Patterson Belknap has a long and proud history of public service, embodied today in our unparalleled pro bono program. Every lawyer at the firm is active in pro bono work. Since 2004, 100% of our attorneys have participated in pro bono projects every year. By accepting the American Bar Association’s pro bono challenge, we agreed to devote up to five percent of the firm’s annual billable hours to public service work. The firm is consistently ranked near the top of The American Lawyer
’s annual pro bono survey.
At the heart of our pro bono program is a deep commitment to bringing the best possible legal representation to the most underserved, and frequently overlooked, populations. We are extremely proud of the work we do, frequently in partnership with some of the nation’s most respected legal services organizations. Our attorneys work one-to-one with clients daily to resolve legal issues that could otherwise leave them and their families devastated. While these matters are not always widely publicized, the work our attorneys perform both inside and outside the courtroom often makes the difference between our clients being sheltered or homeless, healthy or sick, and with or without a voice in the courtroom, before administrative agencies or in their daily lives.
We are one of only a handful of firms participating in Volunteers of Legal Service Inc.’s innovative pro bono program, the Children's Project, which matches firms with hospitals in New York City, in our case Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem. We collaborate with doctors, social workers and staff at the hospital to assist low-income families with sick children who are particularly vulnerable to unhealthy housing conditions, terminated public benefits and inappropriate special education placements. The program objective is to improve health outcomes for children through the provision of pro bono legal services.
We are also committed to the defense of human and civil rights. Our pro bono work includes the defense of prisoners on death row and our attorneys have filed several amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeal on issues relating to the “War on Terror.”
Over the years, the firm and its attorneys have been proud to receive several awards and recognitions based on our pro bono program. Some of these include:
- In 2012, several of our attorneys received The Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Publico Award for their outstanding service to The Legal Aid Society and its clients. The firm was also recognized for its work in connection with law reform litigation on behalf of children in foster care.
- Law360 named Patterson Belknap as one of 20 exceptional Pro Bono firms for 2012.
- MFY Legal Services, Inc. honored the Firm with its 2012 Partner in Justice award, in recognition of the substantial efforts of five of our attorneys in their lawsuit against "three-quarter house" operators and related parties. The lawsuit alleges that these operators engaged in widespread deceptive practices, harassed tenants, unlawfully evicted tenants and violated the rent stabilization code and laws, targeting homeless individuals, people completing substance abuse programs, and those recently out of prison seeking safe housing and access to support services.
- Legal Services NYC recognized several of our attorneys in 2011 for devoting their time and energy to fill the legal needs of low-income New Yorkers.
- Easter Seals New York presented the firm with its Corporate Leadership Award in 2011 based on our attorneys’ work with the organization.
- The Legal Aid Society recognized a number of our attorneys in 2010 for their work in the areas of affirmative litigation (a class action on behalf of children in foster care and in a second matter, class action challenges to procedures establishing continuing eligibility for public benefits), housing discrimination and retaliation claims, community economic development assistance, and criminal appeals, among others.
- MFY Legal Services, Inc. awarded 23 of our attorneys “2010 Partners in Justice” commendations in recognition of our work with MFY’s clients in the areas of housing, disability rights, kinship care, and adult home advocacy.
- The Association of the Bar of the City of New York honored a number of Patterson Belknap attorneys in 2010 with the Thurgood Marshall Award for Capital Representation.
- The Association of the Bar of the City of New York honored two of our attorneys with the Jeremy G. Epstein Award for their outstanding advocacy regarding challenging asylum cases.
- In 2010, Legal Services NYC honored four of our attorneys for their pro bono assistance in the area of real estate law.
- The Legal Aid Society's 2009 Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award. (Presented to firms who have shown an “outstanding commitment” to The Legal Aid Society by providing access to justice to low-income children, families and individuals.)
- The Legal Aid Society’s 2008 Public Interest Law Leadership Award for an attorney’s encouragement of our firm’s participation in litigation matters with the Legal Aid Society.
- The New York State Bar Association’s 2007 President’s Pro Bono Service Award for large law firms.
- New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s 2007 “Partnering for Justice Award.”
- MFY Legal Services, Inc., established a “Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler Fellowship” in honor of our pro bono contributions in New York City in 2005.
Examples of Patterson Belknap’s pro bono activities include:
- Litigated and reached settlement agreement in class action on behalf of children in foster care in New York City who are kept confined in acute psychiatric hospitals for prolonged periods of time despite medical determinations that they should be discharged. Settlement provides relief to the entire class and will help ensure that children in foster care in New York City are not subjected to confinement in acute-care psychiatric hospitals for any longer than is medically necessary.
- Won asylum for a deaf couple from Colombia in removal proceedings. Our attorneys found a combination of skills that allowed our clients to give voice to their experiences of discrimination and persecution in Colombia.
- Represented a former grocery store delivery man in the collection of over $25,000 in unpaid wages from various grocery stores and pharmacies in Manhattan. The client had escaped civil war in Rwanda where his father and brother were killed.
- Represented Artists for Haiti, a non-profit organization, in an auction at Christie’s that sold over $13 million worth of art to help support organizations working on health and education initiatives in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.
- Representation of class of children in foster care with developmental disabilities in suit alleging that government agencies have failed to provide required services and have left children in unduly restrictive placements. Class certification decision affirmed by the New York Court of Appeals.
- Assistance to an association of criminal defense lawyers by incorporating a related foundation and obtaining tax exemption for the foundation as a charitable and educational organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The foundation will provide and support programs and projects that advance justice by improving or developing the knowledge, skills and capabilities of attorneys, students and members of the general public interested in the law, criminal justice and criminal defense.
- Assistance to a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, CAMBA's Small Business Services program, to promote economic revitalization and growth by providing local micro-entrepreneurs with the skills and resources they need to compete in the modern market place.
- Litigation on behalf of mentally disabled men who allege they were subjected, without informed consent, to unnecessary surgery.
- Representation of residents in “three-quarter” housing who have suffered fraud and abuse by the housing operator.
- Representation of a public housing residents’ council in connection with its formation of a community development corporation.
- Assistance to victims of political oppression seeking asylum in the United States.
- Guardian ad litem representation of mentally disabled clients in connection with numerous civil court proceedings.
- Representation of low-income New Yorkers in connection with a landlord’s improper challenges to their tenancies.
- Preparation of an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the controversial enemy combatant cases.
- Representation in Alabama and Missouri inmate appealing a death sentence.
- Criminal appeals for defendants referred to the firm by legal service providers.
In order to reach those most in need and maximize the impact of our resources, the firm frequently partners on projects with highly regarded public interest organizations, including:
- MFY Legal Services, Inc.
- Human Rights First
- Human Rights Watch
- The American Civil Liberties Union
- The Legal Aid Society
- Volunteers of Legal Service, Inc.
- Lawyers for Children
- Urban Justice Center
- City Bar Justice Resource Center
- Immigration Equality
- New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
- Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation "A"
- Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
- The New York City Bar Refugee Assistance Program
- Advocates for Children
- Lawyers Alliance for New York
- The Bronx Defenders
- New York Legal Assistance Group