LawFuel.com – 27 May 2010 – DLA Piper is pleased to announce that the firm’s Seattle office has been selected for the Washington State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Award for its pro bono work in 2009. The Seattle office will be honored during the 15th annual Washington State Access to Justice Conference on June 5 at the Coast Wenatchee Convention Center in Wenatchee, Washington.
DLA Piper’s Seattle office was recognized for the extraordinary pro bono work and contributions of its lawyers and staff, particularly in the area of immigration and parental rights. Last year, Seattle lawyers and paralegals devoted over 3,600 hours and over seven percent of their billable time to pro bono causes.
“DLA Piper could not be more proud of the pro bono contributions and unyielding dedication of our Seattle lawyers to those less fortunate in their community and around the world,” said Elizabeth Dewey, U.S. Pro Bono Partner for DLA Piper. “The depth and breadth of the Seattle office’s ongoing commitment to pro bono initiatives is nothing short of extraordinary, and we congratulate them on this well-deserved honor.”
Recent examples of the Seattle office’s noteworthy pro bono work include:
Representation of Immigrant Families in Parental Rights Cases
DLA Piper lawyers Omar Riojas and Jeff Coopersmith and, former of counsel Christopher Huck, have been at the forefront of the yet to be resolved nationwide issue of a state’s authority to bring parental termination actions against parents detained due to immigration status. The attorneys have earned international media coverage and attention from foreign government officials for their representation of mothers who have lost their parental rights as a result of their detention. Since 2005, Seattle lawyers have devoted over 5,000 hours to immigration work, valued at $2,200,000.
The firm’s Seattle attorneys secured a significant victory in June 2009 before the Nebraska Supreme Court. The Court, in an unanimous opinion, reversed a Nebraska juvenile court order terminating the parental rights of a Guatemalan immigrant mother. The reversal enabled Maria Luis to seek permanent reunification with her two children, who she had been separated from for over four years. Attorneys, academics and immigrant advocates have widely recognized this decision as setting important precedent, which will positively affect thousands of other undocumented parents facing similar situations nationwide.
Based on their work for Luis, DLA Piper’s Seattle attorneys were approached by counsel for the Guatemalan consulate to take on a similar case involving a Guatemalan immigrant mother’s custody battle. A Missouri juvenile court terminated Encarnación Bail’s rights to her child in October 2008 and granted a Missouri couple’s petition to adopt Bail’s son without her consent. Thus far, the firm’s Seattle lawyers have devoted over 2,000 hours to Bail’s case and continue to work tirelessly to reunite her with her son.
Immigration Victories Granting Political Asylum
DLA Piper’s Seattle office has also obtained significant victories for pro bono clients seeking political asylum in the U.S. Jeff Coopersmith and Nicole Tadano recently led a team of DLA Piper lawyers who achieved a political asylum victory on behalf of a couple from The Gambia with three young children.
The case involved a claim that one of the clients was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was a young girl in The Gambia. Her husband’s entitlement to remain in the U.S. was dependent on her claim for asylum. Although Ninth Circuit law is favorable to applicants for asylum based on FGM, this case was challenging because the client did not file an asylum applicant within one year from her entry into the U.S., and the law requires that extraordinary circumstances be shown to justify the delay. Despite these and other challenging facts, the immigration judge found the requisite extraordinary circumstances and granted asylum, which sets the clients on a path to U.S. citizenship.
National Research on Rights of the Disabled
Megan Muir in DLA Piper’s Seattle office leads a massive research effort on behalf of the Arc of the United States, an organization that works on behalf of the mentally disabled nationwide. For the past year, Muir has helped coordinate a state by state survey of the law with regard to the incentives states provide to mentally disabled individuals who live and work in their homes, rather than being committed to institutions.
About DLA Piper (www.dlapiper.com)
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