Jenner & Block

March 31, 2017 Firm Represents Cities Initiative in Challenge to Diversion of Lake Michigan Water

Jenner & Block is representing, pro bono, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) in its challenge to a decision by the Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) allowing the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin to divert water from Lake Michigan. The Waukesha diversion is the first-ever approval of a diversion of Great Lakes water to a community outside the Great Lakes basin. The case has far-reaching implications for both the region and water law.

The Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of more than 120 cities whose mayors and local officials are working to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.  In August 2016, on behalf of the Cities Initiative, the Jenner & Block team submitted a request for a hearing before the Compact Council for reconsideration of the diversion and submitted a 64-page written statement detailing the legal and technical reasons reconsideration was appropriate. On March 20, 2017, after additional extensive briefing, the Compact Council held a hearing and allowed oral argument by the Cities Initiative and the City of Waukesha. Partner Jill M. Hutchison argued on behalf of the Cities Initiative. The Compact Council took the matter under advisement at the close of arguments, and a written decision in expected to be issued in early May.

Multiple outlets have reported on the hearing including Milwaukee Public Radio, NPR and Great Lakes Now.

In addition to Ms. Hutchison, the Jenner & Block team representing the Cities Initiative includes Partners E. Lynn Grayson, Steven M. Siros and Allison A. Torrence; Of Counsel Stephen H. Armstrong and Anne (Andi) Samuels Kenney; and Associates Laura C. Bishop, Alexander J. Bandza and Daniel S. Quarfoot.

TAGS: Cities Initiative

March 14, 2017 The Heart of the Matter 2016 Report

Jenner & Block is pleased to present the firm’s 2016 The Heart of the Matter, which covers pro bono and community service highlights. 

The report features some of the ways that our lawyers continue to bring Jenner & Block's high standard of excellence in transactional and litigation services to those most in need in our communities. The firm’s pro bono program reached record numbers in 2016.  The sheer volume of hours Jenner & Block provided and the high percentage of our lawyers doing that work reflect the firm’s deep and abiding commitment to pro bono.  

But the numbers alone cannot tell the story of the impact of the firm’s work on the lives of our individual clients and their families; the not-for-profit organizations we partner with or represent; the communities we serve; and the development of the law. This publication aims to reflect the breadth of Jenner & Block’s program and highlight a cross-section of the many matters the firm has handled.     

To read more and keep abreast of 2017 developments, please continue to visit The Heart of the Matter Blog.

TAGS: Newsletters

March 13, 2017 Jenner & Block Team Wins Victory for Pro Bono Client Patrick Pursley

A Jenner & Block team won a recent pro bono victory on behalf of Patrick Pursley, who has been incarcerated for the past 23 years, serving a life sentence for a murder conviction.  On March 3, Mr. Pursley was granted a new trial based on ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene.

The firm, along with the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008, winning on appeal a reversal that he was entitled to new ballistics testing under the Illinois Post Conviction Act. You can read more about that work in The National Law Journal in an article titled, “This Win Required a Trip to the Legislature.” In December of 2016, the firm presented the new ballistics evidence at an evidentiary hearing before Chief Judge Joseph McGraw in Rockford.  The hearing was covered by the Rockford Register Star, and the Associated Press also issued a story that was picked up by numerous media outlets.

Judge McGraw ruled that expert testimony presenting the new ballistics evidence is newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  Judge McGraw further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State’s own examiners—which refuted the Illinois State Police testimony presented at the 1994 trial—are newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  The ruling was covered by local media.

The State plans to appeal Judge McGraw’s decision.  The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, at which the Court will hear Mr. Pursley’s bond motion.

TAGS: Ballistics, Matters of Note, Patrick Pursley

March 6, 2017 Firm Files Amicus Brief Supporting Transgender High School Boy Seeking to Use Boys’ Restroom

Jenner & Block lawyers submitted an amicus brief in Gloucester County v. G.G., a case  that was scheduled to be argued to the US Supreme Court on March 28, 2017.  The case was an appeal from a ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowing a transgender student who identifies as a boy to use the boys’ restroom in his Virginia high school.  On March 6, 2017, the US Supreme Court decided not to hear the case at this time, vacating the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

The brief, in support of the respondent G.G., was filed on behalf of 20 leading medical and mental health organizations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians and mental health professionals, tens of thousands of medical students, over one hundred thousand physician assistants and millions of nurses.  Citing the medical consensus regarding transgender individuals and generally accepted treatment protocols for gender dysphoria, a condition that affects many transgender individuals, the brief argues that access to single-sex facilities corresponding to one’s gender identity is a critical aspect of treatment of the condition.  By contrast, the brief asserts, excluding transgender individuals from facilities consistent with their gender identity undermines their treatment, exposes them to stigma and discrimination as well as potential harassment, harms their physical health and impairs their social development, contributing to poorer health outcomes throughout life.

Partner Scott B. Wilkens led the firm’s team in drafting the brief, assisted by Partner Erica Ross and Associates Nicholas W. Tarasen and Ben J. Brysacz.  Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson also made valuable contributions.

In August 2016, the firm won a preliminary injunction preventing the University of North Carolina from enforcing North Carolina’s House Bill 2 against three transgender plaintiffs.  House Bill 2 effectively prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using restrooms or other facilities consistent with their gender identity in public buildings.  Further trial court proceedings in that case have been stayed pending a decision in the Gloucester County case.  Mr. Wilkens also leads the team in the House Bill 2 case, assisted by Partner Luke C. Platzer and Associates Mark P. Gaber, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio, Thomas D. Garza, Mr. Tarasen and Mr. Brysacz.

TAGS: Amicus Brief

February 22, 2017 Firm Achieves Settlement in Long-running Chicago Urban League School Funding Suit

On February 22, 2017, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unanimously voted to settle a Chicago Urban League lawsuit challenging the state’s school funding system on the basis that it disparately impacts low-income and minority students.  Jenner & Block has served as pro bono counsel to the Urban League throughout the litigation, which began in 2008.

In 2009, the lawsuit survived a key legal hurdle when a Cook County judge denied, in part, the defendant’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs had stated a valid claim under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.  It was the first school funding case that had been able to advance past the initial claims.  ISBE agreed to settle the case against the backdrop of the plaintiffs’ pending motion for summary judgment.

The settlement will end the Board of Education’s “proration” practice for decreasing funding, which was an across-the-board method of cutting funding to districts when there is insufficient money available for the state to meet its required payments.  The lawsuit alleged that this practice disparately impacted school districts with a majority of black and Hispanic students.  The settlement will require that, in the event of a funding shortfall, state aid will be distributed based on student and district need. 

The case was filed by a team led by former partner Lisa T. Scruggs, who has continued to lead the case in recent years as co-counsel with firm Partners Robert L. Graham and David J. Bradford.  Partner Gail H. Morse was also a member of the team working on this matter.  Of Counsel Benjamin K. Miller also made valuable contributions to the case, as did Associates Kathryn Hunt Muse, Ramon Villalpando, Briana Sprick Schuster and Reena Sikdar.  Paralegals Jessica Merkouris and Mary Patston also assisted.  Other team members through the years included former partner Sandi Toll; former associates Herbert C. Brown, Brian L. Dougherty, Grace S. Ho, Stephanie Jean-Jacques, Shannon J. Jones, Katherine Neville, Kyle A. Palazzolo and Elie Zenner; former litigation counsel Shyni R. Varghese; and former paralegal Gabriella Guajardo.

News of the settlement was reported by many media outlets including US News, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ News.

TAGS: Chicago Urban League, ISBE

February 21, 2017 Partner Leah Tulin Represents Congressman in Student Art Dispute

Jenner & Block Partner Leah J. Tulin is working on a pro bono basis in the First Amendment case of a former high school student whose award-winning painting was removed from public display in the US Capitol after it became the subject of a negative media campaign.  Ms. Tulin is representing the artist, David Pulphus, and Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, who each year sponsors a student artist from his district as part of the annual Congressional Art Competition.  For the 2016 competition, Mr. Clay sponsored a painting by Mr. Pulphus called “Untitled #1,” which depicts a scene from Ferguson, MO, with police officers and protestors represented as animals.  After being on public display in the Cannon Tunnel in the US Capitol Complex for nearly seven months, the Architect of the Capitol ordered the painting removed in response to pressure from a number of conservative media outlets and a group of lawmakers.  

In a lawsuit filed in federal district court on February 21, 2017, Ms. Tulin and the team allege that the painting’s removal violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Mr. Pulphus and Mr. Clay.  It is a basic and fundamental principle that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting or prohibiting speech just because it disagrees with a speaker’s viewpoint, according to the complaint.  The suit names the Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers as the defendant.

Joining Ms. Tulin on the team are Associates Tassity Johnson and Sati Harutyunyan.

News of the federal lawsuit was reported by media outlets including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Hill and The Washington Post.

TAGS: Education, First Amendment