2017 Pro Bono Stars: Washington, D.C.
By Hardy Vieux
In Washington, D.C. we work with many outstanding teams, but two stand above the rest. The first is Cathy Scheineson, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery. She has handled multiple asylum cases for us over the last several years, including three that are ongoing.
Cathy is a zealous advocate for her clients. In one case, her client’s family remains in harm’s way in the Gaza strip. After quickly filing the client’s asylum application and securing an expedited interview date to reunite him with his wife and young children, the case was referred to asylum office headquarters, where it remains today.
Since then, Cathy has taken it upon herself to explore all potential options to reunite the family, including enlisting the assistance of Senator Tim Kaine’s office. And, when that same client was sick, Cathy used her personal network to find a doctor willing to see him free of charge.
Cathy truly cares about her asylum clients, from a legal perspective and beyond.
Apart from her representation work, Cathy is also a participant in our Interfaith Working Group, a collaboration of local faith leaders that meet to form solutions to local refugee issues. She also secured the assistance of her temple, Washington Hebrew, in several initiatives to support the social service needs of our clients.
Our other Pro Bono Stars come from Cooley LLP: attorneys Tom Blinka, Abby Pierce, Jane Van Benten, and patent agent Marcelo Pomeranz. They recently helped secure a grant of asylum from the Baltimore Immigration Court for a woman who fled El Salvador after suffering decades of abuse at the hands of her violent and controlling husband.
From left to right: Jane Van Benten, Abigail Pierce, the client, Thomas Blinka, and Marcelo Pomeranz.
The team was eager and enthusiastic from the start. We placed the case with the team from Cooley several months out from the client’s next preliminary hearing. A couple of days later, the Baltimore Immigration Court set the case for trial just weeks away. The Cooley team was undeterred by this freak hearing date advancement and agreed to move forward with the case. As soon as he learned the hearing had been advanced, the partner on the case drove to the client’s house in Maryland to have her sign the retainer and all other necessary documents as soon as he could.
While it can be difficult to find evidence to document harm that an asylum seeker has suffered abroad, the Cooley team was up to the task – creatively finding ways to document and show to the court the harm that their client suffered in the past and the threats she continued to receive from her abuser. The team has also shown great attentiveness to the non-legal needs of the client who is remarkably resilient, but who has suffered immense trauma in the past.
This team is a testament to the impact representation can make, and we are so grateful for their support.