Jenner & Block Honors Lawyers and Staff with 2019 Pro Bono Awards
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2018 pro bono results:
On July 18, Jenner & Block hosted its annual Pro Bono Awards reception to honor lawyers and staff who uphold the firm’s dedication to pro bono work. This year’s Albert E. Jenner Award honorees are Partners Todd C. Toral and Keisha N. Stanford and Associates Alice S. Kim and Eric H. Lamm. Their team, led by Mr. Toral, obtained a significant victory for two civilian Department of Defense lawyers who fought to resign from representing the alleged mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing in 2000 after learning the US government serially invaded the attorney-client privilege by eavesdropping on their confidential communications with their client. The firm also recognized Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson with the Excellence in Pro Bono or Public Service award. Ms. Olson’s dedication and commitment to the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice has led to major wins for the firm’s pro bono clients.
Chicago Tribune Features Pro Bono Client Aaron Holzmueller
Aaron, who has cerebral palsy, is a devoted student athlete, and the article traces his athletic career from childhood to college. Part of his story includes a pioneering legal battle against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), a case the firm took on, pro bono. For years, the firm represented Aaron as he fought to compel the IHSA to institute a para-ambulatory division for the state track meet so that these athletes could have an opportunity to competein the season’s showcase event. In February 2018, a Seventh Circuit panel affirmed a lower court’s opinion in favor of the ISHA. Aaron has since graduated from high school and now competes in track and cross-country at Beloit College in Wisconsin. “I just wanted to try to get awareness out,” Aaron told the Chicago Tribune of his battle against the IHSA. “Even though I didn’t get the result I was hoping for, I wanted to let people know about runners like me. I definitely can see it changing one day.” The firm team included Partners Louis E. Fogel, Devi M. Rao, Clifford W. Berlow, and Shaun M. Van Horn; Associates Abraham M. Salander, Lina R. Powell, Ren-How H. Harn, David B. Diesenhouse and James Dawson; and paralegal Daniel Garcia.
Click here to read more about Aaron’s case in The Heart of the Matter and here for a video.
Click here to read the Tribune article, titled “Evanston’s Aaron Holzmueller Hasn’t Let Cerebral Palsy Keep Him from Competing as a College Runner. And He Has His Eyes on a Future Paralympic Games.”
Firm Ranks No. 1 in Pro Bono for 10th Year in The American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
Once again, The American Lawyer has recognized Jenner & Block as the No. 1 law firm in the United States for pro bono service. This marks the 10th time the firm has achieved the top spot in the annual survey of pro bono commitment among AmLaw 200 firms. The American Lawyer’s annual survey ranking is based on 2018 hours, which totaled more than 83,000. Our lawyers contributed, on average, nearly 170 hours of pro bono work during the year, and 100 percent of US-based lawyers performed more than 20 hours. In international pro bono work, the firm climbed four rankings to secure third place.
Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, comments in the profile that the firm doesn’t think of pro bono work in terms of politics, but instead in terms of serving those without access to legal representation. “Our commitment to pro bono has continued over decades in various administrations. We were one of the first law firms to join the fight against the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay under previous administrations. We’ve been doing asylum work for many years and continue to do that today,” he says. The publication also highlights our work to secure justice for hundreds of former students of the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute.
Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999. The firm has placed among the leading 10 pro bono programs nationwide every year since the survey began in 1990.
Firm Named to PILI’s 2019 Pro Bono Recognition Roster
Jenner & Block is one of 48 law firms and corporations in Illinois named to the Public Interest Law Initiative’s (PILI) Pro Bono Recognition Roster. Launched in 1999, the Pro Bono Initiative Program aims to enhance the scope and quantity of pro bono legal assistance in Illinois for those who lack access to justice. Law firms named to the roster must demonstrate a commitment to their pro bono programs and must meet at least two of the following qualifications: an average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional; a five percent increase in Illinois office(s) pro bono hours from the previous year; pro bono participation by 60 percent or more of the firm’s Illinois lawyers; participation in the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Law Firm Leadership Circle or one of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee Pro Bono Pledges; and adoption of innovative steps to expand the firm’s pro bono program.
Jenner & Block has been on the roster since 2010.
Firm Team Receives Victory for Obama Presidential Center when Judge Dismisses Lawsuit
On June 11, Judge John Robert Blakey of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the lawsuit challenging construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), providing a significant victory for the delayed project on Chicago’s south side. In Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Chicago Park District, the plaintiffs alleged that creating the OPC in Jackson Park—and allowing the Obama Foundation to operate the center under an agreement that the Chicago City Council unanimously approved—would violate the Public Trust Doctrine and certain other laws.
Firm Team Partners with the National Immigrant Justice Center to Secure Asylum for Pro Bono Client
However, in his 52-page decision, Judge Blakey wrote, ““the OPC does not, as a matter of law, violate the public trust under the level of scrutiny applied to never-submerged lands” and “even under the heightened levels of scrutiny (applied to formerly submerged and submerged lands), the OPC still does not violate the public trust.” As a result, he found that “[t]he facts do not warrant a trial, and construction should commence without delay.”
In November 2018, a firm team including Chair Craig C. Martin, Partner Daniel J. Weiss and Associates Gabriel K. Gillett and Henry C. Thomas filed an amicus brief, pro bono, on behalf of all 11 museums located on Chicago parkland. In support of the now-granted motion for summary judgment, the amici provided the court with historical context about the long tradition of locating museums in Chicago’s public parks and highlighted the potential practical consequences that may result if the OPC was not allowed to open on parkland.
A Jenner & Block team won an important asylum victory for pro bono client Oscar, an effeminate gay man from rural Guatemala who suffered multiple rapes as a teenager before fleeing his country in 2015 in fear of his life. That same year, Discovery Attorney Pedro Fernandez, former partner Reena Bajowala and former associate Ben Halbig partnered with the National Immigrant Justice Center to represent Oscar in his application for asylum while he was still detained. They worked to get Oscar released on bond, prepared his asylum materials and helped him obtain a work permit.
In April 2016, during Oscar’s final merits hearing, the team was unable to finish Oscar’s testimony. The immigration court cut off the testimony, citing time limitations and continued the hearing until a future date. That date was then changed three more times. During this time frame, Partner Megan B. Poetzel and Associates Alexis E. Bates and Sara Kim joined the team. They worked to update Oscar’s materials, prepare his testimony, retain and prepare a country conditions expert report, and prepare expert testimony.
The final merits hearing finally happened on May 9, 2019. Relying almost entirely on the filed submissions, the immigration judge granted Oscar asylum, and the government waived its appeal, making the decision final. Oscar was overjoyed.
Over the past four years, many others have assisted with Oscar’s case, including Partners Rachel S. Morse and Wade A. Thomson, Associate Gabriel K. Gillett, Staff Attorney Leonardo Morales and Paralegal Cat Carraci.