WASHINGTON – 24 February 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP has announced the winners of its
Pro Bono Awards, created to honor attorneysâ€™ exceptional contributions to pro bono causes.
For the past five years, the annual awards have recognized the achievements of an
outstanding senior and junior associate. This year, for the first time, the firm
also recognized the remarkable work of a partner in the pro bono realm.
Receiving the partner award is Michael Bedke of Tampa. The winner of the senior
associate award is Joshua Sohn of the firmâ€™s New York office. Jared Genser of the
Washington, D.C., office received the junior associate award.
â€œThe Pro Bono Committee faced a very difficult choice this year, looking at the
hard work of numerous attorneys on behalf of those who would otherwise go without
representation,â€ said Elizabeth Dewey, DLA Piperâ€™s Pro Bono Partner. â€œIn
2004, Mike, Josh, and Jared all achieved important things in pro bono work that had
a terrific impact on their clients and communities.â€
Each of the award recipients will receive Aspen Institute Justice and Society
Seminar scholarships. The Aspen Institute’s mission is to foster enlightened
leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue
on contemporary issues.
About the Pro Bono Award recipients:
Michael Bedke is a partner in the firmâ€™s Real Estate practice, based in Tampa.
Mr. Bedke is well known in Florida for his enormous achievements on behalf of those
who otherwise would go without representationâ€”achievements that have put in place
large-scale, innovative legal services that have helped innumerable people in
Florida and across the nation. In more than 20 years of practice, he has devoted
particular attention to victims of domestic violence and of disasters. His approach
to providing pro bono legal services to disaster victims has become the template for
such relief efforts throughout the country.
In 2004, Mr. Bedke brought together such diverse Tampa-area figures as local police
and military leaders, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida; and the
heads of over two dozen social service organizations, who all signed a Memorandum of
Understanding agreeing to work together to combat domestic violence.
As a result of this collaborative success and his ongoing advocacy, in Fall 2004
Hillsborough County was declared the site of one of only 15 federally supported
Family Justice Center sites in the nation. Created under a new federal program,
Family Justice Centers are intended to provide victims of domestic violence with a
single office where they may address their numerous needs, legal, health, social
service, employment, and other.
In 2004, Mr. Bedke was recognized by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and State Attorney
General Charlie Crist as the Florida Victim Advocate of the Year, and the
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted a proclamation
praising Mr. Bedke. Mr. Bedke also is the recipient of Stetson College of Lawâ€™s
Wm. Reece Smith Award for his pro bono work.
Joshua Sohn is an associate in the firmâ€™s New York office in the Litigation
practice group. He was honored for his 2004 work on several important pro bono
In 2004, Mr. Sohn and his co-counsel, the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed an
appeal on behalf of the plaintiff class in Gulino, et al. v. The Board of Education
of the City School District of the City of New York and New York State Education
Department. The plaintiffs in this case, a group of African-American and Latino
public-school teachers, alleged that the defendants improperly used two standardized
tests as teacher certification requirements. Overwhelming statistical evidence has
shown that these tests have a disparate negative impact on minorities. In late 2003,
after a lengthy trial, the judge ruled in favor of the defendants. Mr. Sohn and his
co-counsel submitted appellate briefs during 2004. The appellate argument took
place in January this year.
Mr. Sohn also has helped the nonprofit organization Advocates for Children evaluate
the constitutionality of a new program aimed at ending social promotion in New York
Cityâ€™s public schools. The program would administer standardized tests in math
and language arts to third graders who, if they did not achieve an adequate score,
would have to repeat third grade. Because of his experience with standardized test
litigation, Mr. Sohn was asked to evaluate the policy. He worked closely with
lawyers from the NAACP/LDF in evaluating this new program and ultimately advised
against bringing any sort of legal challenge.
In another pro bono project, Mr. Sohn is involved along with the Center for
Constitutional Rights in litigation challenging the detention and eventual
deportation to Syria by the U.S. of a Canadian citizen.
Mr. Sohn also serves on the New York officeâ€™s pro bono committee and oversaw the
pro bono component of the firmâ€™s New York summer associate program.
Jared Genser is an associate in the firmâ€™s Federal Affairs and Legislative
practice group in the Washington, D.C., office. Mr. Genser is president and
co-founder of Freedom Now (www.freedom-now.org), an international non-governmental
organization that advocates on behalf of arbitrarily detained individuals whose
imprisonment violates fundamental principles of international law. The organization
seeks to free these prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and
public relations advocacy efforts.
In 2004, Mr. Genserâ€™s pro bono work for Freedom Nowâ€™s clients attracted
worldwide attention to their cases. For example, he represented Rev. Thadeus Nguyen
Van Ly, a Vietnamese Catholic priest sentenced to 15 years in prison after
testifying to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom about the lack
of religious freedom in Vietnam. Highlights of Mr. Genser’s work included his
winning Rev. Lyâ€™s case at the United Nations, facilitating a press conference on
Capitol Hill with several members of Congress calling for Rev. Lyâ€™s release based
on the U.N. decision, and publishing an op-ed essay in the Washington Post about the
Mr. Genser also helped recruit a bipartisan group of 107 co-sponsors on a U.S. House
of Representatives resolution calling for Rev. Lyâ€™s release. That resolution
ultimately passed on a vote of 424-1. As a result of Mr. Genser’s efforts, the
Government of Vietnam cut Rev. Lyâ€™s sentence twice, by five years each time,
finally releasing him from prison on February 1, 2005.
To date, Freedom Now has secured the release of five prisoners in such countries as
Burma, Egypt, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
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