The Federal Bar Council of the Second Circuit announced that New York litigation associate Chanwoo Park has won its Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service. The award celebrates lawyers who have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to pro bono legal services, including pro bono services in federal courts or agencies within the Second Circuit. Chanwoo won the award in the Rising Star category, for lawyers in their first ten years of practice.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)-the very organization that was founded under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall-supported Chanwoo's nomination based on his work with LDF since April 2019 in I.S. v. Binghamton City School District. The lawsuit, featured in a recent New York Times article on the disproportionate school discipline imposed upon Black girls, challenges intrusive, non-consensual searches conducted on four 12-year-old Black and Latinx girls by their school nurse at the direction of their middle school principal, who found their "giddy" behavior at lunchtime suspicious. LDF praised Chanwoo's work on the case, describing him as "patient in breaking down complex legal issues during meetings, comprehensive in how he prepares our clients for depositions and other appearances, and thoughtful in how he listens and advises our clients around important decisions."
In an earlier case, Chanwoo represented a couple who had been lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against a company that, at the time, owned 15,000 apartments across New York City and was accused of intimidating and harassing tenants in rent-regulated apartments as a tactic to empty its buildings and make way for higher-paying tenants. An earlier settlement had designated a former state court judge as a claims administrator to award damages to tenants who were injured by these practices. Together with MoFo of counsel Jayson Cohen, Chanwoo vigorously pursued the case and achieved extraordinary success: while most damages awards for tenants were less than $5,000, the claims administrator awarded Chanwoo's clients $127,500. In its letter supporting the nomination, Legal Services NYC wrote, "LSNYC witnessed directly how Chanwoo was an exceptional litigator, but also extremely patient and responsive with his clients. He spent a huge amount of time explaining the legal strategy and the process, working through their questions and concerns, and preparing them for a days-long evidentiary hearing."
Chanwoo's other pro bono engagements have included appealing a federal court decision that denied disability benefits to a woman repeatedly hospitalized because of sickle cell disease, traveling to an Albany jail to help immigrant detainees prepare for their credible fear interviews as the first step in seeking asylum, and assisting with the defense of a Mexican journalist against a defamation claim brought by a former government official.
The Federal Bar Council is an organization of lawyers that practice within the courts of the Second Circuit.