Fall 2020 Project Spotlight: Hundreds of Attorneys Participate in Project to Assist Protesters

Source: Protesters with Arms Raised, Photo by Life Matters

New Yorkers throughout the city took to the streets this Summer to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis . Thousands of protesters were arrested by the New York City Police Department, and many hundreds have shared with Legal Aid their experience with police misconduct and brutality while participating in these peaceful protests.

In order to assist the protesters in protecting their rights, The Legal Aid Society’s Cop Accountability Project launched a pro bono clinic which engaged over three hundred attorneys from 19 of the nation’s most prestigious law firms. Utilizing a unique online platform, volunteer attorneys were able to remotely access training, sample complaints and client information allowing them to assist protesters with filing complaints at the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) as well as provide additional advice on other options to ensure their rights were protected. Nearly 100 clients have reached out to The Legal Aid Society since this project began and each has been matched with a team of trained volunteer attorneys who guide them through the filing process. Law firms participating in this clinic include; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLC; Milbank LLP; O'Melveny & Myers LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Ropes & Gray LLP; Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; Sidley Austin LLP; White & Case LLP; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

In announcing the project, Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, said “For New Yorkers who were falsely arrested, brutalized or who witnessed misconduct during the demonstrations, you have a right to file a complaint with the CCRB and a lawsuit against the city to establish that your rights were violated. This can oftentimes be an intimidating and arcane process, and this clinic will ensure that New Yorkers can get connected to lawyers who are standing by and ready to assist them in holding cops accountable for their misconduct during the protests.”

The Cop Accountability Project, or CAP, works to improve police accountability and transparency by advocating against problematic policing policies and fighting police secrecy laws. To empower organizations and communities across New York City to hold police officers accountable for human rights violations, CAP launched a database that tracks police misconduct in New York City so that public defense, civil rights, and human rights lawyers can better advocate for transparency and accountability. The database has become a national model for defenders collecting police misconduct materials.

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