2020 Award Recipient: Dechert LLP
Dechert LLP has a longstanding history of pro bono legal service, which is evidenced in their significant contributions to protecting civil rights and civil liberties of marginalized residents in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. Across the firm, Dechert lawyers participate in at least 25 hours of mandatory pro bono work per year, resulting in thousands of hours of annual pro bono service in our communities. In 2019, Dechert attorneys logged over 90,000 hours of pro bono service and were ranked #1 for international pro bono service and #11 for U.S. pro bono service by The American Lawyer.
In 2020, Dechert has worked tirelessly to protect the rights and lives of our most vulnerable neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firm attorneys are providing a substantial commitment of time, resources, and litigation support to assist those who are incarcerated in jails or held at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Many of these individuals are unable to social distance or practice proper hygiene, putting them at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. This essential, demanding work to protect lives is conducted with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP), two of the Bar Foundation's nonprofit partners. Dechert attorneys joined these nonprofit partners in a number of federal court lawsuits, three of which are class actions, in March and April of 2020.
The cases, all filed in just two months, build upon Dechert's history of advocating for Pennsylvanian's civil rights and civil liberties. For example, Dechert attorneys were instrumental in the case that resulted in a 2016 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that public defender clients have the right to sue counties to force them to provide adequate funding to their public defender offices. The United States Supreme Court will hear a case this Fall in which Dechert joined the national ACLU and ACLU-PA, Support Center for Child Advocates, and Philadelphia Family Pride, to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ couples who wish to be foster parents. Dechert attorneys also joined PILP in the fight for the rights of individuals detained in ICE facilities and state jails. They continue to work on securing equitable access to a lifesaving Hepatitis C treatment for individuals incarcerated in Pennsylvania jails.
"The Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP) wholeheartedly supports the recognition of Dechert's vigorous efforts to protect the rights and the lives of Pennsylvanians, especially those who are incarcerated....their unprecedented commitment of resources, lawyers, and litigation support to help the most vulnerable people in our society survive the pandemic warrants this recognition." - Su Ming Yeh & Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project
"While Dechert has a long record in this regard, the firm deserves special recognition for its extraordinary work in the last two months to help the people held in immigration and criminal detention who are most at risk of serious adverse health consequences, including death, because of advanced age or certain pre-existing medical conditions, if they contract COVID-19." - Mary Catherine Roper, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania