Phoenix Pro Bono Commitment |
Pro bono work is a core part of the culture of Perkins Coie in Phoenix. Ninety-two percent of our attorneys (including 100 percent of our associates) provide pro bono services, with most providing more than 50 hours annually. Our pro bono matters have included handling election law cases, civil rights and antidiscrimination issues, working on immigration and asylum matters, representing low-income individuals in family housing and benefits matters and providing corporate law support for numerous non-profits. We are dedicated to supporting both the legal profession and the community.
We support our attorneys' commitment to pro bono work by helping them connect with opportunities that they care about and by providing training to enhance their service. We regularly recognize and honor our professionals for their pro bono service.
Associate Descriptions of their Pro Bono Experiences:
“When I learned about the story of "M," a 24 year-old refugee from Somalia, I felt a little overwhelmed. I had no previous experience with the complex maze of immigration laws, and the stakes were quite high: if M were to lose his application for asylum, he would be sent back to Somalia where he would almost certainly be killed. The Florence Immigration & Refugee Rights Project referred the case to us after M had been denied humanitarian parole--forcing him to remain detained in one of Florence's correctional centers while his case was pending.
M had fled from severe persecution based on his tribal affiliation, and had traveled to the United States through Ethiopia, Dubai, Russia, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. He spoke very little English, and had not spoken to his family since fleeing with a smuggler who promised to take him to the United States where he could potentially start a new life for himself. M and I spent two months preparing for his hearing in front of the immigration judge. We drafted his declaration, prepared a legal brief arguing that asylum was appropriate relief in his case, and collected various documents that supported that members of M's tribe faced nearly certain persecution in Somalia.
During the course of those two months, I could see M change from apprehensive to trusting, guarded to forthcoming, and nervous to confident. M told me during our last meeting before the hearing that he knew I probably would not remember how I had helped him, and that there was no way he could repay me, but that he would remember it always. M's gratitude was so sincere and touching, and I did not want to let him down. When M was granted asylum after the hearing in front of the immigration judge, he could not stop shaking my hand. There were so many differences between us at that moment--cultural, linguistic, and situational--but at the same time, I felt so connected to him and the paths we had each taken that caused our lives to intersect. I cannot think of a time in my career that I felt as fulfilled as I did that day. And despite what M said, I knew that I would never, ever forget him or his story.”
“In 1991 two pastors started Helping Hands in Africa. This program was initially developed to feed the poor and destitute children of their South African town who were often found rummaging through the city dump. Over the years, the organization evolved from a feeding project into one that brings lasting change to those affected by poverty and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The founders sought to expand their ability to help by working with churches in the United States to send trained volunteers and supplies to South Africa. Unfortunately, their effort to secure a permanent visa to continue their work in the United States was denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS").
I had the privilege of securing permanent visas -in the religious worker category -for the founders. The road was a long one. Their initial application was denied, but we were able to have the case remanded on appeal. After two years, we received word that their application was approved. It is rewarding to see hard work and persistence pay off in a real, tangible way. I like to think that by helping the organization’s founders, I am also helping those they will now be able to assist in South Africa thanks to their expanded efforts in the United States.”
“I was involved in a case involving a veteran's widow seeking benefits from the Veteran's Administration. The widow’s late husband has served in the Philippine Army as a guerilla fighter on the side of the U.S. during World War II. When the war ended, the U.S. military recognized members of the Philippine Army as U.S. military veterans and provided some limited benefits. Her husband had suffered gunshot wounds to his chest and arm in 1942 and received disability benefits from the U.S. Veterans Administration. His benefits began soon after his discharge in the late 1940s and continued until he passed away in 2004. His widow applied to continue receiving his disability pension after his death. Her claim was initially denied by the VA as not credible, due in part to the lapse of time that had occurred since her husband had been wounded. We stepped in on appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and we were able to convince the VA to take another look at the evidence and the possibility that she was entitled to her husband’s disability pension. The VA ended up siding with her during the briefing, and the CAVC remanded for further proceedings at the VA.
I found this experience most rewarding during the times we attempted to speak via telephone and Skype with the widow at her home in the Philippines. She speaks a dialect of Tagalog that we were never able to identify, although a fellow associate did an amazing job of interpreting during our more successful calls. This associate had lived in Philippines at one time, and his help was invaluable in communicating with the widow under difficult circumstances. She badly wanted to help us win her case, and was enthusiastic about pursuing her arguments. We had our hands full and we were pleased that the VA and the CAVC saw things the way they did.”
“Our client arrived in the United States from Kenya with little more than the clothes on her back after being targeted and driven from her home by a violent political-religious sect. In Kenya, she was an elementary school teacher. When she noticed that some of the older children were dropping out to join the sect or marry gang-members, she started a Saturday school program where she could talk candidly with the children about the dangers of the lifestyle. Among other things, the sect engages in extortion for subsistence, violence against Christians, and violent enforcement of female circumcision and rigid dress codes for women. When the sect learned that our client was speaking out against them, she became a target. After a series of threatening phone calls and text messages, her husband was beaten and kidnapped, and her daughter was sexually assaulted and circumcised. After relocating to another village and going into hiding, our client was sexually assaulted by some of her former students on the way home from evening worship services.
Our client's case was truly a team effort. She was taken in and interviewed by a partner-associate team in the Chicago office. When the client moved to Phoenix, we took on the case. We were fortunate to get expert affidavits from a professor of African studies and a doctor who examined our client for evidence of physical abuse. Every resource that we needed to complete our client's application was available to us. We submitted the application and were called in for an interview a few months later. The interview was grueling, but when we received a letter from the government granting our client asylum, the thrill and relief were remarkable. Because our client's letter did not arrive at the same time our copy did, I was able to call the client and inform her of the good news. The hours of research and preparation for the application and interview were more than worth it to hear her joyful reaction.”
“When we first met Mr. E-, he had been deemed ineligible for cancelation of removal because an immigration judge had ruled that his conviction for aggravated stalking constituted an aggravated felony. Our brief thoroughly discussed how aggravated stalking could not constitute an aggravated felony under various federal immigration laws, and thus, Mr. E-should be found eligible for cancelation of removal.
From a personal standpoint, this case was very rewarding for me. When speaking to Mr. E-, we heard the voice of a man who regretted his actions. Further, we reviewed a letter from his ex-girlfriend (and mother of his children) that discussed Mr. E-as being a family man who loved and cared for his two young children. We also saw report cards and certificates that showcased how well Mr. E-'s children were doing in school. We knew we had to do our best to help keep Mr. E-in the same country as his children so he could continue to be a strong influence in their lives.
While we were happy to win our appeal, which resulted in Mr. E-becoming eligible for cancelation of removal, our true joy came when we discovered he ultimately was granted relief from removal.”
"Another associate and I originated a pro bono matter in which we serve as co-counsel with the ACLU and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The lawsuit challenges, on various federal constitutional grounds, an Arizona constitutional amendment implementing laws that collectively act to deny bail to defendants where there is probable cause to believe that they entered or remained in the country unlawfully. At its core, the lawsuit contends that the categorical denial of bail on the basis of a person's status in the country violates the U.S. Constitution. This lawsuit has received a tremendous amount of press, and other Perkins Coie lawyers and I have been quoted in the media. The firm has given us wide latitude to run the case in conjunction with our co-counsel. This experience of managing a case is invaluable and is one that many lawyers don't get until much later in their career."
"I had the opportunity to work on an election law case, which is now on appeal. I was part of a team of attorneys who represented a national advocacy group committed to protecting the integrity of elections by filing an action for injunctive relief asserting a number of constitutional and statutory challenges to the use of touch-screen voting machines. I interviewed potential plaintiffs, determined how to proceed with litigation and drafted a complaint, a motion for injunction relief and discovery requests. Through this pro bono case and others, I can do things, such as argue a motion and supervise others, that I may not be able to do otherwise at this point in my career."