Matters That Matter: October Pro Bono Roundup

In this edition of Matters That Matter, we honor the many lawyers who have dedicated their time to important pro bono causes. This month, we highlight a variety of worthy projects, such as seeking justice against human rights abuses in Haiti, improving access to clinical trials for cancer patients, and assisting with global research to advance women’s opportunities. These are just a few examples of the many ways our lawyers are living out our proud pro bono tradition every day.

Teaming Up to Curb Abusive Bail Bond Practices

San Francisco Litigation partner Jina Choi is supervising associates Ben Fox, Charles Cartagena-Ortiz, Brianna Liang Velasco, Morgan MacBride, and Michael Santos in five separate matters, helping low-income clients draft demand letters and negotiate the discharge of debt that bail bond companies claim they owe.

The project aims to help clients who were either arrested themselves or co-signed a bail bond agreement on behalf of a family member and are now being pursued by bail bond companies for debts that involve violations of consumer debt laws. In partnership with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), MoFo volunteers joined members of the legal team from our billable client Salesforce to staff a clinic and are now drafting demand letters and negotiating on behalf of the clients to reduce or discharge their debts.

Researching Women’s Global Economic Opportunities

Lawyers in our Beijing, Hong Kong, Brussels, Shanghai, and Palo Alto offices — including Shiri Shenhav, Aniek Schadd, Jessica Chan, Nicole Tsui, Sherry Yin, Lucy Lu, and Alex Van der Wolk — are contributing to a research project sponsored by the World Bank. The Women, Business and the Law (WBL) project gathers unique data and uses it to identify barriers that restrict women’s economic opportunities and encourage reform. The periodic publication analyzes legislation and regulations that affect women’s capacity to participate in the workforce and start businesses in 189 economies around the world.

This particular WBL research project will examine employment/labor laws, family laws, personal status laws, criminal laws, and constitutions. The MoFo team will assist WBL in completing surveys on family law, employment and labor law, and violence against women legislation in several jurisdictions, including China, Israel, and the Netherlands.

Improving Patient Access to Cancer Clinical Trials

San Diego Corporate attorneys Jim Krenn and Brennen Brodersen are assisting Lazarex Cancer Foundation by reviewing its bylaws. The Lazarex Cancer Foundation works to improve patient access to cancer clinical trials and promote early stage diagnosis to increase survival rates, especially for the medically underserved. By providing assistance with costs for FDA clinical trial participation, identifying clinical trial options, and engaging in community outreach, the foundation is ensuring that those who want to remain engaged in their fight against cancer have access to all available options.

Enhancing Language Services for Nonprofit Organizations

Boston corporate attorneys are working with Translators without Borders, a nonprofit based in Massachusetts that assists other nonprofit organizations and their clients through translation and language simplification services. Its clients include groups such as Médecins sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, Action Against Hunger, Oxfam US, and Handicap International.

Partner Matthew Karlyn and associate Matthew Blum are reviewing contracts that will help Translators Without Borders and their content partners bring 20 underserved languages online (in text and voice) over the next 10 years. Additionally, Matt Karlyn and partner Ori Solomon are heading up a team that will conduct a “Legal Health Check” to help the group identify unmet legal needs.

Seeking Justice in the U.S. for Human Rights Abuses in Haiti

When Litigation partner Bonnie Lau decided to leave her former firm and join MoFo in San Francisco, there was one case she couldn’t leave behind Boniface v. Viliena, a high-profile human rights case filed in Massachusetts in 2017 to hold a former Haitian official accountable for human rights abuses he committed in Haiti. Bonnie brought the case with her from Dentons, and MoFo, Dentons, and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) are now litigating the case together.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three Haitian citizens who were violently persecuted for challenging corruption and brutality in the government of Jean Morose Viliena, who was then the mayor of Les Irois in southwestern Haiti. After one of our clients spoke out against Viliena for assaulting a neighbor in 2007, his younger brother was brutally murdered in reprisal. Two of our other clients were attacked in 2008, resulting in one becoming permanently blinded in one eye, and the other being forced to amputate his leg.

Then, in a single night in October 2009, under specific orders from Viliena, the homes of 36 perceived political opponents were burned down. The complaint alleges all of these crimes were part of a politically motivated campaign of terror against media activists and human rights defenders. One client later died in suspicious circumstances the day after Viliena was served with the complaint. The litigation, brought under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, continues in federal court.

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Matters That Matter looks at some of the most significant recently opened matters and developments in our global pro bono efforts, from staffing legal clinics and advising nonprofits on their legal needs to advocating for individuals who would otherwise be denied equal access to justice. For more examples of MoFo’s global pro bono efforts, visit our website.