Arent Fox Announces 2014 Pro Bono Award Winners
In the past year alone, Arent Fox attorneys have provided counsel on the development of a new state-of-the-art archival facility for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; helped establish a loan assistance program for families in New York who are trying to avoid foreclosure; protected a unique collection of early 20th century California impressionism artwork; and represented individuals in life-changing cases who otherwise would not have had access to first rate legal representation.
“We are proud of the firm’s continued commitment to pro bono work. Over the past year, our attorneys have contributed thousands of hours of service,” said Chairman Mark M. Katz. “I would like to congratulate those who are being recognized for their outstanding efforts and all of the firm’s attorneys and staff who continue to make public service a core commitment at Arent Fox.”
Simultaneous receptions were held in Arent Fox’s Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC offices to announce that partners Gerard Leval (Washington), and Les Jacobowitz (New York), received the Marc L. Fleischaker Award for notable work by partners and counsel.
The Albert E. Arent Award for outstanding pro bono achievement by associates and staff went to associates Meghan S. Largent (Washington), Benjamin M. Lee (Washington), Sara T. Schneider (San Francisco), and George V. Utlik (New York), and paralegal Darren Cadiz (San Francisco).
Mr. Leval is being recognized, in part, due to his almost three decades of pro bono work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. In his role as General Counsel to the Museum’s governing Council, Mr. Leval has been involved in every critical project the institution has undertaken since the Museum’s founding, including land acquisition, financing, and construction of a new state-of-the-art archival facility currently being developed to house the very large collection of documents and artifacts that are not on display at the Museum building. Over the years, Mr. Leval has been assisted by more than 100 attorneys at Arent Fox. Mr. Lee, a recipient of this year’s Albert E. Arent Award, has provided extensive assistance on the Holocaust Museum archival facility project, working with Mr. Leval and partners Alan S. Dubin and Richard A. Newman, and associates Ria M. Williams, April A. Johnson, and Sarah H. Cohn.
Mr. Jacobowitz was recognized for his work for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods in the launch of its New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP), a loan assistance program targeting families trying to avoid foreclosure. MAP is an enhancement of the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which provides struggling borrowers with free legal and housing counseling services. Since its launch in October 2012, the three-year, $60 million HOPP program has served more than 28,000 homeowners across the state and is funded, in part, from mortgage securities settlements stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. He has assisted in establishing programmatic documents for MAP; the start of the origination of loans to mitigate foreclosures in New York State is anticipated for the first quarter of 2015.
Ms. Schneider, and Mr. Cadiz were honored for their representation of Edenhurst Gallery in its litigation against the San Jose Museum of Art following a precipitously cancelled exhibition of Edenhurst’s unique collection of early 20th century California impressionism. The Arent Fox team was able to help Edenhurst resolve the dispute which, in turn, assisted Edenhurst in protecting much of its unique collection from creditors, preserving the availability of the artwork to the public.
Mr. Utlik served as the lead attorney when Arent Fox was retained in 2013 to defend an indigent, divorced mother of three children whose ex-husband abandoned her and failed to comply with financial support obligations. After filing for bankruptcy, the client faced a non-dischargeability complaint that she must repay a $250,000 loan, which was never documented and stemmed from the debt of her ex-husband. The matter was referred to Arent Fox by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project of the City Bar Justice Center, which provides legal assistance to debt-burdened low-income consumers. According to the Justice Center, the failure rate among New Yorkers filing pro se for bankruptcy is a staggering 90 percent. In a very unusual result, Mr. Utlik obtained the dismissal of the non-dischargeability complaint with prejudice, allowing the client to obtain her bankruptcy discharge and a fresh start.
Ms. Largent was recognized for her work spearheading a pro bono project that started in 2010 with Legal Advocates for Abused Women, when she started representing victims of domestic violence in St. Louis-based court proceedings in an effort to obtain temporary orders of protection from their abusers. Over the last four years, Ms. Largent has spent nearly 200 hours representing victims of domestic violence. In 2014, Ms. Largent also represented a state prisoner in an abuse claim and has received assistance from associates Emily Baver Slavin and Radhika Bhat, who have made considerable efforts to prove that the medical care the prisoner received is substandard and led to further medical issues.
In 2014, Arent Fox was recognized by The Washington Business Journal as one of the Top 20 Law Firms by pro bono hours.