Merchant & Gould Presents 2017 Pro Bono Award to 7-Person Asylum Team

October 26, 2017

Merchant & Gould, a national intellectual property law firm, is pleased to announce the recipients of its annual Pro Bono Achievement Award: a Merchant & Gould team of five attorneys and two assistants who handled a volunteer pro bono case from the Advocates for Human Rights.

The recipients of the 2017 Merchant & Gould Pro Bono Award are:

  • Emily Wessels, associate
  • Joseph Dubis, Ph.D., associate
  • Christopher Davis, associate
  • Stephen Howe, associate
  • Rachel Hughey, partner
  • Carol Nystrom, assistant
  • Abigail Krueger, assistant

Collectively, this team donated more than 500 hours of pro bono services this year, not including additional hours from other devoted members of the firm, to assist a woman from El Salvador, and her daughter and son, who were seeking asylum in the United States.

Led by Emily, the team briefed the case, engaged expert witnesses, prepared the witnesses for hearing, and presented the case over four hearing days to the immigration judge. Joe took the lead on the client’s direct examination, Chris handled the daughter’s psychologist’s testimony, and Emily took the key expert witness testimony and gave a passionate closing. Steve helped with case briefing, Carol handled the many difficult filings, Abigail generously stepped in when the team was unable to secure a translator, and Rachel supervised the team and provided guidance when needed.

The team closed their case on October 13, 2017, and the judge granted the client and her children asylum on multiple grounds. The government stipulated that it would not appeal the judge’s decision. 

“The many volunteer hours this team provided certainly helped secure a wonderful result for this family, as most asylum seekers who proceed without legal counsel are unsuccessful,” said Rachel, former chair of Merchant & Gould's Pro Bono Committee. “I’m so proud of my colleagues and their tireless efforts to change the lives of this mother, son and daughter. We all wish them a peaceful life now that they may remain safely in the country.”

“The team’s commitment and dedication to pro bono is inspiring,” said Brian H. Batzli, CEO and Managing Director of Merchant & Gould. “For their admirable efforts that resulted in a favorable decision for our client, we are thrilled to present them with the Merchant & Gould 2017 Pro Bono Award.”