Zuckerman Spaeder Named a “Beacon of Justice” by NLADA for Third Time in Four Years

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) has again recognized Zuckerman Spaeder’s exceptional pro bono work with its 2024 Beacon of Justice Award. The annual award honors “members of the pro bono community who are tireless advocates for equal justice.”

This year’s award recognizes work performed in 2023 that aimed to advance civil and human rights in meaningful ways. Taking on difficult and impactful cases, Zuckerman Spaeder attorneys obtained critical results that have supported immigrant rights and delivered justice for individuals facing unfair treatment from government and private institutions. The firm also supported important national initiatives, including by leading amicus briefs in cases seeking to end “money bail” systems and to ensure the availability of Mifepristone.

“To have won the Beacon of Justice award three times in the last four years is not only a meaningful honor, but it speaks to the strength our program and our team’s commitment to championing civil and human rights,” said Zuckerman Spaeder partners and pro bono practice chairs Steve Herman and Maggie O’Donnell. “We are grateful to NLADA for reinforcing the legal community's vital role in addressing complex challenges to build a more equitable future.”

In a letter to NLADA in support of the firm, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition said that Zuckerman Spaeder attorneys “have proven to be among our most committed and effective volunteers,” and that the firm “has consistently provided the caring, thoughtful, and committed support that is so essential for achieving positive outcomes.” In another letter, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) praised the firm for having “provided a remarkable level of support over the last five years.”

The award reflects Zuckerman Spaeder’s tireless work on a range of matters, including on a case with national implications for immigrants and tenants. Together with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the firm represented plaintiffs who challenged a landlord’s misuse of a federal anti-harboring statute to justify discriminatory refusals to lease to immigrants during the leasing process. Firm attorneys obtained a unanimous Fourth Circuit decision, with the court condemning the landlord's practice and saying that, if it were left unchallenged, it would “facilitate the gratuitous infliction of homelessness upon countless numbers of people...”

In another pro bono matter, a Zuckerman Spaeder team partnered with the ACLU of Florida and the Southern Poverty Law Center to sue the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for profiling and illegally detaining an immigrant who was a lawful permanent resident on suspicion of being in the country illegally. The firm’s work led to a favorable settlement for the client, which included a requirement that the office make much-needed reforms that will protect immigrants against such illegal detentions.

Zuckerman Spaeder also represented a transgender woman who was denied coverage for medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria. Our client’s lawsuit against her employer and health plan survived a motion to dismiss – which was soon followed by a confidential settlement. Our client’s win on the motion was precedent-setting and stood as a first-of-its-kind decision demonstrating the viability of ERISA and Mental Health Parity Act challenges to insurer’s gender dysphoria discrimination.

The firm was honored with the Beacon of Justice Award in 2022 and 2021. The firm’s dedication to pro bono service has also been recognized by CAIR through the 2023 Detained Children’s Champion Award, by Legal Aid DC as a 2023 “Justice Partner”, and by the National Law Journal, which named Zuckerman Spaeder to the Pro Bono Hotlist in 2021

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Katie Munroe
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