Center for the Public Interest. Building on its commitment to addressing significant social issues and providing community assistance, Lowenstein Sandler has established the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. Led by Ken Zimmerman, Member of the Firm, the Center focuses on six areas: children and education; immigration; criminal justice; civil and human rights; the arts; and sustainable and community development. As part of the program, five of the firm's associates will dedicate 25 percent of their time to the Center’s projects and help spearhead the firm’s overall pro bono efforts, which in 2008 involved approximately 75% of our lawyers and totaled more than 22,000 hours of attorney and paralegal participation. Establishment of the Center builds on Lowenstein’s public service foundation that earned it the number one pro bono ranking among New Jersey law firms for the past three years.

Seton Hall School of Law Center for Social Justice, et al v. United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Lowenstein Sandler, along with the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice, has filed a federal lawsuit in the District of New Jersey on behalf of ten victims of unconstitutional raids conducted by federal immigration agents in violation of fundamental privacy and due process rights. This is the first lawsuit in the country to focus on the consistency of such raids over a substantial period of time and across an entire state. It is expected to raise fundamental questions about ICE's "Operation Return to Sender," a program that has created strong incentives for unconstitutional behavior by establishing unrealistic quotas for immigration agents, and that has been implemented without adequate guidelines, training, or safeguards.

Lowenstein Helps Kids in Need of Defense. Lowenstein Sandler has become a founding member of KIND, Kids in Need of Defense, a national program initiated by actress Angelina Jolie and Microsoft Corporation. KIND's goal is to provide universal legal representation for all unaccompanied children who are in U.S. immigration court proceedings. KIND is coordinating the pro bono efforts of law firms and corporate legal departments across the country, providing legal representation that helps KIND children understand the procedures they face and the options and remedies that may be available to them under the law. Working with the state court system and the state Department of Children and Families as the lead New Jersey law firm in this initiative, Lowenstein handles multiple cases and provides financial support and office space for KIND's New Jersey Pro Bono coordinator, who trains, mentors and supervises volunteers.

New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, et al. v. New Jersey Department of Education, et al. A team of Lowenstein attorneys, led by David Harris, is litigating a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey against the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education. The action seeks to enjoin the defendants from violating the rights of children with disabilities to receive an appropriate education in an inclusive environment with their non-disabled peers. Lowenstein Sandler is representing plaintiffs Disability Rights, Inc., the Education Law Center, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey and The ARC of New Jersey on behalf of children with disabilities across the state. The lawsuit seeks to enhance the quality of education for children with disabilities in New Jersey, who are often unnecessarily segregated and denied their right to be educated alongside children who do not have disabilities, by increasing — to the extent appropriate — their inclusion in the general education setting.

Human Rights First: Working with pro bono partner, Human Rights First, Lowenstein Sandler represented a former teacher in Burma (now called Myanmar) whose application for U.S. asylum was barred after he was deemed, on the basis of a far-reaching statute, to have committed "terrorist activity" by allowing members of a group called the Chin National Front (CNF) to speak at his school about the importance of democracy. CNF is one of many activist groups working to restore democracy in Myanmar, which is currently under the illegitimate rule of an oppressive military junta. The statute defined those terms so broadly that CNF members who spoke at the client's school were deemed to have engaged in "terrorist activity" by virtue of their ongoing conflict with the military junta, and the client's actions were deemed "material support." As a result of Lowenstein's advocacy and Human Rights First's lobbying efforts, Congress held hearings featuring our client's case, and ultimately passed new legislation that explicitly carved out of the material support bar CNF and other "groups that do not pose a threat to the United States." This new legislation paved the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of deserving refugees, including our client, to obtain asylum in the United States. As a result of our work on behalf of this client, and the more than 15 asylum matters the firm has undertaken for them in recent years, Human Rights First presented the firm with the Marvin E. Frankel Pro Bono Award.

New Jersey Community Development Corporation and Community Outreach Team, Inc.: Working to improve our local communities, Lowenstein has partnered with the New Jersey Community Development Corp. (NJCDC) and the Community Outreach Team, Inc., two non-profit community development organizations that serve the urban areas of Paterson, New Jersey and Jersey City, New Jersey, respectively. These organizations are dedicated to providing housing, education, youth development, vocational services and community building initiatives within their communities. Since 2001, Lowenstein Sandler has rendered extensive pro bono legal services in support of NJCDC's efforts to strengthen neighborhoods and encourage individual excellence—a commitment for which the firm was honored in 2008. Lowenstein Sandler has taken a lead role in assisting NJCDC with one of its largest projects to date: creating a charter school for elementary school students. More recently, has helped the Community Outreach Team, an initiative of the Heavenly Temple Church of God in Christ and its pastor, Reverend Kevin Knight, with the assemblage of property, approvals and financing for a senior citizen housing project.

Prisoners' Rights: Lowenstein Sandler secured a favorable settlement for a New Jersey State Prison inmate who was repeatedly assaulted by prison guards. The inmate, a Greek national, was threatened and beaten by a prison guard following a disagreement about a policy in the prison handbook. The beating was captured on video surveillance equipment, but despite the inmate's multiple requests for the video evidence, it was not preserved. After the inmate brought a pro se suit in federal court and withstood a motion to dismiss, Lowenstein attorneys entered the case as pro bono counsel and aggressively pursued discovery regarding the videotape of the assault. The court ruled that the guards had spoliated (intentionally hidden or destroyed) critical evidence. In what may be the first decision of its kind in the United States, an inmate's pre-suit request for preservation of videotape evidence resulted in both an adverse jury instruction and an award of attorneys' fees. A subsequent attack by another prison guard on the eve of trial resulted in the client's punishment and transfer to another prison unbeknownst to Lowenstein counsel. At the Order to Show Cause hearing shortly thereafter, all the guards and prison administrators were examined by Lowenstein attorneys, and the case was settled in our client's favor a few days later.

Back


Kenneth H. Zimmerman
Chair, Pro Bono Program
973.597.2494