Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is pleased to announce that the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network (HSJN), a legal assistance effort that Brownstein attorneys volunteer for locally, is a recipient of the 2009 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, the legal profession’s highest recognition for pro bono legal work. Working in conjunction with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Brownstein shareholder Adam P. Segal and associates Kate C. Lowenhar-Fisher and Rebecca L. Miltenberger aided Holocaust survivors in the claim filing process to obtain reparation payments under a program established by the German government.
“This has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my legal career,” said Lowenhar-Fisher. “Nearly all of the survivors are in their 80s and 90s and in real need of guidance to navigate and understand the complexity of the legal issues they face. Offering support and listening to their experiences has been an emotional, deeply moving experience.”
The Las Vegas effort is part of a broader network now numbering clinics in 31 major cities in the United States and Canada and two cities in Australia. The HSJN was established after the German government created a new program in late 2007 to compensate survivors who performed “voluntary” labor in Nazi-controlled ghettos during the Second World War. Under the German Ghetto Work Payment Program, survivors are eligible to file claims for a one-time payment of €2,000 (approximately U.S. $2,800).
“There is no greater testament to the tireless dedication of our volunteer partners or to the courage of these survivors than for the Justice Network to receive a Pro Bono Publico Award,” said Mitchell A. Kamin, Bet Tzedek’s president and chief executive officer. “This honor belongs entirely to them and, on behalf of Bet Tzedek, we are grateful to everyone involved in the Network and deeply humbled by the recognition bestowed by the American Bar Association.”
Since its creation 18 months ago by Bet Tzedek and the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, which serves as national directing law firm for the project, the HSJN has successfully enlisted volunteers from more than 100 law firms and corporate legal departments, as well as 30-plus social-service agency partners, to expand the program into geographic markets across North America and Australia. Over that same period, approximately 3,600 individual lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals have donated an estimated 45,000 hours of time in local legal clinics where they interview survivors and complete the highly detailed claim forms.
Pro bono coordinators in each city use a Bet Tzedek-developed curriculum for training local volunteers to complete the technical and nuanced applications. As a result of these efforts, HSJN volunteers have met with and interviewed about 5,000 survivors, filing an estimated 3,000 claims, worth approximately $8 million in potential reparation payments, according to Kamin. Though Germany has yet to complete processing the majority of these claims, to date, 99 percent of the applications submitted from Southern California have been approved, resulting in more than $1,250,000 in payments to low-income survivors.
The Pro Bono Publico Award was presented on August 3, 2009 at the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago.
ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS JUSTICE NETWORK
The Holocaust Survivors Justice Network is a national coalition of attorneys and other legal professionals from more than 100 law firms and corporate legal departments, as well as 30 Jewish social service agencies, organized to provide resources and dignity to survivors. Created by Bet Tzedek Legal Services in partnership with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the program is the first nationally coordinated pro bono effort--operating in 31 North American cities —to support survivors’ reparation claim-filing needs.
ABOUT BET TZEDEK
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek’s mission is to ensure “equal justice for all.” One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek, “The House of Justice” in Hebrew, provides free legal services in matters involving consumer rights, elder law, housing, public benefits and workers’ rights to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. Bet Tzedek is renowned as one of a handful of agencies in the world to offer free legal help to Holocaust survivors on a wide range of issues, including reparations, pensions, and benefits offered by Germany and other European countries.