Our Firm

Pro Bono

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." – Margaret Mead

In this spirit, Arnold & Porter has established one of the world's leading law firm pro bono programs. Our pro bono commitment is key to who we are and is the reason why many of our attorneys have made their professional home here. We believe that all lawyers have a moral obligation to do pro bono work, and we strive to be the best there is.

We encourage our lawyers to devote 15% of their time to pro bono work, and we make clear to all lawyers that we expect them to do this work. For we believe, in the words of Robert Kennedy, that while "few may have the greatness to bend history itself" each time an individual "stands up for an ideal, or works to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And those ripples, crossing each other from a million centers of energy and daring, build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of resistance and oppression."

If you have any questions about the activities of the Pro Bono Committee, please contact our Pro Bono Committee Chair, Dan Cantor, at probono@arnoldporter.com.

Cases

Appellate and Supreme Court cases

In mid-2019, the firm, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union, secured a groundbreaking victory on behalf of immigration advocacy groups that challenged the United States government's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

The victory was the culmination of a journey that ended in a defeat for the federal government in the Supreme Court in June 2019, after which the administration announced it they would print the 2020 censuses without the citizenship question.

Also in 2019, the firm secured an important and high-profile free speech and immigrant rights victory on behalf of leading immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Ragbir, who founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, has lived in the US for more than 25 years. His wife and daughter are both US citizens. For more than a decade, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expressly allowed Ragbir to live and work in the US notwithstanding a 2006 final order of removal based on a 2001 conviction. However, that changed after Ragbir emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the US government's immigration policies and ICE's enforcement actions.

At a routine check-in with ICE in January 2018, Ragbir was detained, without warning, and flown to Florida in an unusual effort to deport him the next day. Ragbir's longtime immigration lawyers from the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic secured his release from detention, but ICE ordered him to report for deportation just days later.

Within a week, the Arnold & Porter team prepared a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction asserting that ICE's attempt to deport Ragbir in retaliation for his protected political speech violates the First Amendment. One day before Ragbir's scheduled deportation, the US government consented to a temporary stay pending decision on the preliminary injunction motion. In May 2018, a New York district court denied a preliminary injunction and dismissed Ragbir's First Amendment claims. It concluded that a federal statute barred jurisdiction over the case, and that the First Amendment in any event does not prohibit selective immigration enforcement of the sort alleged by Ragbir.

The Arnold & Porter team appealed, and after granting a stay of removal pending resolution of the appeal, the Second Circuit ruled in Ragbir's favor, reversing the district court's decision. It held that deporting Ragbir based on his political speech would be sufficiently "outrageous" to violate the First Amendment. As for the federal statute stripping jurisdiction, the Second Circuit held that it violates the Constitution's Suspension Clause and therefore the courthouse doors must remain open to Ragbir's claim.

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  • Affordable Housing

    Arnold & Porter is helping low-income residents of apartment buildings and cooperatives, both large and small, avoid the widespread displacement that is a product of the District of Columbia's rapidly gentrifying housing market. This includes providing advice and representation to low-income renters who seek to exercise their rights under DC law to purchase their buildings when landlords attempt to transfer ownership to third parties, to convert buildings to condominium regimes, to substantially rehabilitate buildings at the expense of current residents, or to demolish buildings. We advocate for our clients to ensure that their buildings comply with applicable housing codes and other legal requirements, to maintain fair rent levels, and to prevent unwarranted evictions of families from their homes. We also work with the residents of low-income cooperatives to enhance their living conditions and the values of their cooperative shares.

    This work involves attorneys from numerous practice areas—real estate, tax, litigation, bankruptcy, corporate, government contracts and environmental law—who bring their respective legal knowledge and skills to bear on the full range of legal challenges that low-income residents face in securing decent, affordable housing. Our representation often involves assisting residents to organize into tenant associations that are registered with the DC government; counseling residents as they consider and determine the types of legal and financial housing structures (e.g., rental, cooperatives, and condominiums, and 100 percent affordable or mixed income) that will achieve their goals; assisting residents in securing essential acquisition and development funding; and negotiating purchase agreements and other documents with developers, financial institutions and other third parties. And as becomes necessary from time to time, our attorneys litigate on behalf of tenants and tenant organizations, appearing in both judicial and administrative forums, and at both trial and appellate levels. During 2014 we represented residents living in a diverse range of DC neighborhoods, including Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Petworth, the U Street Corridor, NOMA, Eckington, Georgia Avenue, both Riverfront and Far Southwest, and East of the River.

  • Appellate and Supreme Court

    In mid-2019, the firm, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union, secured a groundbreaking victory on behalf of immigration advocacy groups that challenged the United States government's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

    The victory was the culmination of a journey that ended in a defeat for the federal government in the Supreme Court in June 2019, after which the administration announced it they would print the 2020 censuses without the citizenship question.

    Also in 2019, the firm secured an important and high-profile free speech and immigrant rights victory on behalf of leading immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

    Ragbir, who founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, has lived in the US for more than 25 years. His wife and daughter are both US citizens. For more than a decade, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expressly allowed Ragbir to live and work in the US notwithstanding a 2006 final order of removal based on a 2001 conviction. However, that changed after Ragbir emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the US government's immigration policies and ICE's enforcement actions.

    At a routine check-in with ICE in January 2018, Ragbir was detained, without warning, and flown to Florida in an unusual effort to deport him the next day. Ragbir's longtime immigration lawyers from the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic secured his release from detention, but ICE ordered him to report for deportation just days later.

    Within a week, the Arnold & Porter team prepared a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction asserting that ICE's attempt to deport Ragbir in retaliation for his protected political speech violates the First Amendment. One day before Ragbir's scheduled deportation, the US government consented to a temporary stay pending decision on the preliminary injunction motion. In May 2018, a New York district court denied a preliminary injunction and dismissed Ragbir's First Amendment claims. It concluded that a federal statute barred jurisdiction over the case, and that the First Amendment in any event does not prohibit selective immigration enforcement of the sort alleged by Ragbir.

    The Arnold & Porter team appealed, and after granting a stay of removal pending resolution of the appeal, the Second Circuit ruled in Ragbir's favor, reversing the district court's decision. It held that deporting Ragbir based on his political speech would be sufficiently "outrageous" to violate the First Amendment. As for the federal statute stripping jurisdiction, the Second Circuit held that it violates the Constitution's Suspension Clause and therefore the courthouse doors must remain open to Ragbir's claim.

  • Capital Murder

    We have represented a number of death row inmates in habeas corpus proceedings. Indeed, our work in this area earned us the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project Excellence in Service Award. The cases raise important constitutional and criminal procedure issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel, legality of confessions, and mental competency. We have represented several death row inmates, including Troy Anthony Davis, whose case became nationally prominent. Mr. Davis was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for killing a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. The conviction was based solely on eyewitness testimony, no murder weapon was ever found and no physical evidence ever directly connected Davis to the crime. Davis spent more than 20 years on death row before he was executed in 2011 despite substantial questions about his innocence. In July 2007, less than 24 hours before his scheduled execution, Arnold & Porter attorneys convinced the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to take notice of the troubling facts of the case, resulting in a last-minute stay of execution. Our attorneys secured two additional last minute stays of execution, and in 2009 successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of United States to order an evidentiary hearing to examine Mr. Davis' innocence—the first time the Supreme Court had taken such measures in nearly 50 years. Of the nine original witnesses who implicated Davis, seven had recanted their testimony, citing police coercion and simple mistake. Other witnesses and evidence came to light during the evidentiary hearing which supported Mr. Davis' innocence. This evidence led to a barrage of media coverage and an outcry of support for Mr. Davis from around the world. The federal district court in Savannah, Georgia denied Mr. Davis relief in 2010, and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant Mr. Davis reprieve after what was reported to be a close vote. Despite the protestations of, among many others, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, several federal and state court judges, a former Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles member and Mr. Davis' former prison warden, Mr. Davis was executed in October 2011 a short distance from a massive crowd of protesters, national news media and police.

    Our firm also represents Henry Daniels, who was convicted of the first degree murder of 16-year-old Alexander Porter and sentenced to death. According to the prosecution, Daniels and an accomplice intended to hold Porter for ransom but, when the plan began to unravel, decided instead to kill him. The state presented the opinion of a medical examiner who testified, in spite of scientific evidence indicating otherwise, that the defendants had shot Porter to death. At trial, Daniels testified that they never intended to kill Porter, but that he had suffocated to death accidentally in the trunk of the car where they had confined him. Finding him dead later that day, they took his lifeless body out to the woods in the middle of the night, dumped it by the side of a road, and shot it four times. The lack of bleeding from the wounds, as well as documents from the medical examiner's file that were withheld at trial, indicated that Porter could not have been alive when shot. Witness statements corroborating Daniels' testimony were also withheld at trial. An accidental death would have foreclosed the possibility of a first degree murder conviction, making Daniels ineligible for the death penalty. While Daniels' abusive childhood and tragic teen years also would have been strong foundation for a case in mitigation against a death sentence, Daniels' counsel made merely token efforts to stave off the death penalty. The case went up for direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, during which Daniels' appellate counsel failed even to contact him before submitting an appellate brief on his behalf. The Court denied relief. The case went to a second layer of appeal, at which point the appeals court granted relief on three claims, including claims that the government had withheld exculpatory evidence at trial, only to be reversed on its second presentation to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and sent back down to the appeals court. At this level of appeal, Arnold & Porter took up Daniels' case, and Daniels prevailed on one claim: mitigation—relief granted in the form of a new sentencing phase to determine whether Daniels should have received the death penalty. The Commonwealth appealed and the case sits now in front of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, where it has been twice before, for rulings on 16 claims of relief.

    The firm also achieved a huge pro bono victory when the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state of California from executing any inmates by lethal injection until it issues regulations in compliance with the state Administrative Procedures Act. The court held that the existing regulations failed to comply with the APA in numerous respects. As a result, the state cannot execute anyone by lethal injection until new regulations are promulgated, a process that could take several years. This is a very significant result because California has more than 700 prisoners on death row, more than any other state.

  • Community Economic Development/Transactions

    Community development and transactional matters continue to be an integral part of Arnold & Porter's pro bono efforts. Symbolic of this work is our representation of DC Habitat for Humanity. For years, we have represented DC Habitat in a wide variety of legal matters, including the acquisition of sites on which DC Habitat will construct affordable housing; the sale of such housing to participants of DC Habitat's program; legislative, zoning and land-use matters; the negotiation and drafting of leases for DC Habitat and others; and the negotiation and obtaining of loans and grants from a wide variety of public and private sources. We also represented DC Habitat in its efforts to develop a large tract of land for 53 affordable, owner-occupied houses.

    Other examples of our community development and transactional pro bono work include our representation of MANNA, one of the city's largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing, in the acquisition and zoning/land-use planning of various sites in the District of Columbia for the development of affordable single-family housing. We represented the Spanish Education Development Center in connection with its lease of a headquarters facility. We have represented Community Development Corporations, including the North Capitol Neighborhood Development Corporation (NCND), as part of the DC Bar Public Service Activities Corporation's Community Economic Development Pro Bono Project.

  • Education

    Our firm has undertaken a variety of activities relating to the development of public charter schools in the District of Columbia, which are designed to spur innovation in public school education and to give parents a choice in the free education of their children. These activities have included assisting the DC Public Charter School Coalition in the implementation of Congressional legislation authorizing charter schools and consulting on other issues of general concern to charter schools in DC, including funding and facilities issues. We have also represented schools in the purchase, lease, and financing of school facilities. In addition, we have represented several charter schools and charter school support groups in matters regarding the operations and management of such schools. Our attorneys also participated in a task force organized by the DC Appleseed Center to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the governance structure of the District's Board of Education. We also have worked with DC Appleseed on a project analyzing whether the District should have a community college and, if so, what form it should take. We are also participating in a joint pro bono venture in which our attorneys and GE team up with the Children's Law Center to provide legal representation for parents seeking special education services for their children. The program was developed to address the enormous need for low-income families to have lawyers assist them in navigating the - 5 - special education process. Lawyers assist parents in advocating at the school level to have their children evaluated for disabilities and obtain appropriate services. Lawyers may also challenge the denial of services through a due process hearing.

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Recognition

Barker Featured in DC Bar's Washington Lawyer Magazine for Pro Bono Work

Partner John Barker was recently featured in the July/August 2019 issue of the DC Bar's Washington Lawyer magazine for his longterm commitment to pro bono work. He has volunteered with the DC Bar Pro Bono Center through its Landlord Tenant Resource Center for 12 years by equipping unrepresented tenants and landlords with free legal information related to residential housing disputes in the District of Columbia, including helping unrepresented persons understand court proceedings, prepare pleadings and prepare for court hearings and trials. Washington Lawyer magazine notes that Barker and his fellow volunteers exemplify the advantages of "applying what you know to better help our neighbors in need."

The DC Bar Pro Bono Center, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, has helped more than 20,000 individuals, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses in the past year. They rely on a strong network of volunteers whose "legal expertise covers the spectrum of practice areas." The DC Bar Pro Bono Center provides training, resources, and mentorship to prepare attorneys for advising clients beyond the regular scope of their practices.

Blake Biles Receives DC Bar and DC Attorney General’s Award for Lifetime Pro Bono Achievement

Retired partner Blake Biles recently received the DC Bar and DC Attorney General's Award for Lifetime Pro Bono Achievement. The award was presented during the DC Bar's Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting on June 11, 2019.

Biles was commended for his dedication in "helping people at the margins in the District of Columbia" over the past four decades. During the past 15 years, when he performed nearly 20,000 hours of pro-bono service, Biles focused his work on broad-based, multidisciplinary efforts to preserve and increase the supply of affordable housing for DC's thousands of low-income tenants. Biles also has worked on a large number of transactions and cases, advocating for tenants in properties with untenable conditions and irresponsible landlords, and "ensuring that repairs were made, housing code violations were cured, and tenants were safely housed." In addition, Biles was applauded for having staffed a legal-intake site for homeless persons, "leading the boards of housing and legal services organizations," and his "service in an astonishing array of issues, including medical care and disability benefits claims, probate matters, individual bankruptcy filings, and prison and institutional cases." 

Arnold & Porter Named Company of the Year at Power of Women Awards

On March 4, 2019, Arnold & Porter's London office was recognized at the Power of Women Awards as Company of the Year for its work with the charity Dress for Success Greater London.

The Power of Women Awards celebrate women and their achievements, particularly recognizing individuals who inspire others to succeed. This year, the firm was recognized for its work with Dress for Success Greater London, a not-for-profit organization that helps disadvantaged women in the workplace by providing professional clothing, styling, interview coaching, and on-going professional support.

The Arnold & Porter team working with Dress for Success Greater London included partners Jeremy Willcocks and Jacqueline Mulryne, as well as associates Benjamin Kieft and Lucy Johnson-Cameron.

Teresa Johnson presented with 2018 Award of Merit by the Bar Association of San Francisco

Teresa L. Johnson was recognized for her service on BASF's Finance Committee and for her contributions in shepherding the organization through the implementation of building upgrades to the offices of the Homeless Advocacy Project. Teresa "Terry" Johnson was on the BASF Board from 2014-2017 and has served as both a chair and member of BASF's Finance Committee for many years. In this role, she provides expertise and leadership to support the financial health of both the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Justice & Diversity Center.

The National Law Journal's 2018 Pro Bono Hot List

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