Gibson Dunn | Pro Bono

Pro Bono

October 19, 2018

Gibson Dunn Tackles Family Separation at the Border

On May 7, 2018, the administration implemented a “zero tolerance policy,” pursuant to which all adults found to be entering the United States illegally would be subject to criminal prosecution.  Furthermore, all adults who crossed the border accompanied by a minor child would be separated from that child.  Many of the individuals affected by this policy were asylum seekers who had been forced to flee their homes due to violence and persecution. By June, more than 2,300 children had been separated from their parents under this policy, leading to national and international outrage.  On June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an Executive Order meant to end the separation of families crossing the border by requiring preservation of the “family unit” wherever possible, while still maintaining enforcement of immigration laws.  However, the order did nothing to address reunification of the families already separated and the crisis caused by tearing apart these families and scattering them across the country, often without adequate methods to ensure reunification could be achieved. In this time of crisis, lawyers throughout the country stepped up and volunteered their services to protect the rights of these families.  Gibson Dunn is very proud to have been a big part of that effort. View the Newsletter
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February 27, 2018

Gibson Dunn Announces Annual Pro Bono Award Winners

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to announce the winners of the firm’s annual team and individual Frank Wheat Memorial Awards. Every year, Gibson Dunn presents its Frank Wheat award to lawyers in the firm who obtain significant results for their pro bono clients and demonstrate leadership and initiative that serve as inspiration to others. This year, the team award is presented to lawyers in offices across the country who worked tirelessly to protect the civil liberties and due process rights of individuals impacted by various new immigration-related policies and procedures. This includes a multi-office effort over 100 Gibson Dunn attorneys who responded to President Trump’s “Travel Ban” deploying to major airports around the country and specifically, the successful efforts to obtain the release a family of five Afghan immigrants unlawfully detained at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The individual award is presented to co-winners, Los Angeles associate Michael Holecek and Washington, D.C. associate Christopher Leach. Holecek and Leach are selected for their work on behalf of domestic violence victims and in a complex habeas case, respectively, as well as their pivotal roles in spearheading new programs to create future pro bono projects. “We are very proud to congratulate our Frank Wheat award winners,” said Scott Edelman, Chair of Gibson Dunn’s Pro Bono Committee. “This year, Gibson Dunn lawyers focused on the protection of the rule of law and civil liberties. As a result of these efforts and the work of many others not recognized here, we had another stellar year, averaging approximately 129 pro bono hours per attorney worldwide.” “Whether it’s fighting for civil liberties, due process rights, LGBTQ rights, animal rights, and access to justice, or advocating on behalf of domestic violence victims, or immigrants, these attorneys demonstrate Gibson Dunn advocacy at its finest,” said Pro Bono Counsel & Director Katie Marquart. About the Team Award Project – Gibson Dunn’s Travel Ban Response Team After the Travel Ban was issued in January 2017, chaos broke out at airports across the country as travelers were detained and sometimes returned to the country from which they departed. Gibson Dunn deployed more than 100 lawyers to airports around the country to monitor incoming flights, observe the activities of relevant officials and government agencies, and work behind the scenes with our legal aid partners to provide meaningful pro bono legal assistance to those in need. The firm was able to significantly help one family in particular. This family of five had traveled to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas granted to them on the basis of the father’s years of service to the U.S. government as a translator in Afghanistan. His service led to multiple death threats from the Taliban causing them to leave Afghanistan to find refuge in this country. However, upon their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport, they were inexplicably detained by Customs and Border Patrol for over 40 hours, interrogated, and threatened with deportation. Upon learning of the situation, a team of Gibson Dunn attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Denver, Washington, D.C., and New York immediately sprang into action and worked around the clock to draft a habeas corpus petition demanding the family’s release and that they be provided with immediate access to counsel. Additionally, the Gibson Dunn team obtained an emergency temporary restraining order minutes before the family was to be inexplicably separated to detention centers in different states. While the Gibson Dunn team prepared for a hearing on their emergency TRO, the government agreed to release the family. With the help of Gibson Dunn, the family was finally able to settle in Washington state, where they look forward to one day becoming United States citizens. About the Individual Award – Michael Holecek Michael Holecek is honored for his over seven years of commitment to pro bono matters on behalf of domestic violence victims. In 2017, Holecek spearheaded several cases, including successfully arguing an appeal to the California Court of Appeal, which reversed the trial court’s order granting joint child custody to a proven domestic abuser. He was selected by the Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation as a 2017 HALO Award winner for his work. He also has created a pipeline for future domestic violence related pro bono work at the firm in his new role as a member of the Board of Directors for Family Violence Appellate Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to representing domestic violence survivors in civil appeals. About the Individual Award – Christopher Leach Christopher Leach is honored for creating the firm’s partnership with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, and his recent pro bono success on behalf of a federal inmate. Leach represented a Maryland man whose trial lawyer in a 1988 attempted-murder charge was tainted by a conflict of interest; that same lawyer also represented his co-defendant and negotiated a plea allowing the co-defendant to go free only if our client pleaded guilty. After presenting oral argument on his habeas case before a panel of the Fourth Circuit, the court agreed with his arguments in a 42-page published decision, and ordered the district court to adjudicate the client’s conflict of interest claim. After the appellate victory, Leach worked with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office to negotiate a favorable settlement of the remand proceedings in which the State would consent to the vacatur of his client’s conviction, hereby mooting his federal habeas case in the district court. On December 7, 2017, the Maryland court entered a consent order vacating the conviction. About the Frank Wheat Award The award is named for the late Frank Wheat, a Gibson Dunn partner who was deeply committed to community service and pro bono work. A recognized leader in corporate transactions, Wheat served as a commissioner of the Securities Exchange Commission and as president of the Los Angeles County Bar. He also founded the Alliance for Children’s Rights, served as a leader of the Sierra Club, and a board member of the Center of Law in the Public Interest, which established a fellowship in his name to train young lawyers in public interest litigation. The award recipients receive $2,500 to be donated to a pro bono organization of their choice.
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June 7, 2017

Gibson Dunn Scores Appellate Victory for U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

​The UCI Law VA Benefits Project and Gibson Dunn successfully persuaded a federal appellate court to vacate and remand a Board of Veterans' Appeals decision that denied service-connected benefits to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran suffering from combat related post-traumatic stress disorder.The case marks the third successful appeal by the VA Benefits Project and Gibson Dunn partnership on behalf of veterans who have been denied benefits and compensation relating to military service.Briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims identified multiple errors in the Board's decision, including the Board's failure to account for substantial evidence of the severity and extent of the former marine's PTSD symptoms, which entitles him to a higher rating for his condition. After reviewing the briefs, the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of General Counsel conceded that the Board had erred in its decision, and the parties filed a joint petition to vacate the Board's decision."I am delighted that we achieved another victory for a deserving client through the UCI project," said Sean S. Twomey, attorney at Gibson Dunn and supervisor of the VA Benefits Project. "The Board's decision wrongly downplayed and ignored evidence of the severity of our client's PTSD symptoms. The Court's action not only nullifies the Board's decision, but also specifically mandates that the VA readjudicate the claim giving due consideration to that evidence."
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April 25, 2017

Fourth Circuit Win Changes Legal Landscape for Immigrant Defendants

​On April 25, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the order of removal of Gibson Dunn pro bono client Daniel Castendet-Lewis, a native of Panama who was deported after pleading guilty to Virginia statutory burglary. Growing up in Panama, Castendet-Lewis was repeatedly exposed to violence related to the criminal activities of his father and brother. He fled to the United States with his mother when he was 13.Though he was able to build a better life here, he was arrested and charged with burglary at age 18 after entering a house that his friends had broken into. He pleaded guilty and received only a suspended sentence, but the government initiated expedited removal proceedings on the argument that Virginia statutory burglary is an aggravated felony under the INA.When Castendet-Lewis's requests for administrative relief were denied, Gibson Dunn petitioned for review in the Fourth Circuit, urging that the removal order be vacated because Virginia statutory burglary is not an aggravated felony. The government responded by attempting to cancel the order of removal by handwriting the word "CANCELLED" on it (even though the government had already executed the order and removed Mr. Castendet-Lewis from the country), and then the government moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit denied the government's motion to dismiss. The Fourth Circuit held, in a published opinion by Judge King, that (1) Virginia statutory burglary does not qualify as an "aggravated felony" triggering expedited removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"); and (2) the government cannot defeat a court of appeals' jurisdiction by purporting to "cancel" a removal order under review. The ruling will benefit numerous other immigrants (and federal criminal defendants).Michael Huston briefed and argued the case, assisted by Kevin Barber and with guidance from Tom Dupree.
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October 14, 2015

CAIR Coalition Awards Gibson Dunn 2015 Law Firm of the Year

​On October 14, 2015, the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition publicly recognized Gibson Dunn as the organization's 2015 Law Firm of the Year, because of the number of matters the firm has successfully handled for CAIR clients over the last year.
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October 28, 2014

Gibson Dunn Honored as Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year in the IFLR Middle East Awards

​Gibson Dunn's Dubai office continues to be heavily involved in the Holy Trinity Church's Pro Bono Advice Clinic in Oud Metha, Dubai. The first of its kind in the region, the clinic offers individuals experiencing a broad range of legal problems the opportunity to obtain free legal advice from the clinic's volunteers. The firm's groundbreaking work with the clinic was recently recognized at the Corporate Counsel Middle East Awards, where it won the Group Achievement Award. Gibson Dunn was also recently recognized as Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year in the International Financial Law Review Middle East Awards in respect of its work on the clinic. The volunteers at the clinic take a very proactive approach, often going beyond the scheduled monthly sessions, to assist individuals in a range of ways from free legal representation in court to negotiating with third parties to settle debt claims. Other recent examples include re-housing a South African family, regularizing visa statuses of individuals to help them avoid deportation and assisting domestic servants who find themselves in abusive situations. The clinic has gone from strength to strength over the last year. As a signal of how well the clinic has been received by the community in Dubai, the clinic is expanding to open another base in Abu Dhabi - a project spearheaded by Gibson Dunn partner Richard Ernest. The clinic has also reached out to local law firms to further its capability in local law. For example, one of the top local law firms has agreed to update the information sheets that the clinic provides to volunteers to give them basic information on Dubai's legal and regulatory systems. Future plans for the clinic include the development of a website, as well as closer collaboration with a number of local associations such as the Association of Corporate Counsel.
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