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Awards & Recognition

The Legal Aid Society Staff Awards

Our staff is our greatest asset at
The Legal Aid Society.

The Marden Awards

Without the people who dedicate themselves to the fight every day, pursuing our mission to deliver equal justice would not be possible. The Legal Aid Society’s Marden Awards celebrate our hardworking staff and honor their commitment and achievements.

The Orison S. Marden Awards were established in 1976, The Legal Aid Society’s centennial year, to recognize the excellence and dedication of our staff. The awards honor the memory of Orison S. Marden, a leader of the organized bar, a partner at White & Case LLP, and a former Chair of our Board of Directors. For over 40 years, Mr. Marden was a dedicated supporter of The Legal Aid Society, often traveling to the Harlem Neighborhood Office to volunteer as a pro bono attorney.

Each year, the awards are presented at our Annual Meeting. Recipients are selected by a committee comprised of management, exempt, and union representatives from nominations submitted by the staff.

Whether on the front lines providing direct client services or working on critical office operations, this year’s recipients demonstrated efforts that went above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of our clients. Marden Awards are conferred on: Staff Attorneys, Managers, and Core Staff, including Paralegals, Social Workers, Investigators and Support Staff.

Below are the dedicated staff members honored with our 2020 Marden Awards.

Core Staff
Marden Award

Ferdinand "Freddie" Cesarano
Special Litigation Unit,
Criminal Defense Practice

Staff Attorney
Marden Award

Rolando Gonzalez
Staff Attorney,
Community Development Project, Civil Practice

Manager Marden Award

Cara Chambers
Education Advocacy Project,
Juvenile Rights Practice

Hasan Shafiqullah
Attorney in Charge,
Immigration Law Unit,
Civil Practice

Andrea Yacka-Bible
Supervising Attorney,
Criminal Appeals Bureau,
Criminal Defense Practice

The Sandra Scott Memorial Award

The Legal Aid Society suffered a terrible loss on July 1, 2016, when our beloved Chief Financial Officer Sandra Scott lost her valiant struggle against cancer. Her courage, integrity, and dedication serve as her legacy. The Sandra Scott Memorial Award for Excellence recognizes the dedication and outstanding achievement of a member of our non-lawyer central administrative staff.

Reshamjeet Singh

Recognizing Our Pro Bono Partners

2020 Pro Bono Impact

Since our founding, The Legal Aid Society has relied on the support of volunteer attorneys from the private bar to increase the impact of our work on behalf of vulnerable New Yorkers. Responding to the racial and social inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the indiscriminate brutalizing of peaceful protesters, our Pro Bono partners have answered the call as never before.

Supporting Small Businesses

The economic impact of the pandemic hit small businesses extremely hard. Owners and their families sought assistance with navigating issues including insurance, commercial leases, bankruptcy, employment, contracts, and tax. Working with our Community Development Project, volunteers from various firms created fact sheets, in both English and Spanish, as well as providing telephonic advice and assistance. Participating firms included:

Cooley LLP

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Mayer Brown LLP

Morrison & Foerster LLP

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Protecting the Medically Vulnerable

Individuals in immigration detention across the nation were and continue to be held in overcrowded facilities, where COVID-19 is known to run rampant and PPE supplies can be dangerously insufficient. Our Immigration Law Unit advocated tenaciously on behalf of the individuals and were joined by volunteers from several law firm partners to bring petitions for writs of habeas corpus on behalf of clients at extreme risk for contracting COVID-19. Writs were filed not only in New York City, but also in New Jersey and Buffalo since clients are detained outside of the city.

In addition to working on behalf of immigrants held in detention, volunteer attorneys worked closely with our Prisoners’ Rights Project, Criminal Appeals Bureau, and Special Litigation Unit, to bring writs and clemency petitions for clients at Rikers Island and in numerous state prisons with medically documented conditions that placed them at grave risk of death should they be exposed to COVID-19. Participating firms included:

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP


Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Proskauer Rose LLP

Defending the Rights of Tenants & Students

In order to ensure clients can maintain adequate and affordable housing, we partnered with leaders in the legal community to promote safe access to housing and landlord tenant court, eligibility for appropriate subsidies and maintenance of proper habitability standards.

Shelter conditions create numerous obstacles for children to secure a sound education and the closing of schools due to the pandemic only exacerbated the issue. Through our advocacy, the Department of Education provided students with iPads for remote learning, but without reliable internet access in shelters, students continue to see interruptions in their instruction and fall farther behind their peers. After months of advocacy, volunteer attorneys worked with our Homeless Rights and Education Law Projects to issue a demand letter that the Department of Homeless Services provide Wi-Fi access to all students in shelters throughout the city. Participating firms included:

Cooley LLP


Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

Calling For Police Reform & Accountability

As demonstrators calling for police reform and accountability following the murder of George Floyd were met with violence at the hands of the NYPD, our law firm partners joined us in our efforts to ensure individual’s rights were protected and their voices heard.

Led by Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, who provided technical and administrative support, as well as direct client assistance, nineteen partner firms signed on to staff our Cop Accountability Project (CAP) Civilian Complaint Clinic – a commitment which is ongoing. Volunteers, trained by CAP, support protesters with legal advice and assistance on filing civil claims for relief with the CCRB.

For years, police brutality and misconduct were veiled in secrecy behind Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, a state law that purported to protect the privacy of law enforcement by denying public access to disciplinary reports. After years of advocacy, in 2020 our organization, along with community partners, including Citizens United For Police Reform, were able to have the state legislature overturn 50-a. This victory could not have been accomplished, and the ongoing preservation efforts possible without the years-long assistance of pro bono attorneys. Participating firms included:

Arnold & Porter

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Jenner & Block LLP

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

Milbank LLP

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

Ropes & Gray LLP

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

Sidley Austin LLP

White & Case LLP

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

Each year approximately three thousand volunteers from over seventy law firms provide pro bono assistance to support the work of the staff of The Legal Aid Society. We thank the individuals and the law firms who share our commitment to defend our clients and communities of color and to dismantle the hidden, systemic barriers that can prevent them from thriving.

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Delivering Justice in
Every Borough

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