Fried Frank

Jennifer L. Colyer

Special Counsel

Jennifer L. Colyer is special counsel in the Litigation Department, and resident pro bono counsel in the New York office.  She joined the Firm in 1993 and became special counsel in 2000. 

As pro bono counsel, Ms. Colyer is responsible for directing the overall pro bono program and supervising individual pro bono projects handled by other attorneys at the Firm.  Ms. Colyer specializes in immigration and criminal defense and LGBT rights cases.  In 2010, she was counsel to the attorney for the child in the landmark case of Debra H. v. Janice R., in which the New York Court of Appeals gave effect to a lesbian couple's Vermont civil union to find that the child had two legal parents.  On the immigration front, Ms. Colyer has extensive experience in asylum, VAWA, U-Visa and cancellation of removal cases and has won asylum based on political opinion, sexual orientation, HIV status and other social group claims.

She also handles family-based immigration petitions.  For the past ten years, Ms. Colyer has defended individuals facing a broad array of criminal charges in federal court.   

In addition, her extensive litigation experience includes a broad range of civil matters as well as substantial work on investigations brought by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, United States Attorney's office and other criminal and internal investigations.
Honors & Awards
In May 2016, Ms. Colyer spoke about partnerships between law firms and legal services organizations at the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference.  In 2014, Ms. Colyer was honored with the Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality.  In June 2014, Ms. Colyer was recognized as one of 500 leading lawyers in America by Lawdragon.  In May 2014, Ms. Colyer spoke at the ABA Equal Justice Conference about law firm/public school legal clinics.  In February 2014, Ms. Colyer received the Pro Bono Liaison Award from Her Justice. In June 2011, Ms. Colyer was honored by the New York City Bar Association for her work on behalf of members of the LGBT community.  In 2010, she was recognized by the Legal Aid Society for her work representing inmates who are eligible to apply for resentencing under New York State's Drug Law Reform Act. 
Professional Associations
Association of Pro Bono Counsel (President, 2010 - 2012; Corporate Secretary, 2009 - 2010; Board Member, 2006 - present)
Pro Bono and Public Service Committee, New York City Bar Association, Member
National Pro Bono Summit, American Bar Association, Participant
Immigration Equality and Immigration Equality Action Fund, Board of Directors, Member
Federal Bar Council Public Service Committee, Member
Served as motions law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1992 to 1993.
Bar Admissions/Licensed Jurisdictions
New York; New Jersey; US Supreme Court; US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; US District Court for the Southern District of New York; US District Court for the Eastern District of New York


Selected Representations

On December 4, 2012, the Firm achieved a victory in a criminal case before Judge Robert W. Sweet in the Southern District of New York. Litigation partner Steven Witzel was appointed to represent Mr. S on a violation of supervised release charge. Mr. S violated his supervised release by resisting arrest and testing positive for marijuana use. Before facing this charge in federal court, Mr. S served 14 months in state prison as a result of pleading guilty to resisting arrest at the state level. The federal government's violation of supervised release charge was due, in large part, to the state conviction for which Mr. S had already served time. The government was asking for an additional 3-9 months of incarceration.

Mr.S faced a maximum of 36 months in prison. Fried Frank was appointed counsel on November 30, the day after federal authorities took custody of Mr. S, and at a hearing four days later argued that the equities weighed in favor of a time-served sentence of five days. Prior to the hearing, Firm attorneys contacted several members of Mr. S's family to secure their attendance at his hearing and to ensure that Mr. S had a place to live when he was released. They also secured a commitment from the Osborne Association, an organization that provides drug addiction treatment, career counseling and other services aimed at helping people recently released from prison to successfully reintegrate into the community.

Litigation associate Justin Ross presented all of this information persuasively, and was able to convince the court to sentence Mr. S to time-served, and release him that day subject to two years of supervised release, drug and mental health treatment, and other conditions of supervision. That afternoon, Mr. S left the courthouse with his family.

Announced: 2012

In November 2011, the Firm represented 39 Congressional Representatives as amici curiae to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in two cases challenging H.B. 56, the Alabama law regulating immigration. Among other things, H.B. 56 makes it a state crime to be an immigrant out of lawful status in Alabama, makes it unlawful for an out-of-status immigrant to contract with other private parties, and requires public schools to check the immigration status of students and their parents. Failure to enforce the law carries criminal penalties for Alabama officials. The Alabama agricultural industry estimates that the law has cost the state over US$40m so far in lost crops, because agricultural workers have fled the state in droves. These two facial challenges (United States of America v. Alabama, and Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v. Governor of Alabama) contend that various provisions of the law are preempted by federal law and otherwise violate various provisions of the federal Constitution.

Announced: 2011
  • Fried Frank won dismissal of a criminal action which had been brought against Criminal Justice Act (CJA) client Mr. P in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The criminal complaint, which was filed on March 24, 2010, alleged that Mr. P conspired to sell cigarettes without paying the requisite taxes. Following a proffer session on May 10, 2010 and our proposal that the Government either drop the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor or agree to defer prosecution, the Government agreed to defer prosecution for one year and to dismiss the case after that time if certain conditions were met. Following the conclusion of the year, on September 19, 2011, the Court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, and Mr. P thus avoided a criminal conviction.

On June 28, 2011, the Firm won a final grant of asylum for Ms. S, a gay woman from Germany. Ms. S arrived in the United States in 1998 after fleeing homophobic persecution in southern Germany, where police put her name on a "pink list," used to track gays and lesbians, and repeatedly searched her apartment and detained her without charges due to her sexual orientation. Ms. S suffered from deep depression and post-traumatic stress from her persecution at the hands of the police, and after she arrived in the US she lived a marginal life in hiding for over a decade.

In 2009, Ms. S was detained in a bus station in Florida by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who barred the doors and demanded proof of immigration status from those present. Congressman Jerry Nadler was instrumental in getting Ms. S released from detention in Florida. Although Ms. S did not seek asylum within one year of her arrival as is required, the Immigration Judge credited compelling testimony from Ms. S's treating psychologist, who is a trauma specialist, that established that her mental state effectively prevented her from coming out of the shadows and seeking asylum protection before she entered psychiatric treatment. The Fried Frank team was thus able to prove that extraordinary circumstances prevented timely filing.

Fried Frank won cancellation of removal for client Carlos E., who was referred to the Firm by the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in 2007.  A native of Guatemala, Carlos came to the United States with his mother when he was 13 years old, and they have lived in Far Rockaway, Queens ever since.  Although his mother became involved with and eventually married a man who is a U.S. citizen, the marriage came too late for Carlos to be considered his "stepchild" for immigration purposes.  Carlos had a daughter of his own in 2001, and when he and the child's mother separated, he had sole custody of the girl and lived with her and his parents in their apartment in Far Rockaway.  Then, Carlos was put into removal proceedings.  Fried Frank lawyers convinced the Immigration Judge that Carlos' U.S. citizen daughter would face an "extraordinary and extremely unusual hardship" if Carlos were to be deported.  "Cancellation of removal" means that Carlos will be issued a "green card", and have the status of Lawful Permanent Resident in the US. 

Tel:  +1.212.859.8285
Fax:   +1.212.859.4000


New York Law School, JD – 1992
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, BA – 1987

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