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Article

New Pro Bono Matters

25 June 2010
Mayer Brown Article

New Pro Bono Matters

July 2010

Adoption
Affordable Housing/Real Estate
Appellate & Supreme Court Litigation
Arts & Culture
Bankruptcy
Civil Liberties/Civil Rights
Criminal Defense
Education
Employment/Labor
Environmental
Family Law
General Litigation
Government & Global Trade
HIV/AIDS
Immigration/Asylum/Refugees
Intellectual Property
International Economic Development
International Human Rights/Rule of Law
Landlord/Tenant
Mediation/Settlement Assistance
Microfinance/Microentrepreneurs
Non-Profit Organizations
Public Benefits
Tax
Trust and Estates/Wills
Veterans Benefits

Adoption

Our Los Angeles office’s signature pro bono project is the Adoption Project, which was started  in 2001.  In partnership with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting abused and impoverished children who need safe and permanent families, healthcare and education, we have facilitated the adoptions of over 200 children in foster care.  Los Angeles Associates Liz Kwon, Steve Rich and Jennie Park have worked on the most recent cases.

Affordable Housing/Real Estate

Through the Firm's national real estate practice, we work in the area of affordable housing with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). CSH provides loans and expertise to help develop and operate supportive housing, including funding for projects that provide counseling, skills training, and other services for the homeless. Recently, Chicago Associates Jade Newburn and Geeta Kharkar Stack, New York Associates Andrew Greig and Edith Gimm, Charlotte Associate Amanda Christie and  Los Angeles Associate Linda Earle, supervised by Los Angeles Counsel Boise Ding, have worked on loan transactions for CSH, and Boise has handled several by himself.

London Associate William Thompson and London Partner Gary Bownes are assisting the mental health charity Hunts.Mind with the renewal of their lease.

London Associate Johanna Cope has been advising Padnell Community Pre-School regarding their new lease.

London Associate Caroline Humble is acting for Willow Tree Pre-school on the grant of a new lease.

London Associate Iain Roberts is advising Woking Sea Cadets and Dianthus Trading CIC in relation to the surrender of their existing lease and the grant of a new lease.

Los Angeles Associate Jennie Park, supervised by Los Angeles Partner Tim McOsker, is researching land use and zoning constraints regarding the establishment of a homeless shelter for Public Counsel, the public interest law firm. Public Counsel, which provides transactional legal services and capacity building for nonprofit organizations and microbusinesses, plans to use the information to assist one of their clients, a religious organization in the process of opening a homeless shelter in an area with a growing population of homeless clients.

Appellate & Supreme Court Litigation

Chicago Associate Steve Sanders, under the supervision of Chicago Partner Jeff Sarles, filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court on behalf of the national American Civil Liberties Union supporting the defendants in Migliaccio v. Castaneda.  The case involves an immigration detainee who died because Public Health Service personnel failed to properly diagnose and treat his penile cancer.  The question is whether a Bivens action (the federal analogue to a  Section 1983 claim for violations of constitutional rights) is available against the Public Health Service, or whether plaintiffs are limited to recovery under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  The ACLU's position is that Bivens actions are necessary to deter unconstitutionally inadequate medical care.

Chicago Associates Kathy Agonis and Steve Sanders, supervised by Chicago Partner Jeff Sarles, are filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a group of law enforcement and local government organizations supporting the petitioner in City of Warren v. Moldowan.  The case, which comes out of the 6th Circuit, presents the question of whether police officers acting in good faith may be sued for failure to provide prosecutors with any evidence that might have exculpatory value.  The brief argues that such a rule would be in conflict with Supreme Court precedent and law from four circuits, would be unduly burdensome on police departments and officers who are acting in good faith, and would open the floodgates to meritless litigation against municipalities and their employees.

New York Associates Lauren Attard and Christine Walsh, supervised by New York Partner Terri Mazur, filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit on behalf of the National Disability Rights Network supporting the plaintiff in Gross v. Rell, which involves an elderly man held in a nursing home by his conservator against his will. After his release, the plaintiff sued the conservator and the court-appointed counsel for breach of their fiduciary duties. The Second Circuit certified questions of quasi-judicial immunity of those individuals to the Connecticut Supreme Court.  The case was referred by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. 

Palo Alto Partner Donald Falk, Chicago Partner George Tzanetopoulos and Los Angeles Partner Neil Soltman are advising the National Federation of Independent Businesses Legal Center on filing an amicus brief supporting the petitioners in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v EPA, a case in the D.C. Circuit.  The case challenges the EPA's endangerment finding that "greenhouse gases" pose a danger to human health, which some believe could support potential regulation of economic activity under the Clear Air Act. The Legal Center is presenting the perspective of small business on the legal and economic issues raised by the endangerment finding.

Washington Associate Paul Hughes, supervised by Washington Partner David Gossett, is representing an inmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison in an appeal to the Fourth Circuit challenging the district court's dismissal of his RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) claims against a prison grooming policy which forbids him from wearing his hair in dreadlocks.

Washington Associate Michael Kimberly, supervised by Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld, is representing a prisoner appealing a grant of summary judgment in a  § 1983 civil rights case.   The Ninth Circuit has ordered appointment of pro bono counsel specifically to address the "standard governing invasive body cavity parole searches in the wake of Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843 (2003)." The matter was referred by the Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Coordinator.

Washington Partner Miriam Nemetz and Washington Associate Jasmin Sethi, filed an amicus brief in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on behalf of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the National Association of Social Workers supporting the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics in Jackson v. Board of Elections and Ethics.  Petitioners in the suit are challenging the Board's rejection of their proposed voter initiative seeking to overturn the District's recently passed same sex marriage equality law.  The Board rejected the proposed initiative, which sought to put to D.C. voters a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman only, on grounds that it violated the D.C. Human Rights Act's prohibition on allowing the rights of minorities to be subjected to a popular vote.  The brief sets out the scientific and professional  literature pertinent to the court's decision.

Washington Associate Melanie Rughani, supervised by Washington Partners Evan Tager and Archis Parasharami, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Hindu American Foundation and other minority religious groups in support of the plaintiff in the 4th Circuit case Joyner v. Forsyth County, North Carolina.  The case involves an appeal from a district court decision enjoining the legislative prayer policy of Forsyth County as being in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  Our brief urges the 4th Circuit to affirm the district court judgment. The case was referred by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Washington Associate Joanne Savage, supervised by Washington Partner Dan Himmelfarb, was appointed by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to represent a plaintiff challenging the district court’s dismissal of his lawsuit against the Wisconsin Resource Center alleging he has been denied his “right to individualized treatment.”  The plaintiff, who is under civil commitment by the State of Wisconsin as a sexually violent person, is questioning the adequacy of his treatment and the conditions of his confinement.  The case is part of the firm’s Seventh Circuit Project.   

In conjunction with the Yale Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Partner Andy Pincus and Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld filed an amicus brief in City of Ontario v. Quon on behalf of the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The question in that case was whether the Fourth Amendment prevents (or at least restricts) the ability of a municipal employer to access personal text messages sent by police officers using government-provided pagers.  It was the Court's first attempt to deal with the intersection of the Fourth Amendment and digital communications.

In conjunction with the Yale Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld and Washington Partner Andy Pincus, along with Washington Associate Paul Hughes, are representing the petitioners in Mendiola v. Holder and Silerio-Nunez v. Holder who areseeking certiorari in the US Supreme Court.  Both are appealing 10th Circuit immigration determinations under the so-called “departure bar.” The petitioners were both lawful permanent residents living in the United States when the government initiated removal proceedings based on state convictions for possession of steroids. Both were found removable and ordered removed.  After returning to the U.S., both filed  motions to reopen which the BIA denied pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 1003.2(d)  prohibiting consideration of a motion to reopen once an alien has been removed.  On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed both decisions, but acknowledged that its holdings are in conflict with a Fourth Circuit decision, William v. Gonzales, 499 F.3d 329 (4th Cir. 2007).  In William, Judge Shedd found that the regulation is an impermissible reading of the INA and thus invalid.

In conjunction with the Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Partner Andy Pincus and Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld are filing an amicus brief on behalf of a group of public universities in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  The case involves a First  Amendment challenge to Hastings College of the Law's requirement that a student organization seeking official recognition (which provides some funding and preferential access to school facilities) agrees to abide by a set of nondiscrimination principles.  Christian Legal Society argues that the provisions barring discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation violate the free speech and right of expressive association guarantees of the First Amendment.  Virtually every public university in the country conditions official recognition on agreement with nondiscrimination principles (although the particular principles vary from university to university).  Christian Legal Society's arguments, if accepted by the Court, could significantly limit universities' ability to apply these policies, including to groups that wish to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, and other grounds. Our brief explains that Hastings' policy is not at all unique, and details the practical implications of a ruling in favor of Christian Legal Society.

In conjunction with the Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld and Washington Partner Andy Pincus are filing an amicus brief on behalf of the State and Local Legal Center supporting the respondents in John Doe #1 v. Reed.  The case involves a suit brought by individuals who signed petitions, sponsored by a group called Protect Marriage Washington, to put a referendum on the Washington State ballot seeking disapproval of Washington's law providing for state-registered domestic partnerships.  Plaintiffs are invoking the First Amendment to seek an injunction barring public disclosure of the referendum petitions,  pursuant to Washington's Public Records Act. The brief supports application of the state disclosure law, arguing that public disclosure of such information has been permitted historically and serves important public purposes.

In conjunction with the Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld and Washington Partner Andy Pincus are drafting a petition for certiorari in United States v. DePierre, a direct appeal from a criminal conviction. The question presented is whether the words "cocaine base" in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) refer strictly to "crack cocaine" or to "all forms of cocaine base, including but not limited to crack cocaine."

In conjunction with the Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Washington Special Counsel Charles Rothfeld and Washington Partner Andy Pincus are assisting counsel for the respondents Charla and Dustin Conn, in Conn v. City of Reno. The Conn's mother, Brenda Clustka,  committed suicide while in policy custody.  While transporting her to protective custody, two police officers saw her wrap a seatbelt around her neck in a suicide attempt.  The officers removed the seatbelt and put her into restraints, but they did not report the incident.  The next day, Ms. Clustka was detained on a misdemeanor charge, and she hanged herself in her cell.  The Conns sued the City of Reno on a deliberate indifference theory.  The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.  The City of Reno plans to file a petition for certiorari, and we are helping with drafting  and editing the brief in opposition.

Arts & Culture

Chicago Associate Ben Williams, supervised by Chicago Partner Jennifer Keating, is drafting a collaboration agreement between two student film producers for a documentary they both produced and provide advice concerning an appropriate business structure.  Referred by Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

Bankruptcy

Frankfurt Associate Malte Richter and Partner Marco Wilhelm are again advising UK NGO Charlotte di Vita Ltd concerning royalties due from the sale of stock by an insolvent company.

Civil Liberties/Civil Rights

Washington Partner Miriam Nemetz and Washington Associate Jasmin Sethi filed an amicus brief in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on behalf of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association and the National Association of Social Workers supporting the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics in Jackson v. Board of Elections and Ethics.  Petitioners in the suit are challenging the Board's rejection of their proposed voter initiative seeking to overturn the District's recently passed same sex marriage equality law.  The Board rejected the proposed initiative, which sought to put to D.C. voters a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman only, on grounds that it violated the D.C. Human Rights Act's prohibition on allowing the rights of minorities to be subjected to a popular vote.  The brief sets out the scientific and professional literature pertinent to the court's decision.

Criminal Defense

Chicago Associate Jon Pulkkinen, supervised by Chicago Partners Jim Barz and Mike Forde and assisted by Chicago Paralegal Jerry Delaney, is representing a man indicted for first degree murder whose trial is anticipated to begin in the summer.

Education

New York Associates Katie Fernandez and Bradford Jealous, supervised by New York Partner Joe De Simone, are representing the  Girls Prep Charter School in an appeal to the New York State Commissioner of Education.  A plan to expand the school, which had been approved by the New York City Department of Education, has been challenged in a petition filed by Advocates for Children on behalf of some of the parents of students whose non-charter schools share a building with Girls Prep.

Houston Senior Counsel Marvin Katz is monitoring legal matters and coordinate assignments given to various outside attorneys who do pro bono work for the KIPP Schools, a network of 82 free, open-enrollment public schools dedicated to preparing students  in underserved communities for success in college and in life.

Employment/Labor

London Associate Nicola Thomson and London Partner Bernadette Daley have been assisting CAFOD (the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) in relation to the revision of their UK and international employment contracts.

Los Angeles Partner Bronwyn Pollock, assisted by Los Angeles Associate Jerome Jauffret, is providing general employment advice, including benefits, layoffs and severance issues, to HALSA (HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance).

Environmental

Chicago Partner Paul Forrester is managing a Carbon Credit Project for The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  The project, which is currently operating in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico and is expected  to expand to other countries, is looking at legal provisions applicable to voluntary carbon offsets generated by forest conservation and aforestation/reforestation projects certified under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol or by a third party under the rules of the Voluntary Carbon Standard Program or the Carbon Action Reserve Program. 

Washington Counsel Roger Patrick conducted a one-day training session on the federal Clean Water Act for The Nature Conservancy.  The goal of the training was to educate attendees  -- both Nature Conservancy staff and staff from other environmental groups – so they can better participate in efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  pariticpate

Family Law

Chicago Office Attorneys, under the supervision of Partner Debbie Hoffman and Counsel Cecilia Roth, are assisting clients of the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic with obtaining rights to the retirement assets of former spouses by drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Orders (QILDROs). Recently, Associates Jacob Glazeski and Elizabeth Dyer, and Independent Contractor Christina Cerasale, have participated in the project.

General Litigation

Chicago Partner Tom Lidbury is defending a local elementary school Parent Teachers Organization against a claim brought by a parent who volunteered to run a fundraiser last year and has now filed a lawsuit demanding to be personally paid all of the proceeds raised at the event. 

London Associate Mahisha Rupan and Partner Ian Wood have been advising TRAID regarding their dispute with a contractor.

Los Angeles Partner Elizabeth Mann is representing MLA Partner Schools in Sharail Reed v. State of California, in seeking to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Public Counsel against the State of California and the Los Angles Unified School District to prevent teacher layoffs in low income schools with the lowest levels of academic achievement.  MLA, which manages two low-income high schools with poor educational records, wants to expand the plaintiff class to include their students.

Los Angeles Associate Jerome Jauffret, supervised by Los Angeles Partner Bronwyn Pollock, is advising Village Enterprise Fund, Inc.  – a non-profit organization whose mission is "to break the cycle of poverty in East Africa by providing small business training, seed capital and mentoring to rural entrepreneurs to start income-generating businesses" – with respect to an investigation of sexual harassment allegations made by an employee against her supervisor.

Los Angeles Associate Jennie Park, supervised by Los Angeles Partner Warren Loui, is assisting the Weingart Center Association, a non-profit organization that provides resources to the homeless to help them become self-sufficient, with the review of a declaration (indemnity letter) requested by the County of Los Angeles, a co-defendant in a civil suit filed against the Center. 

Palo Alto Associate Jason Wrubleski, supervised by Palo Alto Partner Rena Chng, is assisting a plaintiff with a breach of contract matter regarding the purchase of a truck which was repossessed by the seller. The matter was referred by Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.

Palo Alto Associate Devan Bennett, supervised by Palo Alto Partner Rena Chng, will assist 13 baseball team managers with obtaining repayment of deposits  paid to enter their teams in the Liga Veracruzana baseball organization.  The managers each paid a $300 deposit to the league, which they believe should have been returned after they completed the season. The matter was referred by Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.

Government & Global Trade  

Chicago Partner Ty Fahner, assisted by Chicago Associate Bishop Grewell, is working with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago supporting their efforts to bring about pension reform for the State of Illinois.

Partners Andrew Legg (London), Jamie Parkinson (US), and Rainer Markfort (Berlin), assisted by Associates Christian Schefold and Christiane Freund (Berlin) (among others) have been advising BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) on draft guidance published by the UK Government under the Bribery Act and comparative US and German provisions.

Judge William H. Webster, Chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, has asked Washington Partner Adrian Steel to assist with a review of the FBI's activities prior to the November 5, 2009 shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas.  This will involve an examination of what the FBI knew and how it responded to the information it received, but also a review and legal analysis of current policies, procedures and law applicable to the FBI's ability to detect, deter and prevent such actions in the future.  Washington Associate Margaret-Rose Tretter and Washington Paralegal Alicia Kartorie are also working on this matter. 

Washington Partner Sydney Mintzer, assisted by Washington Associate Kristy Balsanek, is helping Oxfam International to draft and negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty which will establish binding criteria for analyzing international arms transfers in order to clearly determine when an arms transfer is prohibited.   They will provide feedback on the text of the treaty, which has been drafted by the NGO community.  They will also provide legal support in preparing for different stages of negotiations and assist with a Real Time Response Unit which will respond to urgent legal and policy questions during the negotiations.

HIV/AIDS

Chicago Associate Katherine Cunningham, under the supervision of Chicago Partner Donna Morgan, will draft estate planning documents, including powers of attorney and a will, for a client suffering from hemophilia and HIV. The client was referred by the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago.

Immigration/Asylum/Refugees

Chicago Associate Catherine Bernard, under the supervision of Director of Pro Bono Activities and Litigation Training Marc Kadish, is representing a Pakistani citizen in her third attempt to reopen proceedings that resulted in a removal order issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  We have represented her in two successful Seventh Circuit appeals of the BIA’s denials of her motions to reopen.  Her eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal is based on the claim that if she returns to Pakistan, she will be forced by her family to marry against her will or suffer serious physical harm for refusing, including possible death in an “honor killing.” The case was originally referred by the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Chicago Partner Sheila Finnegan, assisted by Chicago Paralegals Stan Matthews and Zobeida Beal, will help an undocumented immigrant victim of domestic violence with compiling and filing her U-Visa application.  The U-Visa program is designed to provide legal immigration status to noncitizens who are assisting or willing to assist authorities investigating crimes. U-Visa holders qualify for employment authorization and  may apply for lawful permanent residence after 3 years. The matter was referred by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Houston Associate Anne Kersch, supervised by Houston/New York Partner Mitch Gibbons, is assisting a woman from Mali who is seeking asylum. Our client fled Mali with her 4-year-old daughter to prevent the daughter from becoming a victim of female genital mutilation. The matter was referred by the Tahirih Justice Center.

Los Angeles Associate Elizabeth Han, supervised by Los Angeles Partner Warren Loui, is assisting an undocumented immigrant who was the victim of an attempted rape with her U-Visa application.  The U-Visa program offers victims of crimes who come forward to assist law enforcement agencies the possibility of obtaining nonimmigrant visas and work permits. The matter was referred by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

New York Associates Allison Zolot, Karen Mo, Rosa Morales, Natasha Goldvug and Lauren Attard, along with New York Accounts Payable Assistant Marie Paul, who helped with translation, participated in a clinic held by the New York City Bar Justice Center in conjunction with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to assist Haitian nationals applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  The Obama Administration granted TPS to Haitian nationals currently living in or visiting the United States who would otherwise be deportable or become deportable.  This status is granted to eligible nationals of designated countries who cannot safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other emergencies.  Those granted TPS are able to remain in the United States legally for a specified period of time and obtain work permits. 

New York Associate Katie Hernandez, supervised by Assistant Director of Pro Bono Activities Marcia Maack, volunteered as a Hotline Operator at a clinic set up by the Legal Aid Society to assist Haitian Nationals with preparing and filing applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Obama Administration granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals who were living in or visitng the United States as of January 12, 2010, and who otherwise be deportable or become deportable.  TPS is granted to eligible nationals of designated countries who cannot  safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other emergencies.  Those granted TPS are able to remain in the United States legally for a specified period of time and obtain work permits, but cannot become permanent U.S. citizens. 

New York Associates Rosa Morales and Melissa Francis, supervised by New York Counsel Nancy Eisner, are assisting a 32-year-old woman from Nepal who is seeking asylum because of the persecution she faces as a result of a rare genetic skin disease that has caused significant disfigurement.  The matter was referred by Human Rights First.

New York Associate Kelly Glynn, supervised by New York Partner Terri Mazur and New York Counsel Nancy Eisner, is representing a woman from Turkmenistan in her claim for asylum.  Our client, who became a Baptist following the death of her son, fears she will be persecuted and possibly killed due to her religion.  Multiple members of our client’s family have been persecuted and tortured for their religious beliefs and political activity fighting religious repression. The matter was referred by Human Rights First.

Washington Associates Fidelis Agbapuruonwu, Suzanne Cartwright, and Colleen Coffey, supervised by Washington Partner Miriam Nemetz, is representing a woman from El Salvador who is in removal proceedings and filing for asylum.  The matter was referred by the Tahirih Justice Center.

Washington Associate Krista Lindhard, supervised by Washington Counsel Carol Bilzi, is assisting a woman from Pakistan who has been battered by her spouse with obtaining permanent residency through the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) program. The matter was referred by the Tahirih Justice Center.

Intellectual Property

Chicago Associate Jason White, supervised by Chicago Partner Jason Schmitz, will provide general intellectual property advice to the Everybody Wins! Foundation, and will assist with registering a US trademark.  The Foundation is a leading nonprofit literacy and mentoring organization that pairs adult volunteers with children in elementary school for weekly reading aloud and conversation sessions. 

London Associate Mahisha Rupan and London Partner Mary Bagnall have given intellectual property advice to Advocates for International Development.

New York Associates Amanda Stone and Nancy Hoffman, supervised by New York Counsel Gregory Frantz, are registering a trademark for a line of drawings and advising our client on potential copyright infringement, right of publicity, and damage to reputation claims he may face when incorporating famous buildings into his drawings. The matter was referred by Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

New York Associates Nancy Hoffman and Vanessa Biondo, supervised by New York Partner John Mancini, are assisting the Drug Policy Alliance with copyright assistance for an educational DVD produced with the support of a grant from the Department of Justice, and with trademark registration for the name of the educational program the DVD supports. The matter was referred by Lawyers Alliance for New York.

International Economic Development

Brussels Associates Margarita Peristeraki and Constantin Gissler conducted a training for ActionAid,  an international anti-poverty agency whose aim is to fight poverty worldwide. Formed in 1972, ActionAid has helped over 13 millionof the world's poorest and most disadvantaged people in 42 countries worldwide.

Partners Andrew Legg (London), Jamie Parkinson (US), and Rainer Markfort (Berlin), assisted by Associates Christian Schefold and Christiane Freund (Berlin) (among others) have been advising BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) on draft guidance published by the UK Government under the Bribery Act and comparative US and German provisions.

International Human Rights/Rule of Law

Washington Partner Gary Hnath, Chicago Associates Elizabeth Dyer and Jonathan Hunt, Berlin Associate Christiane Freund, London Associates Kristy Zander, Sean Hardy, Laura Pettit and Mahisha Rupan, and London Trainee Solicitor Anya Nixon, and Beijing Partner Terence Tung are working with Public Interest Law Institute (PILI)  Fellow Huang Xuetao on a project to create model legislation for Involuntary Commitment in China.  PILI advances human rights by stimulating public interest advocacy and developing the institutions necessary to sustain them. PILI Fellows are pioneering public interest lawyers from around the globe who participate in a one-year Fellowship Program. During their Fellowships, these young lawyers develop innovative rule-of-law projects to be implemented upon returning to their home countries. Huang Xuetao’s project focuses on promoting the recognition of legal rights for persons involuntarily committed for mental disabilities in China. Our assistance involves conducting research and producing a comparative memo of mental health legislation and involuntary commitment standards and proceedings for major nations.

Los Angeles Partner Mike Kerr and Los Angeles Associate Matthew Marmolejo, Chicago Associate Katherine Hochstetler, and New York Associate Elizabeth Moller is working with PILI Fellow Regina Shakirova, an attorney with the Kazan Human Rights Center, on a project to improve the implementation of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgments in Russia. The project’s goal is to develop a strategy for promoting stronger implementation of ECHR decisions by the Russian government.  Our assistance involves conducting a comparative study of ECHR decisions in order to identify trends, scale and scope of the types of cases that have been decided against Russia.  Russia is third on the list of countries with the most violations (more than 800) found against them by the ECHR and first on the list of countries with the most pending cases at the ECHR (more than 27,000).

Washington Associate Dave Wharwood, supervised by Washington Partner Simeon Kriesberg, advised Concordis International, a UK-based non-profit, peace-building organization, on U.S. law and regulations related to sanctions or anti-terrorism policies potentially restricting its work in Sudan.  By providing training in negotiation skills and conflict issues, Concordis facilitates dialogue between armed opposition groups, including individuals who may be considered "terrorists" under national legislation, international law or sanctions regimes.  The research is focusing on what law (if any) regulates this type of work and what compliance measures may be required.

Washington Partner Sydney Mintzer, assisted by Washington Associate Kristy Balsanek, is helping Oxfam International to draft and negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty which will establish binding criteria for analyzing international arms transfers in order to clearly determine when an arms transfer is prohibited.   They will provide feedback on the text of the treaty, which has been drafted by the NGO community.  They will also provide legal support in preparing for different stages of negotiations and assist with a Real Time Response Unit which will respond to urgent legal and policy questions during the negotiations.

Landlord/Tenant

Washington Associate J.C. Lowe, supervised by Washington Partner Gary Hnath, will represent a tenant in a bench trial defending against an eviction action. The matter was referred by the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.

Washington Associate Lili Kazemi, supervised by Washington Partner Tony Alexis, is assisting a student from the Cote D'Ivoire studying at the American University Washington College of Law with a landlord/tenant problem.  The matter was referred to the firm by the International Legal Studies Program of the Washington College of Law.

Mediation/Settlement Assistance

Chicago Associate Aaron Okin, supervised by Chicago Partner Matt Rooney, will assist a Cook County Jail inmate with settlement negotiations under the Northern District of Illinois’ Settlement Assistance Program.  The inmate filed claims against various jail employees alleging that he developed a skin infection after sleeping on an unsanitary mattress provided to him upon his arrival at the jail, that his initial requests for medical care were unconstitutionally ignored, and that his post-diagnosis treatment was unconstitutional. He seeks monetary damages as well as injunctive relief prohibiting the further distribution of unsanitary mattresses to inmates of the jail.

Chicago Partner Kevin Desharnais is assisting a pro se plaintiff in negotiations to settle his employment discrimination claim. Our client is suing his former employer for racial discrimination in connection with his termination. The matter is being handled under the Northern District of Illinois’ Settlement Assistance Program.

Microfinance/Microentrepreneurs/Social Entrepreneurs  

Charlotte Associates Will Walker and Ajanaclair Lynch, and Chicago Associate Matthew McDonald, supervised by Charlotte Partner Bob Mendenhall, are assisting an Ashoka Fellow, Thorkil Sonne, with obtaining 501(c)(3) status in the United States for The Specialist People Foundation, which was started last year in Denmark. By demonstrating that people with autism can not only function in the business world, but can thrive as specialists in certain types of work,  the Foundation hopes to transform the way society perceives autism – from viewing it as a handicap to instead seeing it as a competitive advantage – and to create meaningful and productive jobs for one million people.  Ashoka is a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage social change by sponsoring Fellows whose projects promote change within their communities. Since 1981, the organization has named over 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries.

Chicago Associate Allison Handy, supervised by Chicago/New York Partner David Carpenter, is assisting the Chicago Islamic Microfinance Project, a Chicago organization that intends to provide microfinance funding to businesses in economically under-developed city neighborhoods.  Following Islamic finance principles, the organization will form joint ventures with local business owners to provide capital without charging interest.  The organization also hopes to limit high transaction costs by working with a university in Chicago to establish a clinic where business and law students can manage the agreements and give advice.  Our work  includes developing form LLC agreements and drafting the university agreement.

New York Associates David Avila, Hugh McKee and Berwin Cohen, supervised by New York Partner Ed Davis, will assist a Brooklyn-based independent artist and curator with reviewing and  negotiating a commercial lease for a gallery space, forming an S Corporation, and counseling on tax compliance.  The matter was referred by the City Bar Justice Center Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project.

New York Associate Katherine Monge, supervised by New York Partner Jason Bazar, is updating and expanding Ashoka's 501(c)(3) manual to include considerations for organizations working abroad as well as filing and information returns requirements. Ashoka is a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage social change by sponsoring Fellows whose projects promote change within their communities. Since 1981, the organization has named over 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries.

Non-Profit Organizations

Brussels Associate Charles Helleputte and Brussels Partner Jean-Philippe Montfort are assisting Marie Stopes International with managing the process of registration of entities in Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda via local legal advisors.

Charlotte Associates Will Walker and Ajanaclair Lynch, and Chicago Associate Matthew McDonald, supervised by Charlotte Partner Bob Mendenhall, are assisting an Ashoka Fellow, Thorkil Sonne, with obtaining 501(c)(3) status in the United States for The Specialist People Foundation, which was started last year in Denmark. By demonstrating that people with autism can not only function in the business world, but can thrive as specialists in certain types of work,  the Foundation hopes to transform the way society perceives autism – from viewing it as a handicap to instead seeing it as a competitive advantage – and to create meaningful and productive jobs for one million people. 

Chicago Associate John Arbogast, supervised by Chicago Partner Trent Anderson, will assist Progressive Health Partnership (PHP), an organization founded by Duke University student Joshua Greenberg, with incorporating as a 501(c)(3) independent of the University.  PHP works to promote social justice in the area of health care on a global level. Last summer, PHP sent 10 students to Uganda on an infant and maternal mortality reduction project.  PHP is the recipient of a $180,000 grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities for a rainwater harvesting program in Uganda.

Chicago Associate Chad Diehl, supervised by Washington Partner Chris Kelly and Chicago Partner Rich Assmus, will assist the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) with negotiating a software development agreement and licensing related intellectual property rights. NACSA, a Chicago-based not-for-profit dedicated to the establishment and operation of quality charter schools, is the recipient of a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to engage a charter school consultant to develop a software product for use by charter school boards and others.  We will assist with the negotiations and drafting of the contract and will help develop a licensing program for the resulting software.

Chicago Associate Charles Wu, supervised by Chicago Partner Trent Anderson, is assisting with the merger of Freedom States Alliance and the States United to Prevent Gun Violence Research and Education Fund, two 501(c)(3) organizations.

Chicago Partner Patrick McNerney, assisted by Chicago Associates Michelle Dohra and Ryan Green, and Chicago Paralegals Mike Perlowski and Karen Streit, is providing general corporate advice, including assistance with annual reports, corporate minutes and other organizational issues, to the Lake Zurich Lacrosse Club, NFP, an organization dedicated to teaching young boys and girls from all socio-economic walks of life the joys of the game of lacrosse, sportsmanship and teamwork.

Chicago Associates Brad West and Ben Williams, supervised by Chicago Partner William Kucera, are assisting the Illinois Entrepreneurship & Small Business Growth Association with documenting and completing its merger with the Illinois State Microenterprise Initiative.  The matter was referred by the Community Economic Development Law Project.

Cologne Counsel Marius Boewe is advising the Abbey of Saint Ursula in Villingen (Black Forest), Germany in connection with its closure.

Houston Associates Jon Scott, Ben Hughes and Ryan Valenza, supervised by Houston/New York Partner Mitch Gibbons, are assisting Expedition Balance – a non-profit organization committed to helping combat veterans who return home with emotional trauma to regain their lives – with preparing  legal documents, including participation waivers and instructor contracts. The matter was referred by Probono.net.

London Associates Richard Hughes and Rose Meller, and London Partner Gary Bownes, have assisted a youth charity, The Squad, in relation to a Licence Agreement for their premises.

London Partner Rachel Speight is providing general corporate advice to the non-profit organisation, Women In Mining.

London Associate Victoria Matthews and Partner Martin Mankabady have been assisting Community Empowerment in Action with incorporation as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

London Trainee Solicitor Graham Gowland and Paralegal Mark Pollatos have been giving research assistance to the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School, for their BASEwiki website.

London Associate Leah Brand and Partner Andrew Sharples have given a capacity opinion in connection with the release of grant monies to fund a building for Willow Tree Pre-school.

London Associates Nichola Padget and Simon Hartley are advising 39 Youth Club in relation to the fixtures and fittings at the youth club.

Los Angeles Partner Elizabeth Mann is providing general corporate advice to MLA Partner Schools, a 501(c)(3) that holds a contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District to co-manage two of the city’s worst and most underperforming high schools. Los Angeles Associate Liz Kwon, supervised by Los Angeles Partner Brian May, is reviewing a contract MLA intends to sign with a local hotel where MLA plans to hold its annual gala event.

New York Associate Josh Marinelli, supervised by New York Partner David Duffee, will advise Community Access, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that assists people with psychiatric disabilities to transition from shelters and hospitals to independent living, with respect to joint venture agreements with another not-for-profit. The matter was referred by Lawyers Alliance for New York.

New York Associates Maurice Worsley, supervised by New York Partner Jason Bazar, is assisting Partners in Empowerment, a non-profit whose mission is to help financially disadvantaged New York City high school students with the college admission and scholarship application process, with obtaining 501(c)(3) status.  The matter was referred by the Lawyers Alliance for New York.

New York Senior Counsel Werner Hein is advising Malcolm O'Hagan and the American Writers Museum Foundation on issues associated with establishing the first American Writers Museum.  Initial work consists of trademark registration, drafting by-laws and filing a 501(c)(3) application.

New York Associate Katherine Monge, supervised by New York Partner Jason Bazar, is updating and expanding Ashoka's 501(c)(3) manual to include considerations for organizations working abroad as well as filing and information returns requirements. Ashoka is a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage social change by sponsoring Fellows whose projects promote change within their communities. Since 1981, the organization has named over 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries.

New York Associate Monica Hill, supervised by Houston/New York Partner Mitch Gibbons, is assisting My Sister, My Friend, Inc., a not-for-profit group that was organized to promote women's empowerment and well-being, with dissolving the organization and distributing its remaining assets to other non-profits that focus on women's empowerment.  The  matter was referred by Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A.

Palo Alto Associate Drew Holmes, supervised by Palo Alto Partner Brandon Baum, is assisting Sara Bolder and her husband Jim LeBrecht with obtaining 501(c)(3) status for their non-profit organization, the Inclusive Media Project.  The Project's goal is to produce media that offers varied, realistic and nuanced view of people with disabilities through an on line community website where individuals can post and share videos that show different facets of living with disabilities.  The Project is an outcome of the couple's experiences dealing with Mr. LeBrecht's Spina Bifida, a condition that has confined him to a wheelchair.  The matter was referred by Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.

Public Benefits

Attorneys in the New York Office have been helping low-income adults with disabilities access Medicaid benefits through the Supplemental Needs Trust Project organized by Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.  New York State created the Supplemental Needs Trust to allow those eligible for Medicaid to put any income exceeding the $767 Medicaid monthly limit, which has to be “spent down” on medical bills, into a trust to be used instead for monthly expenses such as rent, food and utilities.  Attorneys who have recently taken cases through this project include Counsel Jeff Tougas and Associates George Rudy, Jonathan Bernstein, David Hakim, Allison Young, Kelly Glynn, Chris Barrett, Gina del Tatto, David McGill, Megan Bright, Lisa Plush, Charles Korschun, and Dan Nicolas.  New York Partner Hank Bullock is overseeing the project with the assistance of Paralegal Jessica Neris, who is helping to coordinate our work. 

Tax

Charlotte Associate Helen Holmberg, supervised by Charlotte Partner Wells Hall and assisted by Charlotte Paralegal Julia Leopard, is advising a North Carolina high school band booster club on an exempt organization audit being conducted by the IRS. 

Chicago Associate Tom Shinnick, supervised by Chicago Partner Scott McCue, is assisting Casa Aztlan, a 501(c)(3) organization, with IRS negotiations seeking a reduction in tax penalties and the return of seized property. The organization’s goal is to sustain the cultural identity of the Mexican community in Pilsen by providing support services to combat social violence, discrimination and poverty. The matter was referred by the Community Economic Development Law Project.

Chicago Associate Kelsey Arnold, supervised by Chicago Partner Greg Barton, is representing a low income taxpayer in a collections due process hearing and in negotiating a compromise with the IRS to settle his outstanding tax liability. The matter was referred by a clinic operated by the Center for Economic Progress.

Chicago Associate Katherine Cunningham, supervised by Chicago Partner Scott McCue, is advising the Atlantic Arts Foundation, Inc., a tax exempt public charity in the U.S., with respect to tax issues related to an opera being organized in France.  The Paris Office is advising the organization on creating a French entity to run the opera, and Katherine is advising on U.S. tax issues involved in the Foundation becoming a shareholder of the for-profit French entity, and on general U.S. public charity compliance issues.

Palo Alto Counsels Karen Grotberg and David Spaulding, supervised by Palo Alto Partner Maureen Gorman, are preparing an application for John Stott Ministries to correct errors made in administering its retirement plan. The application is being submitted under the IRS's Voluntary Compliance Program in an effort to preserve the organization’s tax-qualified status.

Trusts and Estates/Wills

Houston Associates Victor Zhao and Christine McMillan participated in the Wills (Preparation) Clinic operated by the Association of Corporate Counsel. The matter was referred by the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program.

Houston Partner Dan Fleckman is probating the will of an illiterate woman who died with only a small home and some cash. 

Veterans Benefits

Washington Staff Attorney Peyton Inge, supervised by Washington Partner Evan Tager, is representing a veteran injured while serving in the U.S. Army who is contesting the 50% disability rating assessed by the Veterans Administration.  The matter was referred by the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

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