June 24, 2009

Faegre & Benson Lawyers Recognized for Pro Bono Contributions to Liberian Diaspora Project

Faegre & Benson partner James A. O' Neal and pro bono counsel Dianne C. Heins received special recognition from The Advocates for Human Rights at the organization's annual awards dinner on June 23. O'Neal and Heins, along with lawyers from two other local firms, were honored for their leadership in the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Diaspora Project.

The project, which began in 2006, was an ambitious effort to take statements from Minnesota's 25,000-member Liberian community and document human rights abuses that occurred during the country's 23-year civil war.

Serving on a project management team that helped mobilize volunteers and leverage financial resources, O'Neal and Heins contributed hundreds of pro bono hours to ensure the statements and recommendations of the diaspora community were included in the Liberian transitional justice process. Their work included drafting key documents, taking statements from members of the Liberian community, and preparing and presenting witnesses at public hearings.

Originating in Minnesota, the Liberian Diaspora Project grew into an international initiative in which statements were taken by volunteers in 12 cities across the U.S., U.K. and Ghana, West Africa. The Minneapolis-based Advocates for Human Rights jointly administered the project on behalf of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Earlier this year, O'Neal, who leads the Faegre & Benson LLP product liability practice and focuses on drug and device litigation, received the 2008 John C. Benson Pro Bono Award from the firm's management committee. Established in 1994, the Benson Award is presented annually to a lawyer who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to the delivery of pro bono legal service.

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