Zuckerman Spaeder Receives NLADA’s Beacon of Justice Award for Addressing Racial Inequity

Steven N. Herman
Steven N. Herman
Margarita K. O’Donnell
Margarita K. O'Donnell

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) has honored Zuckerman Spaeder LLP with the 2022 Beacon of Justice Award for the second year in a row. This year’s award recognizes firms that demonstrated an elevated commitment to addressing racial inequity. 

Throughout 2021, Zuckerman Spaeder’s pro bono work sought to combat systemic racism on several fronts, including through affirmative litigation, criminal justice work, representation in housing matters, and representation of children in the immigration system.

“Winning the Beacon of Justice award the last two years is especially meaningful to our firm because the need to address systemic racism is so acute,” said Zuckerman Spaeder partners and pro bono practice chairs Steve Herman and Maggie O’Donnell. “The firm is grateful to NLADA for shedding light on the legal community's responsibility and vital role in building a more equitable future.”

Last year, Zuckerman Spaeder focused on various dimensions of this work. One area of focus for Zuckerman Spaeder has been addressing the challenges that people of color, and particularly those who are incarcerated, face in obtaining access to adequate medical care. As part of this work, the firm negotiated a favorable settlement on behalf of a client who was denied access to proper medical care after sustaining significant injuries while incarcerated. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zuckerman Spaeder has taken on more than a dozen cases in which it has worked to gain the release of prisoners under compassionate release laws. The efforts of firm attorneys have led to the release of a number of prisoners who had serious medical problems, and also have produced legal rulings making compassionate release available to more incarcerated individuals.

In the area of immigration law, Zuckerman Spaeder continued its representation of children seeking lawful status in the United States, including securing permanent residency on behalf of a client who had fled El Salvador to escape gang violence as a child. The firm, working with the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, also filed a federal lawsuit in Florida on behalf of a legal permanent resident from Jamaica detained by local law enforcement authorities on false suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally, even though there was no request or detainer from immigration enforcement officials. 

The firm also represents four Latino families who lost their homes due to a policy that requires every adult in a household to show proof of legal residence in the U.S. The families filed a lawsuit alleging that the policy disproportionately harms Latinos in violation of the Fair Housing Act.  

For more information about NLADA and the Beacon of Justice Award, please visit www.nlada.org. The award will be presented at the 2022 NLADA Exemplar Awards Gala on June 9. 

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Kalie Walrath
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