In March 2007, Steptoe’s newly created Human Trafficking Project has had its first success in serving immigrants subjected to violent crime. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service has granted interim U-visa relief to our 14-year-old client and her parents. U-visa status is available to immigrants who have been the victims of certain violent crimes in the United States and who assist law enforcement in prosecuting the perpetrators.
At the age of 12, our client was raped in the United States by a 21-year-old man. Since that time, our client and her parents have worked diligently with law enforcement to prosecute the man. Even in the face of threats of harm and deportation from his family, they routinely met with the Fairfax County police and testified in court regarding the rape. Unfortunately, the county prosecutor ultimately determined there was insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, and so she abandoned the case. However, as a result of the family's courage in bringing the man to justice, they qualified for interim U-visa status and will now be able to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP 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.
- Signature Project: Action for Children of Trafficking (ACT)
- Sampling of Pro Bono Matters
- Awards & Recognition
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, wage and hour claims, HIV/AIDS, education, consumer protection, public benefits, mental health, and tax.
In 2011, the firm recorded more than 36,000 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.
Steptoe is engaged in a significant pro bono project, known as Action for Children of Trafficking (ACT) to provide direct assistance to victims of international child trafficking and address the systemic obstacles that confront them.
The US government estimates that each year, approximately 5,000 children from foreign countries are smuggled into the United States, or brought under false pretenses, and forced into a commercial sex trade operation, domestic servitude, or exploitative labor. While there are laws meant to protect these children and programs to help them deal with their trauma, the system is not functioning as it should. Sadly, this needlessly prolongs the victims’ suffering.
ACT is a Steptoe signature project: a multi-faceted, firm-wide undertaking, designed to tackle this important legal and social problem. It calls upon the skills and commitment of individuals throughout the firm, and is an effort that all our offices, including our London and Brussels overseas offices, will have the opportunity to work on together.
Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: Steptoe lawyers successfully represented a methadone treatment clinic in striking down a restrictive zoning ordinance that discriminated against persons seeking treatment for substance abuse, thus violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Our attorneys obtained relief for a class of African-American vacationers in the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who were receiving discriminatory treatment by the police, as well as by many of the city’s hotels and restaurants.
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, playing a significant role in the creation of a children’s museum, assisting low-income tenants in their efforts to purchase their apartment buildings, and providing legal help to a charter school.
Criminal: The firm has served as counsel for two death row inmates, one of whom was the only woman on death row in Virginia. We also represent adult and juvenile clients in various non-capital, appeals, trials, and grand jury investigations. In addition, our attorneys investigate and write reports on cases where innocent people have been wrongly convicted, which are used to shed light on flaws in the criminal justice system.
Disability: Steptoe regularly assists clients, many of whom are living with HIV/AIDS, with disability benefits claims. The firm is also partnering with a homeless legal assistance program on a long-term project to secure appropriate shelter care for individuals with disabilities.
Education: Our lawyers have been working for several years to ensure appropriate special education services for 18- to 21-year-old prison inmates. We also serve as judges for mock trials at local law schools and teach Street Law classes at a local public high school. Furthermore, the firm has had, for well over a decade, a partnership with an inner-city elementary school through which we provide tutoring, mentoring, and a host of special enrichment activities.
The Elderly: Steptoe lawyers drafted significant legislation providing elderly homeowners greater protection from evictions due to problems with payment of property taxes. We also regularly assist elderly clients with individual federal and local income tax problems, as well as consumer and housing matters.
Employment: The firm is working to protect day laborers from unwarranted harassment and to ensure they are paid lawful wages.
Family Law: We routinely have a docket of dozens of family law matters, representing foster parents seeking to adopt the children in their care. We also serve as counsel and as Guardians ad Litem in custody and abuse/neglect cases. A team of Steptoe lawyers prepared a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief in a matter relating to domestic violence prosecutions. 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. In addition, we represent individual tenants facing eviction, and are actively involved in a major lawsuit against the owners of several large apartment buildings for their refusal to accept Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers. Steptoe also has been participating in legal efforts on behalf of victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Human Rights: Each year, the firm assists numerous individuals and families with political asylum and immigration matters. We also research and prepare reports on a variety of human rights issues, such as sexual orientation discrimination in US immigration policies, foreign election laws, and human trafficking.
Not-for-Profit Corporations: Steptoe lawyers assist many not-for-profit groups—such as educational, conservation, civil liberties, and social action organizations—across the country with an array of legal matters.
Tax: Several Steptoe lawyers staff walk-in clinics that provide tax preparation assistance to local residents, and, as referenced above, help elderly individuals resolve controversies related to their local and federal taxes.
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.
- Jim Rocap was named "Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year" by the District of Columbia Bar for his pro bono service
- Gary Morgans received the "Pro Bono Excellence Award" from the Children's Law Center. The award recognized Mr. Morgans efforts on behalf of families adopting neglected children in Washington.
- The New York Times cited an amicus brief written by Michael Vatis, Cecelia Fanelli, Michael Rips, and Justin Perri (and written on behalf of former District Attorneys Robert Morgenthau, Gil Garcetti, and E. Michael McCann) in support of a petition seeking a writ of certiorari to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
- Southern California Super Lawyers featured Ruth Kahn for her pro bono service to Holocaust survivors seeking reparations from the German government
- George Grandison was named a "Champion" by the National Law Journal for his pro bono service
- Ruth Kahn was named "Pro Bono Attorney of the Year" by Bet Tzedek, a public-interest law firm based in Los Angeles
- Kevin Fincel received the Children's Law Center Clinic Attorney of the Year Award from the Volunteer Lawyers Program in Phoenix. The award recognized Mr. Fincel's exceptional pro bono service to teens and young adults with limited access to legal services
- Steptoe was named Washington DC Firm of the Year by the Tahirih Justice Center for the firm’s “consistently demonstrated excellence in protecting immigrant women and girls from violence”
- Ruth Kahn was honored by California Lawyer magazine as an Attorney of the Year — one of only five lawyers in the state to be recognized for their pro bono contributions -- for her commitment to helping Holocaust survivors obtain compensation from the German government
- Geoff Hengerer was appointed to the Committee on Admission and Practice for the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
- Steptoe was presented with an award from the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation for the firm's sustained work on its behalf
- Rich Reinis was appointed by the chief justice of the California Supreme Court to the Judicial Council Legal Services Trust Fund Commission
- Barbara Kagan received the first annual Award for Excellence in Advocacy by the Legal Counsel for the Elderly
- 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
- David Bodney received the Valle del Sol’s APS Peacemaker Award
- 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
- David Bodney and 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"
- 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
- 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
- David Bodney received the Judge Learned Hand Community Service Award for his “sustained contributions to the advancement of equality and democratic principles,” demonstrated by his important work on behalf of many non-profit organizations in the Phoenix community
- 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
- 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