Learn more about each award recipient in the upcoming Pro Bono Digital Edition of Super Lawyers Magazine, coming in May 2013.
STEVEN M. LIEBERMAN, Attorney; Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, P.C.; Washington, D.C.
Steven Lieberman is a partner at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, P.C., a Washington, D.C. based intellectual property law firm. Lieberman specializes in patent litigation and constitutional law.
Throughout 2012, Lieberman led attorneys from his firm in various pro bono initiatives. His pro bono work for this year has included the successful settlement of a case that upheld the protection of voting rights of all religious voters and expanded voter participation in all District of Columbia special elections. At matter in the case, which was filed against the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (“Board”), was the District’s scheduling of a Special Election on April 26, 2011, the 8th day of Passover, a day on which observant Jews cannot write or initiate any electronic activity. As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray introduced and supported legislation that will give the Board more flexibility in scheduling elections on dates that will provide the most voter participation, which includes taking into consideration whether election dates conflict with voter observance of religious or cultural holidays.
Lieberman took on other matters of great importance to the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., and beyond—he regularly represents Ohev Sholom, D.C.’s National Synagogue, in pro bono matters, and he worked pro bono on a lawsuit filed against Venezuela President Hugo Chavez for reported government attacks in that country against Jewish institutions. This year also saw other significant pro bono cases in progress, for example, Glassman v. Clinton, a workplace discrimination suit brought against the U.S. Department of State on behalf of a disabled foreign service officer.
PEARL LAW GROUP, Law Firm; San Francisco, CA
Immigration boutique Pearl Law Group is devoted exclusively to employment-based immigration law and related global mobility guidance. Founded in 1995, the firm has a staff of over 40, including nine US-based attorneys, plus over 1,000 professionals in 40 cities through the legal entity Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers.
Pearl Law Group’s commitment to helping those less fortunate served the community at large in 2012. Matters of pro bono significance included the firm’s successful stay of deportation for a father of two young children who suffers from immune system disorders; obtaining a visitor visa for an elderly Chinese woman—who had twice been denied—to come to the United States to see her grandchild for the first time; and helping an Indian spiritual leader and healer to enter the United States to conduct healing workshops and give spiritual lectures around the country via his innovative Indian NGO.
While the attorneys enjoy individual casework, as a team Pearl has established a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for candidates in the San Francisco area, which helps undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 who entered the U.S. as children to defer removal and potential deportation.
Pearl Law Group is a founding member of the invite-only Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL), which is comprised of a roster of global immigration firms and is devoted to consistently high standards of representation.
J. ROBERT LINNEMAN (ROB), Attorney; Santen & Hughes, Cincinnati, OH
A partner at Santen & Hughes, a Cincinnati-based firm that serves clients in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, J. Robert Linneman represents people and businesses in strategic planning, negotiations, administrative proceedings, mediation, arbitration and litigation.
Throughout 2012, Linneman donated hundreds of hours to protestors involved in the Occupy Cincinnati movement, a body of work that encompassed 313 cases in which he served as pro bono counsel. More than 100 members of Occupy Cincinnati were criminally charged and/or physically arrested. During the height of the protest and the months of legal proceedings that followed, Linneman fought to defend the civil rights of the protestors, many whom could not afford legal counsel. For many weeks, Linneman met with protestors and organizers at the Occupy camp, observed police activity and attended court for arraignments and hearings. On weekends, he continued his work by organizing local watch groups, speaking on the importance of the freedom of speech and assembly, meeting with local law enforcement and civic officials and researching and drafting the pleadings and motions in the 313 cases. His actions, which culminated in a dismissal of all 300-plus cases, made him the first lawyer in the country to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the government on behalf of an Occupy group.
AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD, Law Firm; Washington, D.C.
Akin Gump is an international law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., with 800-plus attorneys throughout the country and across the globe. Akin Gump, committed to servicing clients in need regardless of the ability to pay, is a charter signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. The challenge commits Akin Gump to devote at least 60 pro bono hours per lawyer per year; in 2012, the firm’s U.S. attorneys provided, on average, 89 hours to pro bono clients.
This year proved no different. While Akin Gump prides itself on taking high-profile public interest cases, like the human rights litigation Yousuf v. Samantar, in which two dozen of the firm’s lawyers helped secure a landmark $21 million decision for seven Somali plaintiffs who brought claims of extrajudicial killing, torture and war crimes against General Ali Samantar, it also directly represents the most vulnerable members of our community. Such projects this year include obtaining asylum for clients across the United States, working with abused immigrant women via the firm’s Violence Against Women Act Summer Project, and representing disabled individuals seeking benefits from the Social Security Administration.
WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW – CLINICAL LAW PROGRAM, Law School Effort; Morgantown, WV
The Clinical Law Program at West Virginia University College of Law offers students the opportunity to practice a full range of lawyer skills while serving the citizens of West Virginia. Structured like a major law firm, students gain the experience to work across multiple practice areas, like child and family law, general civil practice, immigration, veterans’ assistance, entrepreneurial law and land use and sustainable development. Clinics include the West Virginia Innocence Project, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, the Veterans Assistance Project, the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic and the Medico-Legal Family Advocacy Clinic, in addition to others.
Through work in these clinics, on average, 40 students per year provide more than 22,000 hours of free legal assistance to low-income West Virginia citizens. Highlights from 2012 include West Virginia’s Veteran’s Assistance Project, which is a first of its kind, national agreement between the Lewis A. Johnson Clarksburg Veterans’ Administration Hospital and the college. Utilized as a national model, the agreement enables the Clinical Law Program to receive referrals directly from the hospital.
Also in 2012, students in the Immigration Clinic successfully obtained a stay of removal for a Mexican family with young children who suffer from hearing impairments, and obtained temporary protective status for a Syrian family who would have been in severe danger had they been forced to return to Syria and the ongoing horrific violence in Homs.
JENNIFER CUNHA, Law Student; University of Wisconsin Law School; Madison, WI
Jennifer Cunha is in her final year at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she’ll earn her J.D. and a master’s degree in public affairs. In her tenure at the university, Cunha served as president of Legal Assistance for Disaster Relief (LADR), supported and expanded the law school’s Pro Bono Program and participated in a number of academic clinical courses, in which she successfully represented clients in a variety of areas.
LADR matches law students with volunteer opportunities at nonprofit legal aid firms in areas affected by natural disasters. During school breaks, law student volunteers give a week of their time to assist dedicated public interest attorneys with post-disaster increases in their case loads. Cunha joined LADR in 2010 and within a year, was elected president and grew the organization from four to 70 members, making it one of the law school’s most vibrant student organizations. Through her work, Cunha developed strong ties with legal aid organizations on the Gulf Coast and East Coast, including in Biloxi, Mississippi, New Orleans, and Edison, New Jersey with 18 law students participating in LADR trips in the 2011 to 2012 school year; 32 will participate in 2012 to 2013.
Cunha contributed 250 hours of work in 2012 to the Domestic Violence Immigration Clinic and almost 500 hours as an intern for the state public defender in rural northern Wisconsin. She also gave more than 50 hours of pro bono volunteer service to the law school’s Criminal Appeals Project.
As a member of the Pro Bono Program’s student advisory committee, Cunha worked to increase publicity of student pro bono efforts and advocated for pro bono service within the student body, including the development of a fundraising tutorial for student organization leaders.
PITTSBURGH PRO BONO PARTNERSHIP, Collaboration; Pittsburgh, PA
The Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership is a unique collaboration of 34 law firms, legal departments, and legal aid providers within Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The organization’s mission is to provide direct legal services to low-income families and individuals in the greater Pittsburgh area, with particular emphasis on communities in economic distress. It does so via various Signature Projects, which are managed by pairing member law firms with member corporate legal departments, and supported by legal aid organizations. On average, Signature Projects help more than 525 families a year.
Projects include services to the homeless, low-income veterans, families dealing with child custody matters, and senior citizens in needs of wills and advance health care directives; as well as cases involving unemployment compensation, landlord-tenant disputes, litigation matters, protection from domestic violence and criminal records expungement.
Through this innovative collaboration, the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership has expanded equal access to the legal system for the people of Pittsburgh, regardless of their ability to afford an attorney.
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.
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Murray Schwartz of Schwartz & Perry has been practicing for 60 years. He currently focuses exclusively on all facets of employment law, including employment discrimination.