Pro Bono Litigation
Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.'s pro bono policy has been formulated in the belief that a firm such as ours has a professional and ethical obligation to contribute its skills, as well as its capital, in aid of the underprivileged and for the betterment of our legal system and the community at large. The Firm encourages every attorney to undertake pro bono representation and commits significant resources to facilitate participation in pro bono efforts. As in prior years, more than half of the Firm's attorneys, including principals and associates, devoted substantial amounts of time to such pro bono work during the past year, greatly exceeding total hours targets and percentages set by the American Bar Association. In addition, the Firm encourages its attorneys to participate in bar association activities, political activities, public speaking about legal and other issues, and other public endeavors that contribute to the community and to the professional development of our attorneys.
Pro bono work is approved by the Pro Bono Committee (and for associates, the Associates Committee) and is treated in the same manner as billable work. Associate hours spent on pro bono work are included in the determination of whether an attorney has satisfied the Firm's target for billable hours. In other words, there is no distinction made between billable and pro bono hours in measuring an associate's productivity. Pro bono work undertaken by associates also receives the same level of evaluation by the Principals of the Firm as billable work. The Firm handles a variety of pro bono matters, reflecting the diversity of attorneys' interests and skills. Attorneys are encouraged to take on pro bono work through the Firm's ongoing relationships with local legal service organizations, referrals, or other appropriate means.
An example of our pro bono work is the representation arising from the Firm's close ties with the Whitman-Walker AIDS Clinic. Firm attorneys established and staff a bi-weekly wills and estate counseling clinic, and our attorneys have taken on litigation involving discrimination against HIV-positive individuals and privacy issues. The Whitman-Walker Clinic has presented the Firm with a number of awards for establishing the wills and estate counseling clinic, for accomplishments in particular cases, and for the Firm's overall commitment. The Firm also has particular relationships with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Inc., the Migrant Legal Action Program and, more recently, the Capitol Area Immigrants Rights Coalition.
We have taken on a diversity of litigation through our Pro Bono Program, and this is not limited to the programs with which we have particular ties. For example, we recently won a case in which a federal court ruled that a public school system had denied our client, a nine year old child with mental disabilities, the special education mandated by federal law in light of her condition. The court upheld the decision of an administrative law judge mandating that the child be given a private school education at the school system's expense.
Three of our associates recently tried a medical malpractice case before a jury in federal court on behalf of a poor and, until recently, homeless woman who otherwise would have had no representation.
We also joined with the Migrant Legal Action Program, as well as the Michigan Migrant Legal Service Program and the National Housing Law Project, in representing a class of migrant workers in a suit against the U.S. government for failing to enforce the laws relating to labor housing regulations. We won on the merits, as the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan held that the government had, among other things, "abdicated its responsibilities by failing to enforce labor housing regulations requiring borrowers to follow notice and comment procedures prior to increasing rents and to roll back and refund illegally charged rent." When the government refused to remedy the problems addressed by the court's opinion, we went back to court again to secure appropriate injunctive relief, and recently obtained a ruling of contempt against the United States government.
Recently, we have taken on two cases involving requests of foreign nationals for political asylum, winning asylum in one such case. We are currently pursuing the other case, likely through trial.
We have also pursued less traditional pro bono activities. For example, we have had extensive involvement with an inner city elementary school in the District of Columbia, Birney Elementary School. Our lawyers have taught courses and supervised student participation in environmental projects at the school. We have also worked to support the school in a variety of other ways.
Other examples of our pro bono work include: