On My Side 2020 Honoree
Advocate of the Year
Agnieszka M. Fryszman
Partner at Cohen Milstein
The Advocate of the Year Award honors an individual who has shown extraordinary commitment to legal advocacy and research to support the rights of trafficking survivors. For more than a decade, Agnieszka Fryszman has handled the most complex, challenging human trafficking cases brought in the U.S. federal courts. She has represented Nepali migrant workers trafficked to U.S. military bases in Iraq, domestic workers trafficked by diplomats into the United States, and Cambodian workers allegedly held in forced labor in factories in Thailand. Agnieszka’s cutting-edge work has inspired lawyers across the globe to bring cases to combat forced labor in supply chains. She has traveled abroad with the Human Trafficking Legal Center to provide pro bono training to advocates on strategic litigation. Agnieszka is the country’s leading expert on extraterritorial human trafficking/forced labor litigation in the federal courts.
About the Honoree
Agnieszka Fryszman is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and Chair of the firm’s Human Rights practice.
Ms. Fryszman has been recognized as leading one of the best private international human rights practices in the world.
Ms. Fryszman represents individuals who have been victims of torture, human trafficking, forced and slave labor and other violations of international law. A recognized expert and leader in the field of human rights law, Ms. Fryszman regularly litigates cases against corporate giants.
She was a member of the legal team that successfully represented survivors of Nazi-era forced and slave labor against the German and Austrian companies that allegedly profited from their labor. These cases were resolved by international negotiations that resulted in multi-billion-dollar settlements.
Ms. Fryszman earned the National Law Journal Pro Bono Award for efforts on behalf of Nepali laborers injured or killed at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her team obtained several judgments and significant settlements on behalf of the families. She currently represents victims of a human trafficking ring that allegedly lured men from Nepal with the promise of employment at luxury hotels, but instead took them against their will to work for a U.S. military contractor in Iraq.
Ms. Fryszman also filed and settled the first successfully resolved case of fishing boat slavery in the world. She represented two Indonesian men who escaped from a fishing boat when it docked in California. The settlement included provisions intended to protect future seamen, including a code of conduct for ship captains and a hand-out for seamen informing them of their rights and who to call for help.
Ms. Fryszman has also represented men and women who were trafficked by diplomats, in the seafood industry, and to work cleaning houses in Northern Virginia. In one recent case, after Ms. Fryszman obtained a full recovery for her client in a civil suit, the Department of Justice brought criminal charges, resulting in guilty pleas by the perpetrators.
Her work on behalf of the former “comfort women,” women and girls trafficked into sexual slavery by the government of Japan during World War II, was recognized with the “Fierce Sister” award from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Ms. Fryszman is also leading a high-profile litigation against the Republic of Turkey for its role in the brutal May 16, 2017 attack of peaceful protestors, outside the Turkish Chief of Mission Residence in Washington D.C.
Ms. Fryszman has received some of the legal profession’s highest honors, including being named a "Lawdragon Legend" in 2019, which recognizes 30 of the “nation’s elite lawyers,” who have been annually recognized among the Lawdragon 500 for at least ten years. Also in 2019, The National Law Journal named Ms. Fryszman an “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs Bar,” recognizing women attorneys who “have consistently excelled in high-stakes matters on behalf of plaintiffs over the course of their careers.” Benchmark Plaintiff has named her a Leading Star Plaintiffs’ Litigator and one of the Top 150 Women in Litigation. For her pro bono work, she has been awarded the Beacon of Justice Award by the National Legal Aid and Defender and the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights. She was also a finalist for the Public Justice Foundation's Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for her work on Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell. Ms. Fryszman joined the legal team in that case to prepare it for trial, resulting in a multi-million-dollar settlement on the morning of jury selection.
Ms. Fryszman represented, pro bono, victims of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and obtained one of the highest awards for an injured survivor from the Victim’s Compensation Fund.
Ms. Fryszman also represented, pro bono, two individuals detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay who were ultimately cleared without charge.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein in 1998, Ms. Fryszman served as counsel to the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, and as counsel to Representative Henry Waxman, Ranking Member on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Earlier in her career, she was legislative director to U.S. Representative, now Senator, Jack Reed.
Ms. Fryszman graduated from Brown University with an A.B. in International Relations, and earned her law degree from Georgetown University, graduating magna cum laude, Order of the Coif. At law school, she was a Public Interest Law Scholar.