Chadbourne has long embraced its responsibility to the community at large and championed involvement in pro bono and other public service activities. Chadbourne lawyers provide pro bono services in a wide range of activities: providing free legal services to individuals and families who cannot afford them, advising non-profits, mentoring high school students in moot court competitions and serving on the boards of a variety of legal service organizations.
Charles O'Neill, former Managing Partner, serves as Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, which includes partners, counsel and associates from both US and International offices, and from all practice areas. Maureen Ketler Schad serves as Pro Bono Counsel, managing pro bono initiatives as well as litigating and supervising cases.
The firm is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and is a Founding Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project. It has been number one for firms of its size in The Legal Aid Society's Associates’ Campaign for several years running. We also welcome pro bono partnership arrangements with in-house legal departments.
Chadbourne encourages lawyers to perform at least 20–50 hours of pro bono work annually; lawyers may choose from regularly circulated lists of matters and training programs from a wide range of legal service providers. Pro bono service is considered an important factor in performance reviews and when determining associate bonus eligibility.
Some of the firm's outstanding pro bono activities include: a 16-month Fellowship at The Legal Services Center of The Door: A Center of Alternatives (a multi-service youth development center); high-profile impact litigation on issues ranging from marriage equality to international human rights; advocacy for child victims of abuse and neglect through partnerships with The Door and The Legal Aid Society; successful work for asylum seekers together with Human Rights First; protecting workers' rights in partnership with the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project; advising nonprofits and low-income artists with Lawyers Alliance and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts; and the Appellate Advocacy Program, through which junior litigation associates prepare and argue criminal appeals.
Fighting to Achieve Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples
In landmark litigation filed in 2011, McLaughlin v. Panetta, Chadbourne sued the United States military in the US District Court of Massachusetts on behalf of active duty service members and veterans and their legally married same sex spouses to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and certain military titles of the US Code that prevented the military from providing spousal benefits to same-sex couples. The President and the Attorney General agreed with Chadbourne those laws were unconstitutional, and the House of Representatives intervened to defend those laws. In US v. Windsor (2013), the Supreme Court held DOMA unconstitutional. Chadbourne had filed an amicus brief in Windsor with the Supreme Court to highlight the detrimental impact DOMA had on military families and the military as a whole. Following Windsor, the District Court in McLaughlin held the military titles that denied spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples were unconstitutional as well. Following that victory, Chadbourne represented OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the American Military Partner Association in raising the importance of marriage equality to the military and military families by filing amici briefs with every US Court of Appeals where a constitutional challenge to allow same-sex couples to marry was raised. Chadbourne ultimately filed a similar brief in the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), in which the Court agreed and recognized that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry.
Seeking Justice and Stability for Immigrant Youth
Dozens of Chadbourne lawyers across multiple practice groups, including Corporate, Bankruptcy, Project Finance and Litigation, are representing abused, abandoned and neglected youth who fear deportation back to countries plagued by gang conflict and gender-based violence. Chadbourne represents these vulnerable youth in guardianship and custody proceedings in family court, ensuring that they have the adult care and support they need, and then helps them obtain Legal Permanent Residence through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS affords these young people the opportunity to pursue an education, work legally, avoid homelessness and instability, and live without fear of deportation. Each year, with Chadbourne’s support, nearly 200 youth successfully obtain relief.
Securing Justice for Exploited Workers
The Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project (CDP) recently honored Chadbourne and New York partner Marc Ashley with the Community Service Award for his outstanding pro bono work on behalf of exploited workers. Over the last eight years, Marc has led successful pro bono teams in four separate federal-court litigation matters, working closely with CDP partner groups National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. Marc’s passion for justice, as well as his diligent mentoring of junior lawyers, provided the foundation for success in each of the four litigation actions, which together resulted in the recovery of US$1.4 million for CDP’s clients.
Obtaining Justice for Survivors of Torture
Nearly 25 years after his torture, Professor Akubar Ahmed, a pro bono client of Chadbourne and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), finally found justice. In August 2013, a federal judge in the Southern District of Ohio awarded US$5 million in compensatory and US$10 million in punitive damages against former Somali Colonel & National Security Service (NSS) Chief, Abdi Aden Magan. In 1988, Ahmed -- a professor of constitutional law -- was arbitrarily detained and on Colonel Magan's orders, shackled in an excruciating position in a squalid prison cell for nearly 24 hours per day for three months, brutally tortured and subjected to cruel treatment. In April 2010, after discovering that Magan resided in Columbus, Ohio, Ahmed & CJA filed a case against him under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. On November 20, 2012, the court found Magan liable for torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention. This judgment was the first ever to hold a member of the notorious Somali NSS accountable for human rights violations committed under the brutal Siad Barre regime. It is particularly notable as one of the first successful cases following the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel. Ahmed is the current Legal Adviser to the President of Somalia, and in October 2013 received the International Bar Association's Human Rights Award. In 2013 and 2014, Chadbourne lawyers also devoted hundreds of hours to advising the transitional government in drafting the Somali Constitution.
Charles O’Neill served as Chadbourne’s Managing Partner from 1998 to 2010 and subsequently as the Firm’s General Counsel. He now devotes his efforts to the Firm’s pro bono initiatives and serves as Chair of Chadbourne’s Pro Bono Committee. Mr. O'Neill has extensive commercial, insurance coverage...