Page 22 - Robins Kaplan 2017
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WINNING ASYLUM
Aida is a Muslim-born woman who converted to Christianity while living in Kyrgyzstan, a predominantly Muslim country. As a result of her conversion and open practice of Christianity, she was beaten, ridiculed, falsely imprisoned and ostracized from her family and community. She came to the U.S. in 2010 seeking asylum on the basis of religious persecution. Over the last seven years, she has been navigating the immigration court system trying to get out from the cloud of an uncertain immigration status. Finally, after all this time and a nearly seven-hour individual merits hearing, she and her husband were granted asylum on October 5, 2017. Oren Langer represented Aida and her husband at the marathon hearing, where the judge said on the record that he was impressed by our work, acknowledged that the court upended a previously agreed-upon deal with the government, and “definitely did not make life easy for counsel.”
This case is special, not only for its successful outcome but also because it is among if not the first pro bono case that the NYC Robins Kaplan office took on when it opened in 2010. It demonstrates the extent of the unwavering support that the firm dedicates to its pro bono clients. The rest of the legal team consisted of Bryan Vogel, Alwina Oyewoleturner, AnnMarie Shaw and Karen Menendez.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF ABUSE
Through a partnership with the Tubman Family Alliance, new associates in the Minneapolis office help domestic violence survivors break the cycle of abuse and obtain legal protection. The program pairs the associates with experienced trial lawyers to take on order for protection (OFP) cases for domestic abuse victims while gaining on-their-feet courtroom experience.
In early January, Maverick Bolger and Michael Pacelli obtained an OFP for a client who was physically abused by her boyfriend after she ended their relationship. The client made the brave move to leave her boyfriend after a series of increasingly intense altercations, which had escalated to the respondent shouting, erupting violently and taking the client’s keys from her. In their final altercation, which resulted in the client seeking evaluation at the emergency room and calling the police, the respondent had dragged the client into his apartment building’s basement stairwell. He trapped the client there for several hours, slapping, choking and slamming her into the wall repeatedly. The client eventually convinced the
respondent to let her leave.
The firm’s representation was
important to the client for several reasons. First, she required translation services, which the firm secured for all phases of the case. Second, both the client and respondent are students on student visas at the same university, which required the team to craft and negotiate special on-campus OFP provisions. Third, the respondent was represented, which would have placed the client at a disadvantage without the firm’s counsel. Additionally, while the client required protection from the respondent, she also wanted to minimize the potential for adverse immigration consequences to the respondent — fearing extreme retaliation in her home country if the respondent were prevented from finishing his course of study.
Maverick and Michael, with guidance from Matt Woods and Summra Shariff, helped the client navigate these complexities and achieve her goals. The client says she now feels safe and can move on with life, focusing on completing her studies.
SECURING HOUSING, SAVING FAMILIES
Mary McKinley and the Minneapolis firm successfully secured expungement of a housing eviction on behalf of a woman who was evicted from her residence of four years after she experienced a medical crisis and found herself unable to pay rent. Following her eviction, she was unable to obtain other long-term housing despite numerous attempts. Because of the eviction on her record, her rental applications were either denied by landlords or she was asked to pay a double deposit that she could not afford. This inability to obtain affordable housing in turn led to numerous short- term housing shifts, separation from her school-aged daughter, increased stress and a continued risk to her health. Without expungement, this eviction would follow her until 2024.
Working on this expungement matter entailed attending a short training session at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and then meeting the client at a housing expungement workshop to prepare the expungement petition and motion papers. The owners of the client’s former residence challenged the expungement, and McKinley argued the case on behalf of the client at a hearing in Hennepin County Housing Court. While expungement is an extraordinary remedy under the law, the judge agreed that the benefits to the client greatly outweighed any disadvantage to the public from
elimination of the eviction record. The client was pleased that her petition was granted and has subsequently obtained new housing with her daughter.
FIGHTING FOR CIVIL RIGHTS FOR IMMIGRANTS
In a case garnering national media attention, Randy Tietjen, Ami ElShareif and Sarah Friedricks represent a Somali- American family — all U.S. citizens — that was detained at the Canadian border for more than 11 hours. Working with the American Civil Liberties Union, the team filed suit in federal court for violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of the family. The team is also seeking injunctive relief to remove the father’s name, Abdisalam Wilwal, from a watch list, which triggered the entire family’s detention at the border. The lawsuit challenges how a U.S. citizen is placed on these secret lists, which have no effective process for challenging the placement and few remedies to be taken off.
At the start the ordeal, the family’s car was surrounded by border patrol agents who had their guns drawn. While handcuffed and after several
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OTHER PRO BONO
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