Partner Jessica Ring Amunson Wins US Supreme Court Victory on behalf of Pro Bono Client
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
Jenner & Block Partner Jessica Ring Amunson represents Rodney Class, a retired veteran who was convicted of and pleaded guilty to possessing firearms on US Capitol grounds. In Class vs. United States, Ms. Amunson argued that her client’s guilty plea does not bar him from appealing the conviction on Second Amendment and due process grounds. In a 6-3 decision announced on February 21, 2018, the Court held that “a guilty plea, by itself, does not bar a federal criminal defendant from challenging the constitutionality of his statute of conviction on direct appeal.”
“In this case, Class neither expressly nor implicitly waived his constitutional claims by pleading guilty,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch. The holding flows directly from the Court’s prior decisions, according to the opinion. The holding means that the earlier decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
This term, the firm has six cases before the Court; five of those are for pro bono clients. The Court’s decision in favor of Mr. Class is the second victory this term for a Jenner & Block pro bono client in the Supreme Court. On January 22, 2018, the Court agreed with arguments made by Partner Adam G. Unikowsky in Artis v. District of Columbia, a case that concerns the statute of limitations for litigants who file state-law claims in federal courts only to have those courts decline to exercise jurisdiction over those claims. The firm also represents pro bono clients in Marinello v. United States, argued by partner Matt Hellman on December 6, 2017; Gill v. Whitford, argued by former partner Paul M. Smith on October 3, 2017; and Abbott v. Perez, which has not yet been set for argument.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Ms. Amunson. “Mr. Class has maintained all along that he was convicted under an unconstitutional statute, and he will now have the chance to make those arguments to the court of appeals. As to the broader ramifications of the decision, as the dissent pointed out, roughly 95 percent of felony cases in federal and state courts are resolved by guilty pleas, so this decision potentially impacts a broad range of cases.”
In addition to Ms. Amunson, the team representing Mr. Class includes Associates Joshua M. Parker, Corinne M. Smith and Leonard R. Powell; Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson; Docket Assistant Tyler J. Edwards; and Legal Secretary Sheree A. Anyiam.
Judge Orders DHS to Respond More Quickly to Muslim Group’s FOIA Request
Jenner & Block Associate Joshua M. Parker and Partner Kelly M. Morrison are mentioned in a Law360 article about the latest development in a Freedom of Information Act request. The team represents a public interest group called Muslim Advocates on a pro bono basis. The group seeks information under FOIA related to allegedly discriminatory policies targeting Muslims for searches following the Trump administration’s immigration ban. According to the article, titled “DHS Must Speed Up Travel-Ban Doc Production, Judge Says,” at a status conference convened at the request of Muslim Advocates, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ordered the DHS and CBP to “pick up the pace” on its productions in response to Muslim Advocates’ FOIA request. The judge shot down the CBP’s proposed cap of 250 incident reports, instead ordering that CBP produce the 1,800 incident reports Muslim Advocates requested, and to do so at a faster pace than CBP offered to do.
Partner Louis Fogel Elected to Board of the Public Interest Law Initiative
PILI’s mission is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families and communities in need. Mr. Fogel is an alumnus of PILI’s Graduate Fellowship Program, which places associates from Chicago law firms at public interest law agencies in Illinois.
The Heart of the Matter 2017 Report
Jenner & Block is pleased to present The Heart of the Matter
, our annual report that covers highlights of our pro bono and community service from 2017.
Our dedicated micro-website reflects the breadth of Jenner & Block’s pro bono program. Through featured articles and videos, we have illustrated stories of how Jenner & Block has changed the lives of the clients and organizations we are privileged to represent.
Helping Unaccompanied Minors
To stay informed about new pro bono developments in 2018, please also visit The Heart of the Matter blog
In October of 2017 and in January of 2018, about 20 young people facing deportation from the United States – legally called “unaccompanied minors” – came to Jenner & Block’s New York office for day-long clinics aimed at screening them for immigration relief.
The firm partnered with KIND, or Kids In Need of Defense, to run the clinic. KIND’s mission is to protect children who enter the US immigration system alone and strives to ensure that no such child appears in immigration court without representation. The firm has a longstanding relationship with KIND and has handled many immigration cases referred to the firm from them.
The clinics held last fall and this year represented the first time that Jenner & Block and KIND joined forces to screen young clients on-site and direct them to their next steps in the immigration process.
The firm participants – including lawyers, staff and others – first underwent a training session and then jumped into the work, interviewing one or two clients each. At the end of the screening process, the interviewers would guide the clients toward the appropriate next step, such as applying for a visa or asylum and set them up to find lawyers to seek that immigration relief.
The firm team that organized the clinics with KIND included Partner Michael W. Ross, Associates Jacob D. Alderdice and Thomas D. Garza and Legal Assistant Azza Khalifa.
Firm’s Amicus Brief Challenges Warrantless Searches of Devices at the Border
Jenner & Block submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in support of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government’s warrantless search and seizure of electronic devices at the border. Filed on February 2, 2018, the brief urges a federal judge to deny a motion from the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to dismiss Alasaad, et. al. v. Nielsen, et. al. The brief argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person’s thoughts, communications, associations and movements, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers’ First Amendment rights. The firm is representing the organizations on a pro bono basis.
According to the brief, “Because electronic devices are necessary to newsgathering, searches of these devices at the border can force disclosure to the government of First Amendment-protected activity. These searches are often highly invasive, to a degree that would make reasonable journalists question whether they are really free to conduct their work. The contents of electronic devices can reveal the stories a journalist is developing, with whom she is communicating, and her specific travel plans. Disclosure of such information can expose sensitive newsgathering methods and deter potential sources from speaking to members of the media.”
The team writing the brief included Partner Scott B. Wilkens and Associate Michael E. Stewart.