Michelle Moriarty recently joined Proskauer as Pro Bono Counsel. She comes from the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she was a Senior Staff Attorney. We spoke with Michelle about her work at the Center, what brought her to Proskauer, and her vision for the Pro Bono Counsel role.
Tell us about your work at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Working at the Center was the most rewarding – and hardest – job I have ever had. We represented independent clinics, which provide the majority of abortion care in the United States, and individual abortion providers. As part of the U.S. Litigation team, I litigated a number of federal and state challenges to restrictions on abortion access. We challenged gestational bans, mandatory delay laws requiring two visits before an abortion could be performed, onerous and unnecessary licensing requirements, laws limiting who could provide abortion care, telemedicine bans, and laws requiring unfounded disclosures to patients, among others. We also advised our clients on compliance and risk.
Did you ever work with pro bono firms at the Center?
Yes! Our litigation teams had some wonderful pro bono law firm partners. I speak from firsthand experience when I say that having high-quality firm partners who bring their expertise and resources to bear on these important cases makes a tremendous difference. Firms also enable greater capacity. This has become even more important in recent months, as demand in this field has skyrocketed in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
What was it like to be the Center and get the Dobbs opinion?
Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs was the Center’s case. I was actually part of the case team before the Supreme Court granted certiorari, which happened while I was out on parental leave.
Getting the decision was heartbreaking. We knew what the likely outcome would be after the draft decision leaked, but the impact on patients and our clients was immediate and devastating. Huge swaths of the country became abortion deserts almost overnight. Some clients were forced to close clinics that had been providing compassionate, high-quality abortion care in their communities for years. It was, without a doubt, the hardest day of my professional life.
What brings you to Proskauer?
Having been on the public interest side for the last several years, I know how impactful having a committed, talented pro bono partner can be, and I am excited to be a part of that.
It has also become clear to me that issues of justice are deeply intersectional. In order for us to work towards achieving a truly just society, we must focus on addressing the root causes of a wide variety of issues that are inherently interconnected, like poverty, racism, sexism, mass incarceration, homelessness, and barriers to access to healthcare, education, and the justice system, among many others. Firms are in a unique position to have a real impact across a wide variety of these issues.
Finally, Proskauer is an amazing place filled with talented, kind people. It has an incredibly strong pro bono program, and has demonstrated a real commitment to public service in its pro bono and corporate social responsibility work. I am so happy to be here!
What is your vision for the Pro Bono Counsel role?
As Pro Bono Counsel, I want to help the lawyers at Proskauer do pro bono work that has a significant impact and is also meaningful and rewarding. I believe pro bono is an area that provides opportunities for attorneys to learn new skills while also making a real difference in the lives of individuals and meaningfully impacting society as a whole. I want to help Proskauer be a leader in the pro bono space.