Brooklyn Defenders' Pro Bono Unit: Celebrating a Successful Year

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Brooklyn Defenders’ Pro Bono unit is closing out another successful year. This fall and winter alone, we have accomplished so many wonderful outcomes for our clients through our pro bono partnerships. We are immensely grateful for the hard work, commitment, and dedication our partners display for our clients and mission. We are excited to share a just few highlights!

In October 2023, BDS and Dentons settled a Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA action”) on behalf of a NYIFUP client who was wrongfully imprisoned in ICE detention. The case was settled for $300,000 at the start of discovery, and the result was lifechanging for our client and their family. We could not have secured such a successful outcome without the support of Davd Kornblau and Charles Farrell from Dentons, who fearlessly advocated for our client.

In late October 2023, BDS welcomed Maya Shair and Sinclair Cook, two pro bono Fellows from Sidley Austin. Maya added essential capacity to our Immigrant Community Action Project (ICAP) team and worked tirelessly to assist over 15 clients in their Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) applications and renewals during her six week fellowship. EADs, also known as ‘work permits’, allow immigrants in New York to legally obtain employment. EADs are essential for immigrants to access economic opportunities and acquire further resources that are lucrative to their sustained success in this country. Sinclair joined our Family Defense practice and worked on a variety of matters including motion practice and litigation. His Mandarin language skills were a valuable asset to our clients and practice as well.

This fall we were excited to launch a collaboration with the other NYIFUP providers in NYC (Bronx Defenders and The Legal Aid Society) and the Legal Aid Society of Westchester and Suffolk County, along with the Statewide Appellate Support Center and Padilla Support Center to create the ‘440 Project.’ This project establishes a network of pro bono partners to provide critical representation for noncitizen clients in their post-conviction relief motions, pursuant to CPL 440.10. Volunteer partners with this project will provide access to defense counsel for noncitizen New Yorkers fighting unfair and unconstitutional prior convictions and to avoid deportation and admissibility denial, ensuring these clients are not separated from their families, work, and lives in the US. In December 2023, Davis Polk & Wardwell hosted our network’s training on this project, where attendees from Davis Polk and WilmerHale learned the basics of the law and application in order to participate in the 440 project.

Also in December 2023, BDS partnered with Davis Wright Tremaine and a number of their corporate partners to host an SCR clinic, wherein volunteers directly assisted parents impacted by the family regulation system. Davis Wright’s volunteers were trained on the harmful implications of system involvement for parents, caregivers, and children, and learned how to best assist parents with having their names cleared from the State Central Register (SCR). Davis Wright’s wonderful team of volunteers were able to assist eight Family Defense clients in their SCR matters. We are so grateful for their time and commitment to our clients, and we look forward to future collaborations.

These are just some of the accomplishments of our work together this fall. We are grateful to the many firms who have partnered with us on cases and clinics in 2023. If you or your firm are interested in partnering with Brooklyn Defenders Pro Bono Unit, please contact Molly Meltzer, Director of Pro Bono, at

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