Every year at Morgan Lewis, our lawyers and legal personnel devote tens of thousands of hours to pro bono client representations. We have provided legal services to many hundreds of non-profit and non-governmental organizations and have changed the lives of thousands of individuals who otherwise would not have had access to representation. Our colleagues engage in these charitable activities because of their desire to make a difference for deserving people wherever they can.
Through our hard work and commitment, we achieve significant results for our pro bono clients. Some recent pro bono practice achievements include:
Our Los Angeles office was part of a team of legal services organizations, private lawyers, and law professors who settled a suit to resolve claims on behalf of thousands of people deprived of proper benefits under Los Angeles County’s General Relief program. General Relief, which is administered by the county and mandated by state law, provides critical cash aid to help individuals secure resources for basic survival. Most General Relief recipients are homeless and rely on this aid for necessities such as food and medicine. The suit, Guillory, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, resolved claims involving approximately 106,000 individuals who were improperly denied General Relief benefits in violation of state law and constitutional guarantees of due process.
Our lawyers’ first-rate strategic thinking and problem solving skills enabled this landmark result while avoiding the delays and costs of litigation. Morgan Lewis and its co-counsel reached this landmark settlement agreement following 15 months of intensive negotiations with Los Angeles County.
In covering these significant reforms, the Los Angeles Times wrote that “the county is modernizing how it lets homeless people, who make up 60% of the roughly 100,000 people on general relief, know about regulations, deadlines and penalties.”
In recognition of our tremendous work in this matter, Public Counsel, our co-counsel on this matter and the United States’ largest legal services organization, selected our lawyers to receive its prestigious 2014 Volunteer Appreciation President’s Award.
A cross-practice Houston team recently obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) for a five-year-old girl we have been representing since infancy. Our client, Baby S, was born in Mexico, a product of rape. After her biological father went to prison for the rape of her biological mother, Baby S’s biological mother sold her to smugglers who attempted to take her across the border into the United States. U.S. authorities captured and detained the smugglers and released our client into the custody of Catholic Charities. When Catholic Charities contacted Morgan Lewis about taking on this matter, we assembled a team and filed a petition for SIJS, a form of immigration relief available to undocumented children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Our team of lawyers worked for almost four years to terminate the parental rights of Baby S’s biological parents and to obtain permanent residency for her. After years of intense litigation, we were able to convince the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to dismiss the deportation proceedings filed against Baby S. In the meantime, Catholic Charities placed Baby S with a loving and caring foster family. Our work paved the way for Baby S’s wonderful foster family to formally adopt her.
Each year, we dedicate thousands of attorney hours and significant additional resources to a number of ongoing death penalty representations, including our work on behalf of Cathy Henderson. In 2005, at the request of Sister Helen Prejean, a cross-off Morgan Lewis team became involved in the representation of Ms. Henderson, a Texas death row inmate. Ms. Henderson was convicted of murder in the death of an infant she had been babysitting. The infant had died in what Ms. Henderson described as an accidental fall. However, at Ms. Henderson’s trial, the Medical Examiner (ME) testified that after conducting the autopsy of the infant, an accidental fall was an impossibility. That evidence led to a murder conviction and death sentence.
When Morgan Lewis became involved in the case, the conventional habeas proceedings had been virtually exhausted. We launched a new and detailed investigation of the facts and legal issues, focusing on the scientific evidence. We gathered evidence showing that the ME’s opinion and testimony were based on outdated and flawed science and that the injuries were indeed consistent with an accidental fall. Just a few weeks before Ms. Henderson’s scheduled execution date, Morgan Lewis lawyers obtained an affidavit from the ME who had testified at Ms. Henderson’s trial recanting his testimony and stating that based on the new evidence, he could no longer conclude that the death was caused by an intentional act.
Just two days before Ms. Henderson’s scheduled execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted preliminary relief on the Subsequent Writ we filed. On remand, the trial judge recommended that the appellate court vacate the judgment of capital murder against our client. And as a result of our advocacy and dedication, the Court of Criminal Appeals accepted that recommendation and ordered a new trial for our client. The District Attorney’s Office recently announced that it will not seek the death penalty at our client’s retrial.
San Francisco Litigation partner Molly Lane and San Francisco Litigation counsel George Cumming were honored with California Lawyer’s 2014 California Lawyer of the Year Award for their work on the Henderson matter.In recognition of the Death Penalty Practice’s historic achievements, the firm received the 2013 American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project’s Exceptional Service Award.
Every day, lawyers across our firm advise Not-for-Profits and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on a broad range of matters.
Our (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia) EMEAA NGO Practice is particularly noteworthy. Our Moscow lawyers regularly hold roundtables for and provide direct advice to NGOs in Russia that promote access to education, provide support services for the elderly and disabled, encourage charitable giving and address domestic health crises. We counsel and handle litigation for these NGOs on numerous employment issues including hiring and firing, labor contracts, leaves of absence disputes, and the use of volunteers. Our Moscow lawyers’ charitable commitment draws multiple accolades, including most recently, the 2013 Pro Bono Award from Legal Success Magazine and PILnet.
Our United States Not-for-Profit practice is equally robust. This past year, a team of lawyers in our New York office helped a charitable organization that raises money for wounded veterans, obtain the local permits required to conduct fundraising for veterans’ causes. Despite raising nearly $200,000 for wounded warriors and other veterans, our client was denied permits to continue its operations. After preparing a Freedom of Information Act request for several governmental agencies seeking any and all information used to make the decisions denying the permits, we prepared a detailed accounting of the client’s fundraising history and a chronology of its efforts on behalf of veterans. After multiple meetings with our lawyers, the main agency involved granted our client’s fundraising permits.