Leslie Thorne and Emily Westridge Black Named Finalists for 2019 Texas Legal Awards Professional Excellence – Attorney of the Year


Texas Lawyer has selected Haynes and Boone, LLP Partners Leslie Thorne and Emily Westridge Black as finalists for the 2019 Attorney of the Year Award.

They were recognized for their successful, pro bono representation of a 29-year-old woman who fled Honduras with her 12-year-old daughter to escape government-sponsored violence.

The client, who was not named in the suit, was separated from her daughter at the border and an immigration official determined she had no right to asylum despite giving her no meaningful opportunity to state her case. Thorne and Westridge Black filed suit, alleging due-process violations and seeking a restraining order to stop the client’s removal from the U.S. In a precedent-setting order, Houston federal judge Lee Rosenthal blocked the woman’s removal pending reunification with her daughter and full due process as part of an ordinary asylum review process. As a direct result of the ruling, the client was quickly released from detention and reunited with her daughter.

In its announcement of the four finalists for Attorney of the Year, Texas Lawyer commended Thorne and Westridge Black for winning a ruling that marked the first time, since the Trump Administration announced its zero-tolerance approach to prosecuting asylum claims, that a federal judge exercised jurisdiction over an expedited immigration proceeding. “The ruling was notable for its timing: it came at the height of the border crisis, when thousands of children were being detained and separated from their parents and asylum were being summarily turned away,” Texas Lawyer wrote.

The Attorney of the Year finalists will be honored at Texas Lawyer’s Professional Excellence Awards, held Sept. 18 at the Belo Mansion in Dallas.

“The entire firm is proud of Leslie and Emily’s precedent-setting work,” said Ben Mesches, chair of Haynes and Boone’s Litigation Department. “It underscores the firm’s commitment to the rule of law and due process and serves as a powerful example about how lawyers can and should help address the continuing crisis at the U.S. border.”

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