Jenner & Block Associates Secure Five-Figure Settlement in Civil Rights Case
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2018 pro bono results:
Three associates based in the firm’s Los Angeles office led a team that obtained a $26,000 settlement for a wheelchair-bound prisoner in a civil rights claim against a prison physician.
Associates Wesley M. Griffith, Alexander M. Smith and Effiong K. Dampha led the team, which included support from Partner Kirsten Hicks Spira.
Pro bono client Hilliard Williams filed a Section 1983 lawsuit against a physician at the California Medical Facility, a state prison, for not providing him adequate pain medication following second-degree burns to his face, neck, arm and chest. Despite our client’s repeated statements to the defendant that he was in severe pain, and the conclusion of four other doctors who examined him that day that he was in pain, the defendant did not administer medication or inquire if the client was in pain, in violation of prison policy.
The case settled a week before it was scheduled to go to trial in the Eastern District of California. Although one in 10 lawsuits filed in federal court is a Section 1983 claim, these are frequently dismissed early and are known to be difficult cases to advance so close to trial.
The settlement judge overseeing the case thanked the team repeatedly for its dedication to pro bono, which is a core value of the firm, and its willingness to commit extensive resources to the matter.
Jenner & Block Associates Secure Favorable, Rare Outcomes for Two Pro Bono Clients
Through Jenner & Block’s work serving on the Criminal Justice Act panel in the United States District Court for the Southern District New York, a team of associates secured favorable, rare outcomes in two pro bono matters. The first involved a client who was charged with serious violations stemming from a series of armed robberies. While his involvement in these offenses was minor; however, one of his charges carried a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence due to the use of a gun during the robberies. Led by Associates Edelí Rivera and Jessica A. Martinez, with supervision from Partner Katya Jestin, the team negotiated an agreement with the government that allowed the client to plead to a lesser charge. And even though he still faced 41 to 51 months’ imprisonment under the lesser charge to which he pled, the client was sentenced to only 16 months in jail, 14 of which he had already served. After the proceedings concluded, Edelí’s effective oral advocacy earned high praise from presiding Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr.
The second pro bono matter involved a client being investigated for embezzlement from a labor union. For almost two years, Associate Ali M. Arain led the case, supervised by Partner Anthony S. Barkow and assisted by Associates Lori B. Day and Jacob Lincoln Tracer and law clerk Andrew D. Whinery. The team persuaded the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to give our client a rare deferred prosecution agreement, providing that if our client pays back the money at issue, he would not be prosecuted and will have no criminal record. The client repeatedly thanked Ali and the team, stating that they had “saved his life,” “gave him his humanity” and “treated him with dignity and respect.”
Judge Grants Motion to Suppress Evidence and Dismisses Case Against Pro Bono Client
A firm team successfully proved that Chicago police had no reason to arrest our pro bono client on charges of carrying a gun without a concealed carry permit. In granting the firm’s motion to suppress evidence, Judge Steven Watkins stated that the stop and arrest of the firm’s client were improper.
At issue was the gun that the client was carrying when police stopped him as he walked home in his Chicago neighborhood. The client legally purchased the gun, and he had a valid Firearm Owners Identification card, but he did not yet have a conceal carry permit. The arresting officers claimed that the client was looking into a window of a commercial business, and once stopped, one officer claimed he saw a “bulge” protruding from the client’s waistband, giving him probable cause to search.
However, the team developed a creative defense strategy for the evidentiary hearing in Cook County Criminal Court. The client was put on the stand wearing exactly the same hooded sweatshirt and winter jacket he was wearing the night of the search. The team put a replica gun in the client’s waistband, illustrating that the officer could not have seen any “bulge.” The client and the officers were also questioned about the client looking into the window. The judge found the stop, and therefore the arrest, to be improper.
The firm team included Partners Andrew F. Merrick and Sarah F. Weiss and Associate Miriam J. Wayne.
North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” Dispute Ends with Consent Decree Protecting Transgender Individuals
Jenner & Block served as pro bono co-counsel with Lambda Legal and the ACLU of North Carolina in a three-year battle to protect the rights of transgender individuals. On July 23, a federal judge approved a consent decree clarifying that transgender individuals cannot be prohibited from using state-run restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The dispute dates back to 2016, when the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2, which required transgender people to use public facilities matching their birth sex. The firm filed a lawsuit against the state and the University of North Carolina, where several of the named plaintiffs worked or attended. The plaintiffs won a partial preliminary injunction blocking HB 2 on Title IX grounds. But in 2017, the General Assembly passed HB 142. Although HB 142 repealed HB 2, it also pre-empted any further “regulation “ of access to restrooms and other facilities by any state agency, local government, school board or other government entity.
The consent decree prohibits the executive branch defendants, including their successors, from interpreting HB 142 to prevent transgender individuals from lawfully using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity and permanently enjoins the executive branch from applying HB 142 to bar, prohibit, block, deter or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity.
Associate Andrew C. Noll argued for the plaintiffs in favor of the consent decree at hearings earlier this year. In addition, the team included Partners Devi M. Rao and Emily Chapuis and Associates Caroline C. Cease and Zachary Blau. Partners Ian Heath Gershengorn and Adam G Unikowsky and Associate Lauren J. Hartz helped prepare Mr. Noll for oral argument. Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Associate Manager of Docketing Services Tyler Edwards provided critical paralegal and docketing support.
News of the consent decree was reported widely, including in the New York Times and Law360.
NAACP Recognizes Firm Team with “Foot Soldier in the Sand Award”
During its annual convention in Detroit, the NAACP presented the firm with its “Foot Soldier in the Sand Award” for our pro bono work fighting for a fair 2020 Census.
In the case, the firm and the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School are representing the NAACP, Prince George’s County, Maryland, the NAACP’s Prince George’s County branch and two county residents. Filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, NAACP v. Census Bureau aims to combat the threat that the 2020 Census will unconstitutionally undercount minority communities, leading to inequalities in political representation and federal funding.
Census results determine the number of congressional seats each state receives, the redrawing of legislative district lines and the enforcement of voting rights laws. The federal government also uses Census data to distribute federal funding. In the 2010 Census, Prince George’s County, which has a majority African American population, suffered a 2.3 percent net undercount—the largest net undercount of any county in Maryland and one of the largest of any county in the nation. The lawsuit seeks to compel the Bureau of the Census to prepare for and conduct a full and fair 2020 Census, as the Constitution requires.
The federal government sought to dismiss the suit, but in January 2019, US District Court Judge Paul Grimm denied the Census Bureau’s motion to dismiss. The case is pending.
The team includes Partners Susan J. Kohlmann, Jeremy M. Creelan and Michael W. Ross; Associates Jacob D. Alderdice, Alex S. Trepp; Logan Gowdey, Amy Egerton-Wiley, Olivia Hoffman, Zachary Blau and Matthew J. Phillips; Law Clerks Alexa Kissinger and Andrew Whinery; and Project Assistant Esmeralda Bako.
Jenner & Block Honors Lawyers and Staff with 2019 Pro Bono Awards
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.