Human Rights First Announces Recipients of the 2020 Marvin E. Frankel Award for Pro Bono Service

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First today announced the three law firms honored this year with the annual Marvin E. Frankel Award: Covington & Burling LLP; Williams & Connolly LLP; and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. The award is given to firms that exhibit outstanding dedication to pro bono service helping Human Rights First achieve justice for refugees, asylum-seekers, and clients in immigration detention across the country. Human Rights First will officially present the awards during its Virtual Celebration on Wednesday, October 21, at 8 p.m. (EST).

“The firms honored this year with this distinguished award have made and continue to make a difference in the lives of their asylum-seeking clients,” said Hardy Vieux, senior vice president, legal, at Human Rights First. “These three firms took on difficult asylum cases—and, in some instances, impact litigation—on behalf of refugees and asylum-seekers from all corners of the earth. Determined and focused in their pursuit of using the law to protect the persecuted, these firms regularly succeeded in helping their clients attain the peace and security in the United States that they were deprived of in their homelands.”

Each year Human Rights First honors the memory of Judge Marvin E. Frankel, one of the organization’s founders and former chairman of its board of directors, by recognizing its pro bono partners. Judge Frankel, who died in 2002, understood the critical difference that pro bono representation can make. Under his leadership, Human Rights First developed a nationally-recognized pro bono representation program that has become the largest of its kind in the country. Since it was created, attorneys in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles have provided free legal representation to refugees from more than 100 countries.

Each year these attorneys donate thousands of hours to help refugees seeking asylum. In 2019, volunteer attorneys provided over $60 million in legal services—totaling some 100,300 hours––through Human Rights First’s representation program. Together with these pro bono attorneys, Human Rights First represents more than a thousand clients and continues to train and inspire a new generation of human rights advocates.

More about the 2020 Marvin E. Frankel award winners:

Los Angeles: Covington & Burling LLP

The hardworking lawyers at Covington & Burling LLP are truly invaluable resources in immigration law and have been a stalwart for Human Rights First this past year. The firm contributed many hours to our Damus impact litigation on behalf of detained asylum-seekers and recently took on eight cases with our Los Angeles office, mostly out of the Adelanto detention facility. The quality of this small team’s representation is exceptional, especially given that cases for those in detention are often time-consuming and logistically complicated.

Washington: Williams & Connolly LLP

Human Rights First’s pro bono program is better for having the partnership of the generous and talented attorneys at Williams & Connolly LLP.  In addition to the many hours they devote to impact litigation, Williams & Connolly LLP continues to take on asylum cases with nuanced legal issues, going above and beyond the expectations of a pro bono team. In 2019, for example, the attorneys deftly litigated and won a complicated Central American case wherein the clients were forced to partake in gang activity. Upon receiving the decision, Williams & Connolly LLP delivered the good news to its clients in person, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring its clients understood the English-language decision.

New York: Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

The breadth and scope of cases in which the lawyers at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP can succeed are impressive. In 2019, the firm’s New York office did exceptional work on six separate asylum cases involving clients from Honduras, Russia, Tibet, El Salvador, Yemen and Libya. After achieving an appeal in a critical circuit court case, Cravath helped establish favorable new case law that will likely help numerous other asylum seekers. The quality and rigor demonstrated by attorneys at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP this year was remarkable.


Published on September 15, 2020


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