Since the Firm’s founding in 1984, Barack Ferrazzano has encouraged its members to contribute to pro bono legal efforts. Our Pro Bono Committee defines goals for the program and identifies pro bono opportunities for professionals and staff.
The Firm is affiliated with several pro bono non-profit organizations, including the Public Interest Law Initiative (one of our partners is a member of the Board of Directors). Barack Ferrazzano also is a charter member of The Chicago Bar Foundation Law Firm Leadership Circle, which is dedicated to supporting pro bono legal assistance to those in need.
The Firm encourages participation by giving attorneys and paralegals up to 100 hours per year of billable hour credit for work on a wide variety of pro bono matters, including:
Guardianship of Children
The Firm handles guardian ad litem cases through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services in which attorneys are assigned to help determine and advocate for the best interest of the minor child in contested guardianship cases. After interviewing the involved parties, including the child, and gathering relevant information about the situation, the Firm prepares a report of findings to be presented to a probate court. Barack Ferrazzano lawyers also appear in court on the child’s behalf.
Through the National Immigrant Justice Center, we represent those who seek asylum in the United States as they flee persecution and terrible circumstances in their home country, but who have no means and little understanding of the necessary process, with a special focus on matters involving minors. We also consult with the NIJC regarding immigrant detention policies.
The Firm represents pro bono clients through litigation in other forums as well. We handle appellate cases before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, a Barack Ferrazzano bankruptcy partner collaborated with a Bankruptcy Court judge to create a pro bono program to represent debtors who are unable to afford counsel.
Veterans’ Benefit Claims
Our Firm works closely with the Veterans’ Rights Project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, representing veterans in appeals of denials of benefits by the Veterans Administration. Our Firm has established a fund at the LAF to pay for medical examinations for veterans who need an outside medical opinion regarding the nature and extent of their injury and its consequences.
- Sarah Bernstein
- Sharon Calhoun
- Joseph Ceithaml
- Hannah Jurowicz
- Al Kelly
- Alice Lin
- Ed Malone (Co-Chair)
- Pat Maloney
- Lisette Ochoa
- Michael Pitt
- Maile Solís (Co-Chair)
- Barack Ferrazzano & NIJC Partner for DACA Renewal Clinic
Barack Ferrazzano and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) worked together to protect and defend human rights on behalf of DREAMers at a DACA renewal clinic hosted by the Firm. Over a dozen Barack Ferrazzano attorneys and paralegals, trained by NIJC, worked to complete and file applications to renew DACA. Through this program, 10 young immigrants were able to successfully renew their DACA status, meaning they can renew their work authorization and continue their education.
- Donating to Reunite Families
Barack Ferrazzano was proud to support pro bono partner the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) during its #GivingTuesday campaign to help keep families and communities together. #GivingTuesday, traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, is a way to use social media as a tool of collaboration towards charitable goals. The Firm matched donations to NIJC, contributing to NIJC exceeding its fundraising goal, raising a total of $58,000 to reunite families and help newly arriving families begin their lives together in the United States. #GivingTuesday funds were used by NIJC for translations, legal consultations for separated families, filing habeas petitions to free immigrants from jail and defending immigrants in court.
- Asylum Granted for Zimbabwean Political Activist:
Barack Ferrazzano and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) won asylum for a Zimbabwean political activist who was tortured for his peaceful opposition to Zimbabwe's ruling party, marking their third partnership and third victory for a detained asylum seeker this winter.
Our client campaigned peacefully for the Movement for Democratic Change, an opposition party in Zimbabwe. Due to his opposition to the authoritarian policies of the ruling party, agents of the Zimbabwe government tortured, beat and threatened him on numerous occasions. He fled to the United States in September 2018 and was immediately jailed in McHenry County, Illinois while awaiting trial.
With the help of NIJC and the Firm’s attorneys our client won asylum and reunited with his wife and newborn child, who was born while he was detained in Illinois. Given only a few weeks to prepare for trial, Barack Ferrazzano's team tracked down corroborating witnesses in Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as testimony from an expert on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and a forensic medical examiner. The presiding judge commended their presentation as one of the most through he had ever seen.
The pro bono team consisted of partners Andrew E. Nieland and Andrea L. Sill, associate Michael J. B. Pitt, paralegals Lisette Ochoa and Diane Poulos and legal assistant Sarah Bendelow.
View below to see our client with our pro bono team.
- Cuban Detainee Gains Political Asylum:
Barack Ferrazzano gained a great result for our client, a 20 year old Jehovah’s Witness who fled Cuba due to religious and political persecution.
Our client journeyed for nearly three months through Latin America to escape being arrested, detained and beaten in his home country. When he arrived to the U.S., he was detained at a border detention center and ultimately jailed in McHenry County, Illinois while he awaited his asylum hearing. Detention made preparing this case a difficult challenge due to the limited ability to meet or communicate with our client. However, he was granted asylum without opposition by the ICE attorney based on the quality and detail of the Firm’s written submission, which was specifically complimented by the presiding judge.
The pro bono team was led by Matthew F. Singer and Edward F. Malone, associate Michael Educate, and paralegal Lisette Ochoa and legal assistant Aurora Garcia.
View below to see our client and pro bono team.
- Asylum Victory for Venezuelan Student Activist:
In May 2018, our client, a Venezuelan pre-law student, fled to the U.S. after being targeted and attacked by the government as a result of her leadership in the student protest movement. She endured numerous physical attacks and was forced into hiding, and ultimately fled to the United States. Upon arrival in the U.S., she was immediately detained in immigration jail for five months while she awaited trial.
Congratulations to our client and her family. Our pro bono trial team was led by partners Maile Hitomi Solís, John M. Geiringer, paralegal Jessica M. Swisher, and legal assistant Aurora Garcia.
Barack Ferrazzano worked closely with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), filing an asylum application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on our client's behalf. Her detention throughout the trial made case preparation especially difficult since our team was unable to meet in person and had limited communication. Our team worked tirelessly, earning commendation from the presiding Judge on multiple occasions, based on remarkable efforts that went above and beyond to obtain asylum.
Following our client's eloquent testimony she was released from immigration jail and granted asylum without opposition by the ICE attorney on October 18, 2018.
View below to see our client (center, in Bears hat) and pro bono team, along with Heartland Alliance International, Program Development Officer Camila Garzon-Ruiz.
- Asylum Obtained For Central American Refugee:
In 2016, a young woman from Central America entered the United States as a minor with her sisters after escaping the powerful Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) international criminal gang. MS-13 gang members repeatedly targeted the women, including physical and life-threatening attacks. Working closely with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Barack Ferrazzano's legal team filed our client’s asylum application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), arguing that she has a reasonable fear of persecution if forced to return to Central America, and then represented her in her interview in front of the Asylum Office. On October 12, our client was granted asylum.
As a result, she is able to remain in the United States, has obtained employment authorization in order to support herself and will be eligible to apply for permanent residence in one year. The NIJC and Barack Ferrazzano continue to work on a pro bono basis to assist our client's family members with their asylum cases.
The Barack Ferrazzano pro bono team for this asylum case consisted of Ed Malone, Alice Lin, Lisette Ochoa (paralegal), Eric Maier (summer associate) and several support staff throughout the Firm. These cases are always challenging and are increasingly difficult in the current climate, so both we and our clients are extremely grateful for the dedication, skill and commitment shown by this team — and the Firm as a whole — in providing these pro bono services.
- Iranian Political Asylum:
On January 31, 2012, Barack Ferrazzano attorneys succeeded in petitioning the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration Court to grant political asylum to an Iranian national. The asylum seeker fled his native country of Iran after being targeted by the government for participating in the historic protests that followed the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. This appears to be one of the first U.S. asylum cases connected with the widely reported 2009 election protests in Iran.
Barack Ferrazzano took on the case in August 2010. The team, led by associate Brandon Prosansky, donated hundreds of hours of their time to ensure our client was not returned to Iran, where he faced possible arrest, torture or even death. Given the lack of U.S. case law involving the 2009 election protests, the litigation team’s case was built on evidence and expert testimony regarding the Iranian government’s deplorable treatment of 2009 election protesters, as well as our client's credible testimony about his participation in protests, the government’s surveillance of him, and his escape from Iran.
After the court announced its ruling, the U.S. government stated that it would not appeal, and the judge expressly thanked the Firm for taking the case. Our client wants to contribute positively to this country, and hopes to apply for U.S. citizenship when he becomes eligible.
The Firm is extremely proud of the team that worked on the case, including attorneys Brandon Prosansky, Vito Solitro, Ed Malone, Shermin Kruse, and Larah Tannenbaum, as well as the support team of Ranni Matar, Lisa Shupryt, James Tucker, and Mary Mobley.
The Firm is also very appreciative of the volunteer services of expert witness Dr. Elise Auerbach and translator Zahra Malek.