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.
Shearman & Sterling, New York
Shearman & Sterling LLP has represented over 50 refugees and their families through Human Rights First’s pro bono asylum legal representation program. Of these cases, about 30 were taken on in the last five years, reflecting a significant increase in commitment from the firm. Because of the firm’s pro bono asylum representation, refugees who have fled persecution and torture in places like Burma, Uzbekistan, Haiti, the Congo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Sudan have won the right to live in safety in this country, instead of being deported back into the hands of their persecutors. The firm has also been a leader in the representation of detained asylum seekers – one out of every three clients they have taken on in recent years has been detained at an immigration jail. This help has been critically important, as it can sometimes be difficult to recruit attorneys to take on the cases of asylum seekers held in detention. Shearman has consistently been willing to take on complex asylum cases, as well as cases with approaching deadlines. We are extremely grateful for the outstanding coordinating and supervisory work of Saralyn Cohen, the firm’s Pro Bono Counsel and Director of Pro Bono.
Latham & Watkins, Washington, DC
Latham & Watkins LLP has taken on a total of 58 asylum cases through Human Rights First, both in New York and in Washington, DC. The firm began working with Human Rights First in 1991, and their involvement with our legal representation program has grown substantially in the past seven years. Specifically, in Washington DC, Latham has taken on 36 cases in the last eight years. They have won asylum for refugees fleeing a variety of countries, including Zimbabwe, Albania, Chad, China, Colombia, and Russia. The firm has also hosted training seminars for Human Rights First. Steven Schulman, who served as Latham & Watkins’ first Pro Bono Counsel from 2001 to 2004, has played a leading role in overseeing the firm’s pro bono asylum representation. Claudia O’Brien, a partner with the firm, has also recruited Latham attorneys to take on asylum cases, and provided critical support to these pro bono attorneys over the course of their representations.