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AILA Announces First Quarter of 2014’s Pro Bono Heroes Honorees

In the first quarter of 2014, we sought to recognize an individual who promotes pro bono legal assistance. This person may be an AILA member, but did not have to be, and may work for a non-profit organization, foundation, or law firm. We were looking for people who support and promote pro bono work as a professional value, and who channel that value into finding, training, and supporting private attorneys who handle pro bono cases, thereby providing access to justice to lesser-served and vulnerable members of the immigrant population. After considering all of the nominees, we are glad to recognize the following AILA Pro Bono Heroes:

Northeast (CT, New England, NJ, NY, Ohio, and PA):

Stacy Cozart is a private attorney practicing immigration law with Sharon & Kalnoki, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to her own practice and pro bono cases, Stacy devotes endless hours to promoting and assisting in pro bono efforts in Ohio. She coordinates, oversees, and manages refugee advice clinics with Legal Aid in Cleveland. She also helps coordinate Citizenship Day. Stacy is a member of the C. Lionel Jones Pro Bono Immigration Committee, which works with Legal Aid to evaluate and refer pro bono immigration cases to Cleveland-area practitioners. These are cases that Legal Aid cannot handle because of restrictions on its funding. This referral work has meant that many low-income immigrants were able to receive competent representation that they would not otherwise have. Stacy also has spent many hours finding pro bono attorneys who can represent immigrants in immigration court cases in Cleveland. She helped create a program to pair up Cincinnati attorneys and Cleveland attorneys, which allow the Cincinnati attorneys to prepare cases and Cleveland attorneys to attend hearings. In addition to her direct referral and placement work on individual cases and her work coordinating clinics, Stacy is the Pro Bono Liaison for the Ohio Chapter, and she has served as a long-time member of the Pro Bono Services Committee of AILA National.

Southeast (Carolinas, Florida, Georgia-Alabama, Mid-South, D.C. and Puerto Rico):

Chay Sengkhounmany is Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & The Cumberlands, and AILA is pleased to honor her as our most recent Pro Bono Hero from the Southeast Region. Beginning in 2005 she was instrumental in launching the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence's (Coalition) pro bono immigrant legal clinic that is still serving clients today. Chay was one of the first attorneys hired and was instrumental in developing the Coalition's pro bono clinic. She is a regular presenter on immigration relief for immigrant victims of violence. When she left the Coalition, she took her passion to serve others to Nashville's Legal Aid Society, where she continued to orchestrate U-Visa training to encourage attorneys from other fields to accept pro bono U-Visa cases. She volunteers for citizenship day, directs the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children where she works a pro bono clinic giving free legal advice to indigent people from all walks of life, and organizes trainings and speaking opportunities to educate Nashville about the immigrant community and its issues. She was also Chair of the Domestic Violence Committee of the Lawyers Association of Women in Nashville. Chay's efforts continue to unite the state of Tennessee through her trainings, advocacy, technical assistance, partnerships and her continued commitment to educating service providers about their role in making a difference. Through her work she has strengthened Nashville's commitment to serve others more holistically.

Central (Canada, Chicago, Indiana, Iowa/Nebraska, Mexico City, Michigan, Minnesota/Dakotas, Missouri/Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Bangkok District & Rome District Chapters):

Barbara Graham is the Director of Legal Services for Immigrant Programs, Catholic Charities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since 2007, Barb and her staff have partnered with the Wisconsin Chapter of AILA to establish and develop a pro bono program for AILA attorneys to represent low-income individuals in their VAWA and U cases. Barb led the effort to fund the program, drafting a successful grant proposal for the State Bar of Wisconsin along with members of the Wisconsin AILA Pro Bono Committee. In addition, Barb empowers a wide-range of attorneys at law firms and private companies to engage in pro bono work by developing and presenting training programs about immigration law and providing ongoing mentorship. Barb and her team help volunteer attorneys build confidence and obtain successful case outcomes, which means that many attorneys return to take on subsequent pro bono clients. Barb leads these efforts to inspire others to take on pro bono work all while handling a full case load at Catholic Charities.

West (Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Northern California, San Diego, Santa Clara, Southern California, Oregon, Utah, Washington):

Katharine Ruhl has devoted her energies throughout her career to serving immigrants in both the public interest arena and in private practice. From 2007, until entering private practice in 2012, Katie worked at the Florence Project where she assisted nearly 10,000 detained pro se clients and represented many of the detainees throughout removal proceedings. During her four years with the project, she undertook many difficult cases, including complex DV asylum cases. She prepared countless briefs for removal cases as well as for BIA appeals. While at the Florence Project, Katie mentored pro bono attorneys at Perkins Coie, LLC, involving many complex DV cases. After the L-R- and R-A- rulings, Katie sought assistance from the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings to urge DHS in Washington to compel local offices to accept the decisions. When Katie joined the Matthew Green firm in 2012, she began to mentor lawyers with Matthew Green but also continued mentoring pro bono attorneys at Perkins Coie. In private practice, she continues her own pro bono work and encourages private attorneys to assist low income immigrants. She is an indefatigable team player and through her own efforts stimulates interest in others to engage in pro bono representation.

We applaud all of those who were nominated for their exemplary pro bono efforts, and especially congratulate our honorees for the first quarter of 2014's AILA Pro Bono Heroes!

The next nomination cycle is now open! Please visit www.aila.org/probonoheroes for program updates and information on past honorees, or nominate your hero today!

Through the Pro Bono Heroes awards AILA recognizes individuals and organizations from across the country that embody the pro bono spirit, through promoting and contributing to pro bono work, taking on complex pro bono cases or handling a significant number of pro bono cases or pro bono hours. Different categories of service are honored in different quarters of the year.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14041546.