Pro Bono Attorney Perspective: Duke Energy Lawyer Helps International Human Rights Advocate Seek Citizenship
Dr. Katrin Michael, an Iraqi national and human rights advocate, survived a chemical bomb attack perpetrated by the Saddam Hussein regime that sought to silence a group of freedom fighters. Ann Warren, associate general counsel of Duke Energy Corporation in Charlotte, is a staunch supporter of pro bono work. The two met in 2007 when Ms. Warren agreed to represent Dr. Michael on a pro bono basis in her application for a U visa, which is typically awarded to immigrants that assist US law enforcement in prosecution of criminal cases. Dr. Michael testified against Saddam Hussein at the International War Crimes tribunal about the chemical attack, which formed the basis for her U visa application. “Obtaining the U visa was a huge legal win because it was a novel grant of the visa to a US immigrant that testified against a foreign dictator,” says Ms. Warren.
After obtaining the U visa, Ms. Warren continued to represent Dr. Michael in a naturalization application for US citizenship. The case was more complex and lengthier than anticipated due to Dr. Michael’s previous immigration proceedings and failure of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services to make a timely ruling on her application. “My pro bono work for Dr. Michael over the past seven years has been incredibly rewarding because she can now advocate for freedoms for Iraqis while living safely in the United States,” says Ms. Warren. In August, Dr. Michael’s naturalization application was approved and she became a United States citizen. When Ms. Warren called to tell Dr. Michael that her application had been granted, she said it was one of the two best days in her life, the other being the day she testified against Saddam Hussein.
Ms. Warren is not only committed to personally doing pro bono work, but has also formed a number of pro bono projects at Duke Energy. Ms. Warren helped organize a partnership with Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein and Ingersoll Rand to expunge criminal records for low income individuals whose records presented a barrier to employment and economic stability. She also led the creation of Wills for Schools, a project that prepares wills for Charlotte Mecklenburg County School system employees and their spouses. Ann is a member of the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission and serves as the co-chair of the commission’s Pro Bono Committee. “Pro bono work has been some of the most rewarding legal work that I’ve done in my career, and I look forward to creating more opportunities for others to get involved in this type of work in the future,” says Ms. Warren.
For more information about pro bono opportunities in your area, visit NCProBono.org, a resource for North Carolina attorneys interested in doing pro bono.