Last week, the Proskauer community came together for the 14th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony, a firm-wide virtual celebration to honor those lawyers and staff members who went far above and beyond to contribute to the Firm’s pro bono, corporate social responsibility, and diversity & inclusion initiatives this year. Congratulations
On November 25, 2020, Proskauer filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief on behalf of Citizens for Juvenile Justice and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Youth Advocacy Division in support of Raymond Concepcion, a youth with disabilities who was automatically tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 20 years. Proskauer’s brief urged the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to find that section 74 of the Youthful Offender Act is unconstitutional, reverse Raymond’s conviction and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
When Raymond was 15 years old, two adult gang members ordered him to shoot a stranger, promising that he could leave the gang if he complied. Out of fear, Raymond did as instructed and shot a man, killing him. Raymond has an IQ of 66 and the developmental maturity of an eight- or nine-year-old. As a younger child living in the Dominican Republic, Raymond suffered emotional distress after witnessing shootings of multiple family members. When he was 12 years old, Raymond moved to Boston, where he attended three different public schools and failed nearly all his classes. An expert testified to Raymond’s psychological, social and intellectual capacities. Nevertheless, pursuant to section 74 of the Youthful Offender Act, due to his age and alleged offense, Raymond was automatically tried in adult court, where he was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment and given an above-minimum parole eligibility date. Raymond’s youth and intellectual disability were disregarded at his indictment, trial and sentencing.
A Proskauer team recently succeeded in obtaining parole on behalf of 69-year-old pro bono client Judith Clark, who has been in prison for nearly 38 years. This case may play an important role in effecting much needed parole reform in New York. Personally, it has been among the most satisfying cases on which I have ever worked.
Judith was the getaway driver for the infamous 1981 Brinks robbery that resulted in the killings of two police officers and a Brinks guard, and was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. Judith’s transformation from radical revolutionary to a completely rehabilitated person began in the mid-1980s. Since then, she has devoted herself to helping others. Her efforts included starting an AIDS counseling program for prisoners that was copied nationwide, building a prison college program (and earning two degrees), helping to run her prison’s infant care center for incarcerated mothers, training more than a dozen dogs to help wounded veterans and law enforcement, and individually mentoring and counseling hundreds of women to help them turn their lives around. After personally interviewing Judith in 2016, Governor Cuomo granted her clemency, thereby making her eligible for parole.