The success of our pro bono program derives from the dedication of our lawyers and staff and the support given to this program by the firm’s management. Olshan not only encourages participation in pro bono work generally, but also specifically recognizes outstanding individual pro bono achievements. We want Olshan people to invest their time and energy in causes they are passionate about that also maximize their potential
“There is something tremendously rewarding about contributing expertise to help a non-profit start a new facility which will help thousands of New Yorkers.”
Thomas D. Kearns, Partner
Public Service Program of the New York City Law Department
Olshan is a pro bono provider to the Public Service Program of the New York City Law Department. Click here to view the brochure.
Representative Pro Bono Matters
- Secured a victory for pro bono client Animal Rescue + Freedom Project (f/k/a The Beagle Freedom Project (“BFP”)) in a suit against The State University of New York at Stony Brook. The proceeding sought records pursuant to New York’s Freedom of Information Law pertaining to a dog known as “Quinn” that was being used by the University as a research subject. Prior to the commencement of the proceeding, Stony Brook had produced only five pages of heavily redacted documents. Stony Brook subsequently produced additional documents, which were also heavily redacted. In a Decision and Order dated January 14, 2019, the Hon. Paul J. Baisley, Jr. found that “a substantial amount of the redactions” were improper and that Stony Brook “had no reasonable basis for denying petitioners access to the records.” It thus found BFP to have “substantially prevailed” in the proceeding. The court directed Stony Brook to produce “a complete copy of all of the documents” to BFP and to pay BFP’s reasonable attorneys’ fees. Read the decision here.
- Filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (commonly called “Fisher II”), in support of Respondent University of Texas and on behalf of the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Emory University, George Washington University, Northwestern University, Rice University, Tulane University, University of Rochester and Washington University in St. Louis. The brief argues that the clients' use of race as one factor in their overall individualized assessment of college applicants is necessary and beneficial to maintain sufficient diversity to meet the high level of excellence these institutions require. Furthermore, it argues that racial diversity is a compelling objective for educational institutions and that the universities' holistic admissions processes are narrowly tailored to meet this compelling objective.
- Successfully represented pro bono client, a Vietnam-era veteran referred to the Firm by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC), a non-profit organization serving the legal needs of veterans, in receiving an absolute pardon. Our argument before the Connecticut Pardons Board was that post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and homelessness were factors that led to the client’s decades-old trespassing conviction and that notwithstanding the client’s completion of an alcohol rehabilitation program and willingness to work, he was denied profitable jobs due to the everlasting effects of his prior convictions, revealed through background checks. These arguments persuaded the Pardons Board to award the client a full pardon.
- Successfully represented pro bono client in appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department in conjunction with the Office of the Appellate Defender. Client was vindicated when awarded a rare reversal of his criminal conviction for possessing a weapon in the second degree, for which he was sentenced to 20 years to life. On appeal, argued that the trial court had deprived client of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by discharging his appointed counsel, whom client wanted to remain, over an alleged conflict of interest. Four of five appellate judges agreed that there was no conflict and voted to vacate the conviction and remand for a new trial. The full decision can be read here.
- Represented the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on the purchase of a five-story building located in lower Manhattan for $7,000,000. The Museum will use the building to expand its exhibitions of urban immigrant history. The Museum hosts tours of restored apartments that were once the homes of urban working class and poor immigrants in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Represented the New York City Partnership Foundation Inc., an affiliate of the Partnership for New York City, on a bridge loan for the development of a Senior Center on Staten Island by The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a non-profit social services organization, which is calling the center the first affordable housing complex of its kind in the city.
- Represented, for the past seven years, a small New York not-for-profit against challenges from the Charities Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office seeking to dissolve it and from the Internal Revenue Service seeking retroactively to revoke its tax-exempt status.
- Advised the Pro Bono Partnership on HIPAA privacy and security issues, as well as annually updating the employee benefits chapter of its general guidance for small not-for-profit organizations in the metropolitan area.
- Assisted a for-profit New Jersey dance school in converting to a tax exempt not-for -profit organization.
- Participate actively as pro bono mediators in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York’s mediation program. Olshan attorneys who are accredited mediators participate in approximately three mediations per year of cases from the SDNY docket, many of which involve actions pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 for deprivation of civil rights. The goal of each mediation is to achieve a consensual settlement of the action, thereby conserving resources for both the parties and the Court by avoiding full blown litigation.
- Partnered with the Office of the Appellate Defender, New York’s longest-standing institutional indigent defense office, to represent indigent persons in all aspects of direct appeals of felony convictions to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, including identification and research of appellate issues, preparation of briefs on appeal, and oral argument before the Appellate Division.