As part of its mission to raise awareness about the impact and importance of The Legal Aid Society, Proskauer’s Associates’ Campaign for Legal Aid organized a special event on wrongful convictions featuring Elizabeth Felber from Legal Aid’s Wrongful Conviction Unit, Jason Flom, a renowned criminal justice reform advocate, and Jimmy Dennis, an exoneree who served 25 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
As we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I recently sat down with our friend Wayne Ho, CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (“CPC”), to learn more about the community issues the nation’s largest Asian American social service organization is working to address. Since 2021, Proskauer has partnered with the CPC to host several educational workshop series with CPC teens, centering on social justice and academic enrichment. Proskauer employees volunteer as mentors on a regular basis, through programs like those sponsored by the CPC, imparting their expertise beyond the law to inform and inspire students to succeed in college, their careers and other aspects of their lives.
Last week, Proskauer was honored to host a summit in its New York office, led by United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, on efforts to ensure public safety and economic opportunities for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The event, moderated by Frank Wu, the president of Queens College, brought together over 50 business, academic and community leaders, including the presidents of the Ford Foundation, Fordham University, Teachers College (Columbia University), Baruch College and the Asian American Business Development Center. The discussion focused on ways to battle anti-Asian xenophobia and racism and offered ideas to build capacity and investment in AAPI communities through federal policies and action.
Last week, hundreds of lawyers and staff gathered across Proskauer for the 15th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony to honor those who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono, corporate social responsibility and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts this past year. The evening began with a special guest. Preet Bharara, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, shared insights from his time in office, impressed the importance of public service, and addressed several issues he raised in his best-selling book Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and The Rule of Law. Also of note were remarks from Labor & Employment associate Godfre Blackman who is currently serving as the Firm’s NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Fellow. As part of the Firm’s Collaborate for Change initiative, Proskauer created this fellowship for one of our associates to work directly with the LDF on strategic matters focusing on eliminating disparities and achieving racial justice and equality.
Proskauer recently represented the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College in submitting an amicus brief before the Supreme Court of North Carolina in a major voting rights lawsuit. The case, Community Success Initiative v. Moore, involves a challenge to N.C. Gen. Stat. §13-1, a felony supervision law that denies the franchise to over 56,000 North Carolinians. Under §13-1, individuals who have been convicted of felonies cannot register to vote unless they have been “unconditionally discharged” from felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision.
Bloomberg and Proskauer are sponsoring Equal Justice Works Fellow Casey Smith, who will work at the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. Casey, a recent graduate of Yale Law School, will contribute to the defense of individuals unjustly prosecuted for voting. Casey also will help to develop impact litigation that challenges statutes imposing harsh penalties upon people who vote without realizing they are ineligible to do so.
In this interview, Casey discusses her important work.
Working alongside Freedom Now, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy for prisoners of conscience around the world, Proskauer obtained a victory before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (the “Working Group”) for our client, Shakthika Sathkumara, an award-winning author who had been detained by Sri Lankan authorities for the publication of a fictional short story.
Our petition to the Working Group alleged that Mr. Sathkumara’s detention was arbitrary and therefore impermissible under international law. As such, we requested that the Working Group direct the Sri Lankan government to cease its prosecution of Mr. Sathkumara’s case and end all restrictions imposed upon Mr. Sathkumara’s freedom of movement.
This week we had the privilege of speaking with Catherine Cole, the Executive Director of Grannies Respond, about the impact the “Grannies” have made through their efforts to advance immigrants’ rights, and how Proskauer’s pro bono work has supported the Grannies in their mission.
Grannies Respond / Abuelas Responden, Inc. is a grassroots movement and nonprofit organization that supports immigrants seeking asylum and safety in the United States. What inspired Grannies Respond to take on this mission?
In July 2018, the U.S. government’s separation of children from their families at the southern border broke many hearts. Children as young as five months old were taken from the parents who had brought them here to escape life-threatening conditions in their home countries and to seek asylum. Many people watched the news of the separations and felt helpless, but Dan Aymar-Blair, the creator of Grannies Respond, was discussing the separations at the border with friends and said “why don’t we put a bunch of grannies on a bus and go down there?” Grannies are the heart of the family and would never stand for separations. For our purposes, you don’t have to be a grandmother to be a “grannie” – we welcome everyone who supports the cause of immigrants’ rights.