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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 indigent 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. We have also been involved in cutting-edge criminal justice litigations, including a case challenging New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk policing policy and another curtailing the use of eyewitness identifications in court.

Below are some highlights:

  • 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 June 2021, we won a significant victory for a pro bono client when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed his convictions in a case clarifying the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment.
  • In October 2020, in partnership with The Legal Aid Society, we successfully advocated for the early release of a transgender pro bono client incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Facility. The victory followed a litigation and advocacy campaign led by Paul, Weiss and Legal Aid to secure the release from state prison of transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex New Yorkers, who are especially medically vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • In April 2020, we secured the release from federal prison of Ronnie Cooper, who had been convicted in 2010 based on his alleged participation in a drug trafficking ring and sentenced to 30 years in prison. In the face of a strong Brady claim and other evidence demonstrating Mr. Cooper’s innocence, the government agreed to have Mr. Cooper resentenced to time served.
  • 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.
  • In September 2019, after a 15-year fight on his behalf, we secured the freedom of Pablo Fernandez, who was wrongfully convicted in 1996 of a murder he did not commit and who served 24 years behind bars.  In May 2022, we resolved Mr. Fernandez’s civil suit against New York City through a $12 million settlement.
  • 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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