Orrick was recognized by the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) with its law firm award at NCIP's Justice for All Awards and dinner last week. NCIP is a pro bono legal clinical program, where law students, clinical fellows, attorneys, pro bono counsel and volunteers work to identify and provide legal representation to wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Orrick received the pro bono award for its extraordinary contributions to NCIP's work in finding and freeing the wrongfully convicted.
One representative case that Orrick has worked on since 2003, billing more than 6,000 hours, was a habeas petition filed on behalf of George Souliotes. Investigators determined a house fire that killed a woman and two children had been deliberately set by our client. However, through years of hard-fought advocacy and determined fact-gathering, an Orrick trial team, led by San Francisco litigation associate Jimmy S. McBirney, and supported by San Francisco litigation associates Shannon Leong and Megan Crane, all supervised by Orange County litigation partner Thomas McConville, presented compelling evidence of Mr. Souliotes's actual innocence at a hearing held in January 2012 in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of California. A decision remains pending. This type of hearing, which is granted to only a miniscule fraction of habeas petitioners, came after numerous motions and appeals to the Ninth Circuit were litigated. Significant support on the case has been given by numerous former Orrick lawyers, and also by San Francisco legal secretary Victoria Holdridge and litigation paralegal Michael O'Hara.
In addition, for more than 10 years, Orrick has represented death row inmate Kevin Cooper in a referral by NCIP in matters before the federal district court, the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. The firm has continued its advocacy for Mr. Cooper even though his legal claims have been exhausted. The Ninth Circuit has noted that, in the event that he is executed, the State of California may very well put to death an innocent man. Orrick's litigation team, led by Sacramento litigation partner Norm Hile, has been trying to prevent this miscarriage of justice.