A Judge at Risk: Vance Center at Work

December 2022

Dear Friends of the Vance Center,

Guatemalan Judge Erika Aifán courageously faced years of threats and attacks on her judicial independence and personal safety as a trial judge presiding over corruption and organized crime cases for Guatemala’s High Risk Court. With her leadership, the Vance Center helped establish the Guatemalan Association of Judges for Integrity, as part of our initiative to strengthen judicial independence across Central America and Mexico.

However, powerful opponents moved to lift Judge Aifán’s immunity and threatened prosecution and imprisonment on fabricated accusations, so she fled Guatemala to the United States, where the Vance Center has helped her get settled.

We were honored that Judge Aifán joined us at our recent 20th Anniversary events, in a roundtable discussion “Redressing Corruption in the Private and Public Sectors”. Recounting her experiences, the judge stressed the importance of support from the global legal community to build the capacity and independence of judges handling high-level corruption cases.

Judge Aifán continues to collaborate in our efforts to promote judicial integrity and independence in Guatemala and the region. The Vance Center began this work in 2013 with an international delegation assessing the risks to the rule of law and the business environment stemming from the Constitutional Court’s sudden reversal of the landmark conviction of Guatemala’s longtime dictator for crimes against humanity. Other delegations followed, and we received financial support to join Judge Aifán and her colleagues in seeking to institutionalize judicial independence.

We ask that you please support this work by making a donation to the Vance Center. If you are able, please make a special gift in honor of our 20th Anniversary. You can contribute here or let us know by email, if you prefer to make your contribution by check or bank transfer.

With gratitude,

P.S. Please see below a report on our accomplishments in 2022.

Vance Center 2022 Accomplishments

The Vance Center worked with 615 lawyers from 145 law firms from 120 countries to support civil society clients in the areas of: human rights and access to justice; the environment; good governance; and press freedom. Our pro bono representation:

  • Protected environmental rights through: support of local women land defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean under the Escazú Agreement; and amicus curiae submissions, asserting the new international human right to a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment, which over ten years we helped to advance towards recognition this summer by the UN General Assembly.
  • Organized international legal support for 275 migrant families and children, fleeing social, political, and environmental violence in 28 countries and seeking immigration relief in the United States.
  • Focused our advocacy of women prisoners’ rights on a strategic litigation initiative to apply international legal protections in Latin America and address the particular causes and consequences of the incarceration of women worldwide.
  • Addressed children’s rights in Somaliland, women’s reproductive rights in Namibia, and digital rights across the African continent, while investigating threats to democratic governance in West Africa through engagement with multi-sectoral stakeholders.
  • Expanded the Lawyers Council’s Anti-Corruption Assessment to 17 countries in Latin America and began implementing its recommendations, and strengthened support of judicial independence and integrity across Central America and Mexico.
  • Represented media organizations at risk in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, and Belarus, and provided pro bono support to local media organizations in 30 U.S. states and mission-driven national non-profit media.

We also expanded our support of pro bono practice, ethics, and diversity in the global legal profession.

  • The Women in the Profession Program launched the WIP national chapter in Nigeria, the first WIP chapter on the African continent.
  • The second cohort of the TotalLaw Prep Program, mentoring Afro-Descendant and Indigenous lawyers in Latin America to advance professionally, gained admission to top U.S. LLM programs.
  • The Access to Justice Practicum expanded to Brazil, Chile, and Peru, providing recent law graduates with hands-on experience and intensive training in public interest law.
  • The African Legal Fellows Program welcomed the first lawyer from Ethiopia, adding to the total of 61 fellows from South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya who have worked in U.S. law firms to gain practical experience and professional networks.

We enjoyed significant growth, not only in our programs, but also in our budget, which increased 21%, and our staff, which expanded by 38%. Please hear from our staff and partners in our new video.

A copy of our most recently filed financial report and information on other charitable organizations is available from the NY Attorney General’s Charities Registry ( or (212) 416-8686. The report is also available upon request by contacting the Fund at 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. ​