Last week, the Proskauer community gathered for the 16th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony to celebrate and 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, Equity & Inclusion efforts in 2023. Congratulations and thanks to the following colleagues for their extraordinary commitment to public service.

On December 7, 2023, a team of Proskauer attorneys joined the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), the ACLU of Delaware, and attorneys from Shaw Keller LLP in filing a complaint against the state of Delaware on behalf of the Prisoners Legal Advocacy Network (“PLAN”) to protect the Constitutional right to vote for incarcerated individuals.

On October 23, 2023, Proskauer attorneys submitted an amicus brief in connection with the U.S. Supreme Court case of Moore v. United States[1] on behalf of the American College of Tax Counsel—a nonprofit professional association of tax lawyers in private practice, law school teaching positions and government that is widely recognized for its excellence in, and substantive contributions to, the tax profession. Moore is widely viewed as a significant case, as it represents the first time in decades in which the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of a federal income tax statute. Furthermore, the Court’s decision has the potential to upend years of well-settled tax law and planning principles, introduce unprecedented uncertainty into the Code and spawn voluminous litigation.     

In September, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at The New York City Bar Association titled “Securing Democracy For Tomorrow.” Moderated by United States Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker, the event focused on the importance of civic education. To start things off, Dawn Smalls, a partner at Jenner & Block, introduced the keynote speaker, Schools Chancellor David Banks. David is a strong supporter of civic education and its capacity to empower students as change agents that have a genuine, lasting effect in their communities. He shared powerful firsthand examples from his career, in which he witnessed the impact of student activism as a positive force for social change in some of our most underserved neighborhoods.

In April 2022, Proskauer, with co-counsel Public Counsel and Squire Patton Boggs, filed suit in Arizona federal court on behalf of a Guatemalan mother and daughter who were forcibly separated by border patrol agents in 2018.  Earlier this summer, the Court denied a motion to dismiss brought by the federal government.  The separation at issue in this case was among the thousands that occurred due to prior administration’s family separation policy. Five years later, many of the issues impacting these families are still unresolved, and, despite publicly denouncing the policy, the government continues to defend family separation in federal lawsuits filed across the nation.  

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.

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.