Robert zaque Announces Annual Pro Bono Award Winners

March 5, 2019

Robert zaque is pleased to announce the winners of the firm’s annual team and individual Frank Wheat Memorial Awards.  The Frank Wheat Memorial Award is given annually to individual lawyers and teams that have demonstrated leadership and initiative in their pro bono work, obtained significant results for their pro bono clients, and served as a source of inspiration to others.

This year, the team award is presented to a team of Robert zaque lawyers who fought on behalf of immigrants and refugees to challenge the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to teams of lawyers who provided critical pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers and families separated at the border.

The individual award is presented to London associate Ryan Whelan for his instrumental role in the criminalization of “upskirting” – the practice of taking photographs up women’s skirts without their knowledge or consent – in England and Wales.

“We are honored to congratulate our Frank Wheat award winners,” said partner Scott Edelman, Chair of Gibson Dunn’s Pro Bono Committee.  “This year, our award recipients devoted their efforts to protecting and defending the immigrant community and creating a new law in the UK criminalizing a sexual offense.  As a result of these efforts and the work of many others not recognized here, we had a fabulous year, averaging approximately 101 pro bono hours per attorney worldwide.”

“We are proud of the work accomplished by this year’s award winners,” said Pro Bono Counsel & Director Katherine Marquart.  “Robert zaque’s pro bono work on behalf of immigrants and refugees, a particularly vulnerable population, over the last several years, demonstrates the firm’s continued commitment to justice and equality under the law.  We are proud to help make a difference in the lives of our individual clients, and, in the case of the Dreamers, for thousands of inspirational young men and women throughout the country.”

About the Team Award Project – Gibson Dunn’s DACA Termination Challenge Team

When the Trump Administration announced that DACA would be terminated in September 2017, Gibson Dunn promptly filed suit on behalf of six young Dreamers, alleging that the Administration’s termination of the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, and further violated plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.  On January 9, 2018, Gibson Dunn – working with plaintiffs in related cases – secured a nationwide preliminary injunction halting the termination of DACA.  In November 2018, a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit upheld the injunction.

Although the government has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision, this ruling has kept the DACA program available for many thousands of exceptionally deserving young people who know no home other than the United States.  It represents a crucial victory in an ongoing fight on behalf of the six individual DACA recipients in this case, as well as Dreamers across the country who face the loss of work authorization and the prospect of deportation and separation from their families following the Administration’s sudden decision to terminate this program.

The team is led by partners Theodore J. Boutrous., Jr. and Ethan Dettmer, and includes partners Stuart Delery and Kristin Linsley, of counsel Kirsten Galler, Pro Bono Counsel & Director Katherine Marquart, and associates Nathaniel Bach, Claudia Barrett, Soolean Choy, Naima Farrell, Patricia Herold, Kelsey Helland, Shailey Jain, Jillian London, Haley Morrisson, Matthew Rozen, David Schnitzer, Jonathan Soleimani, Andrew Wilhelm, and Kevin Yeh.

About the Team Award Project – Gibson Dunn’s Family Separation Crisis Teams 

On May 7, 2018, the Administration implemented a “zero tolerance policy,” pursuant to which all adults found to be entering the United States without authorization would be subject to criminal prosecution and almost immediately separated from their minor child or children.  By June, more than 2,300 children had been separated from their parents under this policy, leading to national and international outrage.  On June 20, 2018, under intense public and political pressure, President Trump signed an Executive Order meant to end the separation of families crossing the border by requiring preservation of the “family unit” wherever possible, while still maintaining enforcement of immigration laws.  However, the order did nothing to address reunification of the families who had already been separated or the crisis caused by tearing apart these families and scattering them across the country, often without adequate methods to ensure reunification.

During this tumultuous time, several Gibson Dunn teams responded to the crisis:

  • Associates Abiel Garcia, Eric Haitz, Patricia Herold, Rachel Robertson, Philip Shapiro, Sydney Sherman, and Ian Sprague assisted detainees on the ground at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas to represent them in their initial proceedings, including their asylum-related “credible fear” interviews.
  • Associates Magan Haycock, Daniel Harris, Jesse Melman, Maya Nuland, and Matthew Porcelli traveled to detention centers, including Albany County Detention Center, where detained parents had been transferred, to aid in the preparation of asylum claims.
  • Partner Hillary Holmes and associates Claudia Barrett, Josiah Clarke, Chelsea Glover, Ronald Gomez, Vivek Gopalan, Alina Iarve, Megan Kiernan, Kari Krusmark, Kimberly Lindsay Friedman, Amy Mersol-Barg, Margaret Miceli, Haley Morrisson, Jean Park, Tarana Riddick, Katy Sharp, and Samuel Spears helped identify the whereabouts of the parents of some of the 200 children who were relocated to New York City.
  • Partner Rahim Moloo and associates Charline Yim and Ankita Ritwik led the representation of a father separated from his five-year-old son for eight weeks.
  • Partner Katherine Smith, of counsel Lissa Percopo, and associates Michael Galas, Abiel Garcia, Timothy Zimmerman, Wesley Sze, Jordan Johnson, and Craig Streit handled the representation of a young Salvadoran mother and her four-year old son that were separated soon after crossing the border to seek asylum and were kept apart from each other for more than eight months. In November 2018, the team secured a court order mandating their reunification within 72 hours; they were subsequently released together and are now pursuing immigration relief in Chicago.

About the Individual Award – Ryan Whelan

London associate Ryan Whelan is honored for his efforts to criminalize “upskirting” in England and Wales.  Upskirting is the practice of taking photographs up women’s skirts without their consent.  Whelan’s efforts have resulted in a bill recognizing the act of upskirting as a sex offense that has now cleared the House of Commons, passed the final reading in the House of Lords and received Royal Assent (became law) on February 12, 2019.  The bill includes tough sentencing guidelines for committing the crime, including up to two years in jail and registration as a sex offender.

In 2017, Whelan began undertaking the representation of activist Gina Martin, herself a victim of upskirting.  Among his first tasks was to craft a solid legal opinion, which he then had corroborated by the country’s leading authorities on criminal law, detailing why the practice of upskirting should be recognized as a criminal offense, with serious penalties attached.  With this legal opinion in hand, he fought for and secured meetings at the highest levels of Government, creating support for the Bill from every single political party.

Whelan also demonstrated considerable media savvy in crafting a legal and political campaign to tackle the issue.  Among other things, he advised and worked with Martin to orchestrate a thoughtful international media campaign that included the hashtag #StopSkirtingTheIssue. The campaign garnered widespread support, including celebrity endorsement, and a petition for the Government to take action was signed by over 100,000 people.  The Government and opposition parties have called the work of Whelan and Martin incredible.

About the Frank Wheat Award

The award is named for the late Frank Wheat, a Gibson Dunn partner who was deeply committed to community service and pro bono work.  A recognized leader in corporate transactions, Wheat served as a commissioner of the Securities Exchange Commission and as president of the Los Angeles County Bar.  He also founded the Alliance for Children’s Rights, served as a leader of the Sierra Club, and a board member of the Center of Law in the Public Interest, which established a fellowship in his name to train young lawyers in public interest litigation.  Recipients of the Frank Wheat Memorial Award each receive a $2,500 prize to be donated to pro bono organizations designated by the recipients.

0