Leading by action
Taking on pro bono cases to help immigrants
Sara M. Berry has been interested in the law profession since she was a teenager. After graduating from the University of New Mexico in 2002 with a degree in Spanish and criminology, she went to work as a legal secretary in the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.
Berry, now an associate at Holland & Hart, was asked one day to interpret a victim-impact statement of a grieving Spanish-speaking mother at a sentencing. The woman’s boyfriend had beaten her 2-year-old child to death, and translating her story was heart-wrenching but also gratifying.
“It was satisfying to let the court know how this crime affected her,” Berry says.
That experience and her desire to help people who might fall through the cracks of the legal system prompted Berry to earn a law degree at the University of Idaho in 2007. She served as a law clerk to Judge Stephen Trott of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Sergio Gutierrez of the Idaho Court of Appeals, and then worked at Stoel Rives for four years.
Berry’s practice at Holland & Hart focuses on commercial litigation. She also takes on pro bono cases, many of them to help immigrants who are victims of crime to get visas to remain in the United States. Many of these clients are victims of domestic abuse, she says.
“Frequently, abusers will use their lack of legal status against them, and this is one way to help them,” Berry says.
Berry also represented two Iraqi women for free in a suit over delays in obtaining their green cards, and the two eventually were sworn in as citizens as a result of the litigation.
In another case, she was recruited to be part of a team representing two people who were shot in 2010 by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies. The deputies appealed a damages award to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Berry assisted in argument preparation and attended the oral arguments in 2017. The award was upheld.
In addition to the pro bono cases, Berry serves on the Idaho Botanical Garden board. She has helped in the planning process for a new strategic plan and is active in raising funds for the organization.
Mary York, a partner at Holland & Hart, notes in a letter of recommendation that Berry has won a number of awards for her pro bono work and writes, “As with everything Sara does, she lives what she believes in and leads by action.”