Here is how Newtson describes the case:
What were the basic facts of your case?
My client is an immigrant from Liberia. She has been a legal permanent resident here in the United States since 2000. When she came here as a refugee, Liberia was in the midst of a second, devastating civil war. Prior to my representation of her, my client had unsuccessfully filed for citizenship and was not able to pass the civics and English test due to her learning disability. It is difficult for her to comprehend the language and concepts in English. She speaks Kru.
What were you able to accomplish for your client?
We were able to send her to a doctor who filled out the medical exception form to the satisfaction of the United States Customs and Immigration Services interviewer. She will now become a United States citizen once she attends her oath ceremony. This medical exception allows her to become a citizen without having to take the civics and English tests.
Why was the outcome important to your client?
It's always important for a resident to become a citizen as soon as the person is eligible to make sure that the person can never be deported. It is important to the client because she can now seek government aid and benefits she would not be eligible for as a resident.
Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience?
This is the third naturalization case that I have taken from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid that involves a Liberian immigrant. It is rewarding to see that someone from so far away and from a different way of life can begin a new life in the United States. The case took over a year to get to this point, and I'm just happy that we were successful.
With what firm do you work and what are your primarily areas of practice?
I work at the firm of Mark Rosenblum, P.A., practicing criminal defense in state and federal court. I also do some immigration work, helping clients obtain residency and naturalization. My third area of practice is family law.
What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?
It is a very rewarding experience. The pro bono clients really appreciate the help and effort that is put into the case. It also provides more experience for the attorney. It is a great feeling to be able to help someone pro bono that would have otherwise possibly not have received a good outcome.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman of The JBA Pro Bono Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pro bono involvement is not new to Vanessa Newtson. Most recently, her efforts resulted in a client being approved for citizenship after 13 years in the United States.