Manatt partners Peter Duchesneau and Noel S. Cohen have been recognized as pro bono attorneys of the year by the Adoptions Unit of the Public Counsel Law Center, the nation's largest pro bono law firm. The award honors the partners' effective services on a complex adoption case. A reception was held on July 24, 2012, at The Hotel Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate all of the organization's pro bono volunteers.
Duchesneau, who is part of the firm's Energy, Environmental & Natural Resources Division, and Cohen, who is part of the Litigation Division, led a Manatt team to successfully represent a family that was faced with multifaceted issues concerning the federal benefits that they were entitled to receive when they adopted their daughter. The three-year-old child, who lives with disabilities including a significant hearing impairment, was eligible for specialized care rates from the Adoptions Assistance Program (AAP), retroactive foster care payments, and Supplemental Security Income benefits.
The Manatt team assisted in finalizing the adoption and helped the family to raise their ongoing monthly AAP benefits to an appropriate level and receive retroactive payment of their foster care benefits. In addition, the team brought to light an error in the Social Security Administration's disabilities classifications, which simultaneously increased the family's federal benefits and erased the debt the agency said was owed.
In the past year, Public Counsel served more than 30,000 clients with the help of nearly 4,200 pro bono attorneys and volunteers. Through its pro bono model, Public Counsel annually delivers over $85 million of free assistance to low-income clients and addresses systemic poverty and civil rights issues through impact litigation and policy advocacy.