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.
Paul, Weiss’ longstanding commitment to racial equity and to combating racism in all of its forms is a cornerstone of our pro bono practice.
For decades, Paul, Weiss has been at the forefront of legal efforts to promote racial justice. Assisting Thurgood Marshall in the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, the firm’s lawyers were instrumental in the effort to prohibit racial segregation. Today, we continue to be a leader in nationwide efforts to use the law and advocacy to confront systemic racism.
Highlights of our recent racial justice work include:
Confronting the White Nationalist Movement
Paul, Weiss is at the forefront nationally of using novel legal strategies to hold white supremacists and hate groups civilly accountable for their racist, violent actions. We continue to expose those committed to racist violence to significant liability, creating a legal blueprint on how to combat extremism.
- Sines v. Kessler: As co-lead trial counsel, Paul, Weiss won a major victory on behalf of nine pro bono clients who were injured in the violence during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. On November 23, 2021, an 11-member jury found each defendant liable for conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence under Virginia law, and awarded our clients over $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
- District of Columbia Proud Boys, Int’l: As reported in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS Newsand other leading news media Paul, Weiss, alongside the Anti-Defamation League, States United Democracy Center and Dechert LLP, is representing the D.C. Attorney General in a federal lawsuit to hold the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers accountable for their role in planning and carrying out the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The civil lawsuit—the first by a government entity against the January 6 insurrectionists—seeks to recover damages for the substantial costs the District incurred as a result of the attack, particularly the physical and emotional injuries suffered by officers in the District’s Metropolitan Police Department.
- Metropolitan A.M.E. Church Proud Boys International LLC: On January 4, 2021, on behalf of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Paul, Weiss and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys International, its leader Enrique Tarrio, and certain Proud Boys members. The suit stemmed from the defendants’ terrorizing actions during a rampage in the District of Columbia on December 12, 2020, targeting supporters of the Black Lives Matters movement, including historic Black churches. In April 2021, we won a judgment against the organization, strengthening our ability to find information about the group and its funding sources and in August 2022, we won a judgment against leaders and members of the organization.
Confronting Anti-Asian Bias
- A Paul, Weiss team researched and wrote a report with the Asian American Bar Association of New York documenting the horrific rise in violence against Asian Americans. The headline-making report was released on February 10, 2021. A follow up report was released in May 2022.
- Paul, Weiss has represented numerous individual victims of anti-Asian hate and their families, advising them in connection with estate and financial planning, criminal proceedings and immigration, among other issues.
Defending the Right to Vote
Our firm has been at the forefront of challenges to state legislation that would suppress the right to vote, particularly among people of color.
- Holmes v. Moore: Paul, Weiss, alongside Southern Coalition for Social Justice, secured a landmark victory on September 16, 2021, after a three-week trial, when a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court struck down North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law, S.B. 824. The panel majority found the evidence at trial sufficient to show that the enactment of S.B. 824 was “motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” On appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. Echoing the trial court, the Supreme Court majority held that the trial evidence showed “that S.B. 824 was enacted with the discriminatory intent to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates,” and that “S.B. 824 would not have been passed absent discriminatory intent.”
- NAACP Louisiana State Conference Ardoin: In June 2022, alongside the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana, we won a historic voting rights victory at trial in Louisiana, subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court, in Robinson v. Ardoin, a case challenging the state’s congressional redistricting plan under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Our clients included individual Louisiana voters, the Louisiana NAACP and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. Later in June, the Fifth Circuit refused to stay the district court’s order, noting that “the defendants [had] not met their burden of making a ‘strong showing’ of likely success on the merits.” The Supreme Court subsequently issued a stay, granted certiorari before judgment, and held the case in abeyance pending its decision in Merrill v. Milligan, a separate case challenging Alabama’s 2022 congressional districts under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Separately, Paul, Weiss, alongside the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, filed an amicus brief in Merrill Milligan on behalf of the NAACP Louisiana State Conference, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and eight Louisiana voters. Describing Louisiana’s history of racially discriminatory voting practices and more recent laws and practices, such as disparate access to polling locations and felony disenfranchisement, amici argue that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act remains a critical potential remedy for Black voters in Louisiana and elsewhere who continue to face significant obstacles to full political participation. The Court heard the case in October.
- Ana Flores, et al. Town of Islip: We negotiated a favorable settlement in a federal voting rights lawsuit on behalf of Latinx residents of Islip, Long Island on the eve of trial in October 2020, ending a discriminatory, at-large voting system that denied Latinx residents representation.
Demanding Criminal Justice and Police Reform
- In November 2022, Paul, Weiss filed a federal class action in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of pro bono client Jhisaiah Myers, a New York City police officer, against the Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County and the County’s Civil Service Commission challenging systematic racial discrimination in the hiring of police officers in Nassau County.
- In November 2022, we secured the reversal of an entry of summary judgment in the Eighth Circuit in our long-running class action challenging the “Wanteds” program of St. Louis County, Missouri, on behalf of putative class representatives who were arrested and detained under this program. Wanteds is a policing practice through which St. Louis County police officers have the power to execute warrantless arrests and detain suspects for up to 24 hours based on the officers’ own assessment of probable cause, and without any judicial oversight.
- We secured a victory at trial and an award of $475,000 in compensatory damages for Steven Thomas in connection with his Section 1983 excessive-force claim against a Nassau County Police Officer who shot Mr. Thomas in the back of his neck as Mr. Thomas, unarmed, fled the site of a robbery at a gas station convenience store. Our victory was affirmed on appeal to the Second Circuit.
- We represent James Broadnax, a Black man on death row in Texas. He was convicted in 2009, of participating in a double murder when he was 19 years old. He was tried before a jury from which the DA exercised peremptory strikes against every Black juror. Documents we obtained from the DA’s office demonstrate that the DA focused on the race of the jurors during jury selection.
- We partnered with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and The Legal Aid Society in a successful lawsuit against New York City and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The suit, Davis, et al. City of New York, filed on behalf of more than 400,000 NYCHA residents and invited guests, challenged the New York City Police Department’s racially discriminatory policy and practice of routinely stopping and arresting NYCHA residents and guests without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Following two major rulings in our clients’ favor, we helped negotiate a 2015 settlement that significantly revises police practice and NYCHA house rules.
Facilitating Economic and Organizational Empowerment
Our transactional attorneys have focused on empowering local entrepreneurs and nonprofits and have committed hundreds of hours to assisting BIPOC-owned businesses and nonprofits in the communities in which we operate.
- Our transactional attorneys helped launch Paul, Weiss’s Legal Health Check-Up Initiative, a first-of-its-kind initiative that provides pro bono transactional legal support to nonprofit community partners of the Robin Hood Foundation, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization. Our lawyers are currently providing transactional and operational advice to members of Robin Hood’s Power Fund—a new program that invests in and elevates nonprofit leaders of color and focuses on increasing mobility from poverty while addressing the interplay of racial injustice and economic injustice.
- We partnered with Echoing Green, the leading incubator for social impact startups, to provide transactional legal consultations to its class of Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund fellows, founders of nonprofits or social enterprises focused on tackling racial equity issues.
- We assisted the Black Economic Alliance Foundation with creating a multimillion-dollar Entrepreneurs Fund that provides seed capital to businesses founded and led by Black entrepreneurs.
- We advise nonprofits that focus on BIPOC-empowerment, including the National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators and Black Connect, on a variety of corporate legal issues ranging from Board of Director trainings to real estate guidance.