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.
Judge Frankel understood the critical difference that probono representation can make. He promoted this kind of public service at his law firm, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and through his human rights work. Under his leadership Human Rights First developed a nationally recognized pro bono program through which lawyers in New York and Washington now represent more than 1,000 refugees from more than 80 countries in their asylum proceedings.
Each year attorneys donate over 60,000 hours of their time — a donation the equivalent of over $18 million in legal fees — to helping asylum clients. Pro bono attorneys also provide invaluable support to Human Rights First in other ways, including preparing amicus curiae briefs in cases involving important issues of international human rights law.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, New York Area Firm
Debevoise has been a consistent leader in our pro bono efforts for many, many years. The quantity and quality of their work on asylum cases has been consistently high. The firm has also taken on other projects, and last year completed a research project t that analyzed the laws of other countries to ascertain what safeguards, if any, their laws have to prevent the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers. The firm has taken on 40 cases in the last five years, 17 of which were taken on in just the last two years.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, DC Area Firm
Fried, Frank has been a tremendous leader in the DC area, taking cases on consistent basis since 1996, which was only a few years after our DC office opened. Their work has been outstanding. Led by Special Counsel Karen Grisez, the firm has taken on extremely complicated and challenging asylum cases and their steadfast dedication and hard work has resulted in winning asylum for some of most vulnerable asylum seekers, including victims of gender based persecution. This extremely significant given that gender based claims are complicated and require significant research and creative lawyering. Karen recounted in detail the challenges and rewards of representing asylum seekers in an article that appeared this August in the Legal Times, which highlighted the firm’s partnership with us. In addition, Fried Frank generously donates office space for trainings and meetings which has been integral in building a stronger and more cooperative pro bono spirit in Washington DC.
Sidney S. Rosdeitcher, Individual Achievement
Sidney, an attorney from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, did an outstanding job of handling a particularly complex asylum case. Sidney became involved in the case when it was on appeal. The client, a young African woman who had fled to the US in search of refuge, had already been detained in the U.S. for over a year. The case, argued by a strong team of Paul, Weiss, Wharton & Garrison lawyers, had been denied by both the immigration judge and the immigration appellate board despite its merit, and was going to be presented to a federal appeals court. Sidney stepped in, supervising the case and arguing it himself. He knew the extensive and complicated record in detail, and argued persuasively to the Court. Even though the Court ruled in his favor, the ordeal was not over for the client. The government decided to ask for a rehearing on some procedural issues — threatening to leave the client detained for much longer. Sidney’s team of lawyers filed a new parole request, and got the client released based on the favorable federal court decision. At that time, she had been detained for just over three years. He then began a long and challenging series of negotiations and frustrations as the case was bounced back between the federal court and the immigration appellate board. Finally, due to Sidney’s determination and hard work, his client was granted asylum and she is now finally able to begin her life in the U.S.
Alexandra Doumas, Individual Achievement
Alexandra, an attorney with Lowenstein Sandler, has, over the last 5 years, represented 7 asylum seekers who have been detained at the Elizabeth detention facility. Her clients have included a Sudanese Christian woman who fled forced slavery and a minister from Liberia who criticized his government’s use of child soldiers. She has represented her clients at all levels, from immigration court to federal appeals court. Alexandra has also supervised and mentored 8 other attorneys at her firm, helping them to successfully represent their refugee clients, a high proportion of which are detained cases, which are particularly labor and resource intensive… In addition to serving as the pro bono coordinator for asylum cases at her own firm, Alex has assisted in the Human Rights First’s efforts to recruit attorneys at other New Jersey firms to take on pro bono asylum cases.