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Pro Bono

Hausfeld is deeply committed to pro bono work. Improving access to justice for individuals and businesses lies at the heart of what we do. Our teams regularly undertake complex cases on a pro bono basis in our Human Rights, Environmental and Competition practices. In many cases, it offers a voice to those that need it most. We list a few recent examples - some award winning - of our pro bono efforts below.

GLOBAL
 

Climate change - In 2019, Hausfeld represented Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and fifteen other young people from around the world, in submitting a groundbreaking legal complaint about climate change with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The complaint - the result of the work of 6 lawyers in the UK and US over 4 months - filed against five countries, details how these and other countries have known about the risks of climate change for decades and failed to act, putting the world’s children at great risk. 

UNITED KINGDOM
 

Hausfeld partners with LawWorks, a charity working in England and Wales to connect volunteer lawyers with people in need of legal advice and who cannot afford to pay. Lawyers attend training by LawWorks so they have the necessary skills to appear before welfare tribunals to represent individuals. In addition to learning new skills, they develop new relationships and gain a real sense of purpose. Following the success of the pilot, we also took on employment cases, for which a number of our lawyers have been trained, as well as more varied dispute resolution cases, such as acting for small companies in their disputes with suppliers. This cooperation forms an integral part of our ethos to give back to the communities in which we live.

Clean air - In the UK, we are exploring with a number of campaigning and parent groups, including Mums for Lungs, the possibility of bringing an action against the government on behalf of a group of children who have been affected by poor air quality in London, and also working closely with leading NGOs and others. 

#PeriodPoverty - Our collaboration with Free Periods and Red Box to eliminate #PeriodPoverty in England was shortlisted in the “Access to Justice” category in the 2019 Law Society’s Excellence Awards.

Ex-police officer Andrea Brown - We acted for ex-police officer, Andrea Brown, in her Court of Appeal case against the police concerning the qualified one-way costs shifting rules. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal found against Andrea, and this outcome is likely to have a huge impact on all personal injury cases going forward.

Avaaz - We advised and assisted the global advocacy not-for-profit organisation, Avaaz, to intercede in the NewsCorp bid to merge with BSkyB, on the basis that a 60% controlling interest by NewsCorp would have serious impact on media pluralism in the United Kingdom.

Phone hacking - In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, we worked to strengthen the proposed undertakings being given by BSkyB, and to establish a legal avenue which would allow the Secretary of State for Media and Sport to review the NewsCorp bid on the grounds of its fitness to hold a licence. We also assisted in drafting a new provision to the Communications Act 2003, to ensure that relevant Ministers will have the power to review fitness to hold a licence should a similar situation arise again.

British Disabled Flying Association - We acted for the BDFA (Aerobility), who teach disabled and chronically ill people to fly. Aerobility sought VAT exemption or to be zero-rated for VAT for the purposes of purchasing and maintaining their aircraft. Following hearings before both the First Tier Tax Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal, we sought to have the HMRC’s decision judicial reviewed. This application was granted and the case settled shortly before that judicial review hearing.

Accountability of multi-national corporations - We worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on "Business and Human Rights" Professor John Ruggie, to find ways to operationalise his recommendations, for ensuring that multinational corporations comply with internationally recognised standards of conduct. Our efforts focused on making global companies accountable to those whose lives are severely impacted by non-compliant business activities, including, for example, rights to security of person, breaches of health & safety laws, environmental waste obligations and pollution.

Privacy International – Hausfeld acts for Privacy International, a global NGO that supports the right to privacy, dignity and freedom. We work together on various aspects of Privacy International’s competition-focused work, as the interplay between data, privacy and antitrust issues continues to grow. Most recently, we were instructed in relation to the European Commission’s review of Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit, Inc. We submitted comments on the deal to the Commission on 3rd July 2020 given the takeover would have a significant impact on competition, consumers and wider society and requires very close scrutiny.

UNITED STATES
 

Clean air - In 2017, the US team brought Clean Air Council v. USA et al., No. 17-4977 (E.D. Pa.), in which we sought to prevent the federal government from rolling back critical climate change protections. 

Challenging Government overreach - The team have been active on the federal and state level in challenging unfair government practices. When the Trump administration instituted the 2017 Muslim travel ban, Hausfeld performed legal work for the Council on American-Islamic Relations on a challenge to that ban. We also work with Citizens for Responsibility for Ethics in Washington in an ongoing partnership, including on litigation relating to the legal propriety of dismissal of special counsel. On the state level, Hausfeld attorneys drafted an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the Plant Based Foods Association challenging Idaho’s “Ag-Gag” laws, which criminalised efforts of investigative journalists to uncover animal abuses in agricultural production facilities under the First Amendment.

Social justice and equality - The team serve as pro bono supervising attorneys for the Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) Programme, a model federal reentry court in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where they supervise clinical students from Philadelphia-area law schools in their representation of reentry court participants in a variety of legal issues, including traffic and family court matters, which present legal obstacles to successful reentry after incarceration. Hausfeld also represented California Teachers’ Association and the National Education Association in litigation in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court in support of marriage equality, authoring amicus briefs on their behalf.

Sexual harassment and discrimination - Hausfeld Chairman, Michael Hausfeld, was among the first lawyers in the U.S. to assert that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII; he successfully tried a case establishing that principle—Williams v. Saxby, 413 F. Supp. 654 (D.D.C. 1976). More recently, Hausfeld represented several female employees alleging sexual harassment against their former supervisor and employer, a San Francisco venture capitalist firm, which resulted in a confidential settlement.

Direct representation - Currently, Hausfeld serves as pro bono counsel for claimants to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program and similar programs throughout Pennsylvania, which provide reparation funds for victims of childhood sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. 

For their work on this and other pro bono matters, Hausfeld was recently honoured with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Award, given annually to a Philadelphia law firm that performs outstanding volunteer legal work.

In addition to broader legal challenges to injustice, Hausfeld attorneys have provided a range of pro bono legal services to individuals, including the following:

  • Successfully seeking asylum for a Nepalese applicant and working with him to bring his family to the US
  • Representing domestic violence victim in child custody proceedings in D.C. Superior Court
  • Providing legal services in claim regarding provision of mental health services
  • Assisted a local group in obtaining non-profit status.

Key contacts
 

In the UK: Wessen Jazrawi or Ingrid Gubbay
In the US: Melinda Coolidge, Swathi Bojedla or Reena Gambhir