Hughes Hubbard & Reed



Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Hughes Hubbard (111)


Hughes Hubbard & Reed litigation partner Sarah Cave has worked on many pro bono matters, but she says that representing Alima Traore was different. "The gender issue struck a chord with me," says Cave about Traore, a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) who is seeking asylum in the United States to avoid deportation back to Mali. Though Cave is familiar with arguments that FGM should be put in a cultural context, Cave says the reality is that "FGM is just horrendous."

Am Law Pro Bono 100Cave started representing Traore in 2007, after the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed an immigration judge's decision to deny the young Malinese woman's application for asylum. The judge's reasoning was that Traore had no reason to fear future brutalization in Mali because she had already endured the procedure. The judge discounted Traore's argument that she would face future persecution or forced marriage in Mali.

Working with a team of six Hughes Hubbard lawyers, Cave filed briefs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reverse the immigration board's decision. (Cave also worked on the case with the American Civil Liberties Union, Seton Hall University School of Law, and Hastings Law School.) Last fall, then–U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey , in a rare and surprise move, vacated the immigration board's decision, noting that FGM is "capable of repetition," as past decisions have established. Mukasey remanded the case to the board.

For Cave, Mukasey's decision was both a surprise and a relief. "It doesn't happen very often that the U.S. attorney general reviews board decisions," says Cave. "It was a rare occurrence." Most important, Mukasey's decision gives Cave's client hope that her asylum request will be granted. Cave notes that the board's decision is expected this year. As for her client, she says: "Every day she's here, she's grateful."

—Vivia Chen | July 1, 2009

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