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hours without food or water, Abdisalam Wilwal fainted and paramedics had to be called. Wilwal’s wife, Sagal Abdigani, was separated from her husband with their four children, ages 14, 8, 6 and 5. Abdigani, using her 14-year-old son’s iPhone, tried to call 911 to get help, but agents took away the phone and told the 911 dispatcher not to send help. After realizing the son had the phone, they took the son into a separate room and asked him to remove his clothes, which he refused to do. After six hours without food, the children were finally able to eat something. The incident eventually ended when Homeland Security officers arrived, questioned the father and released the family. The father, who is not fluent in English, was denied an interpreter and an attorney during the entire process.
In a statement released by the ACLU, Abdigani said, “My kids still have nightmares about this awful experience. We were all so scared; I was honestly worried that we would all be killed. We can’t go visit my family in Canada because we’re afraid something like this will happen again.”
The right to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is vital to protect if we believe in the First Amendment. We took this case because of that belief.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Minnesota anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional as applied to tort claims, as an impairment of party’s right to a jury trial under Article I, Section 4 of the Minnesota Constitution.
In Leiendecker v. Asian Women United of Minnesota, the court agreed with Lawrence and Sinuon Leiendecker that their malicious prosecution lawsuit could continue against the defendants notwithstanding the provisions of the Minnesota anti-SLAPP statute that would have otherwise required dismissal. The decision was part of a long-running dispute between the parties dating back more than a decade arising out of claims raised by Sinuon Leiendecker of mismanagement of Asian Women United of Minnesota (“AWUM”) and her subsequent termination allegedly in response to her actions. AWUM unsuccessfully sued Sinuon and her husband, Lawrence Leiendecker, who provided pro bono legal services to AWUM. Those suits were terminated with awards of fees to both Sinuon and Lawrence. The Leiendeckers ultimately sued AWUM and others, alleging that the earlier suits were brought without probable cause and with malice. The
defendants sought to have the malicious prosecution suit dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute, which provides for dismissal of claims based on conduct that “materially relates” to an act of “public participation,” such as bringing a lawsuit, unless the conduct is shown by clear and convincing evidence to constitute a tort. Under the statute, a judge, rather than a jury, is to make the factual determination of the merits of the case, a provision that the court agreed deprived Leiendeckers of their right to a jury trial.
The Leiendeckers were repre- sented in the trial court by Robert A. Hill, and in the Minnesota Supreme Court by Hill, Mahesha Subbaraman, and Eric Magnuson. Eric served as lead counsel and argued the case.
The American Lawyer Ranked Robins Kaplan LLP among Top 20 Firms in Nation for Pro Bono Work
The American Lawyer ranked Robins Kaplan #16 in the nation for pro bono work, based on the average number of pro bono hours per lawyer and the percentage of lawyers who performed at least 20 hours of pro bono.
National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono
Hot List”
Robins Kaplan was named to the National Law Journal’s 2017 “Pro Bono Hot List” for the firm’s efforts on behalf of tribal communities, including fighting for access to health care for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
MSBA North Star Lawyers 2017
The Minnesota State Bar Association recognized 86 of our lawyers in 2017 on its list of North Star Lawyers. To be named, a lawyer needs to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono work in the prior year.
Tubman Family Alliance’s “Law Firm of the Year” Award
Robins Kaplan received the 2017 “Law Firm of the Year” Award from Tubman Family Alliance for providing pro bono legal service on behalf of survivors of domestic violence.
We are always looking for ways to work with others to increase our pro bono impact. If you are interested in exploring a partnership, please contact our pro bono chair, Patrick M. Arenz.
The Advocates for Human Rights The Alliance for Children’s Rights Animal Legal Defense Fund
Bet Tzedek
Binger Center for New Americans
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Children’s Law Center of Minnesota
Federal Circuit Bar Association
Federal Pro Se Project
Gender Justice
Guardian ad Litem Project
Immigration Equality
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Jeremiah Program
Kids in Need of Defense
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans
Neighborhood Justice Center Public Counsel
Public Defender Appellate Project
Sanctuary for Families Senior Partners for Justice
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
Tubman Safety Project Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Volunteer Lawyers Project Wisconsin Innocence Project

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