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A pro bono team from Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky was ready for battle, prepared to defend community activist Steve Coleman against the District of Columbia. But before Coleman’s lawyers had a chance, D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Robert Tignor dismissed the city’s case. Dickstein associate John Gibbons and partner Barry Levine signed on to help Coleman soon after he was charged with disorderly conduct at an April Environmental Crimes Unit (ECU) meeting. Coleman is the executive director of Washington Parks & People, an organization dedicated to revitalizing D.C.’s parks that often works alongside the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Coleman says he was ordered to attend the April 2 meeting under threat of arrest by D.C. police officer Paul Kurgan, who was assigned to the ECU. In the past, Coleman had criticized the officer for lax enforcement of laws against dumping trash in parks. When Coleman arrived at the ECU meeting, Kurgan arrested him for disorderly conduct. The Office of Corporation Counsel defended the city at the June 12 trial. Coleman pleaded not guilty to the charge, which his lawyers called “specious.” Judge Tignor dismissed the charges from the bench. Corporation Counsel spokesman Peter Lavallee says the office felt the charges against Coleman were justified and worth pursuing. Now, the Dickstein team has prompted the Metropolitan Police Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to look into Kurgan’s conduct. Kurgan has since been assigned to another unit. Levine says he hopes the Police Department will “reorient its goals” and focus on dumpers rather than those who work to improve the parks. Coleman, who has been running his organization for over 10 years, says, “I never felt like I was doing anything to hurt our city . . . and to walk into a courtroom to two prosecutors representing the mayor on this charge was an incredible experience. I just couldn’t believe it. “I work on parks. I’m not a rich man. Dickstein helped to give us the clout we needed to stand up to this nonsense,” Coleman says. HUNTON’S DISABILITY ADVOCATES The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs honored a team of Hunton & Williams attorneys in June for their work on one of the first disability rights cases tried in D.C. In November, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that a United Optical optometrist acted unjustly when she refused an eye exam to a deaf man, violating both the Americans With Disabilities Act and D.C.’s Human Rights Act. Jurors awarded $19,000 in compensatory damages. The suit was brought against United Optical’s parent company, Spectera Inc., by Garth Alexander, a D.C. resident who has been deaf since birth; his wife, who offered to translate at the vision care office; and the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, which was granted standing in the case by Judge James Robertson. Lawyers’ Committee Disability Rights Project Director Elaine Gardner, Hunton & Williams partners A. Neal Barkus and Kevin Fast, and associates Bradley Lennie, Herbert Kerner, and David Milligan received the Outstanding Achievement Award for their work on the case. This is the first time Hunton & Williams has worked with the Lawyers’ Committee. Spectera has since declared that their services will be accessible to people with disabilities, Barkus says. PRO BONO ON THE HILL Holland & Knight took on the cause of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children this summer and quickly worked to get its agenda some exposure on the Hill. The Women’s Commission wants to pass legislation to establish a special category of immigrants based on gender and age. Women and children who have no protection in their home countries against rapists, child molesters, and human traffickers would be allowed to come to the United States and later apply for lawful residency. The partnership has resulted in the Widows and Orphans Act of 2003, introduced in late June by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and later backed by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). “There’s a great synergy here, and we’re gaining a lot of momentum,” says Holland & Knight community services team administrator Christopher Nugent. Nugent, firm lobbyists Janet Studley, Lynn Cutler, and Susan Santana, and partners Marvin Rosenberg, Enrique Gomez Pinzon, Tara Scanlon, and Andrew Stephenson, along with Chesterfield Smith fellow Zac Potter, are working with the Women’s Commission. Holland & Knight veteran lobbyist Rich Gold is also assisting the team with the project, which is providing the attorneys with “invaluable lobbying experience,” says Nugent. Originally from Colombia, Gomez Pinzon particularly favors how this bill would help some of the women and children still living in his home country. “You really realize how voiceless this constituency is,” Nugent says. “It’s a privilege.” REED SMITH WALKS Reed Smith‘s new Community Service Initiative took off to a running — well, walking — start. The Washington office has raised a $1,500 pledge needed for research librarian Amy Denniston to participate in the three-day, 50-mile MS Challenge Walk in September. The initiative team selects one cause each quarter and rallies the support of the office. Prior to the initiative, many of Denniston’s colleagues did not know she had multiple sclerosis. The office organized several after-work events for which they charged a door fee; solicited $5 from those who wanted to wear jeans on Fridays; and sold raffle tickets for a day off with pay. Associate Kurt Ferstl has also arranged an after-work office walk on Thursdays to help Denniston train for the September walk. Denniston was diagnosed several years ago with MS, which may limit her ability to walk in the future. “Since I’ll never run a marathon, this will be my marathon,” she says. HOWREY HELPS OUT Howrey Simon Arnold & White launched a summer program that aims to lead interested first-year law students into public interest law careers. Legal service providers are losing financial resources due to the economy and are often short on volunteer attorneys during the summer, says Howrey managing partner Robert Ruyak. The program aims to fill this need by placing and paying first-year law students to work at local legal service organizations. Howrey Externs for Legal Pro bono Service (HELPS) is the brainchild of Ruyak and has expanded to seven externships among Howrey’s U.S. offices after a successful D.C. pilot last year. Firm pro bono counsel Rachel Strong recruited first-year law students from New York University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School for the three HELPS externships available at the Legal Aid Society, the Children’s Law Center, and the Archdiocesan Legal Network. The network’s executive director, James Bishop, says NYU law student Oona Peterson helps his staff of three with client intake, writing the newsletter, and recruiting pro bono attorneys. “It’s a great help to us,” Bishop says. Peterson, 23, says she is interested in working in public service. “There’s definitely a need [for public service attorneys], and the more I work here the more I see that it’s true.” While Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Latham & Watkins also sponsor similar externships, they often are for second-year students or offer recent law school graduates yearlong assignments. Ruyak wanted to place more people for a shorter amount of time at the same expense. The program pays its externs $10,000 for 10 weeks. But, he adds, in the end, “the people who really benefit are the D.C. residents who need the help.” MORE FOR THE POOR On its silver anniversary, the D.C. Bar Foundation has reason to celebrate. Flush with cash to support pro bono projects, the foundation awarded $1 million to legal services providers across the city — the largest amount doled out in its 25-year history. The Neighborhood Legal Services Program, Ayuda, the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, Whitman-Walker Clinic Legal Services, and 23 other organizations received grants of between $5,000 and $80,000, depending on their needs. With a 38 percent increase over last year’s funds, the foundation was able to award grants to more legal service providers than ever before. The rise is largely due to substantial donations from Washington firms. Williams & Connolly jump-started the annual fund-raiser with a first-time donation of $25,000. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a steadfast supporter of the foundation, and Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky also pitched in $25,000 apiece. Crowell & Moring, another donor, is hosting the foundation’s anniversary party Sept. 23. The guest speaker is New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer — the younger brother of foundation Executive Director Emily Spitzer. SHOW ME THE MONEY Over 1,700 Washington associates made the 14th annual Generous Associates Campaign the most successful ever, raising more than $360,000 that will directly support the Legal Aid Society of D.C. Associates from more than 90 Washington-area firms raised $242,494 — an average of $200 per associate. Numerous firms and partners matched their associates’ donations, contributing more than $100,000. The campaign, which ended on June 30, exceeded its goal of $325,000 and topped the $292,000 raised by last year’s campaign. Campaign co-chairman Jared Silverman, a Shaw Pittman associate, calls the effort “an alliance of young lawyers across the city trying to make a difference.” “It was a way for those of us in private practice to really honor those who are committed to public service,” says Silverman. PRO BONO INITIATIVE The numbers are in, and they look good. Last year, 41 firms signed on to the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Initiative, pledging to commit 3 percent or 5 percent of billable hours to pro bono. Although 15 firms didn’t reach their goal, overall the participants exceeded their commitment by 11 percent. The results, released in July, are the first glimpse of the initiative’s effectiveness in boosting pro bono activities since the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program began the project last year. Of Washington’s 20 top-grossing firms, 19 made the pro bono pledge, including Hogan & Hartson and Arnold & Porter. Williams & Connolly did not participate. Before embarking on the initiative, the bar reviewed the 2000 pro bono hours of the largest D.C. firms. By 2002, those firms’ pro bono hours had jumped by 41.5 percent. “We’re really gratified by the results,” says D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Director Maureen Syracuse. The results, she says, are a snapshot of the legal community that she hopes will continue to strengthen its pro bono culture. “Pro Bono Bulletin Board” appears on the first Monday of each month. Alicia Upano can be reached at [email protected]. Next column: Sept. 1.

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