Our Firm

Pro Bono

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -- Margaret Mead

In this spirit, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP has established one of the world's leading law firm pro bono programs. Our pro bono commitment is key to who we are and is the reason why many of our attorneys have made their professional home here. We believe that all lawyers have a moral obligation to do pro bono work, and we strive to be the best there is.

We encourage our lawyers to devote 15% of their time to pro bono work, and we make clear to all lawyers that we expect them to do this work. For we believe, in the words of Robert Kennedy, that while “few may have the greatness to bend history itself” each time an individual “stands up for an ideal, or works to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.  And those ripples, crossing each other from a million centers of energy and daring, build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of resistance and oppression.”

If you have any questions about the activities of the Pro Bono Committee, please contact our Pro Bono Committee Chair, Dan Cantor, at probono@apks.com.

Cases

Appellate and Supreme Court cases

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl involved a contested adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Arnold & Porter represented a South Carolina couple who raised the child at issue in the case for the first 27 months of her life and sought to adopt her. The child's biological mother handpicked the Adoptive Couple. The biological father's consent to the adoption was not required under South Carolina law because he had abandoned the child and biological mother during and immediately after the pregnancy.

Nonetheless, a divided South Carolina Supreme Court held that because the biological father was a member of the Cherokee Nation, the court was compelled to award him custody under ICWA. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed, ruling for the Adoptive Couple and held that ICWA’s heightened procedural protections do not apply to a father who has never had custody of the child at issue. Writing for the Court, Justice Alito concluded that ICWA does not permit “a biological Indian father [to] abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother — perhaps contributing to the mother's decision to put the child up for adoption — and then … play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother's decision and the child's best interests.” The firm filed the petition for certiorari and argued the case for the Adoptive Couple in the Supreme Court.

In another significant Supreme Court victory, in March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the firm’s client, David Henderson, in Henderson v. Shinseki. The Court held that a veteran who missed the deadline to challenge a VA denial of benefits was not jurisdictionally barred from obtaining review in the Veterans Court. Mr. Henderson was a veteran of the Korean war who missed the deadline for filing an appeal while hospitalized for his disability. The Federal Circuit reversed a long-standing precedent that Arnold & Porter helped to establish that allowed equitable factors to toll the time for filing an appeal in the Veterans Court. The Federal Circuit dismissed the appeal as untimely based on a 2007 Supreme Court decision which held the appeal deadline for ordinary civil litigants is jurisdictional. In reversing, the Supreme Court concluded that “[t]he contrast between ordinary civil litigation . . . and the system that Congress created for the adjudication of veterans’ benefits claims could hardly be more dramatic.”

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  • Affordable Housing

    Arnold & Porter is helping low-income residents of apartment buildings and cooperatives, both large and small, avoid the widespread displacement that is a product of the District of Columbia’s rapidly-gentrifying housing market.  This includes providing advice and representation to low-income renters who seek to exercise their rights under DC law to purchase their buildings when landlords attempt to transfer ownership to third parties, to convert buildings to condominium regimes, to substantially rehabilitate buildings at the expense of current residents, or to demolish buildings.  We advocate for our clients to ensure that their buildings comply with applicable housing codes and other legal requirements, to maintain fair rent levels, and to prevent unwarranted evictions of families from their homes. We also work with the residents of low-income cooperatives to enhance their living conditions and the values of their cooperative shares.

    This work involves attorneys from numerous practice areas -- real estate, tax, litigation, bankruptcy, corporate, government contracts and environmental law -- who bring their respective legal knowledge and skills to bear on the full range of legal challenges that low-income residents face in securing decent, affordable housing.  Our representation often involves assisting residents to organize into tenant associations that are registered with the DC government; counseling residents as they consider and determine the types of legal and financial housing structures (e.g., rental, cooperatives, and condominiums, and 100 percent affordable or mixed income) that will achieve their goals; assisting residents in securing essential acquisition and development funding; and negotiating purchase agreements and other documents with developers, financial institutions and other third parties.  And as becomes necessary from time to time, our attorneys litigate on behalf of tenants and tenant organizations, appearing in both judicial and administrative forums, and at both trial and appellate levels.   During 2014 we represented residents living in a diverse range of DC neighborhoods, including Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Petworth, the U Street Corridor, NOMA, Eckington, Georgia Avenue, both Riverfront and Far Southwest, and East of the River.

  • Appellate and Supreme Court

    Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl involved a contested adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Arnold & Porter represented a South Carolina couple who raised the child at issue in the case for the first 27 months of her life and sought to adopt her. The child’s biological mother handpicked the Adoptive Couple. The biological father’s consent to the adoption was not required under South Carolina law because he had abandoned the child and biological mother during and immediately after the pregnancy. Nonetheless, a divided South Carolina Supreme Court held that because the biological father was a member of the Cherokee Nation, the court was compelled to award him custody under ICWA. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed, ruling for the Adoptive Couple and held that ICWA’s heightened procedural protections do not apply to a father who has never had custody of the child at issue. Writing for the Court, Justice Alito concluded that ICWA does not permit “a biological Indian father [to] abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother — perhaps contributing to the mother's decision to put the child up for adoption — and then … play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother's decision and the child's best interests.” The firm filed the petition for certiorari and argued the case for the Adoptive Couple in the Supreme Court.

    In another significant Supreme Court victory, in March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the firm’s client, David Henderson, in Henderson v. Shinseki. The Court held that a veteran who missed the deadline to challenge a VA denial of benefits was not jurisdictionally barred from obtaining review in the Veterans Court. Mr. Henderson was a veteran of the Korean war who missed the deadline for filing an appeal while hospitalized for his disability. The Federal Circuit reversed a long-standing precedent that Arnold & Porter helped to establish that allowed equitable factors to toll the time for filing an appeal in the Veterans Court. The Federal Circuit dismissed the appeal as untimely based on a 2007 Supreme Court decision which held the appeal deadline for ordinary civil litigants is jurisdictional. In reversing, the Supreme Court concluded that “[t]he contrast between ordinary civil litigation . . . and the system that Congress created for the adjudication of veterans’ benefits claims could hardly be more dramatic.”

  • Capital Murder

    We have represented a number of death row inmates in habeas corpus proceedings. Indeed, our work in this area earned us the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project Excellence in Service Award. The cases raise important constitutional and criminal procedure issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel, legality of confessions, and mental competency. We have represented several death row inmates, including Troy Anthony Davis, whose case became nationally prominent. Mr. Davis was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for killing a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. The conviction was based solely on eyewitness testimony, no murder weapon was ever found and no physical evidence ever directly connected Davis to the crime. Davis spent over 20 years on death row before he was executed in 2011 despite substantial questions about his innocence. In July 2007, less than 24 hours before his scheduled execution, Arnold & Porter attorneys convinced the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to take notice of the troubling facts of the case, resulting in a last minute stay of execution. Our attorneys secured two additional last minute stays of execution, and in 2009 successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of United States to order an evidentiary hearing to examine Mr. Davis’ innocence -- the first time the Supreme Court had taken such measures in nearly 50 years. Of the nine original witnesses who implicated Davis, seven had recanted their testimony, citing police coercion and simple mistake. Other witnesses and evidence came to light during the evidentiary hearing which supported Mr. Davis’ innocence. This evidence led to a barrage of media coverage and an outcry of support for Mr. Davis from around the world. The federal district court in Savannah, Georgia denied Mr. Davis relief in 2010, and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant Mr. Davis reprieve after what was reported to be a close vote. Despite the protestations of, among many others, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, several federal and state court judges, a former Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles member and Mr. Davis’ former prison warden, Mr. Davis was executed in October 2011 a short distance from a massive crowd of protesters, national news media and police.

    Our firm also represents Henry Daniels, who was convicted of the first degree murder of 16-year-old Alexander Porter and sentenced to death. According to the prosecution, Daniels and an accomplice intended to hold Porter for ransom but, when the plan began to unravel, decided instead to kill him. The state presented the opinion of a medical examiner who testified, in spite of scientific evidence indicating otherwise, that the defendants had shot Porter to death. At trial, Daniels testified that they never intended to kill Porter, but that he had suffocated to death accidentally in the trunk of the car where they had confined him. Finding him dead later that day, they took his lifeless body out to the woods in the middle of the night, dumped it by the side of a road, and shot it four times. The lack of bleeding from the wounds, as well as documents from the medical examiner’s file that were withheld at trial, indicated that Porter could not have been alive when shot. Witness statements corroborating Daniels’ testimony were also withheld at trial. An accidental death would have foreclosed the possibility of a first degree murder conviction, making Daniels ineligible for the death penalty. While Daniels’ abusive childhood and tragic teen years also would have been strong foundation for a case in mitigation against a death sentence, Daniels’ counsel made merely token efforts to stave off the death penalty. The case went up for direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, during which Daniels’ appellate counsel failed even to contact him before submitting an appellate brief on his behalf. The Court denied relief. The case went to a second layer of appeal, at which point the appeals court granted relief on three claims, including claims that the government had withheld exculpatory evidence at trial, only to be reversed on its second presentation to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and sent back down to the appeals court. At this level of appeal, Arnold & Porter took up Daniels’ case, and Daniels prevailed on one claim: Mitigation – relief granted in the form of a new sentencing phase to determine whether Daniels should have received the death penalty. The Commonwealth appealed and the case sits now in front of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, where it has been twice before, for rulings on 16 claims of relief.


    The firm also achieved a huge pro bono victory when the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s grant of a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state of California from executing any inmates by lethal injection until it issues regulations in compliance with the state Administrative Procedures Act. The court held that the existing regulations failed to comply with the APA in numerous respects. As a result, the state cannot execute anyone by lethal injection until new regulations are promulgated, a process that could take several years. This is a very significant result because California has more than 700 prisoners on death row, more than any other state.

  • Community Economic Development/Transactions

    Community development and transactional matters continue to be an integral part of Arnold & Porter’s pro bono efforts.  Symbolic of this work is our representation of D.C. Habitat for Humanity.  For years, we have represented D.C. Habitat in a wide variety of legal matters, including the acquisition of sites on which D.C. Habitat will construct affordable housing; the sale of such housing to participants of D.C. Habitat’s program; legislative, zoning and land-use matters; the negotiation and drafting of leases for D.C. Habitat and others; and the negotiation and obtaining of loans and grants from a wide variety of public and private sources.  We also represented D.C. Habitat in its efforts to develop a large tract of land for 53 affordable, owner-occupied houses.

    Other examples of our community development and transactional pro bono work include our representation of MANNA, one of the city’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing, in the acquisition and zoning/land-use planning of various sites in the District of Columbia for the development of affordable single-family housing. We represented the Spanish Education Development Center in connection with its lease of a headquarters facility. We have represented Community Development Corporations, including the North Capitol Neighborhood Development Corporation (NCND), as part of the D.C. Bar Public Service Activities Corporation’s Community Economic Development Pro Bono Project.

  • Education

    Our firm has undertaken a variety of activities relating to the development of public charter schools in the District of Columbia, which are designed to spur innovation in public school education and to give parents a choice in the free education of their children. These activities have included assisting the D.C. Public Charter School Coalition in the implementation of Congressional legislation authorizing charter schools and consulting on other issues of general concern to charter schools in DC, including funding and facilities issues. We have also represented schools in the purchase, lease, and financing of school facilities. In addition, we have represented several charter schools and charter school support groups in matters regarding the operations and management of such schools. Our attorneys also participated in a task force organized by the DC Appleseed Center to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the governance structure of the District’s Board of Education. We also have worked with DC Appleseed on a project analyzing whether the District should have a community college and, if so, what form it should take. We are also participating in a joint pro bono venture in which our attorneys and GE team up with the Children’s Law Center to provide legal representation for parents seeking special education services for their children. The program was developed to address the enormous need for low-income families to have lawyers assist them in navigating the - 5 - special education process. Lawyers assist parents in advocating at the school level to have their children evaluated for disabilities and obtain appropriate services. Lawyers may also challenge the denial of services through a due process hearing.

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Recognition

Feira Receives Lawyers Alliance for New York’s 2017 Cornerstone Award

Telecommunications partner Scott Feira received the Lawyers Alliance for New York's 2017 Cornerstone Award on November 14, 2017. The award recognizes his work negotiating a telecommunication services contract for Sunnyside Community Services, a non-profit provider of social services in Queens. The Lawyers Alliance for New York is a network of pro bono attorneys who provide legal services to nonprofits geared toward improving the quality of life in New York City. Their annual Cornerstone Awards spotlight "exceptional volunteerism" and "outstanding pro bono legal services" that support low-income New Yorkers.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer Receives "Protect Our Defenders Justice Award"

White Collar counsel Ryan Guilds recently accepted the annual "Protect Our Defenders Justice Award" on behalf of the firm for its commitment to providing pro bono legal assistance to survivors of military sexual assault and harassment. Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a national human rights organization dedicated to supporting survivors of military sexual assault. The firm has represented multiple military sexual assault survivors through POD's Pro Bono Network.

Washington Council of Lawyers Legacy Award

The 2016 Legacy Award honored Arnold & Porter Pro Bono Specialist Marsha Tucker for her pioneering efforts with the firm's pro bono program, and her sustained, significant contributions to the WCL and Washington's public-interest community.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) 2016 Vision Award

The American Lawyer’s 2015 Pro Bono Report

Arnold & Porter ranked No. 1 internationally and No. 2 in the US
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