Fish & Richardson announced that it has obtained clemency for five pro bono clients the firm represented through the firm’s participation in The Clemency Project. The Clemency Project is a major initiative launched by the American Bar Association and various other public interest groups in cooperation with the Department of Justice to seek sentence commutations from President Obama for non-violent, low level drug offenders who have already served at least 10 years of lengthy federal prison terms. Fish attorneys contributed over 1,800 pro bono hours to help identify potential candidates for clemency and to prepare individual clemency petitions for those eligible prisoners. Three of those commutations were announced in the past two months; two were announced last week.
Fish principal John Johnson, an intellectual property litigator, represented Ramiro C., who was serving a 27-year sentence of a non-violent drug offense. On January 19, 2017, the last day of the Obama Administration, Johnson received a call from the Department of Justice that Ramiro’s clemency petition was approved by the President, commuting over seven years from his sentence. Johnson spoke with his appreciative client just minutes before the President made his official announcement.
“As an IP litigator, it was daunting at first to get involved in a criminal matter,” said Johnson. “But after digging in, it became clear that my clients, if they had been sentenced today, would not have received the same lengthy sentences that they were given many years ago. I learned a lot about federal judges having their hands tied with mandatory minimums. And being able to tell an inmate that the President granted him clemency is quite an experience.”
Johnson also represented a second inmate who was serving a 32-year sentence; in the petition Johnson submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, he demonstrated that his client would have received a substantially shorter sentence for his non-violent offense under today’s sentencing laws. Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Johnson learned that his client’s clemency petition was approved by the President, reducing his original sentence significantly and moving up his release date by over nine years.
On January 17, 2017, Fish principal Larry Kolodney and associate Emily Petersen Garff, both patent litigators, learned that their client, Bruce S., who had already served 24 years of a life term for his membership in a low-level drug distribution scheme as a teenager, was granted a commutation by the President. As a result, Bruce, who has been a model prisoner and is now a middle-aged man, will experience freedom for the first time since his early 20s, when he is released on May 17, 2018.
“Calling my client to tell him that he would again be a free man was an incredible moment. I could feel his joy through the telephone,” said Garff. “I am proud to have been able to work alongside the many other passionate and capable lawyers who supported this fantastic project.”
“Although Fish is known primarily for its work in intellectual property law, our pro bono program gives our attorneys excellent opportunities to make a difference in a wide variety of legal contexts,” added Kolodney, who chairs Fish’s firmwide pro bono program. “Our work on the Clemency Project is a great example of how important and professionally gratifying this work can be.”
To learn more about Fish’s pro bono program, visit http://www.fr.com/about/pro-bono.