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WilmerHale Helps in Effort to Pass Landmark Peace Corps Reform Legislation
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The United States House of Representatives passed the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 on November 1st. The legislation enacted historic reforms to the Peace Corps’ policies for the prevention of rape and sexual assault of its volunteers and for providing assistance to volunteers who are the victims of sexual assault during their service. The Senate passed the bill on September 26. It has been sent to President Obama, and he is expected to sign it into law.

WilmerHale provided representation for five returned Peace Corps volunteers who were sexually assaulted during their service. The attorneys helped gather and publicize evidence of longstanding, systemic weaknesses in the Peace Corps’ sexual assault prevention and response policies. In addition, the firm provided substantial technical assistance to volunteers and others advocating the newly enacted reforms.

  
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The firm praised Congress for acting, and current Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams for supporting the landmark legislation. WilmerHale’s pro bono team was led by Associates Natalie Adams and Robert Zachary Beasley and Summer Associate Matthew Robinson, and supported by Partners Reginald Brown, Kimberly Parker, Eric Mogilnicki and John Valentine.

Senators Isakson and Boxer and Representatives Ros-Lehtinen, Poe and Tsongas provided congressional leadership. Pro bono public relations support was provided by Michele Davis and Anthony Coley of Brunswick Group.

The bill was named for a Peace Corps volunteer killed in Benin in 2009.

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According to the November 2nd legaltimes.com article, “Congress Passes Wilmer-Supported Legislation to Protect Peace Corp Volunteers”, the bill would require the Peace Corps to provide “comprehensive sexual assault risk-reduction and response training” and information about what should be done if a volunteer becomes the victim of sexual assault. It would also establish a sexual assault advisory council and require the agency to keep track of the incidents of sexual assault against volunteers.

Reginald Brown, a Wilmer partner and head of the firm’s congressional investigation practice was quoted as saying: “We are thrilled that Congress and the Peace Corps responded so quickly and comprehensively.”



Brown is a former Peace Corps volunteer; he served in Micronesia from 1990 to 1992. Former Peace Corps volunteers who had been victims of sexual assault contacted him, and from there, he put together a team of lawyers led by second-year associate Natalie Adams.

Brown was quoted as saying: “Natalie led this engagement as a second-year associate. Helping volunteers tell the story of their experiences, preparing for hearings and media events, negotiating with a federal agency and shepherding through legislation in less than a year is quite an accomplishment. Ultimately, the power of our clients’ stories and the sacrifice of Kate Puzey – who died trying to advocate for assault victims – made this legislation a reality.”

With over 1,100 attorneys, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP has twelve offices across the USA, Europe and Asia. The firm has consistently distinguished itself as a leader in pro bono representation.



 

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