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Pro Bono

Pro Bono Work | Pro Bono Lawyers
At Fish, we are committed to making pro bono work an integral part of our professional culture, and we strongly encourage all of our legal professionals to take on pro bono matters as an integral part of their professional lives. We back up this commitment by providing our attorneys with full hours credit for approved pro bono matters, and by assigning a principal-level attorney in each of our U.S. offices with the task of seeking out and publicizing local pro bono opportunities.

Last year, Fish attorneys donated over 10,000 pro bono hours representing clients in need of legal representation. On average, Fish lawyers spend 28 hours a year on pro bono matters. Our efforts have resulted in significant and meaningful gains for our clients, from securing asylum from a persecuted refugee, to obtaining citizenship for immigrant children fleeing abuse and violence in their home country, to preserving intellectual property rights for income-qualifying artists, inventors, and non profit organizations. At a time when funding for legal services and access to justice for low-income individuals are at an all-time low, the volunteer work done by Fish’s attorneys is critically important in providing access to justice.

We are a member firm of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI), and in selecting matters for pro bono representation, we are guided by the PBI's definition of pro bono legal work, which emphasizes the provision of legal services to persons and nonprofit organizations with limited means, and the protection of important civil and public rights. Click here to review a more complete description of our recent pro bono efforts.

Recent Pro Bono Examples

Immigration
Fish & Richardson has a long-standing commitment to the representation of individuals seeking political asylum in the United States. Since 2008, the firm has represented over 50 clients seeking political asylum or special immigrant juvenile status in this country; our clients hail from Bhutan, Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon, Armenia, Guatemala, Somalia, El Salvador, Peru, and Honduras. Fish works with immigration legal services providers around the country, including the Political Asylum/Immigrant Representation Project (“PAIR”), Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND”), Human Rights First, and many others.

Asylum
Ten years ago, a young Peruvian man was forced to flee his native country because of repeated physical and emotional abuse based on his sexual orientation and at the hands of his family, classmates, police, and community members. Hospitalized after being severely beaten and left unprotected by police, and after receiving a death threat from his father, the young man fled to the United States, staying with a friend in Washington D.C. He subsequently learned that he was HIV positive, and began receiving treatment. Through a referral from Human Rights First, attorneys from our D.C. office represented this client on his asylum application, which was granted in late 2011. Our representation continued; after being arrested for a misdemeanor traffic violation, we represented him in court, negotiating a plea deal that resulted in a suspended sentence and nine months’ probation. The firm was able to work through the client’s permanent resident application after this arrest. Fish assisted our client in a successful application for permanent residency, which was granted in November 2012.

Religious Institutions
Fish represented a Greek Orthodox Monastery in Brookline, MA in a copyright infringement suit involving the Monastery’s copyrighted translation of seven ancient religious Greek texts. The suit was for both the infringement of the seven works and for breach of a settlement agreement that resolved a previous copyright infringement lawsuit between the two parties. In 2012, the First Circuit affirmed the District of Massachusetts’ two grants of summary judgment to the Monastery from February and December of 2010, and reiterated what the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act expressly provides: that translated literary texts are copyrightable works. This was a huge victory for our client, reconfirming that the art of translation is a creative process that involves artistic choices. The decision validates the copyrightability of religious works and protects them from infringement. The Archbishop filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, which Fish opposed in December 2012. The Supreme Court denied the Archbishop’s petition on February 20, 2013. Read more about this case here.

Habeas Corpus
A team of Fish attorneys from our Atlanta office took on the cause of representing a client on his state habeas appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. Referred by the Georgia Innocence Project in 2008, the central issue in the appeal is ineffective assistance of counsel. Our client’s appointed trial attorney had a troubled history with drug abuse, the Bar, and the law, and has since passed away. His appellate lawyer was also investigated as part of Fish’s case, with allegations that she failed to develop any evidence.  One of the Fish team’s main argument is that the evidence shows that our client’s trial attorney, never conveyed the State’s plea offer to our client.  A plea offer that our client would have accepted.  Before Fish got involved, the case went up to the Georgia Supreme Court and was affirmed in May of 2005, entirely because his appellate counsel had proffered no factual record upon which to consider ruling in our client’s favor.  The Fish team conducted a new fact investigation, developed a new case strategy, engaged in discovery, and then conducted a mini-trial before the State Superior Court.  After the petition was denied by the Superior Court, the Fish team appealed to the State Supreme Court, filing probable cause briefing to get an opportunity for full briefing and a hearing. In May 2012, our client’s application for certificate of probable cause was granted by the Georgia Supreme Court, an exciting and rare occurrence in Georgia state habeas cases.  A hearing was held before the Court in late 2012. After the State Supreme Court denied our petition, the Fish team, undaunted, filed a federal habeas petition on the client’s behalf.  In July 2013, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia withheld ruling on the Respondent’s motion to dismiss our petition, and has invited full briefing on the merits.

Pro Bono Partnerships

Fish & Richardson has worked on over 400 pro bono matters in 2013 thus far, contributing over 13,000 hours representing pro bono clients in communities around the country. We also serve our communities in other ways; our legal staff serves on various nonprofit and charity boards nationwide, and our local offices volunteer in myriad ways, such as organizing toy drives for needy families, participating in book drives for soldiers in Afghanistan, and raising money for natural disaster relief.

Key areas of pro bono representation include immigration/political asylum, death penalty representation, family law, and prisoners’ rights. We also advise nonprofits, inner-city businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, and inventors, using our unparalleled intellectual property expertise and resources on their behalf. In order to reach clients in need of pro bono representation and to maximize the impact of our resources, Fish partners with highly regarded public interest and legal services organizations around the country, including, but not limited to, the following:

 
Highlights
2012-2013 Pro Bono Year in Review

Fish files brief in response to same-sex marriage ban

Recipient of The American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project 2012 Exceptional Service Award


“The ideal of our society -- equal justice for all -- is only meaningful when everyone has equal access to the legal system. Our pro bono attorneys help to move us closer to that ideal, while gaining for themselves the profound sense of satisfaction that comes from using their professional skills in the service of good. I am proud of the real commitment that Fish has made in supporting our pro bono program.”


Lawrence Kolodney,
Pro Bono Committee Chair





For more information, contact Pro Bono Manager, Katie Niejadlik, at