Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP recognizes the importance of providing pro bono services to disadvantaged individuals and organizations unable to afford quality legal representation. We encourage our attorneys at all levels to handle pro bono and other public service matters in any area in which they are interested. In addition to direct representation of pro bono clients, Kasowitz attorneys serve on the Board of Directors, Legal Advisory Council and Advisory Board of various legal services organizations, including New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Sanctuary for Families and Disability Rights Advocates. Kasowitz attorneys also serve on the Boards of and are involved in advising numerous community, religious, charitable and other nonprofit organizations.
Kasowitz attorneys have handled pro bono cases involving a wide array of issues and substantive areas. Recent representative cases have included:
- handling child custody, support and divorce cases on behalf of low-income women and victims of domestic violence and other abuse;
- applying for asylum and assisting with other immigration matters on behalf of refugees, immigrant children, victims of abuse and others facing persecution in their native country;
- helping tenants facing eviction or experiencing unacceptable housing conditions;
- applying for government benefits, including Part D Medicare benefits for low-income senior citizens;
- defending elderly or disabled victims of mortgage fraud;
- assisting families with special needs to obtain vital special education services;
- helping veterans obtain benefits;
- handling prisoner rights actions on behalf of abused female prisoners; and
- helping a decades-old Baptist Church in the Bronx retain its property in the face of a foreclosure proceeding.
Kasowitz has received numerous awards for its pro bono work in recent years, including pro bono publico awards from The Legal Aid Society, and partner David Abrams, our Pro Bono Coordinator, received the 2013 Legal Aid Public Interest Law Award for his key role in expanding Kasowitz’s representation of Legal Aid clients. The firm has also been a recipient of a Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality for its work representing LGBT refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
Kasowitz primarily handles matters referred by a variety of legal services organizations, including Sanctuary for Families, The Legal Aid Society, Her Justice, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Human Rights First, Immigration Equality, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Veterans Advocacy Project (affiliated with the Urban Justice Center), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Southern District of New York Pro Se Office, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Association, Northern District of California Pro Bono Project, Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office and San Francisco Volunteer Lawyers Services Program.
Kasowitz attorneys have represented dozens of women and their children who have been victims of domestic abuse, in cases referred by our pro bono partners Sanctuary for Families and Her Justice. Each of these clients needed assistance in obtaining judicial relief in family court and other New York courts, or from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Kasowitz attorneys have been repeatedly successful in advocating for and obtaining orders of protection, divorces, custody and child and spousal support for these clients, many of whom speak little or no English. Additionally, Kasowitz attorneys have assisted abuse victims in gaining legal status in the U.S. through Violence Against Women Act petitions and U-Visa and T-Visa applications. Recent cases include the following:
- Kasowitz attorneys regularly represent undocumented immigrant crime victims applying for U-Visas. The U-Visa program is designed to encourage vulnerable undocumented immigrant crime victims to come forward in order to assist the authorities to protect not just these victims but also the community from their abusers. Our clients are all victims of domestic violence perpetrated by their partners.
- Kasowitz attorneys filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services on behalf of a large group of U-Visa applicants who provided testimony and support in connection with the prosecution of several police officers who allegedly engaged in a persistent and pervasive campaign targeting the most vulnerable members of the Latino community on Long Island. The police officers were accused of executing illegal stops of individuals suspected of nothing more than being undocumented Latino immigrants and stealing their money. Many victims were targeted repeatedly and, in certain instances, followed and stalked by the police officers before they were robbed. Kasowitz filed an amicus brief to support these victims in obtaining U-Visa status and benefits.
- Kasowitz attorneys represented an indigent mother of four in a contentious divorce proceeding and foreclosure action. The mother’s husband had taken out a million dollar mortgage on their home and fled the country with the loan proceeds, leaving her with little support and a looming foreclosure action. Kasowitz attorneys engaged in extensive discovery to locate hidden assets of the husband, and were able to avoid foreclosure of the client’s home. In addition, Kasowitz attorneys negotiated the sale of the marital property in order to provide funds for the family to relocate and for the mother to support her children. The client’s divorce action went to trial in Brooklyn Family Court, where Kasowitz attorneys were successful in obtaining for the client the release of all of the proceeds, as well as substantial foreign assets that were being held in escrow for the client.
In partnership with Human Rights First, Sanctuary for Families, The Legal Aid Society and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Kasowitz attorneys have worked to protect and defend the rights of refugee children and unaccompanied minors in Immigration Court Proceedings. Examples include the following:
- Kasowitz attorneys obtained political asylum in the United States on behalf of an orphaned Ethiopian girl who had been subjected to persecution in Ethiopia, including suffering severe physical and emotional harm. Kasowitz’s client was able to come to the United States to receive medical care, and the Kasowitz team demonstrated that the client would face persecution as a disabled female orphan, and would not receive appropriate medical care if she had to return to Ethiopia.
- Kasowitz attorneys obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for twin brothers from Mexico who had been abandoned by their mother after the death of their father and subjected to abuse by their mother’s new boyfriend. The brothers fled to the United States to join their sister.
- Kasowitz attorneys are working on applications for several other undocumented minors from Central America seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. We have also helped staff clinics for unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings coordinated by The Legal Aid Society.
Kasowitz attorneys have also successfully obtained asylum in the United States on behalf of persecuted women and members of the LGBTQ community. Examples include:
- Kasowitz attorneys represented a young Guatemalan woman who had been subject to persecution, including severe emotional and physical abuse from her father and threats to her life by gang members, due to her gender and status as a member of a group of abused Guatemalan women and children. After a hearing in Immigration Court, the client was granted asylum.
- Kasowitz attorneys assisted a young Afghan woman in obtaining asylum. The client had been subject to persecution because of her membership in an ethnic and religious minority, and her political activism in opposition to the government.
- Kasowitz attorneys obtained asylum for a transgender woman from Ecuador who had been persecuted on behalf of her sexual orientation. Kasowitz also assisted her brother who was also persecuted on account of his sexual orientation in obtaining asylum.
- Kasowitz attorneys obtained asylum for an HIV-positive Jamaican national who had been persecuted on account of his sexual orientation for years and feared future persecution if required to return to Jamaica.
Kasowitz attorneys have worked on several successful reunification cases involving families caught in an immigration loophole that had prevented their young children from being eligible to enter the United States.
- Kasowitz attorneys successfully reunified a Darfuri refugee family in the United States with their four-year old daughter. The Kasowitz attorneys worked for over a year on the family’s behalf. Our efforts resulted in the admission to the U.S. of the daughter, who had lived in a displaced person’s camp in Darfur almost her entire life.
- Kasowitz attorneys were also instrumental in helping a Guinean family living in the Bronx overcome U.S. immigration law barriers and reunite with their young son. The child had never met his biological father and had last seen his mother more than three and a half years before when she was forced to flee Guinea for the United States.
Kasowitz has served as co-counsel with The Legal Aid Society in cases representing home owners who were victims of mortgage fraud, equity theft, phony deed transfers or other attempts to steal their property or assets.
- Kasowitz represented an elderly low-income client in an action against the mortgage broker, attorneys, straw buyers and bank that fraudulently obtained title to the client’s home in the guise of a promised refinancing of an existing mortgage.
- Kasowitz achieved a significant victory for homeowners against a large lender in a lawsuit, alleging a “bait and switch” scheme in which the lender initially promised the homeowners access to conventional loans with low payments and then switched the financing three days before closing to unconventional adjustable rate loans with extremely high costs. The Ninth Circuit reversed an earlier district court dismissal, holding that a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to tender the proceeds of a loan and that the statute of limitations under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act is subject to equitable tolling. The decision made new law that will benefit not only the consumers involved in the litigation against the lender, but many other consumers suing financial institutions and lenders for violations of federal law in the residential mortgage market.
Kasowitz attorneys partnered with the legal team at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House (LHNH) on a pro bono project assisting older, low-income adults to navigate the Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plan selection process during the open enrollment period. Kasowitz attorneys volunteered at daily clinics providing one-on-one counseling meetings with dozens of senior citizens at LHNH to help them understand their options and complete the plan selection process.
Kasowitz attorneys have been successful in resolving insurance claims for various pro bono clients who, long after Superstorm Sandy, had not been able to reach an agreement with their property insurers and were left unable to repair the significant wind and structural damage to their homes.
Kasowitz, as co-counsel with The Legal Aid Society, secured a highly favorable settlement for The First Union Baptist Church of the Bronx, a century-old church, which was facing the loss of its church at foreclosure. The settlement, which was reached after extensive bankruptcy court litigation and appeals, not only allows the Church to pay its debts and remain at its historic location, but also provides for the development of 45 units of affordable housing in a neighborhood where affordable housing is desperately needed.
Kasowitz, as co-counsel with Disability Rights Advocates, secured a landmark class action settlement that improves health care services for New Yorkers with disabilities at Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and certain Continuum Health Partners outpatient facilities (the “Heritage Continuum Hospitals”).
The settlement, which was achieved after extensive negotiations, requires the Heritage Continuum Hospitals to identify and remediate architectural barriers at more than 10 hospitals and outpatient facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as purchase equipment where needed to better serve patients with disabilities, and develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure equal health care access for all patients and visitors with disabilities.
The firm’s pro bono matters are coordinated by David J. Abrams, a litigation partner in the New York office. For more information about the firm's pro bono program and representation in pro bono cases, please contact ProBonoInquiries@kasowitz.com.