Attorneys at Barclay Damon have a strong tie to their local communities and are committed to supporting those in need by providing legal services through pro bono activities.
Thousands of hours have been dedicated by our attorneys and paralegals providing pro bono legal services through volunteer lawyer programs in cities throughout the state. Our dedication to public service, our established pro bono policy unique in providing economic incentives for participation in pro bono service, and pro bono fairs held firm-wide demonstrate our commitment to pro bono services.
Pro Bono Commitment Award
Barclay Damon Partner Robert P. Heary and his team of fellow volunteers from the firm’s Buffalo office were honored November 22, 2013 by the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project with the Volunteer Lawyers Project Pro Bono Law Firm Commitment award.
The award was presented at the annual Champions of Justice event hosted by the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York and the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Inc. The event was held at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.
Heary was joined in the volunteer effort by several attorneys from Barclay Damon’s Buffalo office, including Eric W. Schultz, Raymond N. McCabe, Kimberly A. Colaiacovo, Stephanie O. Lamarque, Jonathan H. Bard, Megan E. Moran, Charles C. Martorana, Jennifer N. Castaldo and Claire H. Fortin.
Pro Bono Service Award
The Onondaga County Bar Association recognized Barclay Damon Associate Matthew T. Kerwin, with the Pro Bono Service Award as part of its Law Day ceremonies on May 2, 2013. Kerwin was honored “for his extraordinary volunteer commitment to the Say Yes to Education Legal Clinic, the landlord tenant court project, and his compassionate counsel to the clients he has supported through the pro se divorce clinic,” the Bar Association said in announcing the award. “Matt’s commitment to our community is a credit to his profession and our firm,” said John Langan, Managing Partner at Barclay Damon. “We could not be more proud.” Kerwin’s practice areas include Environmental and Land Use. In his practice, he has represented many different individuals and businesses in an array of land use and development matters, with a focus on representing wireless telecommunications providers and tower companies in the acquisition of land use and zoning approvals throughout New York State. Kerwin is active in the community beyond his pro bono work. He serves as president of the commission of a local Catholic school and coaches one of the school’s youth basketball teams.
"Say Yes to Education"
One of the cornerstones of Barclay Damon’s pro bono program involves its participation in the innovative “Say Yes to Education” program in the Syracuse City School District. The "Say Yes to Education" Program (“Say Yes”) offers, among a myriad of services, including free legal clinics and pro bono legal services to families with children enrolled in the school district. The City of Syracuse School District is the first school district in the country to implement the program district-wide. Barclay Damon is a founding member of the legal task force constituted to assist in the implementation and roll out of "Say Yes" in Syracuse. We have adopted one of the elementary schools and host a bi-monthly legal clinic on-site. "Say Yes" helps to eliminate barriers for students in the school district providing them an environment in which learning and education are the primary focus.
Pro Bono Case Studies
Wills For Heroes
In late 2011, attorneys in our Albany office responded to a request from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York for assistance in meeting the needs of homeless veterans. The attorneys met with Legal Aid and the Albany Housing Coalition of Albany (a veteran’s service organization) and established the “Wills for Heroes” program. Each month attorneys from the Albany office meet with veterans who are in need of wills, health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney. The attorneys interview the clients and determine their needs and gather the information needed to draft whatever documents are required. This information is then given to a seasoned estates and trust attorney in the Albany office and the coordinator of the program , who drafts the documents and supervises their execution. The program has been a great success with four to five attorneys volunteering their time to the program. The program has been in existence for several months and has become a regular part of the firm’s pro bono initiative.
An associate in our Syracuse office represented a former prisoner who asserted an excessive force claim against several corrections officers in a civil rights case in federal court (NDNY). Although the attorney hard a short time to prepare for the trial, and the claim suffered from some very challenging facts with little supporting evidence beyond the plaintiff’s testimony, the attorney was able to negotiate a very good monetary settlement for the client.
One of our Buffalo attorney successfully represented a 69 year-old Jamaican immigrant who had legally been in the United States for nearly forty years. While allegations of illicit drug use and soliciting prostitution swirled, the only removable offense that the client had ever been convicted of was a misdemeanor marijuana offense dating back to 1996! The challenge of the case lay in demonstrating to the Immigration Judge sufficient reasons to allow an elderly, disabled individual to remain the country. In representing this individual, we were able to tell the story of a man who, while imperfect, had a profound impact on his family; a man who had been in the country legally for the better part of four decades, who worked hard, paid taxes, and who’s efforts led to a better life for many others; a man who was rich in spirit and generosity, and who’s own sacrifices made possible the successes of others. The Court was also presented evidence of the client’s work history, as well as many letters of support sent in by family members. The client was the first of many brothers and sisters who legally emigrated to the United States. It was the words of these family members (who described our client as, among other things, “the glue that holds the family together”) that convinced the Court that the client should not be removed from the country.
A firm attorney represented a Brooklyn man who lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for over 30 years, since emigrating from Trinidad with his family when he was 10 years old. After losing his construction job and having found no employment elsewhere, a friend offered him a job “watering plants” at a rural house in Orange County. Twice a week the client would take a train to Orange County where he would tend to what was alleged to be a massive marijuana growing operation. He was arrested at the house, charged and convicted of a felony, but received no jail time. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) learned of the client’s narcotics conviction and immediately detained him for a deportable offense. The client remained in the federal detention facility in Batavia, New York for five months, waiting for a hearing to seek cancellation of removal.
We took this case on referral from Erie County Volunteer Lawyers Project to initiate cancellation proceedings. Our client satisfied the statutory prerequisite for obtaining relief (having resided in the U.S. continuously for more than ten years preceding his application), and the challenge was convincing the Immigration Court to exercise its discretion to allow our client to continue living in the U.S. In such cases, the Court must balance the nature of the offense with the hardship it would cause the detainee’s family to have him removed. Our client had a large family living in the United States. While none of his relatives were able to travel to Batavia to testify on his behalf, we submitted letters from many friends and family, including an offer of employment from a construction company. Ultimately, the client’s personal testimony about the difficulties he faced growing up in a foreign country, which affected his educational and social experiences, combined with his testimony regarding his love for his children and his intention to nurture and support them, moved the Court to grant him relief.