EXTRAORDINARY IS THE STATUS QUO
At Greene Espel, we take seriously our obligation to help change lives and transform communities. This is why we are committed to a wide array of pro bono initiatives, community service projects, and charitable giving to serve some of our community’s most vulnerable populations.
We have established strong partnerships with many legal organizations, including The Advocates for Human Rights, Children’s Law Center (MN), Neighborhood Justice Center, The Pro Se Project (D. Minn.), The Collaborative Community Law Initiative, and Volunteer Lawyers Network. Our attorneys serve on Boards for many impactful organizations, including Girls on the Run, the Infinity Project, The Advocates for Human Rights, Children's Law Center (MN), the Planned Parenthood Minnesota North Dakota South Dakota Action Fund, Minnesota Justice Foundation, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and more. While the hours working on these efforts are not reflected in our pro bono hours, we commit hundreds of hours a year to these organizations.
The firm’s commitment to serving our community also includes individual volunteer opportunities and firm-sponsored projects. We have organized shoe drives and collected thousands of pounds of shoes to benefit Good in the Hood, made hundreds of sandwiches for Simpson Housing Services, and packaged food through Feed My Starving Children. Every year, we also “adopt” at least one family, to help bring a little more holiday cheer to those in need.
Greene Espel is fiercely committed to providing representation for those who cannot afford legal counsel.
Our Pro Bono Commitment
Our pro bono portfolio includes high-impact litigation that affects the individual client while also implicating broader societal concern. Whether advocating in the courtroom for an individual client or advocating for policy changes before the United Nations, we devote our time and resources to improving access to justice for underserved populations in Minnesota and around the world.
We put our time and money where our values are. We are committed to devoting at least 3% of our annual hours toward pro bono work. We readily surpass that goal. Our attorneys work collaboratively with numerous legal service organizations, and we partner with corporate clients with mutual commitments to giving back to our communities so that we can pool our talents and resources to better serve those in need.
We’ve achieved great successes for our pro-bono clients. Some recent highlights include:
- Helping a client receive a U.S. Citizen declaration. Mark Esqueda, an American citizen and military veteran born in Texas and raised in Minnesota, was twice denied a U.S. passport by the United States government after it questioned his citizenship. In partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Greene Espel attorney Jenny Gassman-Pines represented Mr. Esqueda in a lawsuit to compel the United States to recognize his citizenship and afford him rights that should come readily and simply to all Americans, even those born on the Mexican border, including the right to a U.S. passport. On July 12, 2019, the State Department acknowledged that Mr. Esqueda is a U.S. citizen.
- Regularly representing children from Central America in seeking asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status visas, and other relief from removal. The “Northern Triangle” of Central America—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—is one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Children from those countries regularly make the long journey to the United States—often with little assistance or money—to escape family violence, threats of gang violence, and persecution by corrupt or inept government officials. In recent years, Greene Espel attorney Mark Johnson obtained asylum or other relief from removal for multiple children from this region. This has allowed the children to reunite with friends or relatives living here, to complete their educations, and to lead productive lives in the safety of the United States.
- Representing children in connection with foster care and custody proceedings through the Children's Law Center. Holley Horrell recently counseled a child, who had a volatile relationship with their birth mother, regarding the implications of terminating the mother’s parental rights, and helped the child advocate for the termination of parental rights and the ability to stay permanently in the care of a supportive and stable foster parent. In another case, Holley represented two children who had been removed from the custody of their parents and placed in foster care with a maternal relative. Holley helped the children understand their options for permanent placements and advocated successfully for each child’s different wishes.
- Representing two female students who reported to their colleges that male students sexually assaulted or physically abused them. After the colleges disciplined the male students through their disciplinary processes, the male students sued the college and sought to depose our non-party clients about the underlying allegations of assault and abuse in the context of those lawsuits. We successfully quashed the subpoenas in federal court in both matters so that our clients would not have to relive their experiences in adversarial depositions and could instead focus on their futures.
- Filing amicus brief on novel First Amendment issue in United States Supreme Court. In March 2020, Greene Espel attorneys John Baker and Kate Swenson, with the State & Local Legal Center, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, a case involving an effort to strike down the federal ban on robocalls in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act on First Amendment grounds. The district court applied strict scrutiny and found that the prohibition satisfied that high standard—a rare result. The appellate court disagreed that strict scrutiny was satisfied but severed only the no-robocalls provision from the larger statute—an unusual approach to severability. The Supreme Court ultimately left in place the ban on most robocalls, as the Greene Espel amicus brief had urged, with four justices agreeing with the amicus brief’s approach to the strict-scrutiny analysis.
Please contact us for inquiries about our pro-bono initiatives.