For Immediate Release
Sr. Managing Director, Communications
-- The New Jersey State Bar Association has named two attorneys and a Princeton-based practice group the winners of the 2014 Pro Bono Award for volunteering thousands of hours advocating for worthy causes.
Lowenstein Sandler Partner David Harris, McCarter & English Partner Michael Pasquale, and the Children’s SSI Pro Bono Practice Group at Pepper Hamilton LLP will be honored at the NJSBA’s seventh annual Pro Bono Conference at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick on Oct. 21.
Reporters and photographers are invited to cover the event.
Here’s more about each honoree:
When Lowenstein Sandler partner David Harris took on a pro bono case to get New Jersey to enforce inclusion of special-education students in 2005, he thought the state would settle quickly. After all, New Jersey had been among the first in the nation to provide public education to students with disabilities.
Nine years later, after numerous depositions, interrogatories and motions - and after Harris had logged more than 1,000 hours and his firm colleagues more than 4,000, the state in February finally agreed to a consent order to settle Disability Rights New Jersey v. the New Jersey Department of Education.
The settlement requires the state to take significant measures to ensure that 75 school districts with the highest rates of segregation fix the problem.
“If the state performs all the things they’ve agreed to do with some real effort, then I think it’s going to result in the integration of general education classes and a better education for all of the students,” Harris said.
McCarter & English partner Michael Pasquale is an in-demand business and financial services litigator, but for the past six years he has volunteered 3,000 hours - the equivalent of 125 days – helping wounded U.S. military personnel get the disability benefits they deserve.
Pasquale has guided more than 100 soldiers returned from service injured physically, emotionally, or both, through the gauntlet of complex laws and bureaucracy of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. With his help, many have received lifelong pensions and health coverage for them and their families.
“I firmly believe that not only do they need help, they deserve it and have earned it,” Pasquale said.
The Children’s SSI Pro Bono Practice Group
Since 2007, the Children’s SSI Pro Bono Practice Group at the Princeton office of Pepper Hamilton LLP has been helping families with severely ill or disabled children obtain federal benefits to cover costly medical and therapeutic treatments.
“These are kids who are already disadvantaged by poverty, and then they are disadvantaged by an extreme illness or disability,” said Pepper Hamilton Partner John Preziosi, chair of the practice group. “They are truly among the most vulnerable.”
Appealing a denial of Supplemental Security Income is complicated, requiring substantial proof to establish eligibility, and many parents don’t have the ability – financial and otherwise - to do it, Preziosi said.
The Children’s SSI Pro Bono Practice Group partners with the Camden-based South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS) to take on cases the nonprofit can’t handle due to limited funding. The SJLS provides training in handling SSI cases to pro bono attorneys.