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November 22, 2019 - MoFo Pro Bono

Matters That Matter: November Pro Bono Roundup

Matters That Matter: November 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 supporting new technologies to prevent California wildfires, aiding vulnerable and underserved communities in the Americas, and measuring the individual wellbeing of people from countries around the globe. These are just a few examples of the many ways our lawyers are living out our proud pro bono tradition every day.

Improving Anti-Corruption Enforcement in Latin America
New York litigation partner Ruti Smithline and Washington, D.C. litigation partner James Koukios are working with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for Justice on a comprehensive report, detailing best practices for anti-corruption enforcement in Latin America. They will be working closely with local law firms, academic institutions, and civil organizations throughout the region to gather the necessary data.

The report will be a continuation of Ruti and James’s ongoing work regarding anti-corruption enforcement practice in Latin America, which includes substantive associate training. Over the years, the firm has worked on a number of pro bono projects with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for Justice, which is an affiliate of the New York City Bar Association and a leading force organizing law firms in Latin America to provide pro bono legal services.

Supporting Technologies to Curb California Wildfires
San Francisco corporate partner Susan Mac Cormac, Denver tax attorney Joseph Tucci, San Francisco corporate associate Ben Fox, and San Francisco corporate associate Michael Santos are helping existing client Vibrant Planet in setting up a new nonprofit organization whose work will address gaps in data-driven tools designed to mitigate the risk of California wildfires.

The goal of the nonprofit is to build a platform that synthesizes complex information on forest structure and wildfire risk to guide targeted forest treatments, like selective thinning or prescribed burning, to mitigate wildfire risk and improve ecological function. Additionally, the nonprofit will engage key stakeholders in creating a platform designed for government personnel involved in wildfire mitigation and forest restoration planning, and provide all stakeholders access to improved risk data.

Measuring Individual Happiness with the Wellbeing Project
Beijing and Shanghai corporate managing partner Paul McKenzie and San Francisco Technology Transactions attorney Can Cui are helping the Wellbeing Project by researching legal issues pertaining to proposed data collection. The Wellbeing Project has identified eight social change organizations from multiple countries, including one organization in China, that want to take part in research aimed at improving their own internal organizational cultures.

Staff members of the participating organizations will be, in essence, willing research subjects in a project that will include surveys of individual wellbeing, including the taking of cortisol samples. Before starting the research, the Project needs advice on any legal restrictions around collecting research data in China and what data can be permissibly exported.

Creating a Hemisphere of Opportunity for All
Miami corporate partner Randy Bullard is providing general corporate advice to the Pan American Development Foundation. The Pan American Development Foundation is a nonprofit organization established by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962 that serves vulnerable and excluded people and communities in the Americas.

With the support of civil society, governments, and private sector partners, the Foundation is working towards creating a Hemisphere of Opportunity for All. Its programs focus on a number of initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable economic and social progress, from promoting democratic participation and making STEM education accessible to preparing and responding to natural disasters.

Championing Reproductive Health and Rights for All
London employment attorneys Annabel Gillham, Oliver Spratt, and Lara Sirimanne are reviewing consultancy and employment agreements for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Additionally, the team is conducting an employment law training for the IPPF Human Resources department and directors involved in recruitment.

The IPPF’s mission is to lead a locally owned, globally connected civil society movement that provides and enables services and champions sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, especially the underserved. Founded in 1952 by eight national family planning associations, the organization today comprises 133 Member Associations working in 146 countries, with an active presence in a further 20 countries.

Supporting Job Training for Worldwide Deaf Community
New York tax partner Jay Blaivas and associate Harris Cornell, along with San Francisco corporate associate Rose Zukin Pierson, are advising Global Reach Out Initiative (GRO), a Delaware 501(c)(3) based in Los Angeles whose mission is to provide job training and other resources to the worldwide deaf community. The MoFo team is providing general corporate governance advice, including advice related to the appointment of new board members. The team will also be providing tax advice related to work with an affiliate in India.

Answering Tax Questions Related to Low-Income Housing
San Diego corporate partner Jim Krenn, with assistance from San Diego partner Shane Shelley and San Francisco tax associates Jessica Stern and Adam Nguyen, is advising our client San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program on general tax and corporate matters regarding low-income housing requirements.

Founded in 1983, SDVLP is the country’s oldest and most comprehensive pro bono services program. The focus of the nonprofit organization is serving the most vulnerable members of its community, including the homeless, abused children, victims of domestic abuse, elderly victims of abuse, veterans, immigrants, and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Women and children currently make up 75% SDVLP’s clients.

Fighting for the Right to Bond Hearings for Detained Immigrants
New York litigation attorney Jim Beha is filing an amicus brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lower court ruling that immigrants in deportation proceedings who are subject to mandatory detention are entitled to bond hearings and an individual determination of whether continued detention is appropriate. The brief will be filed on behalf of amici who are uniquely qualified to opine on the wisdom and importance of bond hearings in immigration court: former immigration judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

This is the third time we have represented former immigration judges and BIA members as amici in challenges to prolonged detention of immigrants during removal proceedings. We previously filed an amicus brief in the instant case, Reid v. Donelan, in the First Circuit. We also filed a brief in the Supreme Court in Jennings v. Rodriguez, which raised the same issue. In the prior appeal in Reid v. Donelan, the First Circuit remanded the case to the district court. The district court’s decision on remand is now back at the First Circuit, where this brief will be filed.

The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, which is the appointed class counsel for the detained immigrants, referred this opportunity to the firm.


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.