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Volunteer Spotlight: Matthew Lizotte, ESQ, Defender of Refugees and Asylees

Matthew Lizotte Catholic Charities New York Spotlight
Matthew Lizotte, Esq., Volunteer Immigration Attorney at Catholic Charities
// Catholic Charities New York

Matthew Lizotte is an attorney who has volunteered with The Catholic Charities Pro Bono Project and defended refugees and asylees in immigration proceedings since 2019. Outside of his work with Catholic Charities, he is a solo practitioner and owner of Lizotte PLLC, a law firm focused on real estate litigation and estate planning.

Matthew’s first case with the Catholic Charities Pro Bono Project was an asylum matter for a Ukrainian national who was persecuted by the government because of his anti-corruption political opinion and activities. As a result of his political protests, the client and others in the movement faced physical violence, threats, property damage, detention, and arrest. Matthew began working with him early on in his legal battle, and it was important for Matthew to appear with his client so that he would not have an individual hearing set without representation. The Immigration Judge set the individual hearing for July 2021, which, at the time, seemed unimaginably far away.

Less than a year after that first hearing, Matthew, his client, and the whole world found themselves at the mercy of a global pandemic, unable to meet in-person and begin preparations for the immigration hearing. Undeterred, Matthew and Catholic Charities began to prepare in earnest for his client's upcoming individual hearing virtually. Matthew has been exceptionally diligent in his preparation for the hearing, taking his tasks step by step and closely following the guidance of his Catholic Charities supervisor.

Matthew says that, “in six plus years practicing law, working on this case has easily been the most rewarding experience. I cannot describe how great it feels to find an opportunity to use what I have learned at Fordham University School of Law and as a practitioner to help someone who has faced tremendous difficulties in his home country. The fact that this opportunity combines my interest in politics and world affairs with legal work and giving back puts it beyond parallel. I am extremely thankful to Catholic Charities for the work they do and for providing me with this opportunity to give back. The team Catholic Charities has assembled to work with me, including the attorneys supervising the case, Pro Bono Legal Manager Susan Marks, Supervising Attorney Victor Cueva, and volunteers Karyna Tafel and Amy Rosenbluth are absolutely outstanding.”

Working with Matthew has confirmed for our team that with care and supervision, a dedicated solo practitioner can achieve success with a defensive asylum case placement. The types of cases Matthew works on require extensive client interviewing, preparation, research and legal briefing, and many pro bono agencies choose to place asylum matters exclusively with large law firm volunteers, but Matthew’s thoroughness and dedication has allowed him to achieve success on these complex cases. Catholic Charities is committed to teaching these skills forward so that attorneys like Matthew can significantly contribute to reforming the asylum system in the United States and to advocating for clients, like O, who seek protection from harm.