Featured Matters

  • Steptoe persuaded the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in the Court's first case involving claims of excessive force in the police use of a Taser stun gun.  The Court vacated and remanded a decision by the Fifth Circuit that had held that it was not clearly unconstitutional for police to electroshock a handcuffed, prone suspect with a Taser eight times when he did not get up when ordered to.  The case involved important issues regarding the scope of police officers' qualified immunity from claims of excessive force and the allocation of the burden of proof and the availability of an interlocutory appeal in qualified immunity cases.
  • Steptoe successfully represented an ATF supervisor who was falsely accused of obstructing an FBI investigation.  The supervisor was placed on administrative leave while the matter was referred to the Justice Department Office of Inspector General.  The IG conducted a six-month investigation and issued a report finding that the ATF supervisor intentionally interfered with the investigation, which placed his career in jeopardy.  Steptoe prepared a detailed written rebuttal to the report, thoroughly demonstrating that the allegations were false, and exposing the report as badly flawed.  ATF leadership agreed, and cleared the client of the obstruction allegations, restoring him to active duty.

Steptoe has a long and rich tradition of public service that is an integral part of the history, ethic, and operation of the institution.  We take our professional obligation as lawyers seriously, with the principle of increasing access to justice guiding our pro bono efforts.  Steptoe is a charter signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, and was one of the very first law firms in the world to have a lawyer with full-time responsibility for the firm’s pro bono program.

As a national and international law firm, Steptoe handles a full spectrum of pro bono matters.  Many involve significant legal issues with far-reaching effect, such as race, age, gender, and disability discrimination; human rights; freedom of speech; prisoners' rights; and voting rights. 

We also recognize a genuine responsibility to serve our local communities in a meaningful and results-oriented way by providing pro bono legal services to individuals and community-based nonprofit organizations where legal help would otherwise be unavailable.  These matters include custody, adoption, domestic violence, housing and homelessness, political asylum, immigration, wage and hour claims, HIV/AIDS, education, consumer protection, public benefits, mental health, and tax. 

In 2014, the firm recorded more than 35,000 pro bono hours.  While the majority of our lawyers participate in pro bono work each year, and we are proud of the depth of their commitment, it remains a core objective of the firm’s pro bono program to obtain 100% participation.  Furthermore, the firm is steadily expanding the breadth and scope of its Public Service Program, and is persistent in its commitment to Pro Bono Publico.

Sampling of Pro Bono Matters

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights:   Steptoe persuaded the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in the Court's first case involving a Taser stun gun.  In a case that involved important issues regarding the scope of police officers' qualified immunity from claims of excessive force and the allocation of the burden of proof and the availability of an interlocutory appeal in qualified immunity cases, the Court vacated and remanded a decision by the Fifth Circuit that had held that it was not clearly unconstitutional for police to electroshock a handcuffed, prone suspect with a Taser eight times after he did not get up when ordered. 

Community Economic Development:  Steptoe is involved in a variety of community economic development projects, including ensuring the appropriate implementation of employment and housing requirements in local urban development ventures.

Criminal:  The firm secured the release of a client who had spent over 19 years for a murder he did not commit.  We also serve as counsel for death row inmates.

Disability:  Steptoe regularly assists clients with disabling mental and physical health conditions secure crucial public benefits.

Education:  Our lawyers have been working for several years to ensure compliance with a court order requiring the appropriate educational services for students with special education needs.  We also serve as mentors for high school students participating in mock trial competitions.  Furthermore, the firm has had, for over two decades, a partnership with an inner-city elementary school through which we provide tutoring, mentoring, and a host of special enrichment activities.

The Elderly:  Steptoe regularly assists elderly clients with individual federal and local income tax problems, as well as consumer and housing matters.

Family Law:  We routinely have a large docket of dozens of family law matters, including serving as counsel in adopt guardianship, custody, and domestic violence cases.  Our lawyers also routinely staff advice and referral clinics for pro se litigants in custody and child support matters.

Housing and Homelessness:  Several Steptoe lawyers are regular volunteers at homeless legal clinic intake sites and we also represent individual tenants facing eviction.

Human Rights:  Each year, the firm assists numerous children, young adults, and families who have left their country of origin to escape political and other forms of persecution and parental abuse as well as victims of human trafficking and violent crime.

Not-for-Profit Corporations:  Steptoe lawyers assist many not-for-profit groups—such as educational, environmental, civil liberties, social action, and animal rights organizations—across the country with an array of legal matters.

Awards & Recognition  

Steptoe’s public service activities—whether performed by the firm or by individual lawyers—have been honored by the District of Columbia Bar, the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the Children’s Law Center, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, the Washington Council of Lawyers, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Volunteer Lawyers’ Project, the Public International Law and Policy Group, the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Fund, and the Solicitor’s Pro Bono Group in London.

2014

2013

2012

2011

  • The National Law Journal honored Steptoe and Jim Rocap with its annual Pro Bono Award
  • The firm was recognized by the District of Columbia Superior Court at its 25th Annual Adoption Day for its continuing pro bono efforts on behalf of children and families
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs honored Steptoe for the successful outcome achieved in a disability discrimination case on behalf of a blind client
  • Jim Rocap was named a "Champion" by The National Law Journal for his pro bono service
  • Jennifer Bonneville was named volunteer of the month by the Los Angeles Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Project for her representation of a woman who survived brutal beatings, chocking, and a point blank gunshot wound to the head by her husband

2010

  • Steptoe received the Beacon of Justice Award from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in recognition of the firm’s work on behalf of immigrant children and young adults
  • Steptoe was honored by the DC Employment Justice Center for the firm’s decade-long support and pro bono service on behalf of low-wage workers in the District of Columbia
  • Steptoe received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the firm’s successful resolution of an employment discrimination matter on behalf of a client with a cognitive disability caused by an on-the-job head trauma
  • Steptoe was nominated by the Children’s Law Center for the District of Columbia Mayor’s Annual Corporate Volunteerism Award
  • Aaron Lockwood received the annual Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for their work on a First Amendment case involving a high school newspaper
  • Steptoe was honored by the board of directors of the National Peace Corp Association, an organization of former Peace Corp volunteers
  • Steptoe was honored by Ayuda-- an organization dedicated to helping immigrants navigate the US legal system-- with its Hugh Johnson Award, honoring the firm as a "law firm of the year"  

2009

  • David Roll was named a Purpose Prize Fellow, an honor for social entrepreneurs over 60 years of age using their experience and passion to take on society’s biggest challenges
  • Jim Rocap was recognized as one of the top three pro bono attorneys of the Washington Business Journal’s Top Washington Lawyers
  • The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington presented the firm with its Appreciation Award for “helping boys and girls of all backgrounds…build confidence, develop character and acquire… needed skills”
  • The Volunteer Lawyers Program honored Kami Galvani as one of the Top 50 Arizona Pro Bono Attorneys
  • Steptoe received an award from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the terrific outcome in a matter against Zip Car, which required it to equip a number of its cars in several locations throughout the DC metro area with hand controls, enabling customers with mobility impairments to drive them
  • Steptoe was among the very first law firms in the country to join, and also serve as a coordinating firm for, the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, which was created to secure reparations for aging Holocaust victims.  The network received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award, the ABA’s highest pro bono recognition
  • Lenor Marquis Segal received the prestigious annual Pro Bono Service Award from Legal Services NYC

2008

  • Steptoe was recognized by DC Appleseed for its ongoing efforts on the Anacostia Waterfront Rehabilitation Project
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs recognized the firm for its work in the housing discrimination area
  • Nicole Miller was honored as attorney of the month by the Volunteer Lawyers Program for her ongoing assistance at its Tenant’s Rights Clinic in Phoenix
  • The Public International Law & Policy Group recognized the firm for its contribution to the organization’s work with the Iraqi Constitutional Review Commission, with the National Council for the Union of Burma on national reconciliation, on a potential human rights agreement for members of the Georgian government, and on post-conflict efforts in Kosovo

2007

  • Jamie Beaber and Tom Trendl were recognized by the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program for providing training and technical assistance to Honduran farmers about the impact of the Central American Free Trade Agreement on the export of their agricultural products
  • The Green Bag, a century-old non-profit quarterly review of legal thought and writing, recognized a brief authored by Chuck Cole as among the best legal writing in 2007
  • Steptoe received the Pro Bono Service Award for its ongoing efforts in the field of human rights from Human Rights USA
  • Jim Rocap was recognized by Street Sense, a bi-weekly newspaper focused on issues relating to poverty and homelessness, for his decade-long work with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless on behalf of homeless individuals
  • The Public International Law & Policy Group recognized Steptoe for its assistance with the organization’s work on peace negotiations and post–conflict resolution, particularly with respect to Iraq’s efforts on transitioning to a democratic state