Issues We Tackle
Issues We Tackle
Morrison & Foerster believes in the value of pro bono service and dedicates extraordinary resources to help lawyers contribute their best through pro bono work. From history-making class actions to impactful individual cases and unique partnerships with innovative nonprofits and social enterprises, MoFo lawyers around the globe are passionate about using their skills to protect human rights and to create a better future for all.
To make voter registration simpler and more convenient, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as the “motor voter” law, requiring states to facilitate voter registration at public assistance agencies and department of motor vehicles offices. To protect this fundamental right, MoFo lawyers filed separate suits in California and North Carolina resulting in significant improvements to registration procedures and the cooperation of state officials in addressing barriers to voter registration.
In Georgia, our pro bono team is making headway with a federal lawsuit on behalf of voters to challenge the state’s unsafe elections system. Georgia is one of only five states that rely on antiquated, electronic-only voting systems statewide. This leaves the state’s voting system especially vulnerable to election interference by cyberattack. Experts agree that, with no paper trail to back up votes cast electronically, Georgia’s system is prone to potential hacking and technical problems.
We provide legal support to Vote.org, which is pioneering new web-based strategies to help Americans all over the country learn their registration status, update their registrations and vote.
A cross-office team sued U.S. Customs and Border Control over inhumane conditions in the short-term detention facilities where people are being held after crossing the southern border.
The suit resulted in a court order requiring the government to provide for the basic human needs of these would-be immigrants. See what the conditions were like before the lawsuit here.
Lawyers in our New York office sued the federal government over harmful delays in releasing unaccompanied immigrant children from government custody; delays that the government caused by vastly expanding fingerprint-based “background checks” of proposed sponsors — even the children’s own parents.
In response to the family separation crisis, MoFo lawyers traveled to the border to help immigrant parents get reunited with their children and are representing families who are seeking legal status in the United States. MoFo lawyers have also gone to local jails that house immigrant detainees to prepare them for “credible fear” interviews — the first step in the asylum process.
MoFo’s innovative on-site legal clinics engage our lawyers to work with in-house counsel from our corporate clients — such as Prudential, Apple, and Salesforce — to provide pro bono help to immigrants.
Lawyers in the United States represent individuals from around the world who are seeking asylum after facing persecution in their home countries. Our clients include a 14-year-old who fled her home country of El Salvador after suffering horrible abuse by a family member, as well as threats by MS-13 gang members; women — one in Haiti and one in Guatemala — whose governments refused to protect them from brutal domestic violence; and a lesbian from Cameroon who had been persecuted because of her sexual orientation and faced jail, or worse, had she been forced to return. Learn more about how MoFo is protecting asylum seekers all over the world.
As co-counsel in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, MoFo helped to win a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that reaffirms a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and establishes safeguards against laws that stigmatize abortion care. The historic case challenged a Texas statute whose requirements would have caused a majority of clinics in the state to close their doors. The Supreme Court ruled the statute unconstitutional, recognizing that its requirements were not grounded in a credible medical need.
MoFo is defending abortion providers against harassment in an extraordinary case holding anti-choice activists accountable for a campaign ridden with deception. In this particular case, the anti-abortion extremists secretly videotaped conferences held by the National Abortion Federation. The extremists gained fraudulent access to infiltrate the meetings, violating our client’s right to privacy and the First Amendment right to freedom of association.
We stand strong with women’s health advocates to push back against state laws that impose undue restrictions on reproductive choice. Our cases in Texas and Louisiana ask courts to recognize the cumulative impact that multiple restrictions have on the right to choose when, and whether, to have children.
MoFo has been deeply involved in the fight against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for decades — from the first efforts to recognize same-sex marriage through “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act to the present day.
When Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was on the verge of being discharged from the Air Force for being gay, just before his retirement, MoFo stepped in to prevent his premature departure. The suit also put pressure on the U.S. Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which had forced the discharge of more than 14,000 LGBTQ+ service members since its inception in 1994.
MoFo waged a lengthy and ultimately successful battle to secure spousal medical benefits for federal employee Karen Golinski despite the Defense of Marriage Act. The law, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was ruled unconstitutional and the court ultimately decided that Karen deserved to enjoy the same employee benefits as her married heterosexual co-workers did.
A MoFo San Francisco partner took a personal stand for marriage equality as a lead plaintiff with her wife in a case against California’s Proposition 8, which reversed a court decision recognizing same sex marriage in the state. The firm also litigated cases and represented amici in multiple jurisdictions in the long, and ultimately successful, struggle for same sex marriage rights. Learn more about our global campaign for marriage equality.
For decades, Morrison & Foerster has remained committed to addressing the AIDS crisis by offering pro bono legal assistance to groups supporting people with AIDS. With corporate and patent guidance from MoFo, the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS is developing an accessible and affordable cure to bring an end to the global pandemic.
MoFo lawyers filed multiple amicus briefs to oppose successive versions of the travel ban, representing more than 80 religious and interreligious organizations that urged courts to reject the ban and the discriminatory policy it embodies. The amicus briefs were filed in several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, denouncing the anti-Muslim, anti-refugee travel ban as a threat to all people of faith.
MoFo lawyers have sued state prison systems in Florida and Virginia to ensure that Jewish inmates can keep kosher in accordance with their religious beliefs, rather than leaving it up to state prison officials. In a particularly important religious rights case, MoFo lawyers were successful in securing a favorable outcome for a Jewish man incarcerated in a Virginia state prison. Although the state maintained that the "common-fare" menu offered to all prisoners with religious diet restrictions was "kosher enough," the court determined that the Virginia Department of Corrections violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by failing to provide our client with kosher food.
The state of Hawaii agreed to increase stipends to families who care for foster children by more than $86 million over the next ten years to resolve a case brought by MoFo. Before the lawsuit, Hawaii had not raised foster care payments for 25 years, running afoul of the federal Child Welfare Act, which requires that foster care payments be sufficient to cover a child’s basic needs.
MoFo lawyers in California have filed an unprecedented legal action, Ella T. v. State of California, to establish a constitutional right to literacy in that state, demanding that all California students receive evidence-based literacy instruction at the elementary and secondary level. Working with the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, our team seeks to level the playing field in California’s educational system so children have access to the fundamental tools of reading and writing, regardless of race, income level, or zip code.
MoFo’s long tradition of lawsuits on behalf of students with special needs continues: New York State’s Mount Vernon City School District agreed to implement the recommendations of an independent expert to remedy its pervasive failure to provide legally required support to children with learning disabilities, and the Pasadena Unified School District will ensure that such students are no longer segregated from their peers.
Since 1991, MoFo has provided more than 10,000 hours of pro bono assistance to advance the mission of Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization whose innovative programs ease the distress of children who are hospitalized with serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions. One of many results was an agreement to bring these children unique, immersive virtual reality experiences based on Star Wars.
MoFo offers critical support to the social enterprise movement helping organizations find ways to pursue social and environmental goals, while using for-profit structures that ensure the enterprises’ viability over the long term. MoFo legal teams around the globe are finding unique solutions to help these trailblazers reach their goals, whether that’s pushing for environmental change, improving experiences for children in critical care facilities, or designing innovative corporate structures to tackle social challenges.
Every year our lawyers help people transform their visions for better communities into new nonprofit organizations, like Illuminate the Arts, formed to mount what has become a permanent light sculpture on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund, which in 2020 will commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage by unveiling the first statue honoring women’s history in New York’s Central Park.
MoFo lawyers offer nonprofits pro bono legal advice on their wide-ranging organizational concerns such as protecting trademarks for Project BANDALOOP, a dance company that pioneered “vertical performance” on the sides of buildings and natural landmarks; reviewing the lease for the new headquarters of Apraxia Kids in Washington, D.C.; and navigating complex privacy issues for Callisto as it established a secure platform for reporting on-campus sexual assault.