Pro Bono

Duane Morris Partners in Pro Bono Pro BonoThe goal of Duane Morris' pro bono program is to provide free legal services to those in our communities least able to afford legal services, and usually to those who have a dire need of such services. Accordingly, the focus of our pro bono work is providing quality legal services to individuals and organizations that serve the community: (i) through provision of services to low-income individuals; (ii) by furthering economic development in low-income areas; or (iii) by pursuing other charitable endeavors.

We are proud of the thousands of pro bono hours of legal service donated by Duane Morris attorneys and of the against-all-odds accomplishments of our clients. Our representation of often-marginalized groups, such as survivors of trafficking and domestic violence, has made us a stronger and more compassionate Firm. Working with immigrant children fleeing violence in Central America has reminded us of the freedom and security we often take for granted and reinvigorated our commitment to the rule of law. Representing community-based organizations has strengthened the communities where we live and practice and expanded our networks. And for our highest calling, serving those who served us first, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans with a small token of appreciation in the form of assisting them with disability appeals, discharge upgrades and general civil legal matters.

Pro bono service has been an integral part of Firm culture and the backbone of our value system since the Firm’s founding more than 110 years ago. Today, the Firm gives all associates and special counsel 100 hours of credit annually and partners 50 hours of billable credit annually for their pro bono service. We have signed on to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, striving to provide at least 3 percent of the Firm’s billable hours to pro bono matters. We also provide extensive pro bono service in all 21 of our U.S. offices and many of our international offices, including London, Singapore and Myanmar. We have a dedicated three-person pro bono team that is responsible for recruiting pro bono opportunities and managing more than 500 matters, which range from U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs and federal litigation, to local landlord tenant court and citizenship applications. Our management team includes a social worker who helps with unique program development and community outreach.

For more information about the Pro Bono Program, please contact Valentine A. Brown or Katharyn I. Christian McGee.

2018 Duane Morris Pro Bono Award

photo of Brian BiglinBrian N. Biglin
Associate | Trial Practice Group | Newark Office

The award honors the outstanding service of an attorney who exemplifies Duane Morris’ commitment to pro bono service and has made a significant impact on an individual or community.

2018 Duane Morris Pro Bono Leadership Award

photo of Julie MebaneJulie S. Mebane
Partner | Real Estate Practice Group | San Diego Office

 The award recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the spirit of pro bono: a selfless, long-standing and unwavering commitment to pro bono service; a leader by example who accepts pro bono matters without fanfare; and a pro bono contributor who encourages and mentors other firm attorneys in pro bono service. 

Duane Morris Pro Bono Hero of the Month

Duane Morris Pro Bono Hero of the Month Logo

photo of Lewis OlshinLewis Olshin, partner and deputy firm counsel, is recognized for his considerable pro bono efforts representing veterans in service-connected disability benefits appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and Veterans Administration, particularly during Duane Morris' annual Veterans Month of Service. Lew also has represented several families in obtaining guardianship of their loved ones who either were born without or no longer have legal capacity. In all of these matters, Lew actively mentors associates seeking courtroom experience. Prior to joining Duane Morris, Lew served as defense counsel, chief review officer, and staff prosecutor for the U.S. Marine Corps, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
photo of Babara Howe Murray Barbara Howe Murray, of the San Diego office, is recognized for her leadership and formidable impact in improving the criminal justice system, including efforts with the California Innocence Project. A white-collar criminal defense attorney, Barbara has coordinated Duane Morris’ partnership with the California Innocence Project since 2016. To date, she has supervised the processing of more than 140 Stage 2 reviews, a necessary step to evaluate whether an inmate has a plausible claim of innocence. Barbara assigns the cases to pro bono attorneys, and then reviews each of the cases before approving the evaluation for submission. During her appointment by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to the Criminal Justice Act Panel for the 1998 to 2000 term, she represented persons charged with federal crimes who were financially unable to obtain counsel.

photo of William Shotzbarger

William Shotzbarger, of the Philadelphia office, petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, to reduce the sentence of an inmate, incarcerated as a juvenile, from life without parole to 30 years to life. William put together the Petitioner’s Mitigation Report that detailed the client's progress during 21 years of incarceration.

William was also part of a team that obtained a Quite Title Order on behalf of a pro bono client in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The client’s home had been in his family’s name for 40 years until a fraudulent quitclaim deed was executed, notarized and recorded, purporting to transfer title to a neighbor. Despite convincing evidence of fraud surrounding the transaction, including the fact that the grantors were deceased at the time the deed was signed, the defendants raised numerous defenses, and the case was hotly litigated. In the middle of the deposition of the notary, the team reached a settlement in principle. As part of the settlement, Duane Morris obtained a settlement payment for the client in addition to the equitable relief.

William’s contribution to these cases and ongoing support for pro bono matters earn him recognition as Duane Morris Pro Bono Hero of the Month.

New Jersey State Bar Association Pro Bono New Attorney Award

photo of Brian BiglinBrian N. Biglin, of the Newark office, received the New Jersey State Bar Association New Attorney Award. Brian has worked on several pro bono matters, including a prisoner civil rights case before the U.S. District Court in New Jersey where he represented an inmate who spent considerable time pretrial in a county jail that had so few accommodations for his wheelchair that he suffered a number of infections that exacerbated his medical condition. He is also representing, through the International Refugee Assistance Project Chapter at Rutgers University Law School, an Afghani man who served as a tactical interpreter for the United States Marines. Brian has also volunteered for several years in the firm’s efforts to aid survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Allegheny County Bar Foundation Young Lawyer Award

photo of Sunny YangSunny Yang, of the Pittsburgh office, was honored with the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Young Lawyer Award for her pro bono work with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which provides free legal services to artists with low incomes and small arts organizations. The Foundation writes: "Yang is a great example of a young lawyer embracing her professional obligation to help clients with limited means tackle complex legal issues, making her a part of the rich fabric of the Pittsburgh arts community."

American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division Child Advocacy Award & Philadelphia Bar Association 2018 Large Firm Management Committee Public Service Award 

photo of Theresa LangschultzTheresa A. Langschultz, of the Philadelphia office, has been honored with the 2018 ABA Young Lawyers Division Child Advocacy Award for her representation of a gentleman unconstitutionally sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile. The client was resentenced to 30 years to life and paroled in May 2017. She also received the 2018 Large Firm Management Committee Public Service Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association. The award honors young lawyers who have made a difference in Philadelphia through extraordinary pro bono representation or public service to individuals or entities that address the challenges faced by communities of need in Philadelphia.

ABA Business Law Section 2018 National Public Service Award

Duane Morris has been honored with the American Bar Association's Business Law Section 2018 National Public Service Award, which recognizes significant pro bono legal services that demonstrate a commitment to providing assistance to the poor in a business context, as well as the achievements resulting from the public service work for the clients and the client groups represented.

2017 Duane Morris Pro Bono Award

Chris TysonChristopher J. Tyson
Associate, Intellectual Property Practice Group | Washington, D.C. Office

The award honors the outstanding service of any attorney or group that exemplifies Duane Morris’ commitment to pro bono service and has made a significant impact on an individual or community.

2017 Duane Morris Pro Bono Leadership Award

Lisa ScruggsLisa T. Scruggs
Partner, Trial Practice Group | Chicago Office

The award recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the spirit of pro bono: a selfless, longstanding and unwavering commitment to pro bono service; a leader by example, who accepts pro bono matters without fanfare; and a pro bono contributor who encourages and mentors other firm attorneys in pro bono service.

The Veterans Consortium 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Mission Partner

Duane Morris has been named The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC) 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Mission Partner for its service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors. Duane Morris has worked with TVC for many years, providing pro bono representation to veterans at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In the fall of 2016, the firm worked with TVC and Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) to implement pop-up legal clinics at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in the D.C. Metro area, providing free advice to more than 200 veterans. 

2016 Duane Morris Pro Bono Award

Luke McLoughlinLuke P. McLoughlin
Associate, Trial Practice Group | Philadelphia Office

The award honors the outstanding service of any attorney or group that exemplifies Duane Morris’ commitment to pro bono service and has made a significant impact on an individual or community.

2016 Duane Morris Pro Bono Leadership Award

Denyse SabaghDenyse Sabagh
Partner, Employment, Labor, Benefits & Immigration; Chair, Immigration Practice Group | Washington, D.C. Office

The award recognizes an attorney who exemplifies the spirit of pro bono: a selfless, longstanding and unwavering commitment to pro bono service; a leader by example, who accepts pro bono matters without fanfare; and a pro bono contributor who encourages and mentors other firm attorneys in pro bono service.

Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding: 2017 Partner in Peace Award

Michael Schwamm

Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding (OBCP) uses experiential education to challenge and inspire emerging leaders in divided societies to work together to build peace. Duane Morris helped OBCP establish as a not-for-profit entity in 2007 and has provided ongoing pro bono legal representation ever since. OBCP honored Michael D. Schwamm, a partner in the Corporate Practice Group, for his long-standing representation of the organization in a variety of matters.

Legal Clinic for the Disabled White Hat Award

Duane Morris is a recipient of The White Hat Award from the Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD). The White Hat Award recognizes individuals and organizations that have done outstanding work for LCD and its clients. The Legal Clinic for the Disabled (LCD) provides free legal services to low-income people with physical disabilities and to the deaf and hard of hearing.

City Bar Justice Center Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service

headshot of Arthur Dresner

Arthur Dresner (New York) received the City Bar Justice Center’s 2016 Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Nominated by our pro bono client, the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP), Arthur has assisted numerous start-up entrepreneurs with establishing brand distinctions, including trade-name and trademark guidance, as well as trademark registrations at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. NELP was established in 2003 by the City Bar Justice Center to provide low- to moderate-income microentrepreneurs with the legal services necessary to start their businesses on a secure foundation.

D.C. Mayor's Office for Veteran's Affairs Commendation

photo of Chris Tyson

Chris Tyson (Washington, D.C.) was celebrated in "Appreciation for Exemplary Achievements, Leadership, and Commitment to the Veterans Community in the District of Columbia" for his leadership in developing a pro bono project with the Veterans Legal Assistance Project of Neighborhood Legal Services Program, which is the first pro bono program aiding veterans in D.C.

Supreme Court of Florida Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award

Valentine Brown and Harvey Gurland accepting the Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award

Duane Morris was honored with the Supreme Court of Florida Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award for 2016. The annual award recognizes a law firm that has contributed significant hours and effort to pro bono legal services to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford those services and shows an extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians.

Circle Urban Ministries Corporate Partner Award

For more than five years, Duane Morris' Chicago office has provided a variety of pro bono legal services to Circle Urban Ministries. In recognition of the Firm’s assistance in real estate, corporate, housing and employment matters, Circle Urban Ministries presented the Firm with a Corporate Partner Award. Since 1974, Circle Urban Ministries has worked to combat poverty, improve the educational, social, and vocational opportunities for at-risk youth, and help stabilize low-income families by providing quality social services and community development to Chicago's Austin community. This includes after-school programs, a Charter school, church, food pantry, 96-bed women’s shelter, legal clinic and medical clinic.

Duane Morris Pro Bono VeteransDuane Morris recognizes the sacrifices that service members have made for our country and is committed to helping them solve significant problems that have arisen as a result of their service. We assist veterans and their families with disability benefits appeals, discharge upgrades, homelessness prevention and many other civil legal needs. Our attorneys also represent organizations dedicated to empowering military service members, veterans and veteran-owned small businesses.

Teaming Up to Create Legal Clinics at VA Medical Centers Across the Country

In 2018, Duane Morris attorneys launched a new medical-legal pro bono project providing legal assistance to veterans directly at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Duane Morris attorneys teamed up with The Home Depot, Emory Law School and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation to staff clinics providing estate planning/drafting for more than 70 veterans and family members. Volunteers also teamed up to co-counsel on veterans’ service connected disability benefits appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans claims through The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program.

The Atlanta clinic built upon Duane Morris’ success collaborating with the Veterans Administration, The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Neighborhood Legal Services in Washington, D.C., to develop and staff weekly legal clinics at the D.C. VA Medical Center and in facilities across the D.C. Metro area. The first legal clinics to specifically serve D.C. area veterans when launched in fall 2016, the clinic – now housed in its own office space at the VA Medical Center – has served over 700 veterans.

Righting Wrong for Woman Discharged Due to Pregnancy

Our client enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 years old, serving as a dedicated, successful Marine for more than three years before she was forced to leave the Marines because she was pregnant. Upon learning she was pregnant with her second child, our client was told she was being involuntarily discharged because the Marines believed they could not deploy her due to being a single parent with two children. This discharge occurred during the months following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and our client had, in fact, made preparations for child care if she was deployed. But, our client’s military records did not contain record that she was ever consulted about her child care plan.

In 2002, our client was discharged involuntarily with a characterization of “General (under honorable conditions)” and a narrative reason of “parenthood.” As a result, she was denied a career in the Marines, prevented from securing some government jobs, denied access to certain veteran’s benefits and felt deep embarrassment when she had to address her discharge characterization in professional or personal settings.

In the 14 years since being discharged, our client successfully raised her two children as a single mother. She is starting a Saturday school for students to learn about their African heritage and develop leadership skills.

Duane Morris attorneys successfully represented the client in a hearing before the Naval Discharge Review Board in Washington, D.C., advocating that the client’s discharge was inequitable because she had no misconduct that warranted discharging her less than honorably. Her military record demonstrated she was qualified and deserving of an honorable discharge, and she was awarded accolades just months before her discharge, including the Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal. Our client’s discharge status was upgraded to “Honorable,” permitting the client to move forward with her life without undue stigma. 

Settlement Reached for Veteran and Family Facing Eviction

Duane Morris reached a settlement in an eviction proceeding on behalf of a veteran who is a pro bono client of the firm through the Veterans Assistance Project. The veteran had been living with his wife and their three children in a rent-controlled apartment previously occupied by the wife’s uncle. Overcoming challenging legal obstacles, the team negotiated a settlement that allows the family to remain in the apartment rent-free for six months, forgives substantial rent arrears that had accrued during the lengthy litigation, and provides a substantial lump sum payment.

Securing Housing and Financial Stability for Elderly Veteran

Our client, a Navy veteran, is 60 years old and has end stage renal disease. He lived in his mother’s rent stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City, where he had resided for many years and planned to live out his remaining years. Reflecting the changing landscape of New York City, the client’s landlord bought out several other tenants in the apartment with the goal to convert rent stabilized apartments to a privately owned cooperative. The landlord offered the client only $150,000 to move, much less than the apartment was worth. When our client refused, the landlord sought to evict our client from the home – where he had potential succession rights to his mother’s lease – and the landlord trumped up nuisance and criminal allegations against our client.

Working with the Veteran Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center, Duane Morris attorneys obtained an order to show cause in the landlord’s lockout proceeding, restoring the veteran to his home. Attorneys then negotiated a buyout settlement of $320,000, along with time to secure a new apartment. Collaborating with friend of the Firm, the attorneys set up a special needs trust so that the client would continue receiving his Social Security disability and rental benefits, thus ensuring ongoing financial stability for the client.

Service-Connected Disability Benefits Restored for U.S. Navy Veteran

Duane Morris obtained service-connected disability benefits for a veteran of the U.S. Navy after his disability rating was reduced in September 2012, from 80 percent to only 10 percent. The pro bono team presented to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals that the reduction in the disability rating was improper, that the client was entitled to the benefits he did not receive when his disability rating was reduced, and that he was entitled to a total disability rating based off of unemployability. The team obtained $71,000 in back pay for the client from 2012, and he will again be receiving 80 percent disability.

The Veterans Consortium 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Mission Partner

Duane Morris has been named The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC) 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Mission Partner for its service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors. Duane Morris has worked with TVC for many years, providing pro bono representation to veterans at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In the fall of 2016, the firm worked with TVC and Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) to implement pop-up legal clinics at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in the D.C. Metro area, providing free advice to more than 200 veterans. 

Protection under Chapter 7 of Bankruptcy Code for Vietnam Era Veteran 

Duane Morris represented a pro bono client in filing for protection under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The client is an 83-year-old veteran who served in the Air Force between 1962-1964 before he was honorably discharged.

Securing Remands Before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Army Veterans Claims

Our client served as a petroleum supply sergeant in the U.S. Army. She was denied service-connected disability benefits after sustaining a painful skin disorder when extinguishing a bulk fuel fire. The client’s primary responsibility was issuing and handling fuel for helicopters. She received an Army Commendation Medal while on active duty for quickly and calmly extinguishing a bulk fuel fire caused by a leak in the fuel pipeline on base, which could have caused major damage (and personnel injuries) if not for her prompt actions. Due to fuel spilling on the veteran, she experienced a disorder that manifested itself intermittently as swelling, knots or cysts on both of her hands that were periodically accompanied by pain and/or itching. The client filed a claim for service-connected disability benefits related to the skin disorder, which was denied for years because the VA physicians never "saw a rash" appear in any of her medical appointments. Firm attorneys discovered the client had been treated several times by the VA, including twice surgically, for painful knots and cysts on the back of her hands. Nevertheless, this evidence was ignored entirely by VA medical examiners, the VA Regional Office and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The attorneys successfully argued this was a blatant failure of the VA’s duty to assist the client in developing her claim, which was remanded requiring the VA to fully develop the claim so that our client may be awarded the disability benefits she deserves.

Duane Morris Pro Bono Immigration

Is It Possible to Do 360 Acts of Citizenship in 365 Days?

This was the challenge posed to Duane Morris attorneys and staff in response to the various immigration crises of 2017. Beyond providing security to lawful permanent residents residing in the United States, naturalized citizens also earn more money than noncitizen immigrants, strengthening their local economies. Citizens also can vote, hold government jobs and elected office, and sponsor their family members who in turn may bring more money and stability into local families and economies.

From June 2017 to June 2018, 363 acts of citizenship were completed. Following the campaign, an additional 100-plus acts have been completed. Hailing from five continents and over 25 countries, clients ranged in age from 16 to 73 years. Acts of citizenship included attending pro bono clinics and information sessions to advise immigrants on their eligibility, representing individuals in their naturalization applications, attending naturalization interviews and more. Throughout the challenge, Duane Morris partnered with TD Bank attorneys and paralegals.

Political Asylum Obtained for Survivor of Domestic Violence

Duane Morris obtained asylum for a survivor of domestic violence, who was put into removal proceedings at the U.S.-Mexico border. The client was involved in an abusive relationship in her home country, and for 22 years she endured frequent threats of violence and brutal beatings at the hands of her spouse, often in front of her children and neighbors. The client left her country and her children, whom she could not take with her, and traveled alone through Central America and Mexico. She crossed the U.S. border and asked for asylum on the grounds of domestic violence, a U.S. immigration category only recently recognized as a basis for asylum subject to showing acceptable facts and applicable law, and was arrested and placed in an immigration detention facility. The pro bono team worked together to get the client released by posting her bond, and continued their tenacious work when she arrived in New York. In an incredible victory, the team was able to obtain asylum status for the client along with work authorization and Social Security.

Pro Bono Team Obtains 11th Circuit Stay of Removal for Eritrean Refugee

Duane Morris won a stay of removal for an Eritrean refugee while the 11th Circuit considers his petition for review. The client had been persecuted for his political expression, including multiple rounds of months of solitary confinement and torture. He is being held at an ICE facility, and was to be deported by May 6, but now his removal will be put on hold pending the 11th Circuit’s merits review.

Permanent Legal Resident Status for Mexican National

Duane Morris represented a Mexican national in his petition to remove conditions on his legal permanent resident status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) intended to revoke his status due to visa violations that occurred long before his present status. The client is married to a U.S. Citizen, has a disabled son and has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years. Documenting these equities, the pro bono team was successful in having the condition on the client’s status removed and securing his lawful permanent residency in the United States. He will be eligible for U.S. citizenship in three years.

Pro Bono Amicus Representation for Immigration Case

Duane Morris filed a pro bono amicus curiae brief in the Third Circuit on behalf of client HIAS Pennsylvania. The amicus brief argued that the Third Circuit should grant rehearing en banc in an immigration case to give additional consideration to how broadly the court interprets whether an offense is “relating to” a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. HIAS Pennsylvania, a nonprofit legal services organization providing pro bono and low-cost services to immigrants in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, sought to appear as amicus in the case because it assists immigrants who may be impacted by the panel’s decision. The brief provides an invaluable perspective on the potentially severe human impact of the panel’s decision, which is all too often overlooked in immigration cases.

Immigration Team Obtains Quick Approval for I-601 Extreme Hardship Waiver  

Duane Morris secured approval of a Mexican father’s extreme hardship waiver. The father had been stuck in Mexico for over five months while his U.S. citizen wife, who is physically and mentally handicapped, tried to care for their daughters in the U.S. The waiver, which allowed the father to return to his wife and daughters, was approved in less than two months (normal processing times can be upwards of six months or longer) and the father returned to the U.S. soon thereafter. 

Political Asylum for LGBTQ Individuals Fearing Persecution and Death

Through Immigration Equality, the nation's leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization, Duane Morris regularly represents individuals seeking asylum in the United States fearing persecution in their home country as a result of their sexual orientation.

Originally from Ghana, one client nearly was beaten to death for being gay and was imprisoned for 20 days to "cure" his homosexuality. The client fled Ghana to Brazil and eventually set out by bus, foot and human smuggler through South and Central America to California, seeking safety and asylum. In California, the client was detained by United States immigration officials and placed into deportation proceedings. Duane Morris defensively argued that the client feared persecution in Ghana and should not be ordered removed. The Philadelphia Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Department of Homeland Security agreed the client’s fear was credible and granted him asylum.

Another client, a gay man from Jamaica, was forced to marry a woman to "prove" he was not gay. He fled his home country after being stoned and his wife attempting to kill him. He sought asylum in the United States so he could live a happy, secure life with his partner. Duane Morris attorneys from the Miami and Philadelphia offices successfully represented the client in an affirmative asylum application based on persecution related to his sexual orientation.

Duane Morris Pro Bono Aiding Trafficking SurvivorsDuane Morris salutes the indomitable human spirit. Recognizing the need for new beginnings, clean slates and renewed hope, our attorneys provide thousands of pro bono hours to survivors of human trafficking and victims who were exploited and wrongfully convicted. We are humbled and inspired by the strength of our clients and the depth of their resiliency in spite of daunting circumstances.

Removal Order Terminated for Trafficking Survivor After Criminal Convictions Vacated

A team vacated a pro bono client’s trafficking related criminal convictions in summer 2017. The convictions had resulted in immigration removal proceedings, and last week, the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. successfully petitioned to re-open and terminate the client’s immigration case. The client now is awaiting her permanent green card and is applying for U.S. Citizenship; she was a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. throughout her trafficking and for almost 20 years.

Misdemeanor Convictions Vacated for Client

Duane Morris attorneys vacated all 25 misdemeanor convictions for a pro bono client that arose while she was a victim of commercial sex trafficking. The now vacated convictions were the sole basis for deportation proceedings against the client, who immigrated to the United States when she was three years old. The client was referred to Duane Morris through Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), an organization whose mission is to empower young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop their full potential. Duane Morris has a longstanding relationship with GEMS and supports their efforts in helping this community.

Illinois Survivor Becomes National Leader

Trafficked, beaten and subject to unimaginable emotional abuse for more than 20 years, our client escaped in 1997 and dedicated her life to helping others escape similar circumstances. She founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving Chicago girls impacted by the sex trade, worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to provide desperately needed services to trafficked girls and women and won numerous awards for her work. Nevertheless, our client’s prostitution convictions kept her from achieving further goals, including becoming an adoptive parent, working with at-risk youth and opening a crisis center for her organization.

Working in conjunction with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Duane Morris attorneys assisted the client in expunging her criminal convictions under the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Crimes Trafficking Act. The Act allows state courts to vacate prostitution-related convictions if the petitioner can show they were a victim of trafficking at the time of the conviction.

Expanding Legal Protections for Victims of Trafficking

Collaborating with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Duane Morris attorneys helped expand the types of convictions that may be vacated under Illinois’ Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act. In addition to successfully vacating prostitution convictions relating to our client’s trafficking, Duane Morris attorneys argued that the Act should be construed to permit vacatur of other convictions that were the direct result of a survivor’s trafficking. In doing so, Duane Morris attorneys helped set a precedent in Illinois, which will aid many more survivors to vacate convictions from their criminal records wherein they really were the victim, not the criminal.

Collaborating to Educate and Prevent Child Exploitation in Our Communities

It is estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 U.S. adolescents annually are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. The average age at which children are targeted by traffickers is 12–14 years old. As a result, mentoring, education and support are key, both for youth and adults. Duane Morris’ New York office teams up with Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), which helps hundreds of domestically trafficked girls and women flee their traffickers and develop their full potential. Our attorneys represent survivors in motions to vacate prostitution-related criminal convictions, lead know-your-rights workshops, host civil legal clinics and provide legal counseling and representation to survivors concerning the myriad of civil legal issues they confront. Among other measures, the New York Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act provides specialized services for survivors recognizing their status as victims of crime and the unique traumas they face. The law also permits the vacatur of prostitution-related convictions that are the result of survivors’ trafficking, thus affording survivors lives unencumbered by criminal records. Cross-office, cross-practice pro bono efforts, with teams in Duane Morris’ Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Boca Raton and Miami offices, also aid domestically trafficked girls and women in their communities.

Duane Morris Pro Bono Children and FamiliesNationally, there is less than one civil legal aid attorney to help every 10,000 Americans living in poverty. Children are the most legally underrepresented and vulnerable members of society. In the United States, 21 percent—or one in five—children live in families with incomes at or below the federal poverty guidelines. Ensuring family unity and stability for children and families through all types of legal proceedings has been a hallmark of the Duane Morris Pro Bono Program since its founding.

Father and Daughter Reunited Following International Child Kidnapping

Duane Morris represented an Ecuadorian father in petitioning for the return of his six year old daughter under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, after the child’s mother refused to return her. The client was told his daughter was going to on an eight day vacation with her mother, traveling from Ecuador to Disney World, but instead was taken to Union, NJ, where the mother’s online boyfriend resided. The mother then refused to return her daughter to Ecuador, which violated the Ecuadorian custody order giving primary custody to the girl’s father. The client spent the next year trying to locate his daughter and secure her return. The pro bono team petitioned for her return and elicited the mother did not have status in the United States, nor was she willing to agree to a new visitation order allowing the girl to spend time with her father in Ecuador. The judge’s ruling ordered for the child’s return to her father in Ecuador.

Securing Grandparent Guardianship and Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

Several years ago, a team of attorneys obtained a judgement from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court holding that grandparents have legal standing to petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren. The client was a 77-year-old grandfather who had been denied contact with his granddaughter for over 10 years by her legal father. Despite a "limited guardianship" that was expected to encourage the young woman to develop independence and a court order allowing her freedom of visitation with her grandfather, her father still cut off any contact with the young woman’s grandfather. This past year, Duane Morris attorneys successfully enforced the grandfather’s right to visitation with his granddaughter. Three-and-a-half years after the team’s initial petition, the court granted the grandfather visitation and the two shared a big hug.

Protecting Tenants Facing Eviction

Across the country, Duane Morris attorneys represent tenants living in uninhabitable conditions and facing eviction. One particular client couple struck a chord with Los Angeles attorneys in 2017, who won a bifurcated bench trial on the clients' behalf in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The clients moved to the United States from Mexico in 2016 along with their three young children. That spring, the father suffered a back injury and could not work for many months. The family fell behind on their rent by less than one month. When the family attempted to make up the payment a few weeks later, the landlord refused and started eviction proceedings. Duane Morris represented the family in depositions, a summary judgment motion, mediation and bench trial before the Superior Court, ultimately ensuring the family remained in their home.

Win for Charter School Expansion in New Jersey

The Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) offers an innovative educational program providing traditional core curriculum through immersion instruction in both Spanish and English to children of all language backgrounds. After the Hoboken Board of Education challenged renewal of HoLa's charter as well as HoLa’s expansion—alleging HoLa had a segregative effect on Hoboken district schools—Duane Morris attorneys, on behalf of the New Jersey Charter School Association and in support of HoLa, argued the Board’s measurements alleging segregation were improper and not supported by New Jersey law. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, affirmed the New Jersey commissioner of education’s analysis of racial and economic segregation in Hoboken schools and supported renewal and expansion HoLa. Because claims of segregation have become the primary argument by charter opponents to oppose renewal and expansion, the case implicated every one of New Jersey’s 90 charter schools serving over 50,000 students.

Obtaining Guardianships for Families Caring for Their Disabled Loved Ones

Duane Morris attorneys in California, Maryland and Pennsylvania regularly work to ensure family unity by securing guardianships supporting incapacitated persons in living their lives to their fullest potential. When a child, sibling or parent no longer has or never will have capacity to handle his or her daily care and finances, a guardianship is the only legal remedy available to permit family members authority to take care of their loved one. Without access to counsel, low-income parents whose children are reaching the age of majority frequently have difficulty obtaining guardianship so they may continue making medical decisions on their children’s behalf. Children frequently are unable to receive therapy, assistance with daily living or schooling until the parents obtain guardianship. Likewise, low-income adult children seeking to ensure their senior parents are cared for after they have dementia, Alzheimer's or other illness frequently face roadblocks in accessing the court.

In one case, Duane Morris attorneys represented a guardian seeking to care for her 90-plus-year-old mother with dementia. The mother refused to leave her home, and due to her dementia, the woman did not recognize her limitations or remember her actions. The mother was living in a home infested with mice, roaches, fleas and bed bugs. Family members who supposedly were taking care of the mother did not ensure she was fed or clean. They did not even ensure the property taxes were paid on a neighboring home in which the mother graciously allowed them to live. Consequently, the home was put up for sheriff's sale and one of the mother’s daughters sought Duane Morris' assistance so her mother did not lose the home. Attorneys obtained guardianship of the woman on behalf of the daughter, who cleaned up the home, paid down the property taxes and ejected the other family members. The mother continues to age in her home surrounded by memories and family members who seek to ensure her safety.

Duane Morris Pro Bono Second Chances

Ensuring Client Received Medically Appropriate Care in Prison

Our client has been incarcerated for many years. For the past six years, he has sought surgery for a “massive hernia” (as described by doctors, over 90 percent of his intestines were outside his body) amid refusals by the state’s department of corrections. Attorneys were court appointed to represent the client team after three prior law firms failed to achieve a successful result. The pro bono team worked graciously and with tenacity to obtain the needed surgery, negotiating with opposing counsel, the prison and a medical services provider to make sure the neglected medical care was paid for appropriately.

Petition for Juvenile Lifer to Have Sentence Revisited, Reduced

Duane Morris Pro Bono Program, working with the City of Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Law Center and the Youth Resentencing and Reentry Project, successfully petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, to reduce the sentence of an inmate, incarcerated as a juvenile, from life without parole to 30 years to life. The effort is part of the firm’s Juvenile Lifer Initiative and in furtherance of a U.S. Supreme Court order in the 2012 decision Miller v. Alabama—where mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole were found unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. 

Innocent Man's Arson Conviction Vacated

Duane Morris represented the Innocence Network pro bono as amicus curiae in helping vacate the conviction of a Kentucky man who was sentenced to 52 years in prison for arson, second degree manslaughter and other offenses. At issue was the government’s expert testimony in the initial trial. Expert witnesses applied burn pattern analysis and used a specially trained dog to detect potential chemical accelerants, thus claiming the fire originated in different places and implying the fire was set intentionally. Advocating for a new trial, Duane Morris attorneys argued that such fire science methods and analyses now are recognized as faulty in an increasing number of jurisdictions. At the new trial, defendant's experts testified to the unreliability and faultiness of the government's experts' methods, analysis and opinions. Because the conviction was based on unreliable expert testimony regarding fire origination, the court found the interests of justice required the conviction be vacated. The defendant was released from prison after serving over 10 years. The court held, "It is now objectively clear that the opinions given by these four experts at trial were, viewed in the most favorable light, based on obsolete and erroneous techniques, 'rules of thumb' and assumptions, and none can be relied upon as true."

Pro Bono Representation in Two Successful Presidential Commutations

Attorneys in Duane Morris' Philadelphia and San Francisco offices successfully represented pro bono clients Curtis Bell and Christopher Pfaff, respectively, in obtaining commutations of their sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. At 58 years old, Mr. Bell spent the past 22 years in federal prison on a drug conspiracy charge for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mr. Pfaff served 12 years of a 21-year sentence in federal prison; he had pled guilty to a drug manufacturing charge.

Working with the American Bar Association and Clemency Project 2014, Duane Morris petitioned the president, through the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, for the clients’ release under the Justice Department's program to commute and pardon exemplary, nonviolent offenders who served more than 10 years of sentences for crimes that, if sentenced today, the individuals already would have been released.

Released in May 2017, Mr. Bell is working as a chef in prepared foods. He reunited with and cares for his 85-year-old mother, two children and several grandchildren. While incarcerated, Mr. Bell expressed remorse and was a productive, peaceful and hardworking inmate. He served as one of the main cooks at Federal Correctional Institution Yazoo City (Mississippi) Medium. He also earned his GED and hopes to work with programs designed to keep youth out of prison.

Despite Mr. Pfaff's history of no violent behavior or ties to any drug cartel or supplier network, he faced a long sentence under prevailing sentencing laws. If he were sentenced today, Mr. Pfaff likely would have received a sentence of fewer than eight years, not 21 years. During his 12 years in prison at United State Penitentiary, Marion (Illinois), Mr. Pfaff had an exemplary record of good conduct, showed commitment to hard work, earned his GED and excelled in college-level math courses. Mr. Pfaff plans to study physics and engineering and to pursue a career in those fields.

Parole for Client Sentenced to Life in Prison as a Juvenile

Richard Phelps was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile for a crime he committed when he was 16 years old. After serving 35 years of his sentence, Mr. Phelps was paroled in spring 2017. Duane Morris attorneys successfully represented Mr. Phelps in his constitutionally mandated resentencing hearing under Miller v. Alabama (2012) (holding that mandatory life without parole sentences are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) (holding that Miller must be applied retroactively). In advocating for a reduced sentence, the team considered Mr. Phelps’ young age, lack of prior misconduct of any form and difficult childhood as well as his remorse and rehabilitation efforts while incarcerated. Prior to his resentencing, Mr. Phelps had been free of any misconduct—minor or major—for over 20 years, and he worked as the manager of the soap detergent factory at the state correctional institution from 1988 to 2015. In 2015, he began working in the print shop to accommodate his taking GED classes. Mr. Phelps also participated in courses and programs aimed at violence prevention and victim awareness.

Now living with his godmother, Mr. Phelps is pursuing opportunities with Philadelphia's Center for Employment Opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals and the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, which partners with court-involved youth to provide support to children prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, including juvenile lifers.

Duane Morris Helps Organize Citywide Expungement Clinic for Over 300 Philadelphians

Historically, Pennsylvanians encountered steep barriers to expunging criminal records. Absent expungement, a publicly accessible record would remain even when a person was merely arrested and never convicted of a crime. Indeed, only such non-convictions were expungable in Pennsylvania; criminal convictions could not be expunged no matter how many years elapsed or whether a person completed his or her sentence. Beginning in November 2016, a new law allows Pennsylvanians to seal minor misdemeanor convictions so they only are accessible to judicial and law enforcement officials. Duane Morris attorneys—in collaboration with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Bar Association—led a citywide clinic to help clear the records of more than 1,000 Philadelphia residents. Duane Morris attorneys assisted over 300 individuals in expunging and sealing their records, with the hope of helping open doors to employment for fellow city residents.

Corporate Pro Bono Help for the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation

The Atlantic Center for Capital Representation (ACCR) (Philadelphia) provides consultation and mitigation services, legal advocacy and training for defense attorneys providing legal representation in death penalty and juvenile life without parole sentencing and resentencing cases in Pennsylvania. Duane Morris attorneys represented ACCR in establishing as an independent nonprofit with IRS tax-exempt status and ACCR supported Duane Morris by providing mitigation and reentry services for several clients in juvenile life without parole resentencing hearings.

Duane Morris Pro Bono Community Economic DevelopmentDuane Morris plays a vital role in strengthening the communities in which Firm employees live and work. To expand access to justice, Duane Morris collaborates with numerous legal services organizations and other community-based nonprofits to support community building efforts and provide pro bono legal representation. Our representation includes matters involving domestic violence, housing, guardianship, disability benefits, landlord-tenant, nonprofit incorporation, governance, protection of intellectual property, tax-exempt status and many other criminal and civil legal matters.

Uniting Communities with Pizza

Scott Wiener’s love of pizza—particularly cultural and regional differences—led him to create Scott's Pizza Tours (New York). What began with friends in his car driving around New Jersey and New York led to renting out a bus and quickly transformed into an entrepreneurial business. Recognizing that treating food as entertainment is a luxury too many people cannot afford, Scott soon hosted the first annual Slice Out Hunger party. A simple idea, Scott uses food donated from independent pizzerias to raise money for local food banks and pantries with proven track records. Since New York City isn't the only community that could benefit from Slice Out Hunger events, Duane Morris attorneys are aiding Scott and Slice Out Hunger in their next venture: helping communities run Slice Out Hunger events on their own, as well as implement effective campaigns to raise funds and awareness for neighbors in need. Scott’s goal is to spread the message: Pizza has the power to unite and support communities.

Saving a Juice Bar in Harlem

Elma’s in Harlem dishes out mouthwatering West Indian cuisine and soul food in a fun, friendly atmosphere. Owner Jimmie began saving money in high school with the goal of owning his own restaurant and feeding the neighborhood just as his grandmother, Elma, brought people together through food. After investing all his personal savings into opening a juice bar, the landlord refused to turn on the water for several months, causing Jimmie to lose profits and stalling operations. Duane Morris attorneys assisted Jimmie in obtaining a judgment from New York Civil Court for the full amount of damages Jimmie endured as a result of the landlord’s actions. Now Jimmie is moving forward serving his local community and enhancing the lives of people that make up his culturally rich section of the city.

Jimmie was introduced to Duane Morris by colleagues at Start Small Think Big (New York), which connects immigrant and traditionally underserved/unbanked small-business owners with legal and financial representation.

Supporting Celiac Disease Awareness

Celiac disease affects an estimated one in 133 Americans. Over a decade ago, Beyond Celiac (nationwide) was founded as a small patient advocacy group, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), with the goal of creating a world where people with celiac disease can be quickly diagnosed, eat safely and live their lives to the fullest. Today, Beyond Celiac has grown into a leading organization impacting more than 2 million people by driving awareness and diagnosis of celiac disease. Along the way, Duane Morris attorneys have provided valuable intellectual property representation to Beyond Celiac ensuring its information, ideas and brand are protected so Beyond Celiac may focus on the mission of finding a cure for the disease.

Building Homes with Habitat for Humanity, Power Women Power Tools

Duane Morris has represented Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles pro bono for several years in negotiating real estate transactions for land parcels where Habitat will build affordable housing for low-income families. Duane Morris attorneys and staff additionally teamed up with Habitat L.A. families to frame buildings that will house 10 families in Habitat L.A.’s new Culver City project, the first affordable homeownership development in the city’s history.

"The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be."

Generations know Yogi Berra as one of the greatest baseball players to ever play in the major leagues, but fewer people know the stories of Yogi’s principled life, including his service in World War II and his dedication to family and diversity. The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center (New Jersey) works to sustain and promote the values of respect, perseverance, sportsmanship and excellence through inclusive, culturally diverse sports-based educational exhibits and programs, thus keeping Yogi’s legacy alive for new generations of leaders. Duane Morris supports Yogi’s mission by representing the museum pro bono in restructuring the museum’s board and bylaws, negotiating and reviewing contracts, and securing its intellectual property, among other matters. Firm attorneys also provided legal advice to veterans and military families during the museum’s veteran service fair.

“We aren’t passengers on Spaceship Earth, we’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet, we’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.”—Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart, best known as the first to pilot the Lunar Module

Duane Morris responds to the call for responsible business practices through pro bono efforts increasing equal access to justice in our communities. Duane Morris Alumni Give Back, a new pro bono initiative, will formally align, activate and encourage alumni to team up with current Firm attorneys through its Pro Bono Program. The first phase of the project is underway with the inclusion of alumni on all pro bono publications, as well as invitations to all Duane Morris sponsored public interest CLEs and legal clinic volunteer opportunities where available.

Duane Morris proudly sponsors regular pro bono clinics throughout our offices focusing on diverse matters, including:

  • Medical legal partnerships at several Veterans Administration medical centers;
  • U.S. naturalization screenings and application preparation clinics;
  • Will drafting and advanced planning clinics for individuals with terminal illnesses, veterans and more; and
  • Office hours for various court-sponsored self-help programs, entrepreneur and inventor clinics, and many more.

The Firm also distributes information on time-limited, emergent pro bono opportunities, such as telephone-based FEMA and civil legal advice for victims of natural disasters. Training opportunities and manuals are available to all new volunteers.

Spotlight On: Pro Bono Partnerships

In Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Pro Bono Program supports alumna Marissa Boyers Bluestine (Philadelphia), now Legal Director at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, by assisting in individual innocence investigations and cases, as well as in amicus briefs across the commonwealth. Through the global Innocence Network and other state-based Innocence Projects, Duane Morris attorneys across the United States aid individuals seeking to be exonerated of crimes for which they were wrongfully convicted and work to ensure that the scientific basis of testimony in science-dependent cases is fully examined.