Appels Pro Bono

Orrick is regularly recognized for its devotion to pro bono work, and the Supreme Court & Appellate Group plays a critical role in those efforts.

Pro bono is part of our DNA. The founding president of the Brennan Center for Justice began our group, and many of our lawyers devoted their careers to public service before joining us. The result is a practice in which we encourage our lawyers to devote themselves to the causes that matter to them, supported by the resources that a large law firm can provide.

Those causes take numerous forms. We work with the National Veterans Legal Services Program to represent deserving veterans who have been deprived of the benefits they earned. We have teamed up with the New York Office of the Appellate Defender to handle criminal appeals pro bono. Our associates typically brief and argue these cases, receiving guidance from veteran criminal defense lawyers, many of whom have argued hundreds of appeals.

We have counseled the Center for Reproductive Rights on an array of issues, and we have filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court concerning marriage equality. And we collaborate with leading national immigrants’ rights organizations, like the Immigrant Defense Project and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, on cutting-edge questions about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. In every one of our pro bono appeals, we have brought the same level of dedication that is our hallmark, whether it is visiting our clients in far-flung prisons, serving on the board of a nonprofit organization, riding along with police officers in the course of representing a municipality, or strategizing with a public interest organization about their longer-term Supreme Court strategy.

  • U.S. Supreme Court

    • Convinced the Supreme Court to adopt a new rule that allows victims of government torts to bring claims beyond the Federal Tort Claims Act’s two-year statute of limitations. United States v. June (2015).
    • Defended the constitutionality of the City of Los Angeles’ law permitting inspections of hotel guest registries, which served as its most important tool for deterring human trafficking. City of Los Angeles v. Patel (2015).
    • Persuaded the Supreme Court to establish in a sentencing case that its rule governing the analysis of prior convictions should apply in immigration cases as well, by filing an amicus brief on behalf of several immigrants’ rights organizations — a result that promptly yielded a total victory in the Fifth Circuit for our client seeking to avoid deportation. Mathis v. United States (2016) (and Gomez-Perez v. Lynch 2016).
    • Contended that a magistrate judge’s participation in the plea bargaining process requires automatic vacatur of a bargained-for criminal conviction, in a case argued by an Orrick associate. United States v. Davila (2013).
    • In a rare feat, we convinced the Supreme Court to dismiss a reproductive rights case to which the Supreme Court granted review (and to deny cert. in another case). Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems (2013); Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (2013).
    • Following filing of a certiorari petition and amicus briefing in support of that petition, the Government granted asylum to all three of petitioner’s family members—an outcome that went beyond the relief that our certiorari petition could have obtained. Demiraj v. Holder (2012).

    Federal Courts of Appeals

    • Successfully argued on behalf of a Gulf War veteran and obtained a unanimous precedential decision undoing a longstanding VA rule that improperly denied benefits to veterans with disabling pain linked to their military service solely because a doctor could not identify a present diagnosable disease or condition associated with the pain. Saunders v. Wilkie (Fed. Cir. 2018). 
    • Persuaded the First Circuit to vacate an opinion ruling for the government, and issue a new opinion ruling for the noncitizen, in an important case about the immigration consequences of past convictions. Sauceda v. Lynch (1st Cir. 2016).
    • Obtained reversal of a district court decision refusing to toll the statute of limitations for a young man whose funds were seized to collect back taxes owed by his estranged, incarcerated father. Volpicelli v. United States (9th Cir. 2015).
    • APA action challenging the Department of Justice’s adoption of a final rule that would certify states for opt-in status under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and thereby hasten federal review of death row inmates’ habeas petitions. Habeas Corpus Resource Center v. Dep’t of Justice (9th Cir. 2015).
    • Argued on behalf of an 84-year old nun and two military veterans for reversal of their sabotage convictions, which were secured for staging a peaceful protest after trespassing onto Department of Energy property that warehouses the United States’ supply of enriched uranium. United States v. Walli (6th Cir. 2015).
    • Successfully argued that our veteran client’s neck pain constituted evidence of a chronic disability for purposes of acquiring veterans’ disability benefits. Joyner v. McDonald (Fed. Cir. 2014).
    • Sought reversal of a district court decision refusing to issue a preliminary injunction requiring cessation of restraint techniques that were being employed in an abusive manner at New York State juvenile detention facilities. G.B. v. Carrión (2d Cir. 2012).
    • Represent several asylum seekers and lawful permanent residents before the Ninth Circuit, claiming, for example, that subjugation to gang violence in one’s homeland constitutes grounds for asylum and that an administrative law judge was required to hold a mental competency hearing and provide appointed counsel before granting removal.

    State Courts of Appeal

    • Successfully briefed and argued a criminal appeal resulting in a complete reversal of the conviction for possession of a controlled substance following a frisk incident to arrest for commission of a traffic violation. People v. Smith (N.Y. App. Div. 2015).
    • Argued on behalf of a client sentenced to life imprisonment without parole that the prosecution’s failure to reveal a third eyewitness to the crime violated Brady v. Maryland. People v. Prince (Cal. Ct. App. 2014).
    • Argued on behalf of a devoted foster mother convicted of murdering an infant child. Ray v. State (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2014).