gomez. Our panelists included Rita Gilles, Dr. Kishor Malavade, and Otto Starzman. Rita Gilles is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Bloomberg and Proskauer at the Mount Sinai Medical Legal Partnership in collaboration with the LegalHealth division of New York Legal Assistance Group. She works to provide legal aid to low-income families of children and adolescent patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem, addressing the social and legal determinants of poor health. Dr. Kishor Malavade is the Vice-Chair of Psychiatry and Deputy Medical Director of the Department of Population Health at Maimonides Medical Center. He leads efforts to increase access to healthcare and help individuals through community-based initiatives. Otto Starzman is the Chief Production Officer and Treasurer of the River Fund, the largest free food outlet in New York City. He works on the frontlines to serve our city’s most vulnerable populations in our poorest zip codes. Continue Reading

Advancing Transgender Equality & Inclusion in Sports, Health Care and Public Life

On June 24, 2021, the Governor of New York signed into law the Gender Recognition Act, and Proskauer employees came together in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month to support transgender equality and inclusion in all areas of public life.

With special guest speakers Chris Mosier of Transathlete.com and Sasha Buchert of Lambda Legal, Proskauer associate Ren Morris and Craig Convissar of The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (LeGaL) led a conversation about the recent wave of state-level anti-transgender legislation, much of which has targeted transgender youth. Continue Reading

The 1619 Project and a Path Forward to Racial Justice

In commemoration of Juneteenth 2021, Proskauer was honored to host Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of The 1619 Project, as part of its A Path Forward lecture series and Collaborate for Change program.  The discussion was moderated by Keisha-Ann Gray, a partner in the New York office, with support from Proskauer’s Black Lawyer Affinity Group.

Hannah-Jones shared insight into the enduring legacy of slavery and how systemic racial inequities contrast with American ideals. Although this holiday celebrates a moment of hope and joy, its existence also raises important questions and invites reflection.

The 1619 Project, an initiative at The New York Times spearheaded by Hannah-Jones, is provocative for some because it challenges the concept of our national identity. Hannah-Jones questions the framing of the nation’s founders as ushering in liberty and equality for all when some Americans were considered to be less than human. No longer should we view slavery and the contributions of Black Americans as a footnote, but rather “at the very center of the United States.”   Continue Reading

Cannabis Legalization and Racial Justice

Earlier this year, New York passed legislation legalizing the adult use of cannabis. New Yorkers can now legally possess three ounces for any use, and can smoke marijuana in any publically-designed area where tobacco smoking is allowed, although home cultivation is still not permitted. Importantly, certain convictions – possessing up to 16 ounces or selling up to 25 grams of marijuana – will be automatically expunged from criminal records.

Not only does this law expand existing medical marijuana programs and create a licensing system for producers and distributors, but it also acts as an important step toward addressing the racial disparities in drug-related arrests. During the 1970s and 1980s, the so-called “War on Drugs” stigmatized drug use as a criminal and moral issue rather than treating it as a public health issue. Continue Reading

Judicial Selection Reform Virtual Conference Addresses Court Reform in New York State

Despite the critical importance of a strong and independent judiciary, it’s too often that court reform is ignored by public officials and civic leaders. Earlier this week – at the Conference on Judicial Selection Reform hosted by the Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone – I had the opportunity to use my perspective as Chair of The Fund for Modern Courts to speak on the importance of simplifying New York’s antiquated court system.

The conference began with remarks by Congressman Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson – who recently issued a report on racism and bias in the state court system. Secretary Johnson referred to the current court structure as “inexplicable,” and described how certain courts, such as the family and criminal courts, are under-resourced and over-burdened. He furthered explained how, in New York, over time there has developed a “second class system of justice for people of color.” Continue Reading

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