CHICAGO – Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP today announced that it has selected six attorneys and one paralegal to receive its top honor for pro bono service. This year’s recipients of the Firm’s Pro Bono Service Awards are Litigation and Dispute Resolution partner James W. Hutchison and associate Megan P. McKnight of the Firm’s Chicago office; Litigation and Dispute Resolution associates Daniel A. Edelson and Julia Chung, and paralegal Ishmael B. Taylor-Kamara of the New York office; Litigation and Dispute Resolution associate Gregory S. Korman of the Los Angeles office; and Intellectual Property associate, Ricardo J. Moran of the Washington office.
The awards will be presented during ceremonies in the office location of each recipient, between July 25 and August 1. Three distinguished jurists will present the awards: In Chicago, the Honorable Virginia M. Kendall of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; in New York, the Honorable Deborah Batts of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; and in Los Angeles, the Honorable A. Howard Matz of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. In addition, Esther F. Lardent, Executive Director of the Pro Bono Institute, will present the award in Washington.
This year’s award recipients provided pro bono services in a wide array of legal situations, including:
- Spending years representing elderly and disabled individuals in disputes relating to real estate, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
- Representing individuals incarcerated in the California and New York State correctional systems, fighting for prisoner civil rights by helping them to achieve equal justice under the law.
- Providing counsel and representation to a New York City Police officer accused of civil rights violations.
- Obtaining special immigrant juvenile status for a number of abused and abandoned juvenile immigrants, ages 7 to 18, from countries including Botswana and Honduras.
- Winning political asylum for an opposition activist who had a well-founded fear of persecution in his home county of Togo.
- Fighting to vindicate the civil rights of a Lebanese man beaten by three off-duty police officers because of his national origin.
"The individuals that we are honoring this year have consistently demonstrated our firm-wide commitment to providing those in our communities with legal services that they need but may not be able to afford," said Vincent A. F. Sergi, Katten’s National Managing Partner. "This group of professionals has demonstrated an extraordinary dedication of time and service to their pro bono clients and we are extremely proud of their efforts." The Pro Bono Service Awards include a $1,000 honorarium, which each recipient will donate to a charity of their choice. The following summaries highlight the recipients’ pro bono work:
James W. Hutchison
Partner, Litigation and Dispute Resolution – Chicago
James W. Hutchison joined the firm in 1995. Since then, he has donated a significant amount of his pro bono time to the Pro Bono Center for Disability and Elder Law, representing elderly and disabled individuals in disputes relating primarily to real estate, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. In 1999, he received the "Volunteer of the Year Award" from the Center for his significant work on behalf of an elderly, developmentally disabled woman named Lorraine V. Novak.
Mr. Hutchison was retained for the case by the Center to file a complaint against an individual who had conned Ms. Novak out of her life savings. After taking on the case, he realized that the individual had also neglected to handle the client’s financial affairs as promised, resulting in Internal Revenue Service penalties of more than $40,000 and the threatened loss of the client’s home. Mr. Hutchison investigated the matter and advocated on Ms. Novak’s behalf to get the penalties and fines discharged in full, even though the time for appealing them had long since expired. When it became clear that Ms. Novak could no longer live on her own, Mr. Hutchison arranged for the sale of her home and personal property at auction, and applied the funds to her care. In the final year of her life, he assumed a power of attorney for Ms. Novak’s property and health care. He arranged for her to be placed in a nursing home and when she died, Mr. Hutchison made funeral arrangements and located the grave sites of her parents so that Ms. Novak could be buried in the family plot. Following her death, and pursuant to her expressed desires, Mr. Hutchison arranged for a donation to be made to Catholic Charities in the amount of $30,000, representing the funds remaining in Ms. Novak’s estate.
In the years since, Mr. Hutchison has brought numerous Center matters, principally in the area of elder abuse, into the Firm, recruiting and supervising associates on these cases. He also serves as one of the Center’s 24 Pro Bono partners, a select group of practitioners in various firms who serve as consultants and conduits for cases involving particular areas of the law. Thus far in 2006, Mr. Hutchison has overseen associates on numerous pro bono matters, while maintaining an extremely active billable practice and serving as the paralegal liaison for the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department.
Mr. Hutchison will donate his honorarium to the Pro Bono Center for Disability and Elder Law.
Megan P. McKnight
Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution – Chicago
Ms. McKnight undertook her first pro bono case when she was a summer associate at the Firm, assisting in the representation of a Togolese citizen who came to the United States in order to escape politically motivated persecution. After returning to the Firm as an associate, she took the case to hearing and won political asylum for her client.
Since joining the Firm, Ms. McKnight has contributed nearly 180 hours of pro bono work per year.
In her three years at the Firm, she has primarily handled immigration-related pro bono cases. She is currently representing three Botswanan sisters who are applying for special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status. The girls, ages 7, 9 and 18, were abused and neglected by their parents, and finally abandoned in October 2003 when their parents left the U.S. without them. They were apprehended by immigration authorities in 2004, ended up at a detention facility in Chicago, and came to be Firm clients through the National Immigrant Justice Center (formerly the MIHRC). In order to proceed with the SIJ applications, Ms. McKnight had to request and receive permission from a designee of the U.S. Attorney General and facilitate the receipt of particular orders from the juvenile court. She has spent more than a year and a half on the case and in early July, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved the girls for SIJ status.
In addition, Ms. McKnight is pursuing SIJ status for a disabled Honduran girl who was severely abused by both her parents and other relatives and was ultimately abandoned in the U.S. after her father was convicted of sexually assaulting her half-sister.
Ms. McKnight has chosen to donate her honorarium to the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Daniel A. Edelson
Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution – New York
Since joining Katten in 2004, Daniel A. Edelson has been involved with three pro bono matters, including the representation of plaintiff Maurice Samuels, an inmate in a New York State correctional facility.
Mr. Samuels was alleged to have been involved in an unauthorized demonstration in late 1999 and was sentenced to 180 days keeplock following a prison disciplinary hearing. Mr. Samuels brought an action in the Southern District of New York alleging that the defendants violated his Constitutional right to due process by failing to disclose to him the evidence relied upon to punish him. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment and Mr. Edelson represented Mr. Samuels on appeal to the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s decision, in part.
Mr. Edelson will donate his honorarium to ECPAT International, a network of organizations and individuals working together to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and One Family Fund, an organization which provides direct financial, legal and emotional assistance to victims of terrorism in Israel.
Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution – New York
During her three years of service at the Firm, Julia Chung has performed more than 300 hours of pro bono work. She is currently representing a New York City police officer accused of wrongfully executing a search warrant for narcotics.
The Plaintiffs’ claims arose from the officer’s execution of a "no-knock" search warrant for narcotics, which were believed to be stored and sold out of Plaintiffs’ apartment. Ms. Chung has moved for summary judgment in favor of the police officer based on the fact that his actions were lawful, pursuant to a valid search warrant. Due to the inherent dangers involved in entering an apartment believed to be used for the sale of narcotics, the officer had authority to conduct the search as he did. The motion has been fully briefed and is pending decision.
Ms. Chung will donate her honorarium to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Ishmael B. Taylor-Kamara
Paralegal, Corporate – New York
In 1991 Ishmael B. Taylor-Kamara became involved with the Trusts and Estates department’s Estate Planning program at the South Brooklyn Legal Services’(SBLS) HIV Counseling Service Center, which serves the AIDS-related legal needs of the residents of South Brooklyn. Since then, he has regularly prepared wills and guardianship and healthcare documents, as well as powers of attorney for the clients of SBLS.
In 2000 Mr. Taylor-Kamara was assigned to work with Firm attorneys on a political asylum case referred by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. The client, a national of a small country in West Africa, entered the United States in 1999 on a visitor’s visa and then applied for political asylum. Initially the client’s application for asylum was denied by an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officer who then commenced a removal proceeding. The team argued that the client, an opposition activist, had a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country, including possible murder and torture on the basis of his political beliefs and ethnic affiliation. After a hearing that spanned several sessions in 2002, an Immigration Judge granted asylum and terminated the removal proceeding, and the INS waived its right to appeal. During the course of the case, Mr. Taylor-Kamara was fully involved in the representation of the client, advising the attorneys on research; compilation of facts; preparation and assembly of trial exhibits; review of affidavits, briefs and other submissions; monitoring of news and official country reports; and corresponding and liaising with various officials and expert witnesses.
Mr. Taylor-Kamara has chosen to donate his honorarium to Nah We Yone Inc., a not-for-profit organization based in New York City that assists African refugees and asylees, primarily from war-affected countries, by providing psychological and social support as well as culturally informed programs.
Gregory S. Korman
Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution – Los Angeles
Gregory S. Korman became involved in pro bono work during law school through the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, helping low-income taxpayers prepare their tax returns. Since joining the Firm in 2001, Mr. Korman’s pro bono work has included a number of adoptions through the Public Counsel’s adoption project. Over the course of three years, he has represented six foster families through the process of adopting nine foster children. Mr. Korman has also represented various pro bono clients in felony and misdemeanor criminal actions and administrative hearings.
Mr. Korman recently litigated the first civil rights case assigned to the Firm by the Central District’s Pro Bono Civil Rights Panel, which is comprised of a group of private law firms that have agreed to assume prosecution of pro se prisoner civil rights litigation cases. In this case, the client alleged deliberate indifference to serious medical needs while imprisoned. The State took the position that the case had no merit and refused to consider settlement. Mr. Korman obtained leave to reopen discovery and midway through the defendant’s deposition, the State’s lawyer agreed to settle.
Mr. Korman will donate his honorarium to the Children’s Defense Fund.
Ricardo J. Moran
Associate, Intellectual Property – Washington, D.C.
Ricardo J. Moran has been involved in pro bono work since he was a law student and summer associate, when he defended a client who was being evicted from public housing because her roommate of no relation was apprehended in the vicinity of her home with drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Mr. Moran’s interest in pro bono work is deeply rooted in his family. He was born and raised in El Salvador where his mother would sometimes take him to visit orphanages, insane asylums and senior living facilities to help the people in those institutions in any way she could. Both his grandfather and father were physicians who were heavily involved in providing healthcare for the indigent of El Salvador and to this day, his aunt assists with the adoption of Salvadoran children by American families.
Since his early introduction to pro bono work, Mr. Moran has worked on a variety of cases involving family law, human rights, housing rights and bankruptcy. He is currently working on the Mazloum v. District of Columbia et al. case for the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The case relates to the March 2005 beating of Mr. Mazloum (a Lebanese Christian man) by three off-duty police officers inside a Washington nightclub. During Mr. Mazloum’s beating, he was also the recipient of verbal epithets accusing him of being "Al Qaeda." Mr. Moran and his team are advancing several claims against a number of parties before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Mr. Moran plans to donate his honorarium to the A Forever-home Rescue Foundation, a non-profit animal rescue group that operates in the Northern Virginia/Washington Metropolitan area.