February 2011 Volunteer Feature: Dewey & Leboeuf LLP Creates State Prison Advocacy Project Based Upon Associate Kelli Lanski’s Fellowship with The Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project
Kelli Lanski, a Dewey LeBoeuf fellow, spent a year with the Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project, assisting with class action litigation and responding to communications from prisoners and their families. She advocated on behalf of hundreds of prisoners, informing the Department of Correctional Services of issues like constitutionally inadequate medical care, officer brutality, and the Department's failure to protect prisoners from harm. Kelli's year at Legal Aid provided her with the opportunity to become a resourceful advocate for her clients, to draft creative arguments, hone client-interviewing skills, and engage in legal research and writing on diverse legal issues.
When Kelli returned to Dewey & LeBoeuf, she wanted to share her experience and knowledge with her colleagues and continue her pro bono efforts on behalf of prisoners. With the encouragement of Scot Fishman, the firm's Director of Pro Bono, and under the supervision of Partner and former Legal Aid Director Jonathan Siegfried, Kelli has spearheaded a State Prison Advocacy Project and has recruited Dewey to act as co-counsel with The Legal Aid Society on behalf of a sexually abused teenage prisoner. This unique pro bono project will provide crucial communication and support to prisoners and their families who send letters asking for assistance on legal issues, including access to medical care, officer brutality, inmate assaults, harassment by officers, and destruction of inmate property. Associates working on the project will advocate to prison officials on behalf of prisoners, complaining of violations of the law and Department of Correctional Services policy. An initial training was conducted in February at which Kelli and Dori Lewis, a supervising attorney with the Society's Prisoners' Rights Project, spoke to associates about the State prison system and how to advocate for prisoners. An initial group of letters was distributed to the associates and the first letters have been completed addressing medical issues. Dewey & LeBoeuf's investment in the project, and its support of building on Kelli's fellowship, has been crucial to the establishment of the first State prisoner project in New York City.