Public Counsel Attorneys Honored with 2024 CLAY Award by Daily Journal

David Stanley, Gina Amato Lough, Jonathan Barrera, and Kathleen Rivas, recipients of the 2024 CLAY Award for their pathbreaking immigration advocacy. (Photo: Justin Stewart)

We are thrilled to announce that Public Counsel attorneys Gina Amato Lough and Kathleen Rivas have been honored with a 2024 CLAY Award by the Daily Journal! They were recognized for their role in the pathbreaking case of Ruiz Pozuelos v. Mayorkas, where their relentless and innovative advocacy, alongside the incredible pro bono contributions of David Stanley and Jonathan Barrera at Reed Smith LLP, led to a landmark victory. This collaboration secured lawful permanent residency for their client, Zoila Ruiz Pozuelos, after years of unjust denials.

Read the Daily Journal story here (subscription required).

Gina, Directing Attorney of our Immigrants’ Rights Project, began working with Zoila nearly a dozen years ago when she determined that, as a survivor of severe domestic violence who had cooperated with law enforcement, Zoila was eligible for a special form of immigration relief called a U visa. Despite numerous challenges, Gina successfully secured the U visa for Zoila in 2015.

However, years later when Zoila’s application for lawful permanent residency was repeatedly and unjustly denied, Gina and Kathleen reached out to their trusted pro bono collaborator David Stanley, a partner at Reed Smith. Together they decided to employ a creative litigation strategy, challenging the adverse decision in federal court under the Administrative Procedure Act. Shortly after our team filed the suit, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agreed to reconsider Zoila’s case.

After a five-year battle, Zoila’s application for lawful permanent residency was approved! Public Counsel and Reed Smith are among a handful of legal practitioners in the country to contest a USCIS discretionary denial in federal court, blazing a trail for others to follow. Their victory underscores the importance of collaborative legal advocacy and creative lawyering in upholding the rights of immigrants.

Congratulations to Gina, Kathleen, David, and Jonathan on this tremendous recognition. We are proud of your relentless dedication to advancing justice and amplifying the power of our clients. Thank you for embodying the mission and values of Public Counsel, and for showcasing the transformative impact of pro bono advocacy.

Watch our inspiring video on Zoila’s courageous journey to achieve lawful permanent residency.
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