The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

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

Protecting the Unhoused: Proskauer Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless

In a major victory for unhoused New Yorkers, the New York Court of Appeals recently adopted the analysis of an amicus brief that was filed by Proskauer on behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless. The amicus brief supported the City of New York’s defense of a proposed project to convert a midtown Manhattan hotel into a residential facility for homeless adults seeking employment opportunities. Continue Reading

Caring about Caregivers: Facilitating Adoptions with Mobilization for Justice

Due to COVID-19 court restrictions, there have been no adoption proceedings over the past 14 months in New York City, culminating in a backlog of children in need.  Although these proceedings are not considered to be “emergencies,” the failure to facilitate permanency on such a wide scale, in fact, poses a threat to the health and safety of children.  As courts are beginning to hear these matters again, and given the tremendous unmet need for legal services, Proskauer is partnering with Mobilization for Justice’s Kinship Caregiver Law Project to provide the pro bono legal support needed to help stabilize families. Continue Reading

Proskauer Teams Up with Start Small Think Big to Help Small Businesses

In the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working on pro bono matters ranging from criminal justice to voting rights to veterans’ benefits.  To help address legal challenges and needs amplified by the pandemic, Proskauer has developed a number of new pro bono partnerships and has called upon its lawyers to take on more matters and expand the program’s reach.  Late last month, I took advantage of one such opportunity as I consulted with an entrepreneur who is in the initial stages of starting a business. Continue Reading

Proskauer Launches a New Partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council

Education and social justice have long been core pillars of Proskauer’s commitment to public service. Despite the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our corporate social responsibility programs have enabled lawyers and business services professionals throughout the Firm to connect with student groups across the country for engaging, interactive workshops focusing on college and career readiness topics. Expanding that mission, this week we are pleased to launch a new partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) and its “Learn and Earn” youth-focused programming.

Founded in 1965, CPC empowers Asian American, immigrant, and low-income communities in New York City by ensuring they have equitable access to the resources and opportunities needed to thrive. Today, CPC is the nation’s largest Asian American social services organization, supporting 60,000 individuals and families. The “Learn and Earn” program is a year-round afterschool enrichment program for high school juniors and seniors. Youth are actively engaged in leadership development, college preparedness, career exploration, community service, internships, and more. Continue Reading

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