Justice for survivors
Cohen Milstein stands out as one of only a handful of firms in the country that sponsors a practice group devoted to vindicating human rights. The Cohen Milstein Human Rights practice group represents individuals who were victims of torture, human trafficking, forced and slave labor, sexual violence, and other violations of international law. Much of the Human Rights practice group’s work is pro bono.
Agnieszka Fryszman, the head of the Human Rights practice group, is a leader in the field of international human rights law. Most recently, Ms. Fryszman was awarded the National Law Journal’s 2011 Pro Bono Award for her efforts on behalf of Nepali contract laborers injured or killed at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, Ms. Fryszman was recognized as one of the 500 “Leading Lawyers in America” by Lawdragon, and she and practice group colleague Molly McOwen were honored as finalists for the Trial Lawyer of the Year award by the Public Justice Foundation, which recognized their “socially significant legal accomplishments were extraordinary or precedent-setting and in the public interest” (Public Justice News, 6/17/10).
The Human Rights practice group can be found at the front lines of nearly every major legal battle involving international human rights in the United States. Cohen Milstein was one of the first firms to file a claim under the new human trafficking statute, and has either directly litigated or served as amicus counsel in a number of landmark human rights cases. Shortly after Ms. Fryszman and her colleagues joined the plaintiffs’ trial team in Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., the parties reached a historic settlement in the first case ever filed against a foreign oil company for complicity in human rights abuses under the Alien Tort Statute. Past successes of the Human Rights practice group include serving, pro bono, as co-lead counsel for Holocaust survivors suing Swiss banks that collaborated with the Nazi regime during World War II. This litigation produced a $1.25 billion settlement and led academics to revise their assessment of Switzerland’s relationship with Nazi Germany and exposed the extent of business participation in the Holocaust. The practice group also served as lead counsel for forced and slave laborers against World War II-era German companies. The case, which was resolved by multinational negotiations, resulted in a groundbreaking $5.2 billion settlement and provided compensation to over 1.5 million individuals in 41 countries.
Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights practice group has been recognized repeatedly for its dedication to and success in international human rights litigation. Its numerous awards include the 2007 Beacon of Justice Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the 2007 Frederick Douglass award from the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Friendship Award from the America Nepal Friendship Society for “outstanding contribution to the protection of the human rights and freedom of Nepali citizens,” a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Ambassador to Nepal, and the 2006 Fierce Sister Award from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.