Shook Pro Bono Work Reunites Veteran with Family through Successful Board of Immigration Appeals Case

Shook Associate Daniel Cummings secured a positive outcome for a firm client on Friday, January 8, after a year of preparing and managing an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Shook Partner Patrick Kenney supervised this pro bono case which allowed the client to return to his family and community from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention center. 

“We had to be really clear with the client that it was a long shot,” Cummings said. “An appeal like this is always an uphill battle, but it’s important to go through the process.” 

Cummings represented a United States military veteran who came to the United States as a child in the 1980s and volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army. During this time, the client served in combat in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. 

The client didn’t receive medical attention or support for his mental health conditions for decades, which created impulse control issues that led to a history of minor, non-violent criminal offenses. Despite the impact of PTSD on his daily life, he was active in his church and was a major source of financial and emotional support for his family. It wasn’t until he was detained by DHS and facing deportation that he gained access to mental health care that allowed diagnosis and treatment. 

Cummings worked with the client’s trial counsel from YMCA International Services to learn more about the legal backdrop of the case. In drafting the appellate brief, Cummings showcased the client in a true-to-life narrative of how he was a caring husband, father, and grandfather, who generously served his family, community, church, and those in need, all despite his mental health conditions.

“Dan did an extraordinary job, especially for a younger attorney for what could have been a cold case otherwise,” Kenney said. “Helping the court see him as a person and not just a list of good and bad acts.” 

Cummings worked remotely on the case due to distance. However, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit communities around the world, Cummings had to take another strategic approach to protect his client. 

“Dan came to me with the request to seek an emergency release of our client so that our client could avoid exposure in the detention facility,” Kenney said. “That emergency release request was never decided before a ruling on the merits of the appeal, but Dan’s initiative demonstrated that he was thinking of everything [the firm] could do to serve our client.”

Through managing and building his client’s appeal to the BIA, Cummings secured a sustained appeal, allowing the client to return to his family instead of being deported to his foreign birthplace. 

Cummings is grateful to his Shook colleagues and the resources available through the firm’s pro bono committee. 

“I really appreciate the fact that pro bono is an actual part of the culture of the firm and how Shook empowers us to pursue it,” Cummings said. Kenney added, “For young attorneys in our firm, pro bono should be something they should be seeking out. Not simply because it will give them exposure, but it also integrates them to other levels of our firm in different departments.” 

“I never met a single attorney who’s done pro bono who regretted spending time doing it,” Kenney said. “It’s rewarding on legal standpoint. It requires a real nuance to understand and litigate correctly. It’s an incredible use of our time, not only to give back but to improve our skill set.” 

Learn more about how Shook approaches pro bono work at the firm