Debevoise Pro Bono Work Highlighted in Wall Street Journal Article: “Former Judge Seeks to Shorten Mandatory Prison Terms He Once Imposed”

9 December 2020

Debevoise litigation partner John Gleeson, a former federal court judge, and litigation associate Marisa Taney were profiled in a Wall Street Journal article about The Holloway Project, the firm’s successful pro bono effort to create legal pathways for relief for prisoners serving excessively long sentences resulting from now-defunct mandatory sentencing provisions.  

Judge Gleeson, who founded The Holloway Project, was a district court judge in Brooklyn in 1996 when he sentenced Francois Holloway to a mandatory 57-year term for committing armed carjackings and participating in an illegal auto chop shop. The sentence was more than twice the average sentence in the federal system for murder.

Recognizing the unfair harshness of Mr. Holloway’s sentence, two decades later, Judge Gleeson persuaded the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta Lynch, to vacate the two counts of conviction so that Mr. Holloway could be resentenced and released from prison. When Judge Gleeson left the bench and joined Debevoise in 2016, he created The Holloway Project to advocate for federal prisoners, overwhelmingly men of color, who were given inhumane sentences under harsh mandatory sentencing laws, including firearms laws, which have since been corrected by Congress.

Under Judge Gleeson’s leadership and with the help of other lawyers at the firm, The Holloway Project team has assisted in obtaining the release of 11 prisoners and is now litigating the legal issues raised by the cases in seven circuits, having won already in the Fourth Circuit. The Holloway Project represents almost three dozen other prisoners in ongoing challenges to their sentences and continues to take on new clients.

In addition to Judge Gleeson and Ms. Taney, the team of lawyers and staff assisting prisoners through The Holloway Project includes associates Beata Aldridge, Delia Arias de Leon, Suchita Brundage, Emilia Brunello, Farhana Choudhury, Elizabeth Costello, Timothy Cuffman, Lauren Dolecki, Samuel Gelb, David Imamura, Daniel Joiner, Benjamin Leb, Malu Malhotra, William Mattessich, Dana McCann, Katherine Nelson, Joshua Roberts, Katherine Rooney, AJ Salomon, Leyla Salman, Elisabeth Shane, Madeline Silva, Eric Silverberg, Matthew Specht, Benjamin Stadler, Kate Stein, Leonie Stoute, Marisa Taney, Steven Tegrar, Sandy Tomasik, Caroline Zielinski and Amy Zimmerman, and corporate legal assistant Yeabsira Asrat, litigation analyst Melanie Audy, litigation case manager Heather Mehler and litigation analyst Deepti Sahrawat.