Greene Espel has a fierce commitment to providing representation for those who cannot afford legal counsel.
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 have committed as a firm 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, including The Advocates for Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Children’s Law Center, Neighborhood Justice Center, the Federal Bar Association Pro Se Project, and Volunteer Lawyers Network. We also partner with corporate clients who have strong and 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:
- Helped 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.
- Helped a client reach policy-changing settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit. Aida Al-Kadi, a practicing Muslim, was forced to remove her hijab (headscarf) in front of men and was photographed for a booking photo in violation of her religious beliefs while detained by Ramsey County. After prevailing in a motion to exclude the County’s expert and largely defeating the County’s summary-judgment motion, Greene Espel attorneys Caitlinrose Fisher and Virginia McCalmont secured a settlement for Ms. Al-Kadi requiring the County to destroy the booking photo and pay her $120,000, and which received national and international press coverage. The County also agreed to revise its policies regarding religious head coverings and to train its officers in order to prevent infringements of religious liberties in the future.
- Regularly represent 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, led by Greene Espel attorney Mark Johnson, we have 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.
- Filed 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.
- Presented to the United Nations. On behalf of The Advocates for Human Rights, Greene Espel attorney Matt Forsgren presented a statement to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The statement emphasized issues of gender equality, discrimination against women and girls, and children’s rights in Haiti. Forsgren urged technical cooperation to address violence against women by working with NGOs, such as The Advocates.
Please contact us for inquiries about our pro-bono initiatives.
- John M. Baker
- Jeanette M. Bazis
- Sybil L. Dunlop
- Amran A. Farah
- Jenny Gassman-Pines
- Holley C. M. Horrell
- Mark L. Johnson
- Aaron P. Knoll
- Peggy Kubicz Hall
- Monte A. Mills
- Faris A. Rashid
- Lawrence M. Shapiro, P.A.
- Katherine M. Swenson
- Anna M. Tobin
- X. Kevin Zhao