On April 30, 2018, the National Law Journal named Morrison & Foerster to its 2018 Pro Bono Hot List. The publication recognized the firm for a case it filed in 2009 against the U.S. Army, the CIA, and other government entities on behalf of veterans who, during their service, were used as unwitting test subjects for biological and chemical agents as well as psychoactive drugs. Known as the Edgewood case for the military facility where many of the tests were conducted, the case sought information and medical care for thousands of these veterans, some of whom have suffered long-lasting health effects from the testing. Morrison & Foerster lawyer Gordon Erspamer, a hero to many in the veteran’s community, developed and filed the case, and after his retirement in 2014, San Francisco partner James Bennett continued it alongside fellow Morrison & Foerster’s associate Ben Patterson and partner Stacey Sprenkel.
In 2017, after a nearly decade-long battle, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Army to provide test victims with medical care. James estimated the firm spent more than 10,000 hours on the case, but the outcome was well worth it—just last month the first veteran applied for medical care.
Two vets, Bill Blazinski and Michael Blecker, who were involved in the case underscored the Morrison & Foerster lawyers’ dedication, empathy, and transparency throughout the case.
“Quite frankly, for that office to stay with it all these years and keep fighting for us, I guess I can’t say enough about them. They’ve been wonderful,” said Mr. Blazinski in a statement. “I can’t say enough for what they did, with the obstacles the government had thrown at them,” he added, noting that he plans to apply for medical care for his cancer.
In addition to the Edgewood case, the Hot List also recognized Morrison & Foerster’s New York partner J. Alexander Lawrence and of counsel Jayson Cohen for their work with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to end unfair Arkansas hot check court practices of jailing individuals who couldn’t afford to pay fines for bounced checks.
According to the National Law Journal, the lawyers on this year’s Pro Bono Hot List have taken on some of the biggest issues of our time. Read here to learn more.