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.
Sullivan and Cromwell LLP (New York)
This award recognizes that Sullivan and Cromwell LLP has taken on a total of 35 asylum cases to date through Human Rights First, and became more active over the past three years. The firm has won asylum for 26 asylum clients and the remainder were still pending as of the time of this award. In 2010 they won asylum for a man from the Ivory Coast who suffered persecution because of his involvement with the Ivorian opposition party, Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR), and also took on about five new cases for pro bono representation. Sullivan and Cromwell LLP has demonstrated willingness to take on challenging cases, cases at various procedural levels, and detained cases, as well as taking on a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). They have also built up a good amount of in-house expertise and enthusiasm for this work within the firm; Claire Hunter, who has since left New York to return to Vancouver, BC, was a major force in this, but the firm as a whole is also very supportive of pro bono work and their organizational commitment to our program has definitely survived Claire’s departure. We are grateful for the firm’s impressive commitment to pro bono representation which has made it possible for many asylum-seekers to eventually obtain immigration status and reunite with their families in the United States.
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP (Washington, D.C.)
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP has had a long and successful history with the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First. With the support of partner Allen Sokal, Finnegan took its first pro bono asylum case in 1997. The relationship has continually strengthened over the years and, to date, Finnegan has successfully won every asylum case we have collaborated on. In 2010 alone the firm won six asylum cases, including that of an Afro- Colombian activist fleeing threats against his life, a young man from Pakistan fleeing Taliban death threats, and a Salvadoran domestic abuse case with an urgent filing deadline. Last year, the firm also won asylum for an Ethiopian activist whose family, after a long and painful separation, have recently been reunited in the United States, all due to the their pro bono team’s diligent work. It is clear to us that attorneys at Finnegan are eager and willing to take on a wide variety of cases—many of which provided an even wider variety of challenges—and represent each client with the kind of care and enthusiasm that the Frankel Award seeks to recognize. Not only that, but the entire support staff at Finnegan, including Litigation Coordinator Nancy Edwards, takes special care to make sure that each client is served at the highest possible level. We simply couldn’t ask for more from a partnering firm. Human Rights First extends its warmest thanks and congratulations to Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP.