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
In 2022, Chambers and Partners named Selendy Gay Elsberg Outstanding Firm for Pro Bono in the United States. Our attorneys average approximately 145 pro bono hours each year, compared to the industry average of 50.
Some of our recent public interest and 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
- 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.
- Filing 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.
- 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.
- Aiding 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 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.
- Filing 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.
- Representing public service workers, members of the American Federation of Teachers 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).
- Authoring 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.
- Representing 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.
- Helping residential solar customers get fair payments for power they export to the grid by representing their agents in the renewable energy market.
- Challenging the conditions of detention and lack of medical treatment in California prisons by representing a prisoner in a federal appeal.
- Successfully defending 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.
- Filing 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.
Over the years, our lawyers have developed a strong track record of protecting the public interest through cases that represent our values, including:
- Representing 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.
- Securing a trial victory as co-counsel with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a precedent-setting methylmercury pollution case under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
- Successfully defending New York City charter schools against suits challenging their ability to co-locate in Department of Education school buildings and demanding they pay rent to the DOE, obtaining denials of preliminary injunctions in both instances.
- Successfully defending a consent decree governing the delivery of medical services to Medicaid-eligible children in Tennessee in the Sixth Circuit.
- Representing a foundation that benefits elementary schools in uncovering a Ponzi scheme run as a hedge fund, resulting in the arrest of the principal, as well as jail time and seizure of assets.
- Successfully defending a woman who was the victim of abuse against a claim that, if it had been successful, would have rendered her insolvent.
- Representing plaintiffs in appeals of Section 1983 and sentencing matters and submitting amicus briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of corrections professionals opposed to solitary confinement practices.
- Representing 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.