Firm Joins Fight against North Carolina’s Revised “Bathroom Bill”
Jenner & Block, as co-counsel with Lambda Legal and the ACLU of North Carolina, on July 21, 2017, filed an amended complaint that challenges North Carolina’s replacement “bathroom bill.” At issue is HB 142, which replaced controversial HB 2 in March. The plaintiffs include a group of LGBT individuals who work at various North Carolina public institutions. The defendants include North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials. According to the plaintiffs, HB 142 bars the “regulation” of access to restrooms and other facilities in schools and other state or local government buildings in North Carolina, leaving transgender people vulnerable to discrimination and even possible arrest. It also prevents cities from passing any protections against discrimination in private employment or places of public accommodation until 2020.
“By deterring transgender individuals from using restrooms and other single-sex, multiple-user facilities that accord with their gender identity and preventing local governments from extending protections in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, HB 142 violates the United States Constitution and federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex,” the complaint reads.
Partner Scott B. Wilkens leads the firm team, which includes Partner Luke C. Platzer and Associates Andrew C. Noll, Benjamin J. Brysacz, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio and Thomas D. Garza.
Associate Kevin Murphy Profiled by Notre Dame Law School
Associate Kevin J. Murphy is featured in an article on the University of Notre Dame Law School website. Titled “ND Law Alumnus Part of Big Pro Bono Victory,” the profile explains that Mr. Murphy was part of a team that secured the release this spring of pro bono client Patrick Pursley, who had been incarcerated for more than 23 years. Mr. Murphy is a 2014 graduate of the law school. In the article, he is quoted saying, “With a few words, the conviction that had kept him in prison for 23 years was wiped away. It was great to be there to see the look on Patrick’s face, the look on his fiancée’s face, and to be a part of that moment.”
Please click here to read more about the Patrick Pursley case.
Jenner & Block Named No. 1 Law Firm for Pro Bono in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
Jenner & Block has once again been recognized as the No. 1 law firm in the country for pro bono service by The American Lawyer magazine. This marks the eighth time the firm has achieved the top spot in The American Lawyer’s annual survey of pro bono commitment among Big Law firms. Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 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.
The 2017 rankings are based on pro bono hours performed in 2016. Jenner & Block lawyers provided 141 pro bono hours per lawyer on average and 95 percent of them contributed more than 20 hours to pro bono matters. Overall, Jenner & Block lawyers performed more than 75,500 hours of pro bono work in 2016. The American Lawyer notes that the firm’s most significant pro bono matter in hours in 2016 was the court challenge to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which required that access to restrooms and changing facilities in all public buildings be restricted based on whether users are shown as male or female on their birth certificates -- thus effectively barring use by transgender persons. As co-counsel with Lambda Legal, the firm represented transgender students and employees at University of North Carolina institutions and devoted more than 1,800 hours toward the case. Last August, a federal district court judge enjoined the University from enforcing the bill, holding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the claim that the bill conflicted with requirements of Title IX.
The American Lawyer’s July edition includes an article in which Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Andrew W. Vail is quoted saying that the firm has a longstanding commitment toward LGBT rights cases, along with immigration rights and death penalty cases. “We’re very proud, and not in the ranking itself, but that it’s a reflection of and a recognition that pro bono is in Jenner & Block’s DNA. And, as the firm has grown in size, diversity, reach and practice, our pro bono program – and its numbers, impact and scope – has grown,” Mr. Vail says.
In another article about the survey, Mr. Vail observes that the reason the firm’s lawyers do so much pro bono work is that they like it. “Our attorneys are diverse and have a diverse range of passions and take on matters that they are passionate about,” he says.
For more information about Jenner & Block’s recent pro bono efforts, we invite you to check out the latest edition of The Heart of the Matter.
Jenner & Block Lawyers Win Asylum for Pro Bono Client
Jenner & Block Associate Nayiri K. Pilikyan recently won asylum for pro bono client Souraya “Sam” Semaan who fled to the United States from Lebanon to escape persecution.
Ms. Semaan, a lesbian, experienced police harassment in her native country, which has laws that are used to discriminate against the LGBT community. Several of her friends were arrested and subjected to physical abuse as a result of their sexual orientations. Ms. Semaan fled to relatives in California and sought asylum in 2014 with the assistance of Public Counsel, which enlisted the support of Jenner & Block’s on her case.
Ms. Pilikyan represented Ms. Semaan throughout the entire asylum process, which included spending several years on a waiting list. In February 2017, Ms. Pilikyan received a call asking her and Ms. Semaan to come in to the immigration office the next day for an administrative hearing. Although Ms. Pilikyan and her client had only one night to prepare, they were successful, and three months later, Ms. Semaan’s asylum application was granted. She is looking forward to her new life in the US, where she hopes to start her own business and continue writing for her blog.
Other Jenner & Block lawyers contributing to the case included Partner Andrew J. Thomas and Associates Christina Avedissian Aryafar and Max T. Selfridge.
Second Circuit Rules in Favor of Firm’s Investigative Journalist Client Seeking DEA Video
A Jenner & Block team secured an important appellate win in a long-running pro bono Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) matter.
In August 2012, investigative journalist Mattathias Schwartz filed a FOIA request with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seeking video footage of a May 2012 DEA operation in rural Honduras that resulted in the shooting deaths of four Honduran civilians. The DEA refused to release the video, claiming it was exempt from disclosure under FOIA because it would reveal law enforcement “techniques or procedures.”
In September 2013, a firm team filed suit against the DEA on behalf of Mr. Schwartz, and in January 2016 – after multiple rounds of briefing, two rounds of oral argument, numerous additional submissions, and in camera review of the video – Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment in Mr. Schwartz’s favor and directed the DEA to release the video to him. The DEA appealed.
On April 6, 2017, Associate Carl N. Wedoff presented oral argument to the Second Circuit, and on June 6, the appellate court affirmed the district court. It concluded that the alleged law enforcement techniques and procedures DEA relied on to withhold the video (i) are disclosed in publicly available materials, (ii) are not disclosed by the video, or (iii) are not law enforcement techniques or procedures at all, but rather are only the circumstances in which publicly known techniques and procedures were employed.
In addition to Mr. Wedoff, the team consisted of Partner Brian J. Fischer, Associate Brittany R. Lamb and Summer Associate Alexandra Bursak, with help from Law Clerk Nicole Taykhman, Paralegal Amanda E. Factor and New York Office Managing Clerk Na’eem A. Conway.
11 Lawyers Receive Firm Awards for Exceptional Pro Bono and Mentoring Efforts
Partner Erica Ross and Associates Daniel A. Epstein and Alan J. Iverson were presented with the Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award, which recognizes firm lawyers who have provided exceptional legal services to the under-resourced.
Partner Robert L. Graham, who recently retired, received the inaugural Robert L. Graham Mentor Award in recognition of his commitment to mentoring younger lawyers throughout his 45 years at the firm.
The Associates Committee Mentorship Awards went to Partners Amy M. Gallegos, Erin R. Schrantz andformer Partner Leah J. Tulin; Special Counsel James S. Woolrich and Associates Jonathan A. Beitner, Hannah K. Costigan Cowles and David B. Diesenhouse.
Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award
Ms. Ross was noted for her exceptional work focusing on appeals in state and federal appellate courts and the US Supreme Court. In 2015, Ms. Ross took on a pro bono appeal challenging an Illinois Medicaid policy that was said to be “the most complex regulatory scheme ever seen in a pro bono appeal” by one of her nominators. Ms. Ross briefed and argued the case at the Seventh Circuit, winning a remand.
Mr. Epstein was recognized for his devotion of more than 1,500 hours of pro bono work since arriving at the firm in 2015. He has represented clients in a variety of cases, including winning emergency and plenary orders of protection for a domestic violence victim; researching and drafting a brief and mooting a partner who was presenting oral argument to the Supreme Court in a habeas case in which the Court favorably ruled that its grant of certiorari had been “improvidently granted,” ultimately leading to the clients’ release from prison; achieving a favorable plea deal for a homeless man accused of attempted murder; and writing a merits brief and drafting a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc in the Seventh Circuit in a denial of a habeas petition.
Mr. Iverson was honored for his impressive work on asylum and immigration cases. As a second year associate, he has successfully first-chaired a challenging asylum case and has helped bring about several; wins in cases involving gang-based and domestic violence claims – both developing areas of law that can present difficult issues of proof.
Named for one of the firm’s name partners, the Albert E. Jenner Award has been presented annually since 2001. Each winner receives $5,000 that they may donate to the charity or charities of their choice.
Robert L. Graham Mentor Award
The Robert L. Graham award, named for Jenner & Block’s long-time partner and former managing partner, will be awarded annually to firm lawyers who exemplify Mr. Graham’s dedication to mentorship, the public good and the highest ideals of the legal profession. Throughout his tenure at the firm, Mr. Graham took seriously the responsibility of passing on the culture of the firm to younger lawyers. He shared his belief that the law is a profession and not just a business and that lawyers must always maintain professionalism, specifically, being involved in the organized bar and in the community, representing the underrepresented and underprivileged, treating opposing counsel and parties with respect and civility while fighting for clients and being a part of a diverse firm where people can express different views and still come together.