Pro Bono


Read about Chadbourne's US$15 Million Somalli Torture Survivor suit win.

Chadbourne has long embraced its responsibility to the community at large and encouraged involvement in pro bono and other public service activities. Chadbourne attorneys provide pro bono services in a wide range of activities—providing free legal services to those who cannot afford them as well as mentoring high school students in moot court/mock trial competitions and serving on the boards of legal service and other not-for-profit organizations. Chadbourne partners serve as directors of The Legal Aid Society, CAMBA Legal Services, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Advocates for Children and MFY Legal Services, Inc. Several partners are Fellows of The New York Bar Foundation.

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. The Firm also welcomes pro bono partnership arrangements with in-house legal departments. Attorneys may choose from regularly circulated lists of matters and training programs proposed by a wide variety of legal service providers.

Charles O'Neill, former Managing Partner, serves as Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, and the Committee includes partners, counsel and associates from both U.S. and International offices, and from all practice areas. Maureen Ketler Schad recently joined the Firm as Pro Bono Attorney and manager of pro bono initiatives.

The Firm encourages attorneys to perform at least 20-50 hours of pro bono work annually. Pro bono service is considered an important factor in performance reviews and when determining associate bonus eligibility. Chadbourne's internal Pro Bono Awards Program acknowledges the highest level of attorney pro bono commitment through its Outstanding Service and Commitment Awards, in the form of $1,000 contributions to the legal service providers chosen by the awardees. In addition, all attorneys who perform 100 or more hours of pro bono service are named to the Pro Bono Honor Roll and receive an engraved memento.

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); a partnership with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone on major development projects in Harlem; pursuing high-profile impact litigation; partnerships with organizations such as The Legal Aid Society, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and Housing Conservation Coordinators; advocacy for child victims of abuse and neglect through The Door; successful work for asylum seekers and political refugees through Human Rights First; and the Appellate Advocacy Program, through which junior litigation associates prepare and argue criminal appeals before the Appellate Divisions of the First and Second Departments.

Recent Relevant Matters

Somali Torture Survivor
Fighting for Justice for Human Rights Activists and Torture Survivors
Chadbourne lawyers, working with the Center for Justice and Accountability, won a suit on behalf of Professor Abukar Hassan Ahmed, a professor of constitutional law who was detained and tortured for his political views and clan affiliation by the Siad Barre dictatorship in Somalia. The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. In November 2012, the district court in Columbus, Ohio, found former Somali Colonel Abdi Aden Magan liable for torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary damages. In August 2013, Chadbourne’s client was awarded US$5 million in compensatory and US$10 million in punitive damages. For more information about the Center for Justice and Accountability, please click here.

Overturning DOMA
Achieving Equal Rights for Same-Sex Spouses
In landmark litigation, Chadbourne sued the United States military in the US District Court of Massachusetts on behalf of eight current and former members of the armed services seeking equal benefits for their legally married same-sex spouses. Chadbourne filed an amicus brief in US v Windsor and on June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held that DOMA was unconstitutional. On October 2, 2013, Judge Richard G. Stearns of the US District Court for Massachusetts declared that each plaintiff who had formerly been denied or precluded from applying for benefits under DOMA was entitled to apply for benefits “without regard to being a couple of the same gender.”

Workers’ Rights
Securing Justice for Exploited Workers
Chadbourne lawyers, in conjunction with the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project, achieved a highly favorable settlement on behalf of thirteen employees of an upscale Greek restaurant in New York City. The workers brought employment claims against the restaurant and certain affiliated individuals for numerous violations of federal and state wage and hour requirements. The matter was vigorously litigated over several years in the Southern District of New York through substantial motion practice, document discovery and depositions. The plaintiffs prevailed on most of their claims on summary judgment. After a failed mediation and as the impending trial approached, the restaurant quadrupled its prior settlement offer and the case eventually resolved. Through the settlement, the workers obtained virtually all of the damages that they were owed, and the restaurant paid an equal amount in attorneys’ fees and costs. For more information about the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project, please click here.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases
Preventing the Deportation of Vulnerable Youth
Through the Door Fellowship and pro bono work by lawyers in every Chadbourne practice area, the firm has helped hundreds of neglected, abused and abandoned immigrant youth secure safe and supportive networks in New York, access educational, medical and mental health services, obtain legal permanent residence and avoid deportation.

Social Entrepreneurship
Ashoka has invited Chadbourne to be an ongoing legal partner, providing legal advice to its network of social entrepreneurs. One such project is the “Future is Brighter” youth platform project, which encourages youth to be proactive members of society, equips them with 21st century life skills, and empowers them to make more informed life, education and career choices. Ashoka is a global association of social entrepreneurs that has supported social entrepreneurs in Turkey since 2000. The organization has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network of almost 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs in 70 countries over the past 30 years. For more information about Ashoka's network of social entrepreneurs, please click here.

Death Row Appeal
Chadbourne Successfully Represents Death Row Inmate
Chadbourne successfully represented a federal death row inmate before the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Prior to Chadbourne’s involvement, the inmate sought to intervene as a plaintiff in a challenge to the federal government’s lethal injection protocol. The district court denied the inmate’s motion, and the government asked the D.C. Circuit to summarily affirm the district court’s decision on appeal. After reviewing Chadbourne’s brief in opposition, the D.C. Circuit vacated the district court’s order sua sponte and returned the case to district court.

Family Literacy
Securing Non-Profit Funding
Chadbourne achieved a significant ruling in favor of its client, CAMBA, Inc., a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit corporation, in its suit against the State of New York arising out of a multi-year federal grant that CAMBA received from the New York State Department of Education to serve as an Early Start Family Literacy Demonstration Site. Following trial, the New York Court of Claims upheld CAMBA’s claims for reimbursement, ruling that CAMBA had materially complied with the payment application requirements and that any suspension in federal funding to the State for the program did not negate the State’s obligations to CAMBA. Following a hearing on damages, the judge found that CAMBA is entitled to recover a significant sum from the State for its breach of contract.

Center for Family Representation
Successful Dismissal of Neglect Charges
Working with the Center for Family Representation (CFR), Chadbourne lawyers successfully argued an appeal for a mother accused of neglect based on her then 17-year-old daughter's behavior. The New York Appellate Division, First Department agreed with Chadbourne's argument and affirmed the dismissal of the neglect petition, ruling that “[a]lthough respondents may not have reacted appropriately to every difficulty that arose involving the child, the preponderance of the evidence does not show that they failed to exercise the statutory minimum degree of care.” If the neglect charges had been upheld, the finding would have significantly threatened the client's livelihood as she was a baby nurse and likely would have been barred from working with children. CFR provides free legal representation and social work services to families in crisis to help children to stay with their parents safely and keep them out of the foster care.

Representative Experience

Funding of Microfinance Organizations
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Representation of U.S. government agency in loan agreement to fund microfinance organizations.
Trial Assistance in Housing Court
Low-Income Tenant Facing Eviction
Assistance in the defense of a low-income tenant in a housing court trial.
Eviction in Housing Court
Low-Income Tenant Facing Eviction
Representation of tenant facing eviction in housing court.
[ more representative experience ]

Related Practice Areas

Real Estate

Related Regions

North America

Local Office Contacts

Related Information