Mongolian students in public
              interest legal clinic

Law Office of
Peter Henner

(518) 423-7799

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Peter Henner
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COMMUNITY SERVICE and PRO BONO POLICY

There is a legendary story about the folksinger Woody Guthrie.  Woody once told the spokeswoman for a group that he would need $25 for a benefit performance. The woman said, "But it's a good cause, Mr. Guthrie" and he said "Lady, I don't sing for bad causes."

Peter has been practicing law for more than 30 years.  He does not represent many bad causes, but he still needs to get paid for his efforts representing good guys.  There are occasions where, because of the social or political implications of the case, he charges a highly discounted rate, handles a case on a contingent basis even though a contingent fee arrangement is not warranted as a business risk, or does not accept a fee.  However, fee arrangements are private matters; Peter does not identify any clients as pro bono clients, or describe any legal efforts as pro bono activities. 

Legal work is legal work; a lawyer owes the same level of responsibility to a client regardless of how much he is getting paid.  Large law firms who typically represent major corporations may benefit by claiming that they are performing a public service by representing the very poor.  However, Peter does not represent rich corporate interests, and a significant portion of his paying clients would have a legitimate complaint if Peter represented someone pro bono while charging them.

There are awards given for lawyers who do more than a certain number of hours of pro bono work in a year, and lawyers are encouraged to keep records of how much time they spend doing pro bono work.  Peter refuses to play this game; it would insult not only the pro bono clients, but also clients of moderate means who are struggling to pay legal bills. 

There are cases that are worth taking, either because the cause is important, the legal principle is of particular interest, or because the client is a particularly sympathetic person in need of representation.  If Peter accepts a case, he devotes himself to it and does not expect, want, or is willing to accept, any special recognition because of the level of compensation that he is receiving. 

International Efforts

Mongolia
Served as legal advisor in 2011 to the Center for Human Rights and Development, a Mongolian environmental and civil rights non-governmental organization opposing irresponsible mining, developed first law student clinic devoted to public interest litigation, and conducted legal training program for Mongolian lawyers. The photograph at the top of this page shows Peter standing with the students.

Lawyers Without Borders
Provided assistance to non-governmental organizations in developing countries in 2002-2003

Litigation Activities

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Act as local counsel for national civil rights organization in its efforts to quash subpoena served by Chevron Corporation. Chevron is seeking information regarding anyone who may have communciated with Steven Donziger, who Peter regards as a legal hero because of his efforts on behalf of rural Ecuadorians suffering from severe pollution caused by multinational oil companies (2013).

Clarksville Community
Represent Town of New Scotland and cross-section of individuals, local businesses and civic organizations in successful litigation, resulting in the reversal of the U.S.Postal Service's determination to close the Clarksville Post Office  (2011-2012)

New York Civil Liberties Union
Served as member of the Board of the Capital District Chapter from 2005 - 2007, and remain a member of the Legal Committee. Acted as local counsel in a First Amendment case challenging a sign ordinance in federal court.  Also won the dismissal of all criminal charges against a member of "Billionaires for Bush," who was arrested during a demonstration in Saratoga Springs.

National Employment Lawyers Association
Wrote amicus brief for professional organization in a case before Michigan appellate court, Burns v. City of Detroit in 2002, successfully arguing that a sexual harasser's "speech" is not constitutionally protected.

Government Accountability Project
Acted as local counsel in Bordell v. General Electric in 1989 challeging GE's policy on classified information.

Greenpeace
Represented  two Greenpeace activists who climbed on to the roof of State Capitol in 1987 to hang banner reading "Niagara River: still toxic after all these years. Why Governor Cuomo?"  Activists were charged with felonies for "crime" of insulting thin-skinned Governor.  Was able to plea-bargain charges down to Violations. 

Support for Local Organizations

Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company
Provide legal services for local volunteer fire company, including real estate, incorporation and tax exemption matters

Nipponzan Myohoji, Grafton Sangha
Act as attorney for Board, and handle miscellaneous legal matters including incorporation, immigration issues, land use and real property matters for local Buddhist Peace Pagoda that has constructed a 100 foot high stupa (peace pagoda) on an 11 acre site in Rensselaer County, New York (1989 - present)

Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace
Incorporate local organization and provide legal advice as needed

Rainbow Alliance for Clean Environment
Provide legal advice and represent environmental organization in Gloversville and Fulton County, New York,  a community dominated by the leather industry, in numerous matters from 1984 to the present.
 
Miscellaneous Assistance

Occupy Albany
Provide support for ad hoc group protesting conditions in United States as member of Legal Committee (2011-2012)

Kerry-Edwards Campaign
Volunteer attorney in Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 2004 Presidential election

Albany County Legislature
Provide extensive analysis (3000 word newspaper article in Altamont Enterprise) of misfeasance and non-feasance  of Legislature and County Executive in settlement of reapportionment lawsuit in 2015


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