2023 is neither a presidential nor mid-term election year but nevertheless there are extensive efforts underway across the country to combat a host of recent measures meant to restrict the right to vote. The Bloomberg and Proskauer communities recently came together at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York for a discussion highlighting those efforts, addressing the health of our democracy, and presenting a call to action for the hundreds who attended this lunchtime event.

Moderated by Bloomberg reporter Greg Farrell, the speakers included Casey Smith, an Equal Justice Works Fellow funded by Bloomberg and Proskauer who works for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and Godfre Blackman, a Proskauer associate who recently served as the firm’s NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Fellow, which enabled him to work directly with the LDF on various voting rights issues.

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.   

On April 4, 2023, Proskauer submitted an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court in In re NR, a case in which a child was removed from his father’s custody based on a finding of “substance abuse.” The lower court found that the father had a “substance abuse” problem — based solely on its subjective judgments about substance use, rather than applying any objective, evidence-based standard — and separated the father and child on that basis. This case highlights the danger of allowing courts to diagnose parents with “substance abuse” problems based on their own subjective and standardless opinions. Unfounded assumptions, judgments, and stigma against substance use and substance use disorders can cause significant harm, particularly when they are used as a basis to deprive parents of their fundamental rights and separate families.

Proskauer and co-counsel Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a nationwide nonprofit disability rights legal center, triumphed in a Chicago court this month, obtaining a ruling that will lead to historic accessibility improvements for the more than 65,000 people with vision difficulties who live in Chicago. The Court granted summary judgment on claims that the City of Chicago discriminated against blind and low vision pedestrians under federal disability rights laws by failing to install accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at signalized intersections.  American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago, et al. v. City of Chicago, No. 1:19-cv-06322 (N.D. Ill.). 

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.

Proskauer’s 35-year pro bono representation of a death row inmate, J.B. Parker, came to a successful conclusion last week when the 19th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole following the State of Florida’s decision to stop pursuing the death penalty. 

On February 15th, the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts’ Pandemic Practices Working Group (PPWG) issued a report evaluating the court system’s response to the pandemic and calling for, among other recommendations, the expansion of remote proceedings, enhancement of the court’s technological capacity, and an increase in court staffing. Beginning last summer, I had the privilege along with other Proskauer attorneys of assisting the PPWG with its information-gathering efforts and with drafting the report.