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Awards and Advocacy

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Human Rights First is grateful for the work of our pro bono attorneys—individuals who devote their time, resources, compassion, and strength to the representation of asylum-seekers.  The commitment of leading law firms to the pro bono representation of asylum-seekers has saved the lives of thousands of people who came to the United States for protection. 

Activists fighting for freedom around the globe continue to look to the United States for inspiration and count on us for support.  This country is strongest when our policies and actions match our values.  With the pro bono representation of asylum-seekers, leading law firms in the United States demonstrate the importance of protecting the human rights of those who come here for protection. 

The pro bono legal representation made possible by the partnership between Human Rights First and law firms also informs our advocacy on refugee protection issues, and vice versa. 

Over the years, we have acknowledged the work of our pro bono attorneys with various awards.

Frankel Award

Each year, Human Rights First honors the memory of Judge Marvin E. Frankel, a founding father of Human Rights First and former Chairman of our Board of Directors with an award in his name. Judge Frankel died in 2002. During his lifetime he dedicated time and energy to making a difference in the human rights movement.  More here

Pro Bono Star Award

The Pro Bono Star award is given to pro bono attorneys who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to their clients’ cases. While we are most grateful to all our pro bono attorney volunteers, these recipients have given extra time and care to their cases, balancing the needs of very traumatized clients with the complexities of their asylum cases.

November 2012 -- Scott Harlan in Washington DC, received the first ever “Pro Bono Star” award from Human Rights First.  This was devised as an occasional award for those attorneys who go above and beyond in their services to their clients.  The first recipient set a high standard.  Scott was and is an extraordinary advocate for his client, a young man from Ethiopia.  The client was so traumatized from his experiences—security forces killed his father and brother, and he was detained for almost three years—that he lost contact with his lawyer and went missing for a while.  Scott refused to give up on the case, spent months tracking his client down and after locating him, ensured that he seek treatment for his injuries and see a counselor to manage his trauma.  Though there were only a few months left until the final court hearing, Scott worked hard to get the case back on track and happily, the client was granted asylum in late 2011.