Fulbright & Jaworski

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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
91
Fulbright & Jaworski (36)
43.6
56.4
30.8

 

When authorities raided a ranch near San Angelo, Texas, in April 2008 to investigate allegations of child abuse among the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more than 400 children were removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Fulbright & Jaworski responded to an The Am Law Pro Bono 100emergency e-mail from the Dallas Bar Association and took on the representation of seven children. "The case was historical in size," says Fulbright partner Norlynn Price, who represented six children from four different families.

The state's investigation began after a caller to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services claimed to be a 16-year-old girl at the ranch. She alleged that she was being abused by her husband. (The Church of Jesus Christ allows polygamy and underage marriage.) Under Texas statutory protocol, removal of a child normally only applies to a family situation, but because there were so many plural marriages in the community, all children on the ranch were removed from their homes as a precautionary measure, Price says. The children were placed in foster homes all over the state.

"We felt that assisting children in this situation, who had been taken out of their home, was very significant," says Fulbright pro bono chair Stewart Gagnon, who specializes in family law and advised the lawyers at the firm who were handling the cases. The Fulbright lawyers fought to have the children reunited with their families, arguing that there was no proof that the children had been abused.

Most families involved were put on family reunification plans mandated by the state's Department of Family and Protective Services. In late 2008 the majority of the alleged abuse cases, including those of the Fulbright clients, were dismissed because of lack of evidence, and the children were returned to their families. Price says that there are still a handful of cases pending, mostly involving older teenage girls who married before they reached the legal age.

"We wanted to make sure the child's rights were upheld," Gagnon says.

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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