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Paul, Weiss is committed to providing impactful pro bono legal assistance to individuals and organizations in need. Our program is all-encompassing, spanning the core issues facing our society.

Criminal Justice

Our work in the criminal justice area is extensive and varied.

We regularly represent criminal defendants at trial, on appeal and after sentencing. We have devoted tens of thousands of hours to capital cases; secured numerous sentence reductions and parole releases; and represented incarcerated individuals in landmark lawsuits challenging their treatment or conditions of confinement. Our criminal justice representations include significant impact litigations, such as our class action challenge to New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk policing policy, as well as a wide array of transactional matters.

Below are some recent highlights:

  • In July 2022, Paul, Weiss won a rare reversal of a first-degree murder conviction for a pro bono client in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department. Our client, who was serving a sentence of life incarceration without the possibility of parole, was granted a new trial.
  • In May 2022, Paul, Weiss and co-counsel Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP successfully resolved a federal civil rights case on behalf of pro bono client Pablo Fernandez, securing one of the largest-ever wrongful conviction settlements to be paid by New York City. The settlement follows our victory in September 2019, when, after a 15-year fight on his behalf, we secured Mr. Fernandez’s freedom after 24 years of incarceration for a murder he did not commit. 
  • In June 2021, we won an important 5-4 Supreme Court victory in Borden v. United States, narrowing the scope of a key part of the Armed Career Criminal Act, the primary federal statute imposing mandatory-minimum sentences. In Borden, the Court determined that a criminal offense committed with a reckless, rather than purposeful or knowing, state of mind does not qualify as a “violent felony” under the Act. Given the many potential predicate offenses involving reckless conduct, the case affects the applicability of the Act’s 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for numerous criminal defendants.
  • In partnership with The Legal Aid Society and Disability Rights New York (DRNY), we are challenging New York State’s failure to provide appropriate mental health housing and supportive services for formerly incarcerated individuals suffering from serious mental illness. This failure has resulted in the prolonged confinement of individuals past their lawful release date or, alternatively, their release into homeless shelters or psychiatric institutions that cannot provide appropriate services. Our claims under the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act have survived motions to dismiss.
  • In January 2021, Paul, Weiss, along with co-counsel from the ACLU, ACLU Tennessee, Just City and local counsel from Memphis, obtained final approval of a settlement on behalf of a class of over 400 pretrial detainees at high risk of severe infection or death from COVID-19. According to Judge Sheryl H. Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee, the relief obtained through the settlement “addresses most, if not all, of Plaintiffs’ alleged deficiencies in their confinement in the Jail, given the pandemic, and the Court is not aware of any greater successes in similar litigation.”
  • In March 2020, as part of the Innocence Project, we won the exoneration of pro bono defendant Darrill Henry on charges related to a heinous double murder. Mr. Henry’s release was the culmination of an application for post-conviction relief, along with a motion for DNA testing on several items of evidence recovered from the crime scene, which we filed in Louisiana state court in 2016.
  • Our corporate attorneys represent The Doe Fund and its Ready, Willing & Able program, a residential paid work initiative in New York City serving people with long histories of incarceration, homelessness and unemployment. The program offers paid work in social enterprises, transitional housing and supportive services to re-integrate this marginalized population into the mainstream. Our corporate team has assisted with negotiation and legal agreements for the program, and continues to help with the legal documents needed to launch and grow the affiliates network.
  • Over the last five years, our corporate and real estate attorneys have represented the Greyston Foundation, a nonprofit that helps create job opportunities and provides support services to disenfranchised individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. Our attorneys have provided real estate advice on low-income housing projects owned by Greyston, advised on a variety of Greyston leases, and assisted with contract reviews and a company reorganization.

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