Ann Hamilton, RIGHTS, 2017. Displayed in Selendy Gay offices. Ann Hamilton, RIGHTS, 2017. Displayed in Selendy Gay offices.

Public Interest and Pro Bono

From our inception, we have put public interest and pro bono work at the heart of our values, believing resolutely that we could be both high-achieving, leave-it-all-on-the-floor commercial litigators and fierce advocates on the issues that shape our society. We are committed to practicing law to make a difference, whether by working in communities where good legal representation is in short supply, taking on pro bono individual and class representations, providing meaningful support for existing organizations, or by partnering with federal and state justice officials to identify cases that might benefit from our expertise through public-private partnerships.

Outstanding Firm for Pro Bono

We were named the leading pro bono firm of 2022 by Chambers, won the publication’s “2023 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year” for evacuating nearly 500 girls and their families from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and are currently shortlisted again by Chambers for “2024 Pro Bono Firm of the Year.” In December, Bloomberg Law named us to its 2023 list of “Pro Bono Innovators.”

Our attorneys average approximately 145 pro bono hours each year, compared to the industry average of 50.

Some of our recent pro bono work includes:

  • Preserving the rights of tenants in the state of New York. Working with Legal Aid Society, we defended the rent stabilization laws that protect hundreds of thousands of tenants, helping families stay in their homes and securing their right to have their voices heard in court.
  • Aided Afghan refugees in escaping the Taliban and resettling in Canada. Co-led by Jennifer Selendy, 30 Birds Foundation is an organization that is helping to evacuate Afghan girls and their families. The organization has successfully relocated over 500 people to safety.
  • Representing eight Capitol Police Officers who were on duty during the January 6 riots in a case that goes to the core of the peaceful transition of power in our democracy.
  • Representing Dr. Justin Philips, a professor of political science at Columbia University, in suing the U.S. Census Bureau in New York Federal Court for the release of data he and his team need to evaluate potential distortions in the 2020 Census. Dr. Phillips has raised concerns that the Bureau’s method for safeguarding census data may inadvertently be introducing bias into the data by shrinking denser—and typically more diverse—population centers.
  • Helping residential solar customers get fair payments for power they export to the grid by representing their agents in the renewable energy market.
  • Represented a group of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims’ families, in Alabama Bankruptcy Court, seeking to preserve claims brought against Remington Outdoor Co. in its chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
  • Successfully defended a ban enacted by New Jersey in 2013 on the practice of so-called sexual orientation change efforts or conversion therapies on minors by state-licensed professionals.
  • Defended a consent decree governing the delivery of medical services to Medicaid-eligible children in Tennessee in the Sixth Circuit.
  • Defended a woman who was the victim of abuse against a claim that, if it had been successful, would have rendered her insolvent.
  • Represented a class of psychiatric inpatients and emergency room patients at a large metropolitan New York City hospital in constitutional litigation challenging inhumane conditions of care, and obtaining, along with the Department of Justice, a groundbreaking consent judgment entered by the Eastern District of New York.

Some of our recent amici briefs include:

  • Filed an amicus brief on behalf of 65 organizations in support of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team which, despite its monumental successes, was being paid at substantially lower rates than its men's counterpart. The team won a $24 million pay discrimination settlement.
  • Authored an amicus brief on behalf of Constitutional scholar and former Harvard Law School Dean, Martha Minow, on the history of Brown v. Board of Education. In a monumental ruling, relying closely on the analysis proffered in our brief, the Sixth Circuit recognized for the first time in our nation’s history an explicit fundamental right to a minimally adequate education under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 
  • Filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Academy of Education that urges the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve race-conscious admissions policies at colleges and universities, arguing it is the best and currently only way to ensure a racially diverse student body and in the best interest of universities and society at large.
  • Filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union in a case addressing whether the Constitution requires an insanity defense to criminal prosecution.

Protecting the Public Interest

In addition to our pro bono work, our lawyers have developed a strong track record of protecting the public interest through cases that represent our values, including:

  • Represented the American Federal of Teachers (AFT) as co-counsel with Stroock in successfully defending against a motion to dismiss AFT’s constitutional challenge to New Hampshire’s so-called “divisive concepts” law. The district court recognized that the offending law required public school teachers to choose between existing educational mandates or those established by the new, censorious law. AFT’s claims that the new law violates the First Amendment and is void for vagueness survived dismissal and will go forward. AFT’s case has been consolidated with a parallel case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.  
  • Represented public service workers, members of the AFT union, in a settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit with Navient, one of the nation’s largest student loan servicers, challenging Navient’s practices with respect to advising federal student loan borrowers on Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
  • Represented the Federal Housing Finance Agency in a one-month securities fraud trial in the Southern District of New York, successfully obtaining over $800 million for U.S. taxpayers. The court’s 361-page decision shone a harsh spotlight on industry-standard practices in the period leading to the Great Recession, holding that “the magnitude of falsity, conservatively estimated, was enormous.” The judgment was unanimously affirmed by the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari.