November Volunteer Feature: Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and White & Case LLP Partner with The Legal Aid Society on an Innovative Criminal Defense Project
The Legal Aid Society is the primary public defender in New York City and the largest defender program in the country, providing representation in criminal trials and appeals as well parole revocation defense proceedings. The Society also initiates impact litigation aimed at system-wide abuses in the criminal justice system. To stretch our limited defender resources, and to afford law firm associates the opportunity to develop criminal defense litigation skills that will contribute to ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system, we recently inaugurated an innovative Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project at the Manhattan trial office.
Under the leadership of Irwin Shaw, Attorney-in-Charge of the 150 attorney Manhattan office, nine mid-level associates from Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and White & Case LLP are devoting 30% of their time over a six-month period to Legal Aid's criminal defense practice. Each of the law firms has a litigation partner and/or senior counsel who oversees the project.
The participating attorneys are teamed with Legal Aid mentors who are experienced criminal defense trial counsel. The participants received a two-day training and have the option of attending any portion of Legal Aid's comprehensive New Lawyer Training Series. Their professional development is continuing at the Manhattan trial office and in court on individual cases, beginning in the arraignment parts.
Over the course of the six months they will become lead counsel for defendants in misdemeanor cases; on felony matters they will be matched on selected cases with felony-certified trial attorneys at Legal Aid - participating in research and investigation, drafting motions and memorandum, preparing witnesses, engaging in oral argument, and second-seating at hearings and trials.
Baptism under fire arrived very quickly for the participating attorneys and began to pay early dividends for Legal Aid Society clients. In one case, Cooley, Godward attorney Rachel Kane's cross-examination of a police officer lead to the judge's suppression of the purported evidence. In another matter, Adam Burton of White & Case crossed a police officer at a leaving the scene of the accident trial, resulting in an acquittal.
We look forward to continued success by this talented and dedicated team of pro bono attorneys.