When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it introduced unimaginable challenges into all our lives. But for those living in poverty or within marginalized communities, the impact of the disease was especially devastating. Gibson Dunn has remained steadfast throughout, while also pivoting and adapting to meet the needs of the moment, reaching out to help those most dramatically impacted and doing what we could to help. Since March 2020, over 300 Gibson Dunn lawyers have dedicated more than 8,000 pro bono hours to these Coronavirus-response efforts. By coming together during this challenging time we hope that we have made a difference in the lives of our pro bono clients, as well as in the broader communities in which we all live.
Over the course of the last few months we have also seen the uprising of a powerful racial justice movement that has captured the hearts of people around the world. Gibson Dunn has met this moment by recommitting to working towards racial justice with an overwhelming collective energy. In just a few short weeks we have taken on new projects and cases that address a variety of racial justice issues, and put in place teams and structure to do so much more. We look forward to seeing what is still to come in this important fight. As the Firm charges ahead to tackle racial justice and systemic oppression, we also want to reflect on all that we have already accomplished together in 2020.
Thank you for all you do – wishing you all the best!
Small Business Community
Over the last few months, Gibson Dunn has represented small businesses and nonprofits whose livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic. We have provided pro bono legal services to business owners related to loans, contracts, employment, debt, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Working with Governor Cuomo’s office and the New York’s Empire State Development team, Gibson Dunn set up an email system, CARES@gibsondunn.com, to receive inquiries from small businesses and nonprofits, and to offer resources and guidance to assist with their applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Attorneys from Gibson Dunn addressed questions relating to PPP eligibility, how to calculate qualifying expenses, finding loan providers, employee re-hiring, permissible use of loan funds, loan forgiveness, interaction with unemployment, interaction with EIDL loans, and the evolving rules surrounding the PPP coming from Congress. From April through July, this program addressed requests from over 70 non-profits, small business owners, and independent contractors all over the state. The applicants represented many important areas, including eight small businesses in the food service industry, eight nonprofits, five medical providers, five cleaning or personal care businesses, five clothing or fashion companies, three fitness studios, three transportation providers, a bowling center, a construction company, a web developer, a home inspector, and more.
When the impacts of COVID-19 began to be felt by the small business community in San Francisco, La Cocina, a San Francisco-based nonprofit providing business advice for women, immigrants, and people of color, turned to Gibson Dunn for help. La Cocina supports women- and minority-owned entrepreneurs pursuing economic opportunity through food entrepreneurship in the Bay Area. Every business they work with experienced at least a 70% drop in review beginning in March 2020. Our lawyers worked with these businesses to help weather this challenging time, providing commercial leasing and other corporate advice.
“Thanks to Gibson Dunn’s effective and incredibly rapid support, we were able to pair every La Cocina entrepreneur with a lease in our program by the end of March, the first time bills were due. For the past few months, we’ve been able to work together across 23 leases to pursue rent abatement or alternate agreements with landlords. We could not do this work without the legal support of the Gibson Dunn team and we look forward to continuing to fight in the months to come.”
- Geetika Agrawal, Program Director at La Cocina
The firm also teamed up with long-time pro bono partner, Start Small Think Big (SSTB), to assist small businesses through a newly developed Rapid Response Network. SSTB has always been singularly focused on providing pro bono legal assistance to under-resourced small businesses. Nearly all of their clients are minority-owned or women-owned small businesses. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, SSTB’s work has become all the more urgent. Throughout the last several months through this program, the Firm has assisted more than 80 small businesses from across the country.
Finally, Gibson Dunn compiled a comprehensive guide containing potential resources and considerations in several key areas that 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.
Both our transactional and litigation lawyers have used their expertise to help and support individuals who have needed it most during the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Gibson Dunn began advising new organization In My Scrubs during the pendency of its 501(c)(3) application. The organization was started in response to COVID-19, with the goal of providing free meals to healthcare workers fighting the outbreak in New York City. We have also provided corporate advice to Perfect Strangers, a nonprofit providing on-demand volunteering options to offer free delivery of groceries and supplies to those at-risk for exposure to the coronavirus, including the elderly, the immunocompromised, and frontline workers.
The Firm has also advocated for the release of and/or improved conditions for individuals in jails and immigration detention centers. These individuals have been at heightened risk of contracting the virus given their close living conditions, and also may not have access to adequate healthcare to treat it. In partnership with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, several Gibson Dunn lawyers have interviewed detained immigrants to assess facility conditions (including access to cleaning supplies and exposure to people with symptoms) and to help determine necessary further legal action.
In collaboration with Las Americas and the Immigration Justice Campaign, Gibson Dunn filed several group and individual habeas petitions seeking the release of immigrant detainees at Joe Corley Detention Center, an ICE detention facility in Texas. The facility had abysmal conditions including dozens of confirmed COVID-19 cases, at least one in-custody death, crowded rooms, and inadequate health services. While several of our clients remain detained, we have successfully obtained the release of several of our clients. In fact, just yesterday, we learned that three of our remaining detained clients were released. They were all thrilled and relieved, as were their families.
Finally, just last week we filed an impact case on behalf of four immigrant detainees at Farmville Detention facility who have faced deplorable conditions, including being put at grave risk for contracting COVID-19 (and who have in fact contracted the disease). As the complaint reads, “A humanitarian crisis is rapidly unfolding at Farmville Detention Center. More than 80% of the civil immigration detainees housed there, including Plaintiffs, have contracted COVID-19 – the highly contagious and potentially lethal virus that is sweeping the globe. Defendants, who are collectively charged with caring for these individuals and who should have been working to protect them from the virus, have failed at every step, instead turning Farmville into a COVID-19 tinderbox that has engulfed nearly everyone in the facility, from Plaintiffs to hundreds of other detainees to dozens of staff members.” Naima Farrell, Tommy McCormac and Aaron Smith have led the charge on this case, with supervision and assistance from David Debold and Joe West.
While the Firm and the nation anxiously awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in our DACA case, individual Dreamers had to navigate the DACA renewal process, many for the first time. And since the program was facing termination, the need to renew existing status had become all the more urgent. In partnership with Immigrant Legal Defense we applied for DACA renewals for nearly 100 young men and women.
Gibson Dunn attorneys from all U.S. offices and all departments worked alongside lawyers from corporate clients including Bloomberg, Salesforce, and Okta. It was an honor to work on behalf of these young people, whose DACA status – including the ability to work lawfully here in the U.S. - was particularly critical during this time of economic uncertainty. One client said this after her renewal was submitted: “Thank you so much for all your help and support with my renewal! You guys have definitely relieved a lot of the anxiety and stress I was feeling on top of everything going on. I really appreciate your help and will forever be thankful.”
The day after we filed our last client’s renewal application, the Supreme Court held that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to terminate DACA was subject to judicial review and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, thereby preserving DACA for our clients and thousands more.
While the pandemic created new uncertainties and new needs in our communities, it also didn’t change the needs that had been there all along. In order to continue to deliver pro bono legal services to those in need, we quickly pivoted our pro bono program to be able to provide top-notch legal advice remotely – even transforming our pro bono clinics into virtual programs. Since March 2020, the Firm has participated in eight remote legal clinics to ensure we help the most vulnerable among us during this time of need.
Three of these clinics were in partnership with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and Houston Volunteer Lawyers. Gibson Dunn lawyers conducted legal intakes for Texas-based individuals who had questions on topics including domestic violence, family law, and housing.
Through partnerships with Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), lawyers from around the United States took on 16 U-Visa cases, to help immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes apply for a status that will allow them to stay in the U.S. lawfully and ultimately be eligible for a green card. Additionally, the Firm took on nine LGBTQ asylees as clients, to help them adjust status to apply for their green cards.