June 2014

In the fall of 2009, Squire Sanders (which became Squire Patton Boggs on June 1 through a combination with Patton Boggs) launched the Public Service Initiative (PSI), a new model of pro bono delivery that enables the firm to 1) devote more time and resources to taking on complex cases and 2) assist pro bono attorneys across the country with needed services such as communications and public relations consultants. In particular, the PSI focuses on death penalty, prison, and innocence cases, which can be years-long efforts requiring substantial groundwork and investigation to litigate. Squire Patton Boggs hired George Kendall to develop and run the PSI.

A quick interlude for a moment of Pro Bono Net History: George was a member of the Pro Bono Net Board from 2004 to 2007. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The two full-time attorneys assigned to the PSI, Corrine Irish and Carine Williams, devote 70% of their time to pro bono cases and the remaining 30% to paying matters. Through the PSI, Squire Patton Boggs is able to help close the justice gap by tackling cases that are beyond the scope of most pro bono attorneys. Rather than be discouraged by the cost and time of complex pro bono litigation, Squire Patton Boggs has developed a model that allows them to devote a large law firm’s attention and resources to these difficult cases.

Recently, Squire Patton Boggs collaborated with Holland & Knight and Miller & Chevalier to represent Richard Cooper, a 30-year resident of Florida’s death row. In 1982, Cooper was convicted of capital murder in a case where the only evidence presented in his defense was his mother’s testimony. His trial counsel did not attempt to discover any other evidence. George began working on the case in 2004 at Holland & Knight and brought it with him to Squire Patton Boggs and the PSI in 2009. In 2011, a federal appeals court overturned the death sentences, but the Florida DA filed for a retrial despite Cooper’s “remarkably positive record.” The case was finally resolved in May with Cooper receiving three life sentences.

In 2013, the PSI was able to marshal its unique resources to overturn the 1974 murder conviction of Herman Wallace, an innocent man who spent 41 years in solitary confinement. Wallace was convicted of murdering a prison guard despite an absence of physical or forensic evidence, and on the testimony of witnesses influenced by the state. Over the next 26 years, Louisiana steadfastly refused to disclose evidence necessary for Wallace’s defense. In 1990, Wallace appealed pro se and in 2005, while at Holland & Knight, George joined the case and a corresponding civil rights suit against Louisiana’s use of solitary confinement. When George moved to Squire Patton Boggs in 2009, he brought Wallace’s case with him to the PSI and after 19 unsuccessful years in Louisiana Courts, PSI lawyers filed a federal habeas corpus petition for Wallace in 2009. On October 1, 2013, US District Court Judge Brian Jackson declared Wallace’s conviction unconstitutional and ordered his immediate release from prison. Wallace, 71 and suffering from advanced terminal liver cancer, returned home to his family and passed away three days later.

The PSI provides Squire Patton Boggs with capacity to devote the time, resources, and care that is integral to success in these complicated and life-altering cases. George is particularly proud that Squire Patton Boggs has established a proven model for providing cost-effective and successful pro bono services on complex cases. Lawyers have a monopoly on the provision of legal services, but with that great power comes great responsibility and firms and the legal community can only fulfill their duty to meet the massive unmet demand for services through collaboration. As the PSI moves towards its 5-year anniversary, George hopes to fortify the initiative by taking on more difficult cases and fostering collaboration with other firms on costly and lengthy litigation.

On June 9th Pro Bono Net Executive Director Mark O’Brien and Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) Director Matthew Burnett participated in the inaugural conference of the New York Immigrant Assistance Consortium. Close to three hundred immigration advocates, legal service providers, government officials, and community members joined together to discuss how to better coordinate legal support for New York’s immigrant communities.

Pro Bono Net and IAN have been leading the conversation on the role of technology in helping to meet the inevitable increase in demand for services in the event of large scale changes to immigration law. O’Brien and Burnett moderated panels at the conference, sharing their knowledge and expertise with the wider New York immigration advocacy community. Both also sit on the Steering Committee of the New York Immigrant Assistance Consortium.

O’Brien moderated a panel on “Innovations in Outreach and Service Delivery through Technology.” Burnett joined the panel along with Adam Stofsky of New Media Advocacy Project, Jennifer Ching of Queens Legal Services and Lauren Burke of Atlas DIY. The panel focused on the existing work that is being done in the legal field – including IAN’s work developing cutting edge tools and approaches to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants, the role of technology in response to Superstorm Sandy, social media strategies for DACA and beyond, and the use of video and new media for community education and empowerment. The panel also discussed available opportunities for non-profits to engage with technology and the ways that technology can transform service delivery.

Burnett moderated a panel on “National Perspectives on Legalization Planning and Implementation.” Joining the panel were Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza, Larry Kleinman of CAPACES Leadership Institute, and Michelle Sardone of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). The group focused on preparing for large-scale immigration reform, and discussed lessons of past immigration reform efforts, the importance of planning for local issues, and current efforts to build capacity in the nonprofit immigration field.

“It was clear from the conference and the feedback from attendees that there’s much more to be done to plan and prepare for administrative or legislative changes to the immigration law,” said Burnett. “This conference was just the start of what I hope will become a larger conversation about how to more effectively meet the needs of New York’s diverse immigrant communities.”