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Pro Bono Publico Awards

2006 Awards Recipients

Ward Coe

Ward Coe is a partner and head of the litigation department at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP and has spent well over 1,300 hours working for systemic changes in the delivery of pro bono legal services in Maryland.

Mr. Coe exercised tremendous leadership in encouraging his firm to adopt a pro bono policy and, some years later, to lead his firm's efforts to become the first in Baltimore to dedicate a partner to pro bono service. As a result of Mr. Coe's leadership, the amount of the firm's pro bono legal service has doubled.

In addition to firm leadership, Mr. Coe has provided direct pro bono representation, such as administering trusts for plaintiffs from a 1986 law suit against the state challenging the foster care system. He has also served as a member of the Maryland Judicial Commission on Pro Bono which recommended new state pro bono rules and has chaired the Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Pro Bono Service which is charged with implementing the new rules. He has traveled the state and provided countless hours of pro bono fulfilling the obligations of these roles.

In 2002, Mr. Coe received a Maryland Pro Bono Service Award from the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland for his successful multi-year representation of an impoverished mental health patient who had been denied benefits by his disability insurer. In September, 2005, Mr. Coe received The Maryland Bar Foundation's Professional Legal Excellence Award for the Advancement of the Rights of the Disadvantaged, and in October, 2005, he was selected by a past Maryland State Bar Association President to receive The Pro Bono Resource Center's Pro Bono Legal Service Award.

Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP is an international firm that has set the standard for pro bono. The firm's commitment to pro bono legal service is demonstrated by its consistent ranking among the nation's top law firms for pro bono work. In 2005, Debevoise was ranked number one on the American Lawyer's A List.

Debevoise & Plimpton gets lawyers involved right away upon joining the firm and have taken several different approaches to introduce new lawyers to pro bono. The firm has done extensive transactional pro bono work with numerous non-profit and community-based organizations serving low-income communities.

Debevoise has always taken on important and complex pro bono litigation. Traditionally, the firm has applied its most significant resources in this arena. In recent pro bono cases, Debevoise lawyers have advocated on behalf of clients seeking to assert and defend international human rights, prisoners' rights, voters' rights, labor and employment rights, First Amendment rights and other constitutional civil rights, as well as the rights of individuals with mental illness.

In recent years, Debevoise has been recognized for its outstanding pro bono work by a variety of public interest organizations. In 2005, Debevoise was honored by The Legal Aid Society for its work on prisoners' rights. In 2004, Debevoise was honored with the first Marvin E. Frankel Pro Bono Award by Human Rights First, in recognition of the firm's longstanding commitment to pro bono activities in the field of human rights and, in particular, the firm's work in assisting refugees in seeking political asylum. In 2003, Debevoise was the recipient of The Legal Aid Society's 2003 Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award and was recognized for its pro bono efforts by the Urban Justice Center.

Debra Brown Steinberg

Debra Brown Steinberg has led the Cadwalader firm's 9/11 pro bono efforts, providing representation to families of World Trade Center victims. In addition to personally representing several families of 9/11 victims herself, she played a leading role in the creation and development of the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 9/11 Project in early October 2001.

Ms. Steinberg has also had a role in the drafting and passage of legislation on behalf of victims' families. Specifically, she drafted the Association of the Bar of the City of New York's comments on the interim and final regulations for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and a substantial portion of the 9/11 Victims and Families Relief Act in NY. Furthermore, she drafted substantial portions of legislation to provide legal recognition and protection to family members of non-citizen victims of the attacks - known as the September 11 Family Humanitarian Relief and Patriotism Act - which is currently pending in both the House and Senate.

Ms. Steinberg has received many honors and recognition for her pro bono service including praise by the United States House of Representatives (May 18, 2004) and acknowledgement in a New York State Senate Legislative Resolution (April 29, 2003). Ms. Steinberg also received the New York State Bar Association's 2003 Pro Bono Service Award.

Winston & Strawn - ANN LIECHTY AWARD

In the late 1990's, staff from the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation (CVLS) were appointed as guardian ad litems in a handful of problematic guardianship cases in Cook County. However, by the early 2002, the appointments grew more than the CLVS staff could handle. As a direct result of this development, in late 2002 Winston & Strawn and CVLS formed a partnership that continues to this day. This partnership has benefited both parties, as it allows Winston to have a continuing pro bono opportunity for its lawyers and CVLS a larger staff base to handle the growing number of appointments assigned to them from the minor guardianship courtroom. The significance of Winston's work is twofold: it is being done by partners, and attorneys from practice areas other than litigation are providing representation. Between February 28, 2003 and January 16, 2006, more than 40 Winston attorneys have donated 2,300+ hours as Guardian Ad Litem in 74 cases. Winston is the first law firm to be honored with this award.

Richard Zitrin

Richard Zitrin has been a dedicated pro bono attorney providing direct legal services to clients of the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) of the Bar Association of San Francisco's (BASF) Volunteer Legal Services Program for over four years. He also created the twice-monthly drop in legal clinic at San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church and single-handedly staffs the clinic on a regular basis. In addition to his direct client work, Mr. Zitrin conducts pro bono work on a systemic level - drafting rules, codes and legislation in partnership with bar associations and state governments.

Mr. Zitrin's pro bono commitment has been evident since his graduation from law school. After graduation, he and a group of new attorneys and law students founded the Criminal Legal Aid Collective (CLAC), a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that provided pro bono legal defense services to indigent clients in criminal cases. In total, he worked on thirty CLAC pro bono cases between 1976 and 1981.

Mr. Zitrin is also extremely active in the community and with local, state and national bar associations. He is also the recipient of several awards, including being honored by the Bar Association of the San Francisco's Foundation for volunteer work in 2004, and a Certificate of Merit from BASF for promoting "equality and justice for all" in 2002.