Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Sutherland Asbill (93)


In the aftermath of a devastating civil war that lasted more than two decades, the Liberian government in 2003 formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and report on human rights violations and the violent breakdown of the Liberian state during the conflict. The aim of the continuing research is to produce recommendations to help The Am Law Pro Bono 100ensure peace and the rule of law in Liberia.

In late 2007, at a pro bono roundtable in Atlanta—home to the second-largest population of Liberians outside of the African country itself—Sutherland Asbill & Brennan responded to an appeal from Advocates for Human Rights, which has been coordinating TRC work in the United States. The firm began to assist with legal research for the TRC report, providing background briefing on international human rights and humanitarian law. Associate Joshua Curry started working on the project in early 2008, and quickly found himself deeply involved.

“Josh took the project on with a vengeance,” says Judy O’Brien, the firm’s pro bono director. At the request of Advocates for Human Rights, he and other Sutherland attorneys researched the role of the domestic Liberian and international media’s role in the civil war, producing thousands of pages of material about the media response at different stages of the conflict.

Sutherland’s work inspired first a public roundtable and panel with members of the Carter Center, a Atlanta-based human rights organization, and then an October 2008 hearing in Monrovia, Liberia, which Curry attended on behalf of the firm. During three days of hearings, the TRC took statements from members of the domestic Liberian media, as well as international media outlets such as the BBC and Voice of America. The TRC determined that the press did play a role in the conflict: Much of the local Liberian media was corrupted by both rebels and the government, who often bribed reporters to report the news in a way favorable to their side. In addition, news organizations also provided biased news to ensure the safety of reporters, Curry says—adding that since the end of the conflict in 2003, the media has become much more open.

The final report is to be released in June. Curry and others are optimistic that their work will result in furthering human rights in Liberia. “Smart people are paying attention to what is going on [in Liberia] and are trying to work on it,” Curry says.

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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