Gibson Dunn Pro Bono Newsletter: Coronavirus Response Efforts

March 31, 2020

During this uncertain time, we are all facing unpredictable and unprecedented challenges. Recent events have impacted every aspect of our daily life, and are already reverberating through the world economy, healthcare system, and much more. Each of us faces individual challenges, as we take care of our children, parents, and loved ones, all while working and trying to take care of ourselves too. During this time, the Gibson Dunn community has been stronger than ever and has been a source of support.

Amidst all this, we have not only looked inward, but we have also looked out into our broader communities and tried to find ways to help those in need. Our pro bono clients are among the most at risk, as they face myriad issues, including the very scary potential health and economic problems applicable to all. As always and perhaps more than ever, Gibson Dunn is committed to providing top-notch legal services to those clients and to our broader communities. We are proud to be helping, among others, immigrants, the elderly, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve these clients.

Thank you to those who have contributed to these and other efforts thus far. If you are interested in joining us, or you have ideas of other ways the firm can get involved and help out, please contact Katie Marquart, the firm’s Pro Bono Counsel & Director, or any of the lawyers mentioned herein.

We wish you and your families all the best – stay safe and stay positive!

Pro Bono Legal Services Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
Innovating to Help Our Most Vulnerable Communities

In times like these, it is Gibson Dunn’s ability to think creatively and to innovate that sets us apart.  We have quickly digested evolving laws and regulations while assessing the impact those changes have on our clients.  We have also identified ways to deliver first-class legal services through unconventional methods – often by harnessing technology and relying on the unfailing and amazing support of our staff around the world.  Together, we will be able to continue helping our pro bono clients and, indeed, to conduct even deeper outreach to vulnerable communities.  Below are just a few examples of how we are giving back.

Small Business and Nonprofits

As we are all painfully aware, the small business community across the United States and the world is hurting right now. It is contending with a loss of income, as well as myriad uncertainties forthcoming in the days and weeks. These businesses are also being forced to contend with issues – legal and otherwise – that are wholly unfamiliar to them and unstable, changing by the day. Topics range from managing potentially contagious employees to rescinding contracts and seeking loans that may permit them to ride out this crisis.  

Over the last few weeks, Gibson Dunn has been marshalling resources from multiple offices and practice groups to provide much-needed guidance for navigating these difficult times.  In collaboration with legal aid partners such as The Legal Aid Society, Public Law Center, and Start Small Think Big, we are working to develop best practice guides and webinars that can be made widely available to both for-profit and nonprofit companies and other small businesses.  Mylan Denerstein, Mark Director, Doug Smith, Negin Nazemi, Darren Kerstien, Alisa Balderas, Alexandra Grossbaum, Maya Hoard, Bree Love, Sean McFarlane, Ryan Oringer, Michael Showalter and Nathan Strauss, have all been very involved in these efforts.

New York litigation partner Gabrielle Levin has prepared best practices guides for employers dealing with employees or visitors to their premises with COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, or confirmed infections.  Partners Greta Williams and Katherine Smith have been providing ongoing labor and employment guidance to a number of our nonprofit and small business clients as well as to our corporate clients, many of which are facing similar issues.

Under the supervision of partner Erin Rothfuss, several California-based lawyers including Victoria Weatherford, Neil Sekhri, Pedro Avila, Prerna Soni, Kendyl Clausen, Anna Peterson, Anna Williams and Julia Hurley are assisting La Cocina, a nonprofit providing business advice for women, immigrants and people of color, with several of its clients that need commercial lease advice.

Individuals in Detention

As is to be expected, individuals in high-density living conditions like jails and detention centers are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.  This risk is exacerbated by the fact that they are often in danger of receiving inadequate healthcare generally.  In New York, in collaboration with Brooklyn Defender Services and The Legal Aid Society, the firm is working to find mechanisms by which we can facilitate the immediate release of those most at-risk.  In Washington, D.C., the firm is working alongside the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to identify federal prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and then to secure their compassionate release under the federal First Step Act.  Partners and associates from several offices, including, Orin Snyder, Mylan Denerstein, Lee Dunst, Joe Evall, Jim Hallowell, Zainab Ahmad, Howard Hogan, Laura Cole, Matthew Aiken, Laura Mumm, Brian Yeh, Steven Spriggs, Amanda Kenner, Sam Mancina, Anna McKenzie, Marjorie McLean, and Stevie Pearl have been involved in various efforts to further this endeavor.

Health Care Workers

One group of people uniquely at-risk includes the physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting this battle.  Though they are unequivocally essential in the worldwide effort to save lives, these individuals often lack adequate support in areas including childcare and personal protective equipment (PPE) while they care for others.  Gibson Dunn’s London office is pleased to assist the aptly named new initiative HEROES in its aim to provide financial and welfare support to health care workers.

Launched by surgeon Dr. Roshana Mahdian-Staffell of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) with several NHS colleagues, HEROES plans to undertake a number of projects including financially supporting COVID-19 vaccination research, boosting the supplies of PPE for NHS workers, and establishing childcare support services for them.  Under the supervision of partner Patrick Doris, lawyers Ryan Whelan, Anna MacPherson, Sarika Rabheru, Charlotte Fuscone, Adam Ismail, and Harriet Codd are advising HEROES on disclaimers to be used for services that introduce healthcare workers to volunteers willing to help with childcare.

The ‘Dreamers’

Gibson Dunn has been on the front lines advocating for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients – often called Dreamers – for many years. When the Trump administration announced in September 2017 that it was ending the DACA program, the firm promptly filed suit challenging that proposed action. In November 2019, partner Ted Olson argued that case before the U.S. Supreme Court and we now await a decision. In the meantime, thousands of young people’s lives hang in the balance. As some of you may know, DACA status lasts only for 2-year periods, after which reapplication is required to renew DACA status. Given the current pandemic and resulting economic crisis, many DACA holders are in a more vulnerable position than ever, often lacking the means to timely apply to renew their status.

In collaboration with California Bay Area nonprofit Immigrant Legal Defense, the firm has committed to remotely represent Dreamers and help facilitate the filing of their DACA renewal applications. Gibson Dunn lawyers are calling clients, engaging in video-chats, and finding creative solutions to the evolving application signature requirements to best assist these clients. As of today, more than 30 lawyers from all of our U.S. offices are involved in the effort.

The Elderly

Sadly, the health and wellbeing of many already-vulnerable populations are in potentially increased danger during this time.  It is well known that the elderly, for example, are at high risk of serious health issues caused by COVID-19.  Because of social-distancing strategies, they are more dependent than ever on other individuals or businesses to access basic necessities such as food for which they would otherwise shop at crowded supermarkets.  Bet Tzedek, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit and longtime pro bono partner of the firm, is a nationally recognized leader in providing legal services to low-income seniors.  Gibson Dunn Los Angeles associates Alexandra Joseph and Sameera Ripley are helping Bet Tzedek research critical procedural questions for the organization’s Elder Abuse Restraining Order team, which needs to now deliver services remotely while still in accordance with the requirements and expectations of the court system.  It is especially important to explore alternatives to filing and attending hearings in person, given the individual clients’ susceptibility to the virus and other harms. 

Domestic Violence Survivors

Some groups of people are especially vulnerable for a multitude of reasons, including victims of crimes like domestic violence who are also undocumented.  They may be especially afraid to seek health care services during these times given their immigration status, yet may be at additional risk of danger if forced to shelter in place or otherwise stay home with the abuser.  Accordingly, several Gibson Dunn lawyers including New York attorneys Joe Evall, Bethany Saul, Kelly Herbert, Timothy Deal, Laura Raposo, Elizabeth Snow, and Emil Nachman have jumped at the chance to help these individuals alongside Legal Services NYC.  These lawyers will assist clients with filing U Visa applications, which have potentially life-changing and life-saving consequences for these survivors, and which must be filed within a certain window of time, a window that is closing for some survivors during this crisis period. 

In London, Trainee Solicitors Grace Webster and Hayley Smith are continuing the office’s regular and significant involvement in pro bono clinics hosted by the University House Legal Advice Centre.  While normally the Family Law and Domestic Violence Clinic and the Housing Clinic, in which the firm also participates , each occur two to three times per month in person, our lawyers have worked with the Centre and our own internal systems to be able to participate remotely, via videoconference.  Because of their efforts, clients with issues including non-molestation orders and necessary accommodation requests will be able to receive the help they desperately need in the most desperate of times.