Los Angeles – The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP (S&C) announced today that ACLU SoCal staff attorney Michael Kaufman has been named the first S&C Access to Justice Attorney. In this role, Kaufman will work to ensure that people who have long faced obstacles in accessing the justice system are afforded their due process rights, including their right to fair hearings, legal assistance, to contest unlawful imprisonment and to contest law enforcement abuses.
The ACLU SoCal and S&C worked as co-lead counsel in the class-action lawsuit Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, filed on behalf of immigration detainees with mental disabilities in Arizona, California and Washington. In an historic decision, a federal district judge ordered the United States government to provide legal representation to immigrant detainees with mental disabilities who are facing deportation and who are unable to adequately represent themselves.
The new 10-year Access to Justice position is made possible by S&C’s generosity. S&C waived all the legal fees it otherwise may have been awarded in the settlement to co-counsel following the landmark 2013 ruling, which was the first ever to recognize a right to appointed counsel in deportation proceedings for any group of immigrants.
“We are so pleased to support the ACLU of Southern California and its new Access to Justice initiative,” said Michael Steinberg, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Sullivan & Cromwell and a member of the firm’s Litigation Group. “We are hoping that our partnership with the ACLU SoCal will continue to achieve historic results.”
In his new role, Kaufman will be able to devote greater resources to communities traditionally underserved by the justice system. “I am honored to be named the S&C Access Justice Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, and look forward to working with S&C to ensure that all Californians have equal access to justice,” Kaufman said.
ACLU SoCal Advocacy Director Ahilan Arulanantham noted the urgent need for the new position. "Although California has more lawyers than any other state, meaningful access to the legal system remains sorely lacking for large swaths of the state's population,” he said. “We are thrilled that Sullivan & Cromwell has partnered with the ACLU SoCal in improving access to justice in Southern California."