The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Protects Autism Non-Profit in Land Dispute

The New Jersey Appellate Division, in a landmark ruling — Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers, Inc. v. Wade et al., (December 10, 2018) — upheld a real estate purchaser’s right to assert a claim under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (the LAD) against the purchaser’s prospective neighbors who discriminated against the purchaser because of the disability of the person intending to live on the premises, even if the purchaser (e.g., a charitable entity created to assist members of the protected class) does not fall within the protected class itself.

The decision paves the way for Proskauer lawyers Alychia Lynn Buchan, Maryssa A. Mataras, Evelyn Pang and I to continue litigating this matter, which was previously dismissed.

Our client, Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers, Inc. (Oasis), is a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational opportunities and training to autistic individuals. Oasis also creates temporary and long-term group homes in farm-like settings for autistic young adults, where these individuals can live and work.  Continue Reading

Federal Court Upholds First Amendment Right to Secretly Record Public Officials in Public

Last week, in Martin v. Gross, Chief Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of our clients, finding the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 272, § 99) unconstitutional when applied to secret recordings of government officials performing their duties in public.  The decision is significant for its clarification of protections under the First Amendment.

The Massachusetts Wiretap Statute makes it a felony to “secretly” record oral communications writ large, regardless of the other circumstances of the recording.  Our clients—two civil-rights activists in Boston and the plaintiffs in this case—challenged the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute as unconstitutional under the First Amendment as applied to secret recordings of police officers performing their duties in public.  While both plaintiffs have openly recorded law enforcement officials performing their duties in public, both believe secret recording would protect their safety and more accurately document officials’ behavior in public. Continue Reading

Wills for Vets

Proskauer’s Private Client Services lawyers in the Firm’s Boca Raton office have a wide range of experience in trusts and estate planning, and wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way. With this intention, we formed a partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County to provide wills for veterans. Founded in 1949, the Legal Aid Society is a leading advocate on a wide variety of issues for the poor and disadvantaged in our area.

This pro bono project, which we initiated in November, provides estate planning services to the men and women who have served our country. In addition to preparing the necessary estate planning documents for clients, and providing guidance throughout the process, our lawyers and paralegals attend bi-monthly legal clinics hosted by the Legal Aid Society to meet with the veterans and assist with the pro bono client intake process. We also have recruited other professional advisors within the community to provide other important services for the veterans that are outside of our scope of expertise.

Our entire Private Client Services Department is committed to making the estate planning process easy and accessible for our clients, and to making a difference in our community. In the first month alone, we began work with six new clients.

Does the GDPR Impact How Charitable Organizations Solicit Donors?

Six months after implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”),¹ many charitable organizations are still struggling with compliance. Our pro bono clients frequently ask whether consent is now required to send solicitations or communications via email to donors or potential donors.  Before addressing that discrete question, here are some key GDPR principles that apply to non-profit organizations:

What is personal data? Personal data encompasses any information that may directly or indirectly identify an individual (for example, a name is a direct identifying element, while a date of birth, email address, phone number, home address, or photo is an indirect identifying element).²  Personal data also includes information about the characteristics of an individual (hobbies for instance), opinions of a person, and online identifiers (cookies, IP address).  Because the definition of personal data is so broad, all charitable organizations process personal data.

What is data processing?³ Processing is defined very broadly in the GDPR and includes the collection, recording, storage, adaptation, use, erasure, and mere consultation of personal data. Continue Reading

Defending the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban

Earlier this month, Proskauer filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ ban on assault weapons, such as the AK-47 or the AR-15, and large-capacity magazines.  We filed the brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Worman v. Healey, a case challenging the ban on Second Amendment grounds.  Partner Kimberly Mottley and I led the team, with Lindsey Olson Collins and Steven A. Sutro co-authoring the brief.

Since 1998, Massachusetts has banned the sale and possession within the state of military-style assault weapons and large capacity magazines.  These same weapons were used in some of America’s deadliest mass shootings:  Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut;  the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida;  the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada;  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; and most recently,  the Temple of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The popularity of such assault weapons among perpetrators led the New York Times to dub them the “rifles of choice for mass shootings.” Continue Reading

New York Law on Sealing Convictions Helps Some Begin a New Life

With over two million Americans behind bars, this country has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  Our society pays a big price for that distinction, not only in the staggering cost of incarceration itself but in the long-term effects – most notably in terms of employment and housing  – on previously incarcerated individuals and their families.  As part of our pro bono efforts, Proskauer has helped clients through a recently enacted New York law (CPL 160.59) that enables the sealing of certain old convictions.  From this work, two things have become clear: it is an important, impactful law, but for many of our pro bono clients it does not offer relief.

Under the statute, an individual may seal up to two prior convictions, only one of which can be a felony, provided at least 10 years have elapsed since release from prison.  Convictions such as violent felonies and sex offenses are not eligible for sealing.  In partnership with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and the Community Service Society of New York (CSSNY), we started several months ago taking on these matters.  The clients have turned their lives around but continue – a decade or more after serving their sentence – to suffer real consequences.

One client, in particular, who made an indelible mark on us: a soft-spoken man who in the 10 years since serving a prison sentence, started a wonderful family and built a successful business.  For him the relief offered by this statute was important not simply because his prior convictions (all low-level drug offenses) made it difficult for him to obtain a loan.  The need for relief went deeper – it was a matter of self-esteem.  He made mistakes in his youth, took full responsibility for them, changed his life, and now desperately wanted to let go of the embarrassment and shame of being labeled a “criminal.”  Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do for him because, as it turned out, he had a second felony conviction from many years ago.  Anyone with more than two misdemeanors or more than one felony and one misdemeanor (unless the multiple convictions are tied to the same incident) is automatically disqualified. While the need to place some restriction on eligibility is important, the law currently offers no recourse for our client and so many like him.

We are now assigning a number of similar matters to our new associates.  For every client we help, however, there will be a number of people we have to turn away because of the statute’s limited reach.

Bridging Military Skills into Corporate Careers: Veterans Transition to the Private Sector with Mentoring from Proskauer

This November, Proskauer is celebrating its year-round commitment to veterans by announcing a new partnership with American Corporate Partners (ACP), the nation’s leading veteran mentoring program for service members transitioning to corporate careers.

Ten senior partners and executives at Proskauer were selected to provide career guidance and personalized, one-on-one mentorships for post-9/11 service members moving into the private sector. ACP’s mentoring program helps high-performing returning veterans build a successful second career post-military service. Veterans are mentored on topics ranging from building civilian-friendly résumés, networking, leadership skills and work-life balance.

The mentoring program and partnership with ACP is a part of Proskauer’s broader commitment to veterans. “Proskauer has always been committed to removing barriers to employment for veterans – working with ACP is a natural progression in our work.” said Los Angeles partner, Navy veteran and ACP mentor, Colleen Hart.

Colleen decided to become a mentor because she wanted to help fellow veterans make the transition into the corporate world. “Service members transitioning out of the armed services face many challenges. Civilian business customs and language can be very different from the service. It’s important for veterans to bridge their military skills and knowledge into the corporate world.”

Joanne Ollman, Proskauer’s Chief Professional Resources Officer, was paired with a veteran mentee this summer. “This is the least I can do to assist those service members who want to enter the private sector. I can use my background as a senior human resources professional to guide my mentee through the complicated journey of finding a position that matches her skill set and experience with the right opportunity. We have spent the last month creating a résumé that reflects not only what she has done in the past but what she is capable of doing in the future. I am confident that she will find something that will challenge her and be ‘value added’ to her employer. I am thrilled to be part of her journey.”

Colleen has also built a strong relationship with her mentee. “My mentee is a retired Command Master Chief who served 30 years in the Navy. He’s very skilled and experienced but he’s new to the corporate world. We share our stories about transitioning out of the military and I assist with networking. My mentee hopes to have a second career in human resources and I have no doubt he’ll be a successful corporate H.R. manager someday.”

About American Corporate Partners (ACP):

ACP is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to address veterans’ career transition needs through two free programs: a nationwide veteran mentoring program and an online network, ACP AdvisorNet, offering career, employment and small business advice through a robust business community and Q&A platform.  For more information visit: https://www.acp-usa.org/

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