Pro Bono Bulletin: April 2018


April 2018

Legal Aid Client Facing Deportation Able to Remain in the US Thanks to Pro Bono Attorneys from Cleary Gottlieb


Luis is a native of the Dominican Republic who came to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 1994, when he was only six-years-old. He lives in New York, as do most of his family members, including his mother, grandmother, brother, and sister. Luis has long struggled with bipolar disorder and was under the supervision of the New York County Mental Hygiene Court for a time.

In 2007, Luis was arrested after he had agreed to accept payment of a few hundred dollars to transport cocaine to Connecticut from New York City. In large part because of his mental health needs, the United States Attorney agreed to allow Luis to plead guilty to the lesser crime of using a telephone to facilitate drug trafficking. Despite successfully completing his sentence, ICE arrested Luis in December 2013 and placed him in removal proceedings based on the 2007 case. Luis was held in an Immigration Detention facility by ICE for almost two years when The Legal Aid Society was able to secure a hearing and his family posted a $5,000 bond.

Although Luis had been released from immigration custody, his removal proceedings were still ongoing. Whitney Elliot from the Society’s Immigration Law Unit (ILU), and a team of pro bono attorneys at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which included, Jon Kolodner, Sam Levander, and Julian Cardona, first applied for prosecutorial discretion with the ICE Office of Chief Counsel. Although the Cleary team prepared extensive supporting papers, ICE denied the application. The ILU and Cleary then further considered Luis’s options.


Working with additional support from Roger Cooper and Lenny Leonard, Cleary filed a motion to terminate proceedings with the Immigration Court, arguing that Luis’s conviction did not make him removable in the first place. The Immigration Judge agreed with that argument, and terminated Luis’s removal proceedings. With the help of the Cleary teams, Luis was able to remain in the United States, the country he has called home for nearly his entire life, as a lawful permanent resident and remain with his family. This was an extraordinary result that could not have been achieved without the assistance of the pro bono attorneys from Cleary. 

ILU Volunteer Spotlight:
Danny Essadiq and Adham Elsayed

The Legal Aid Society relies on the assistance of thousands of volunteers every year to expand and enhance services to our clients. This past year, our Immigration Law Unit has been especially busy. Luckily, they have had a number of dedicated volunteers assist them with their work.

Two of these volunteers are Danny Essadiq and Adham Elsayed. Danny and Adham both came to The Legal Aid Society around the same time, and have been working together to assist our clients. Their work includes meeting with clients, drafting memos and letters on their behalf, filing applications, and doing research. A specific project that both of them are working on currently is developing a pro se toolkit for individuals with final orders of supervision. According to Adham, “it will be a streamlined source of information on what to expect and how to plan for one’s future given the current climate in the field of immigration.” It will help “people navigate the system and develop the best strategy to prepare for check-ins,” said Danny.

Danny Essadiq

Danny Essadiq

Legal Aid staff appreciates the work Danny (pictured right) and Adham (not pictured) have done. “Having Danny and Adham as volunteers has been a huge help.  They’ve been able to jump in and assist with a number of projects and cases, including helping clients file DACA renewals, filing applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and working with clients who have final orders of removals and are subject to orders of supervision prepare for their reporting to the Department of Homeland Security,” said Leena Khandwala, an attorney with the Immigration Law Unit.

Both Danny and Adham view the opportunity to volunteer as a rewarding experience. Danny has enjoyed volunteering because “the work is fascinating and has a direct positive impact on the lives of individuals and families,” and Adham has found a sense of purpose in helping others.

The Legal Aid Society appreciates the contributions of all of our volunteers in expanding our capacity to assist our clients and fulfill our goal of ensuring strong legal representation for low-income New Yorkers.

Legal Aid, Gibson Dunn File Lawsuit Challenging NYS Approval Of Familial Search Genetic “Stop And Frisk”

The Legal Aid Society and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed litigation against the New York Commission on Forensic Science and the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for exceeding their authority and abusing their discretion by adopting regulations allowing for the use of “familial searching” by law enforcement agencies in New York State.

Familial searching is where law enforcement scans DNA databases for genetic information about a relative of someone whose genetic information is in the database. When a search for an exact match to a DNA sample comes up without a match, a familial DNA search may bring up information that could pertain to a sibling, child, parent or other blood relative.


“The Commission on Forensic Science and the Department of Criminal Justice Services acted well outside their purview and authority by unilaterally promulgating far reaching policy that should instead be left to the Legislature to debate,” said David Loftis, Attorney-in-Charge of the Post-Conviction and Forensic Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Moreover, we have serious constitutional, privacy and civil rights concerns with familial searching and how the technique will disproportionately impact our clients and communities of color.”

“We are pleased to join with The Legal Aid Society in challenging these invasive and discriminatory policies,” said Joseph Evall, a Partner at Gibson Dunn. “No New Yorkers should be subject to increased scrutiny by law enforcement, or even a “stop and swab,” simply because they may have similar genes to an individual in the DNA database,” said Christian