Pro Bono Matters Category Detail


Litigation Victory for Democracy Prep Public Schools

Fried Frank won a significant litigation victory before the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department on behalf of Democracy Prep Public Schools. Since its founding in 2005, Democracy Prep has been one of New York City’s highest performing charter school organizations, providing an exceptional alternative for students and families in communities that have traditionally lacked high-quality public school seats.

Petitioners in the litigation sought to prevent Democracy Prep’s co-location with an existing adult learning program, arguing that the New York City Department of Education acted improperly by not issuing an educational impact statement prior to making a determination with respect to the co-location.

Following expedited briefing, on September 12, the Commissioner of Education dismissed petitioners' appeal of the co-location determination. Agreeing with arguments advanced by Fried Frank, the Commissioner determined that the appeal should be dismissed for failure to name the school at issue as a necessary party. Ruling on the merits, the Commissioner further determined that the adult learning program was not a “school” and thus that no educational impact statement was required under the applicable laws. 

Attorneys working on this matter:
Janice Mac Avoy

Fried Frank Obtains Special Education Services for Developmentally Disabled Student

Fried Frank recently won a victory for Ms. P and her four-year-old developmentally disabled child, D, by obtaining appropriate special education services for him from the New York City Department of Education (DOE). D has severe developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder.  During the 2011-2012 school year, he received home-based one-on-one therapy for autism called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and showed significant improvement. However, the DOE decided to discontinue D's home-based ABA therapy for the 2012-2013 school year without explanation. Ms. P pleaded with the DOE to reinstate D's services throughout the year, but was unsuccessful. During that time, D regressed. He ceased making eye contact, began having difficulty identifying his family members and became less vocal. Finally, Ms. P turned to New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for help, who referred Ms. P to Fried Frank.

Fried Frank began an administrative challenge to the DOE's decision, claiming that the DOE violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and demanding that D's home-based ABA services be reinstated. Just days before the hearing, the DOE conceded and agreed to restore D's home-based ABA services and also obtained additional school-based services.

Attorneys working on this matter:
David Morris

Pro Bono Win for the New York Public Interest Research Group ("NYPIRG")

On Thursday, July 23, 2009 District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan (Southern District of New York) granted summary judgment in favor of the Trustees of CUNY and the President of Brooklyn College in a First Amendment case of first impression. The decision is a big victory for NYPIRG, who we represent in the matter. The plaintiffs, represented by Jones Day, were three university students who were seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the student fee funding mechanism through which NYPIRG receives funds at CUNY and Brooklyn College is facially invalid because it uses a popular referendum and therefore results in "compelled speech" for those students who disagree with NYPIRG's views.

Fried Frank submitted an amicus curiae brief on NYPIRG's behalf, arguing that because a refund or opt-out was available to plaintiffs, there was no constitutional violation. After 90 minutes of oral argument on the parties' cross motions for partial summary judgment, Judge Kaplan ruled from the bench, adopting NYPIRG's language and position in dismissing almost all of plaintiffs' claims. The sole remaining claim, an as applied challenge to fiscal exemptions at CUNY and Brooklyn College, was not addressed in NYPIRG's submission.

Charter Schools  

Firm lawyers have worked with a number of charter schools in recent years, providing legal assistance and support including drafting operating agreements, filing charter school applications with the appropriate regulatory bodies, registering trademarks, securing federal tax exemption and negotiating leases and other contracts.

New York City Center for Charter School Excellence 

In 2003, partner Laraine Rothenberg began serving as outside counsel to the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, a collaborative venture between the New York City Department of Education and various philanthropic organizations.   As an independent non-profit organization, the Center serves as "an advocate, bridge and catalyst for the achievement of academic and operational success and sustainability of all NYC charter schools for each young person".  Additionally, The Center works to encourage the creation of additional charter schools in New York City and supports existing charter schools through a variety of programs designed for school founders, teachers, students, parents and communities. 

Attorneys working on this matter:
Laraine S. Rothenberg, Bonnie Steingart and Kenneth R. Blackman

Maya Angelou Public Charter School (MAPCS) 

Recently, Fried Frank worked to negotiate a landmark agreement between the Maya Angelou Public Charter School (MAPCS) and the Washington, DC public school system.  In addition, the Firm serves as public counsel to the MAPCS' See Forever Foundation, an organization committed to helping students develop academic, social and employment skills that facilitate positive personal transformations and begin to spark change in their communities. 

The Harlem Education roundtable (HERT) 

The Harlem Education roundtable (HERT) is a not-for-profit group consisting of educators and parents seeking to promote and encourage educational excellence, especially in Harlem. Working with HERT on an ongoing basis, Fried Frank has provided assistance in filing for tax-exempt (501(c)(3)) status and has assisted HERT in preparing a memorandum of understanding with its charter-school management company.

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