Troutman Sanders



Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
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Troutman Sanders (78)


In 2005 a 22-year-old student from the University of Belarus—on an exchange program in the United States—sought American asylum. An active member of Belarus's pro-democracy opposition party, she said that she had been subjected to political persecution, physical abuse, imprisonment, and torture in her country, and feared returning there. The Am Law Pro Bono 100Troutman Sanders took the case in November 2006, when it was referred to the firm by the nonprofit Human Rights First.

Associates Clarence Lee and Jordi de Llano had to determine whether the woman had sufficient grounds to seek asylum because of political persecution. "In a country where all communication is tightly monitored, it was especially challenging to take testimonies and authenticate information," Lee says. The Troutman lawyers collected testimonies from the student's colleagues in the Belarusian National Front (BNF) political party, who confirmed that she had been arrested and tortured for distributing pro-democracy material in Belarus's captital, Minsk.

According to the student, she was arrested and tortured by the police several times between November 2003 and February 2004 in Belarus and even had to be hospitalized. The lawyers reviewed hospital records to corroborate her version of events.

After a trial in immigration court in March 2008, the student and her husband, also a citizen of Belarus, were granted asylum. In June 2009 the student was given the status of a permanent resident. "The firm strongly feels the need to represent vulnerable groups of asylum seekers," Lee says. 

—Priti Patnaik | July 1, 2009

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