Pro Bono Work

BFDP Pro Bono Work
BFDP Pro Bono Work

Click here to download our pro bono Brochure.

With a high volume of cases and limitedresources, BFDP maintains its high quality of practice through privatebar involvement.  BFDP has effectively worked with many pro bono attorneys and has developed successful partnerships with law firms,  including Dewey & LeBouef; Skadden, Arps, Meagher, & Flom;  Proskauer Rose; Kaye Scholer; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges .  We havealso worked with Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel; and WilmerHale.

Whenwe refer cases for pro bono assistance, BFDP generally remains theattorney of record and co-counsels cases with pro bono attorneys.  BFDPis available to supervise the attorney’s work and generally works inpartnership with the attorney.

We offer a wide range of litigation opportunities for new and experienced attorneys.  Click here for more information about our litigation practice.

Some of the ways in which volunteer attorneys can help:

Appeals:

BFDPis developing a thriving appellate practice to ensure the continuity ofhigh quality representation for our clients, to challenge systemicinjustice and clarify open areas of law. Volunteer attorneys writebriefs in appeals involving complex state and federal statutory andregulatory schemes.  Because the law is not well developed, appeals canhave a substantial impact in this important area of law.

Anattorney from Skadden, Arps, Meagher, & Flom (“Skadden”) drafted awritten trial summationfollowing a three month trial involving 11witnesses and four expert witnesses resulting in a dismissal after trialin a Shaken Baby Syndrome case.  BFDP’s client, a young working mothertrying to become a pharmacist,, was accused of child abuseafter herchild was hospitalized for the second time following an initialhospitalization for Meningitis.  The trial judge fully credited themedical explanation of BFDP’spediatric neurologist that the symptomsthe child experienced were consistent with meningitis.  The pro bonoattorney drafted the brief in opposition to ACS’s appeal of the lowercourt’s dismissal which was upheld by the Second Department.  Thisruling was particularly timely in light of the recent publicity aroundmisdiagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Attorneys atProskauer Rose filed a brief in support of BFDP’s  appeal of a FamilyCourt Judge’s refusal to hear our client’s motion for a suspendedjudgment.  Suspended judgments are very important for our workingclients because it allows them to try to get their record amended so itwon’t affect their future employment opportunities. BFDP won the appealand the case will now go forward to a hearing that will be handled bythe pro bono attorney.

Motion Practice:

BFDPfiles frequent motions as an advocacy tool to help our clients.  BFDPfiles motions to dismiss or for summary judgment to expedite resolutionof neglect cases without a trial, which can otherwise take months andeven years in family court. BFDP also files motions relating todiscovery and evidence, as well as motions for increased visits,  provision of supportive social services to families, and changes infoster care placement. Volunteer attorneys can participate in allaspects of this motion practice, including interviewing clients,  drafting affidavits and affirmations, as well as memos of law, andarguing motions in court.

An attorney from Skadden drafted abrief in support of our client’s motion for summary judgment resultingin dismissal of a neglect case against our client for the educationalneglect of a teenager where our client  had filed a PINS petitionseeking the court’s help to get her son to school.  The court found thatour client had done everything she could to encourage her son’sattendance and therefore his absenteeism did not result from herneglect.

An attorney from Skadden filed a pre-trialmotion in a contempt proceeding filed by ACS against our client forviolating a temporary order of protection resulting in the Judge’sdecision that ACS had the burden of proving contempt “beyond areasonable doubt” as our client faced incarceration as a result of theproceeding.

Attorneys from Skadden worked on a motion tointervene on behalf of a client who was not named as a notice father in aTPR case. The attorney drafted a motion to intervene in the TPR case.   Eventually, the child was returned to the father and the TPR case waswithdrawn. This client was also given an award at BFDP’s parent awardceremony.  The research on rights of fathers to notice and consent inTPR cases that the associates gathered was used a training for staffattorneys on TPR’s.

Click here for more information about BFDP’s Second Chance Project.

Litigating Complex Trials:

BFDPrepresents parents at neglect and termination of parental rightstrials. Although most fact finding hearings settle without a trial, asubstantial number of the most complicated cases do proceed to trial andBFDP has been successful in getting neglect cases dismissed where ACSfails to prove that a parent’s actions or omissions resulted in harm tothe children. Volunteer attorneys can participate in all aspects oflitigation including preparing witnesses for trial, preparing direct andcross examination, reviewing medical records, police records, and caserecords, filing pre-trial motions, seeking expert witnesses andconducting examinations and making oral arguments in court.

Anattorney from Dewey & LeBouef participated in all aspects of atrial regarding our client’s failure to protect her daughter from sexualabuseincluding drafting and arguing a prima facie motion to dismissin court, and preparing and conducting a direct examination of ourclient at trial. In this case, there was no evidence of abuse except apositive test for an STD and the trial involved issues about theaccuracy of the testing procedures.

Attorneys fromWilmerHale are co-counseling a Termination of Parental Rights trial withBFDP on behalf of a mother who has developmental disabilities. Themother and the father are caring for two of the children’s youngersiblings.   The pro bono attorneys are involved in all aspects of thelitigation. In addition to conducting depositions, they  filed a motionto dismiss the portion of the petition that is based on allegations thatour client is unfit due to mental illness and mental retardation.   Further, the pro bono attorneys have argued a number of preliminarymotions before the court, attended court conferences on the client'sbehalf, and interviewed relevant witnesses, including experts.  The probono attorneys also plan to handle substantial portions of the trial,  including direct and cross examinations and closing argument,  scheduledfor six days in July 2011.

Externship/Deferred Associates: BFDPwelcomes firms to place associates at our office full or part time on atemporary basis. Associates will handle cases under the supervision of aBFDP supervising attorney and will gain invaluable litigationexperience.

If your firm is interested, BFDP can make apresentation at your firm about our work and/or conduct more in depthtraining sessions on our practice.

For more information, contact Lauren Shapiro, BFDP Director e, at LShapiro@bds.org or Jessica Marcus, Supervising Attorney at JMarcus@bds.org.