The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
Most trafficking victims in the United States do not have access to justice. In 2003, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which gave trafficking victims the right to sue their traffickers for damages. But in the 10 years since the law was passed, fewer than 100 civil cases have been filed under the civil human trafficking statute. Trafficked persons have significant rights under U.S. law, but they cannot exercise these rights without competent legal counsel. Pro bono attorneys can assist trafficking victims in participating fully in criminal cases against traffickers, and in launching civil suits against the perpetrators.
The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center serves as a clearinghouse for victims and law firms, bringing trafficking victims together with highly-competent, well-trained pro bono attorneys. The Center offers training and mentoring to attorneys handling pro bono trafficking cases, ensuring that strategic litigation in this area has maximum systemic impact.
Since its inception, the Center has provided training to hundreds of pro bono attorneys. In addition, the Center’s staff has placed 20 trafficking cases with pro bono attorneys from high-profile law firms. By leveraging the resources and talents of private sector firms, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center seeks to completely change the playing field for human traffickers.
Martina E. Vandenberg
Vandenberg has spent nearly two decades fighting human trafficking, forced labor, rape as a war crime, and violence against women. Vandenberg has represented victims of human trafficking pro bono in immigration, criminal, and civil cases. Widely regarded as an expert on an array of human rights issues, she has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the Helsinki Commission, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee. A former Human Rights Watch researcher, she spearheaded investigations into human rights violations in the Russian Federation, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Israel, and Ukraine, and authored the first published report documenting human trafficking in Israel. She is the author of two Human Rights Watch reports, “Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia & Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution,” and “Kosovo: Rape as a Weapon of ‘Ethnic Cleansing.’ ” While living in the Russian Federation, she co-founded Syostri, one of Russia’s first rape crisis centers for women.
Vandenberg established The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in 2012 with generous support from the Open Society Foundations (OSF) Fellowship Program. Before she became an OSF Fellow, Vandenberg was a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, where she focused on complex commercial litigation and internal investigations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. She served as a senior member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She received the 2006 Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award for her successful representation of trafficking victims in United States federal courts and her advocacy before Congress.
As pro bono advocacy counsel to the Freedom Network USA, Vandenberg received the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award for her “outstanding leadership and dedication in working to combat human trafficking and slavery in the United States.” A Rhodes Scholar and Truman Scholar, Vandenberg has also taught as adjunct faculty at the American University Washington College of Law.
Alexandra F. Levy
A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Levy has worked at the Center since its founding. She has performed extensive research on diplomatic immunity and trafficking, and recently co-authored a law review article on the challenges of bringing suit against diplomats and consular officials. Levy has contributed to instructional materials on trafficking litigation and created the first comprehensive database of cases litigated under the civil trafficking provisions of the 2003 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Prior to joining the Center, Levy provided legal representation to victims of domestic violence and discrimination.