Pervasive anti-LGBTQ violence around the world causes many individuals to flee their countries of origin in search of safety. The past few years have been tremendously difficult for immigrants of all walks of life, but especially so for LGBTQ and HIV-affected asylum applicants who have fled to the United States
Proskauer was privileged to host a panel presentation this month on the topic of representing victim witnesses in cooperating with law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers. The panel featured Jane Kim, Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Jessica-Wind Abolafia, Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative; Lori Cohen, incoming Executive Director of ECPAT-USA; and Bill Silverman, Proskauer’s Pro Bono Partner and former Assistant United States Attorney.
The panelists shared a number of insights from their various perspectives as attorneys within law enforcement, a nonprofit legal service provider, and a law firm’s pro bono program. Several best practice tips emerged that will enable pro bono lawyers representing survivors of human trafficking to provide competent and trauma-informed legal assistance to their clients:
Earlier this week, Proskauer—along with Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a nationwide nonprofit disability rights legal center—filed a putative class action against the City of Chicago on behalf of the American Council of the Blind of Metropolitan Chicago (ACBMC) and three individual plaintiffs with vision-related disabilities. The suit challenges the City’s systemic failure to provide accessible crosswalk signals for people who have significant vision impairments—a failure which violates both Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.
The complaint alleges that only 11 out of Chicago’s 2,670 intersections have accessible pedestrian signals (APS) which provide information to the visually-impaired. As a result, pedestrians with vision-related disabilities can safely cross fewer than half of one percent of Chicago’s intersections. In addition to placing visually-impaired Chicagoans in ongoing physical danger, the City’s failure to address these inadequacies represents continuing violations of federal law which requires, among other things, that public entities operate “each service, program, or activity” so that they are “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.150.
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.
According to a compelling report issued by the non-profit organization Win, every night in New York City over 23,000 children go to bed in a homeless shelter. It is estimated that one in 10 students in New York City public schools experienced homelessness during the 2016–2017 school year. Even more troubling, the number of homeless families and children is growing.
Founded in 1983 as Women In Need, Win started by serving four homeless women and their six children. Today, led by former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Win provides daily shelter to more than 2,400 families, including nearly 4,700 children. Win now operates 10 residential shelters, and provides 240 permanent supportive housing units, which are primarily financed by the government but require the resident to pay a small percentage of her income as rent. In response to the severe lack of affordable housing, Mayor DeBlasio launched “Housing New York 2.0,” which promises to create 15,000 supportive housing apartments in NYC over the next 15 years. Win is partnering with various large NYC developers to create these units, and as a Win board member and chair of the real estate committee, I am privileged to be part of these efforts.
I was first affected by gun violence in 1993, when an armed gunman entered the conference room of a San Francisco law firm during a deposition and opened fire. Two people in that conference room were killed, and I knew both of them. One of the individuals who died was a partner at the firm I worked for after law school and the other was a lawyer my age from my home town, and he died shielding his wife from the gunfire. That event made me really think about the impact of gun violence and turned me into a longtime advocate of reasonable gun safety measures.
I attended the Conversation on Gun Safety which Proskauer hosted last week. We were honored to welcome as featured speakers John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety; Eric Tirschwell, Director of Litigation and National Enforcement Policy for Everytown; and Nathalie Arzu, a survivor of gun violence who is now an advocate for gun safety.