NEW YORK--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--The National Legal Aid & Defender Association ("NLADA") has selected Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP ("SRZ") to receive the 2013 Beacon of Justice Award for the firm's pro bono work with the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation ("NYCLU") in the class action lawsuit Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York, which challenges the State's failure to ensure adequate representation of indigent criminal defendants. SRZ and the other law firms named winners of this year's Beacon of Justice Award will be honored at a dinner to be held in Washington, D.C. on September 19.
“These firms truly serve as beacons of justice”
NLADA honors law firms that have provided significant pro bono representation to secure the mandate of legal representation to the poor. Since 2007, SRZ has been co-counsel with lawyers at the NYCLU in the Hurrell-Harring action, which seeks systemic reform designed to cure widespread, ongoing violations that deny indigent criminal defendants their right to counsel as guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. To date, SRZ and the NYCLU have successfully defended against the State's motion to dismiss the action, leading to a landmark ruling by the New York Court of Appeals; secured class certification; conducted extensive discovery; and filed a motion for partial summary judgment with regard to the State's failure to provide counsel for indigent defendants at the critical stage of arraignment. Trial is set to begin in December 2013.
The SRZ team, led by litigation partners Gary Stein and Michael E. Swartz and special counsel Daniel L. Greenberg, and coordinated by litigation associate Kristie M. Blase, has comprised dozens of lawyers from every practice area over the years.
Mr. Stein commented, "We are deeply honored to receive the Beacon of Justice Award. This award recognizes the efforts of well over 100 SRZ attorneys and staff who have so far devoted 20,000 hours toward this cause. We stand with the NYCLU in our commitment to bringing about critically-needed and long-overdue change to New York's public defense system so that indigent clients and their cases receive what the Constitution requires the State to provide."
Mr. Greenberg added, "NLADA is the premier organization in the country representing both civil and criminal legal aid providers so its recognition is particularly gratifying as we struggle to secure the mandate of Gideon v. Wainwright for our clients."
"We are very proud of our pro bono work and our hard-fought efforts," said Alan S. Waldenberg, chair of the firm's executive committee and chair of the tax group. "Schulte Roth & Zabel has a long history as a leader and innovator in pro bono representation, and we are dedicated to continuing this tradition."
"These firms truly serve as beacons of justice," stated Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA President and CEO. "Their achievements in advancing the cause of equal justice through pro bono generosity provide the entire legal community with a powerful example. I am so proud to have private partners that consistently demonstrate exactly what we can achieve when we work together to secure justice under the law."
In 2005, SRZ took a groundbreaking step when it hired Mr. Greenberg, who was formerly Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society and Director of Clinical Programs at Harvard Law School, to fill the newly created position of Special Counsel for Pro Bono Initiatives. A year later, the Louisiana Bar Association awarded SRZ its Pro Bono Publico Award for prevailing in a lawsuit against FEMA, keeping more than 150,000 families in hotel shelters after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes.
In addition to the NYCLU case, SRZ is currently engaged in hundreds of pro bono matters. The firm has been an innovator in representing not-for-profit organizations in their business affairs. The firm regularly advises nearly 50 such entities with diverse missions, including Partners In Health (providing health care in underdeveloped countries such as Haiti, Peru and Rwanda), The Innocence Project (exonerating the wrongfully convicted), Sanctuary for Families (defending battered women), and Hedge Funds Care (raising money to support abused children). The non-litigation support ranges from business transactions to intellectual property, real estate, tax, employment and general corporate matters. This allows the not-for-profits to focus their energies on their mission-driven advocacy rather than the business end of their operations. SRZ also represents a number of immigrants in asylum cases.
About Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP (www.srz.com) is a full-service law firm with offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and London. As one of the leading law firms serving the financial services industry, the firm regularly advises clients on corporate and transactional matters, as well as providing counsel on regulatory, compliance, enforcement and investigative issues. The firm's practices include litigation; employment & employee benefits; investment management; M&A securities & capital markets; business reorganization; environmental; finance; individual client services; intellectual property, sourcing & technology; real estate; regulatory & compliance; structured products & derivatives; and tax.