In a 5-3 decision today, the Supreme Court of the United States in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No. 15-275, slip op. (June 27, 2016) reversed a decision of the Fifth Circuit and overturned as unconstitutional a Texas law that (1) required physicians to have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the location at which they provide abortions and (2) required facilities to meet standards adopted for ambulatory surgery centers. The Court wrote that each of the requirements “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.” A team of Duane Morris attorneys, including Philip H. Lebowitz, Erin M. Duffy, Katharyn I. Christian McGee, Alison Taylor Rosenblum, and Erica Fruiterman, filed an amicus curiae brief pro bono on behalf of medical staff professionals in support of petitioners Whole Woman’s Health, et al. discussing the credentialing and admitting privileges process for physicians. In its decision, the Supreme Court cited Duane Morris’ amicus brief, noting, “Other amicus briefs filed here set forth without dispute other common prerequisites to obtaining admitting privileges that have nothing to do with ability to perform medical procedures.” The brief was one of only a handful of amici curiae briefs cited in the decision out of a total of 41 such briefs filed on behalf of petitioners.
In March, the USPTO launched the Pennsylvania Patent Pro Bono Program through the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a non-profit community based legal services provider for the arts and invention community.
The Patent Pro Bono Program provides free legal assistance to low income inventors. The Program is a product of the America Invents Act (AIA). Under this legislation the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began working with intellectual property law associations across the country to assist qualifying independent inventors and small businesses. In February of 2014, President Obama issued an executive action calling for expansion of the pro bono programs into all 50 states. As a result of the President’s executive action, new pro bono programs have been springing up all over the country.
Generally, most programs require that an inventor have: (1) income below 300% of the Federal poverty level; (2) knowledge of the patent system; and (3) the ability to describe his or her invention so that someone could make and use the invention. The income threshold is based on how many people are in the inventor’s household. Right now, the Federal poverty level for a one person household is $11,670, so 300% would be $35,010. Because each regional program is operated independently, inventors are strongly encouraged to contact their program directly, review their program’s website, or check out the USPTO’s website to learn about the eligibility criteria. To learn more about USPTO, please visit their website.
Duane Morris pro bono attorneys regularly prepare amicus briefs on behalf of community-based organizations, professional associations, and industry groups in cases with important social implications. Most recently we participated as amicus counsel in Kingdomware Technologies Inc v. United States, U.S.Docket No. 14-916; Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, U.S. Docket No. 15-274 and Froio v. McDonald, 27 Vet.App. 352 (May 29, 2015). Thomas R. Newman, a regular pro bono contributor, has written an article on the importance of amicus briefs in various types appeals. The article was published in the New York Law Journal on March 1, 2016. The article was coauthored by Steven J. Ahmuty, Jr. a partner at Shaub, Ahmuty Citrin & Spratt.
When an appeal involves legal issues that are novel or of statewide importance, appellate counsel should consider soliciting amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) participation in support of their client’s position. The first step is to identify potential amici who would be willing to submit an amicus brief to provide the court with information and perspectives beyond what is presented by the parties. For corporate litigants, in-house counsel can be a valuable resource for identifying potential amici and assisting appellate counsel in soliciting amicus participation. Continue reading Amicus Curiae Briefs: Weighing In on Novel and Important Questions
Partner Jolie-Anne S. Ansley of the San Francisco office and Christopher B. Yeh of the Los Angeles office were named Keta Taylor Colby Award recipients by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR). Continue reading Attorneys Honored With Keta Taylor Colby Award From Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
The firm’s Miami and Boca Raton offices were awarded the 2016 Supreme Court of Florida Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Award on January 28, 2016. This award recognizes a law firm that has contributed significant hours and effort to pro bono legal services to individuals or groups that cannot otherwise afford those services and shows an extraordinary commitment to provide access to the courts for all Floridians. Continue reading Florida Offices Receive Florida Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Pro Bono Service Award
As discussed in our earlier post, New York and Illinois are noteworthy for their early adoption of state laws to help put an end to human trafficking and prosecute traffickers. However, many states are still struggling to make policies that will stop traffickers.
In Pennsylvania, the battle to reverse age old polices that harmed trafficking victims is starting to turn. Progress has been made due to a package of three different proposals that state senators, such as Senator Daylin Leach, have been pushing in the last eight years. Senator Leach’s interest in solving this problem comes from the responsibility he feels as Chairman on the Senate Judiciary Committee to make policies that are just and correct policies that are unjust. As society changes, the laws of the past can become unjust, and even cruel, so rigorous reassessment of current statutes is vital. Continue reading Pennsylvania Legislators Begin Passing Reforms to Aid Victims of Trafficking
As discussed in our previous posts, Human Trafficking is a global problem. Attorneys at Duane Morris have regularly represented victims of trafficking in immigration matters, including U and T visas as well as in Violence Against Women Act petitions for various immigration benefits. While the federal response has been meaningful, it has failed to solve all of the problems, for example, the U visa available to victims of crime is capped at 10,000 per year and as a result, significant backlogs have developed in that visa category. In spite of significant work left to do, there are many laws which have been passed in the United States to recognize the global nature of the problem. Continue reading US Federal Response to Human Trafficking Has Focused on Foreign Trafficked Persons
To help meet the staggering need for legal services to survivors of human trafficking, Duane Morris attorneys through the firm’s pro bono program have teamed up with several amazing nonprofit organizations to assist sexually exploited women and girls in vacating and expunging criminal convictions related to their status as trafficked persons. Continue reading Duane Morris Pro Bono Program Helps Survivors of Human Trafficking Make a New Start
According to the International Labor Organization and UNICEF there are about 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. 68% are trapped in forced labor, 26% are children and 55% are women and girls. Forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. Human trafficking is not a developing world problem. It is our problem. Unfortunately, the United States is a source and transit point, as well as one of the leading destinations for child sexual exploitation. It does not have to be this way. Continue reading January Is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month: Defining the Problem of Human Trafficking
On October 29, 2015, attorneys in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh office sat with Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Esq. of the PA Innocence Project to learn how to help those who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and are factually innocent. Marissa, a former Duane Morris litigation associate, has served as the Legal Director of the Project since it began in 2009. She coordinates and supervises the legal efforts of the organization as well as promotes the mission to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania through public education and advocacy. The PA Innocence Project is the only organization in the state of Pennsylvania to help those who are factually innocent and have been wrongly convicted. Continue reading How To Help Those Who Are Factually Innocent