Recipients of 2019 Marvin E. Frankel Award for Pro Bono Service Announced
New York City—Human Rights First today announced that it will present its annual Marvin E. Frankel Award to the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Houston; Ballard Spahr LLP in Washington, D.C.; Kobre & Kim LLP in New York; and Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius LLP in Los Angeles. The award, which is given to firms who exhibit outstanding dedication to pro bono service, will be presented on Monday October 28, at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
“At a time when defending the rights of refugees is more important than ever, we are thrilled to celebrate our partnership with these preeminent law firms. Their hard work and dedication to aiding the persecuted and displaced sets the standard,” said Human Rights First’s Hardy Vieux. “The work these lawyers do changes lives, builds futures, and reinvigorates hope. This award recognizes their devotion to building a better world for those most in need.”
Each year Human Rights First honors the memory of Judge Marvin E. Frankel, a founding father of Human Rights First and former chairman of our board of directors, with an award in his name. Judge Frankel died in 2002. During his lifetime he dedicated time and energy to making a difference in the human rights movement.
Through Human Rights First, attorneys annually donate thousands of hours to help refugees seeking asylum. In 2018, volunteer attorneys provided $60.6 million of legal services—more than 100,000 hours—through our program. Together we represented over a thousand clients, and in the process trained and inspired a new generation of human rights advocates.
The Houston office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP continued to provide outstanding representation in their several open Human Rights First matters in 2018. In May, a team from Akin Gump LLP won asylum on a creative legal theory for a young Salvadoran woman who suffered repeated sexual violence at the hands of a local gang. In October, they won asylum for a young woman from Yemen who feared persecution as a result of a family member’s political activities. They also provided tireless representation and advocacy for a Syrian asylum seeker who suffered years of delays in immigration court, finally securing a trial date in October.
Ballard Spahr LLP began its partnership with Human Rights First’s Washington, D.C. Refugee Representation team in 2001. Since then, the firm has become an esteemed pro bono partner with a deep commitment to providing exceptional pro bono legal representation to indigent asylum seekers in the area. In 2018 alone, the team at Ballard Spahr doubled its caseload with Human Rights First, increasing their pro bono representation by almost seven hundred hours.
Kobre & Kim LLP has been an outstanding partner to Human Rights First in providing quality representation to asylum seekers and their family members. In 2018, attorneys in the firm’s New York office worked on ten cases, winning asylum for four clients from Bangladesh, Guinea, Morocco, and Ukraine. In addition to their stellar legal work, the firm has gone above and beyond in providing for their vulnerable clients’ numerous other needs, including through clothing drives, supporting parents in accessing extracurricular activities for their children, and providing transportation to, and meals at, client meetings.
A long-time supporter of Human Rights First, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP stepped up in the past year to represent many of Human Rights First’s Los Angeles office’s detained clients, with a one hundred percent success track record. They secured protection for asylum seekers fleeing dire conditions abroad and traveled hundreds of miles to represent clients detained in the harsh environment of the Adelanto detention center. In addition to the complicated representation work they tackled, the firm also supported Human Rights First’s research and advocacy efforts to highlight conditions asylum seekers in immigration detention in California experienced.