As we head into another week of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all struggling to cope with the rapidly changing landscape. Some of us have loved ones who have gotten sick or even passed away, others have loved ones living far away, and still others have loved ones fighting on the front lines of this pandemic as healthcare workers or first responders. And yet, amidst this uncertain and unprecedented time, we have been struck by how much this community has come together; how we have found new ways to be supportive of one another, to communicate with one another, and to form much deeper bonds than once existed. Part of this coming together has been forged through a common goal and purpose: to help those in our communities – near and far – who need our services the most.
Delivering this help has required digging deep, working through challenging conditions, and often coming up with creative and innovative means to provide results. Together we have accomplished so much already, finding ways to help the small business and immigrant communities and the healthcare workers fighting every day for all of us, just to name a few.
To those of you who have contributed to these efforts, thank you. If you would like to contribute, please contact Katie Marquart, the firm’s Pro Bono Counsel & Director.
Thank you and please stay well!
Pro Bono Legal Services Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
Small Businesses and Nonprofits
Over the last several weeks, we have seen unemployment claims skyrocket and small businesses and nonprofits across the globe plunged into deep economic uncertainty. Many of our existing pro bono clients turned to us for help navigating these unchartered waters. And, in an attempt to reach beyond our existing network, many of our lawyers worked tirelessly to set up outreach efforts and compile guidance on the complex new regulations and laws promulgated in the wake of the crisis.
New York Moves Forward
In late March, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides economic assistance to small businesses and nonprofit organizations through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program provides loans to small businesses and other eligible entities to pay workers as well as interest on mortgage obligations, rent, utilities, insurance, paid sick or medical leave, and other payroll-related costs. While some businesses were well-positioned to take advantage of this program, others were not – especially smaller businesses without pre-existing relationships with the participating lenders. Concerns began to arise that these businesses would be left out of this much-needed financial assistance package. In keeping with Gibson Dunn’s commitment to assure access to justice for all, we have been working hard, across the firm, to maximize program participation for all eligible entities.
In collaboration with the Governor’s office and Empire State Development, New York partner Mylan Denerstein has taken the lead on a statewide effort to reach small businesses and nonprofits and help them navigate the complex CARES Act loan program. Under the guidance of Mylan Denerstein as well as Alex Southwell, Katie Marquart, Max Ball, Jessica Bondy, Jordan Fricks, Alexandra Grossbaum, Alina Iarve, Dyllan Lee, Nina Meyer, Ben Mishkin, Ryan Oringer, Connor Sullivan and Florina Yezril, a group of over 65 Gibson Dunn New York lawyers is now involved in this important pro bono initiative, dubbed New York Moves Forward. So far, the businesses the team has helped statewide include medical practices, communications agencies, hair salons and bakeries.
Frequently Asked Questions to Assist Small Businesses and Nonprofits
One of the firm’s largest efforts, drawing on expertise from multiple practice groups and nearly all of our U.S. offices, has been led by partner Mark Director and associates Negin Nazemi, Bree Love and Alisa Balderas. With the help of dozens of other associates throughout Gibson Dunn, they have put together a comprehensive overview of potential resources and considerations in several key areas that we believe are particularly important to small businesses and nonprofits. The guide addresses a number of recent legislative and regulatory developments promulgated in response to the pandemic as well as ongoing operational topics, including emergency funding options, employment, mortgage and rent abatement considerations, contractual issues, insurance coverage, PPP loan guidance, and various state-specific resource guides. We hope this guide proves useful as the small business and nonprofit community seeks to weather this crisis and come out on the other side.
Helping the San Francisco Small Business Community
La Cocina is a San Francisco nonprofit that supports women, immigrant, and minority food entrepreneurs. Over the last several weeks, San Francisco associate Victoria Weatherford has coordinated and streamlined the efforts of over a dozen Gibson Dunn real estate attorneys who volunteered to advise La Cocina’s clients regarding obligations under their commercial leases and rent abatement possibilities. This team has reviewed leases, shared information about small business loans, drafted letters to landlords, and counseled about rent abatement, eviction moratoriums, and “Force majeure” clauses.
La Cocina is extremely grateful for our help, and is already arranging for tasty treats to be sent to the associates who are supporting it. As noted by Laura Sagues, a member of La Cocina’s Board of Directors, “Our board, staff and volunteers are so grateful to Gibson Dunn and all of the attorneys across the country providing not only great guidance but doing so with enthusiasm. The effort was so quickly organized by the Gibson Dunn leadership team and our friend Victoria Weatherford. Further, the support has allowed La Cocina staff and volunteers to spend even more time on critical entrepreneur and community support including The Emergency Relief Fund, an ongoing fundraising effort that has already distributed much-needed support to our La Cocina applicants as well as growing membership. If you are local and haven’t yet, check out the delicious Community Food Boxes!”
Pro Bono Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
Immigrants Held in Detention
Our firm has a long-term and deeply rooted commitment to pro bono legal services for the U.S. immigrant community. That commitment has not wavered amidst this crisis and, indeed, has evolved to meet the rapidly changing needs of our clients. This is especially true with respect to those immigrants who have found themselves held in detention facilities throughout the nation, often pending resolution of their immigration proceedings. Our lawyers have been fighting across the 50 states for the release of the most at-risk individuals. A few of these efforts are highlighted here.
A team including Greg Kerwin, Timothy Zimmerman, Natalie Hausknecht and Brian Barnes began representing one of these client in 2017, in connection with an appeal of his immigration proceedings before the Seventh Circuit. In 2019 we obtained a favorable decision, and the Circuit remanded the case to the Board of Immigration Appeals, where it is currently pending. Despite having lived in the United States legally since 2001, the client, due to his classification status as an “arriving alien” under the immigration laws, was not eligible for a bond hearing and thus, as of early April 2020, had been continuously detained for over four years. On April 2, we filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, arguing that our client’s detention violated the Fifth Amendment’s right to Due Process because it was unreasonably long and because he is particularly at risk for serious injury from COVID-19 infection.
On April 10, the court held an emergency hearing on our petition and ordered our client’s immediate release.
A team of Gibson Dunn attorneys from across the country teamed up with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center to represent Ms. GM in her request to be released on parole from a Georgia detention facility, pending the outcome of her immigration removal proceedings. A native and citizen of Cuba who suffers from an endocrine disorder that medical experts suggest puts her at an elevated risk of contracting (and suffering from) COVID-19, Ms. GM entered the United States in September 2019, and was detained in Georgia pending a hearing on her application for asylum. In light of the urgency presented by the COVID-19 crisis, and in an effort to obtain Ms. GM’s release as quickly as possible, we appealed directly to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a letter dated April 15, 2020, seeking immediate adjudication of a parole request that Las Americas had earlier submitted on Ms. GM’s behalf. Among other things, we argued that her lack of criminal history and her particular vulnerability to COVID-19 – which had already infected at least three people at the detention facility where she was being held – made her a prime candidate for release, even under ICE’s own updated guidance. Further, we threatened to seek relief in federal court if ICE did not swiftly act on our request.
Less than three hours after we sent our letter, ICE granted parole. Ms. GM was released on April 17, 2020, and is now living with her daughter – and her grandchildren, whom she had never previously met – in Florida. Although we do not represent Ms. GM in her underlying immigration case, we are hopeful that her clean background, and her strong family and community connections to the United States, will present a compelling case for granting her asylum application. Gibson Dunn attorneys including Orin Snyder, Zainab Ahmad, Katie Marquart, Nick Parker, Wesley Sze and Alayna Monroe worked on this case.
Gibson Dunn has been working with The Legal Aid Society to secure the immediate release of a number of detainees in New York City with health conditions that put them at risk of severe illness or death if infected by COVID-19. On their behalf we filed a group habeas petition in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as well as a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) seeking their immediate release from custody. The district court granted the TRO on March 27, 2020, and ordered the detainees’ release. The fight was not over, however, as the court asked for additional briefing from the parties on several issues pertaining both to procedural and substantive issues. With the TRO set to expire soon, the team is still hard at work fighting for the continued safety of these men and women. Gibson Dunn attorneys including Orin Snyder, Katie Marquart, Laura Cole, Matthew Aiken, Anna Casey, Kelly Ding and Sam Mancina are working on this case.
Pro Bono Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
As some of the true heroes of this pandemic, first responders, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are risking their lives every day to provide the best possible care to COVID-19 patients around the globe. Gibson Dunn is doing what it can to support them, especially in and around New York City, which in recent weeks had become the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The New York office has come together, under the leadership of Randy Mastro, Mark Kirsch, Andy Lance, Reed Brodsky and many others to encourage and facilitate charitable donations to various organizations focused on providing much-needed aid to New York healthcare workers. Together we have proudly supported the following.
- NYC Health + Hospitals Network for Good seeks to help the more than 42,000 public hospital workers in NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public healthcare system in the nation serving more than one million New Yorkers. Along with basic supplies, ventilators and masks, New York City needs funds to support the purchase of meals, pre-packaged groceries, hotel rooms, laundry service and scrubs, as well as to bring in thousands of additional medical professionals to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases in the City.
- NYC Healthcare Heroes Initiative supports the heroic efforts of the 100,000 New York City healthcare professionals. Donations help provide packages of shelf-stable food, household cleaning, and personal care products to staff at hospitals and temporary medical facilities across the five boroughs.
To join us in these efforts, please click the links above, select a donation amount, and type “Gibson Dunn” in the tribute field. We thank you for your continued generosity!
Pro Bono Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
Innovative Healthcare Technology
COVID-19 Contact-Tracing App
SafeMap, Inc. asked Gibson Dunn to represent it in connection with privacy, cybersecurity, and consumer protection advice related to the use of contact-tracing technology for the purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and facilitating the effort to return to work. SafeMap is building an app that uses contact-tracing technology to identify areas of contagion and QR codes to establish SafeZones, whereby businesses and individuals can self-certify, by voluntarily conforming with certain requirements, as “safe,” or COVID-19 free. SafeMap is drawing on top technologists from ZocDoc, TraceTogether, Walmart, and DropBox as volunteers to develop the app, in partnership with advisors from Warby Parker, Tectonic Capital Management LLC, Cylance, and NightDragon Security, among others. The entity and its members are privacy and cybersecurity mission driven. Orin Snyder introduced the founders to the Privacy, Cybersecurity, and Consumer Protection Practice Group and a core group, including Alex Southwell, Ryan Bergsieker, Ashley Rogers, Alejandro Guerrero, Lisa Zivkovic, Dan Rauch, Joerg Bartz, Jordan Jacobsen, Kelly Ding, Brooke Myers Wallace, and Chelsea Mae Thomas have jumped at the chance to help SafeMap, addressing cutting-edge issues related to the privacy, cybersecurity, and consumer protection implications of wide-spread contact-tracing. Mylan Denerstein has also provided invaluable guidance at the outset of this project.
Pro Bono Amidst the Coronavirus Crisis:
Over the last month, in the midst of the pandemic, hundreds of young people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” have had to confront the question of whether their lawful status in the United States would expire under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. While the country awaits the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, these brave young men and women continue to go to school, to work, to raise families, and to support their families and their communities. Indeed, many of them are even on the front lines fighting the coronavirus as doctors and nurses.
Gibson Dunn has been standing shoulder to shoulder with the DACA community for many years, a solidarity that continues today. Attorneys from every U.S. office are collaborating to help ensure the Dreamers’ continued security. As some of you may know, DACA status lasts only for 2-year periods, after which the individual must apply to renew it. Given the current pandemic and resulting economic crisis, many DACA holders are in a more vulnerable position than ever, often lacking means to timely apply for status renewal. Over the course of the last month alone, Gibson Dunn has taken on over 60 Dreamers as pro bono clients to help them renew their status, thereby ensuring them continued legal protection, at least for the time being.