Helping Unaccompanied Minors
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2018 pro bono results:
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.
Partner Andrew Merrick Elected to the Board of Directors for CARPLS
Jenner & Block Partner Andrew F. Merrick was recently selected to serve a two-year term on the Board of Directors for CARPLS, Cook County’s largest provider of pro bono legal services. Founded in 1993 – then known as the Coordinated Advice & Referral Program for Legal Services – CARPLS has helped more than 800,000 low- and moderate-income residents find solutions to their everyday legal matters.
Mr. Merrick has devoted more than 2,000 hours to representing indigent clients on a pro bono basis since joining Jenner & Block in 2006. In 2016, he received the prestigious Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award from the Chicago Bar Foundation for his commitment to pro bono, community service and the organized bar. Mr. Merrick is also the president of the Board of Directors of Compass to Care, The Mike & Sandy Ernsdorff Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Team Wins Victory for Former Students of Now-Defunct ITT Technical Institute in “Landmark” Settlement
Students of the for-profit chain would have nearly $600 million wiped out under a preliminary settlement approved by a federal bankruptcy judge on January 24, 2018. The settlement acknowledges that students who attended the college between 2006 and 2016 have a $1.5 billion claim against ITT, which closed abruptly in 2016. The settlement is expected to be finalized in June.
The team representing the student class in this pro bono matter includes Partners Melissa M. Root, Catherine L. Steege and Brian Hauck; they are serving with Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.
“ITT perpetrated a massive fraud on students, lying to them about everything from tuition costs to their own accreditation status, and left thousands of students in massive debt that they never should have had,” said Eileen Connor, a director of litigation at the Project on Predatory Student Lending, in a press release. “This landmark settlement provides important and necessary relief to those students. ITT’s estate has now cancelled the debts of its students because of ITT’s fraudulent actions, and it’s time for the Department of Education and all private holders of ITT debt to do the same.”
News of the settlement was reported by several media outlets including the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.
Partner Jessica Ring Amunson Featured in Podcast about Pro Bono US Supreme Court Case She Argued
Jenner & Block Partner Jessica Ring Amunson discusses Class v. United States in this podcast sponsored by Counting to 5. In Class, which she argued before the US Supreme Court in October, Ms. Amunson represents Rodney Class, a retired veteran convicted of possessing firearms on US Capitol grounds. He argues that his guilty plea doesn’t bar him from appealing the conviction on Second Amendment and due process grounds. Ms. Amunson discusses US Supreme Court precedent on the issue and the circuit court split. The underlying issue, Ms. Amunson explains, is that “you should not be precluded from raising constitutional challenges that would have prevented you from being tried or convicted at all.”
“I think it’s an interesting case,” she adds. “When I tell people the question presented is whether a guilty plea inherently waives a constitutional challenge to the statute under which you’re convicted, people have strong reactions one way or another… I think it’s a case with broad appeal beyond the lawyer set.”
Ms. Amunson is co-chair of the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court Practice and chair of the firm’s Election Law and Redistricting Practice. An experienced litigator, Ms. Amunson has argued before the US Supreme Court and multiple federal and state courts of appeals and has filed dozens of briefs in those courts.
Partner Adam Unikowsky Counts Another Victory before the US Supreme Court
On January 22, 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jenner & Block 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 5-4 decision on behalf of Adam’s pro bono client is the sixth consecutive victory for Adam – he won three cases last term, and two the term before that – and his first this term.
Mr. Unikowsky represented petitioner Stephanie Artis, a former DC health inspector. Following her termination, Ms. Artis sued the District; that suit was later dismissed by a federal court, which declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her state-law claims. Fifty-nine days following the dismissal, she filed the state-law claims in a DC trial court. This court dismissed the lawsuit, holding that the tolling provision in 28 U.S.C. §1367(d) merely provides 30 days beyond the dismissal for the plaintiff to refile, a deadline Ms. Artis missed. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed. In the Supreme Court, Mr. Unikowsky argued that §1367(d) suspends the limitations period for the state-law claim while the claim is pending in federal court, and that Ms. Artis’s DC suit was therefore timely.
In the Court’s opinion, Justice Ginsburg wrote that “Section 1367(d)’s instruction to ‘toll’ a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, i.e., to stop the clock.” Justice Ginsburg also wrote that “the stop-the-clock interpretation of §1367(d) does not present a serious constitutional problem.”
Last term, Mr. Unikowsky argued three Supreme Court cases in a 28-day span in March and April 2017 and achieved unanimous wins in them all. Those cases were Howell v. Howell, Honeycutt v. US and Kokesh v. SEC. In the prior term, Mr. Unikowsky earned two additional wins in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle and V.L. v. E.L.