Chicago Foundation for Women Recognizes Associate Leah Casto for Working to Grant Asylum for Eritrean Refugee
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2018 pro bono results:
Jenner & Block Associate Leah K Casto was recently featured during the Chicago Foundation for Women’s 2017 Annual Report Luncheon, highlighting the foundation’s collaborative efforts to successfully help tens of thousands of individuals impacted by issues such as economic security, health and freedom from violence. The event celebrated notable victories, including Ms. Casto’s work in granting asylum for a detained Eritrean refugee.
Shortly after the executive order was signed banning travel to and from majority-Muslim countries, the National Immigrant Justice Center contacted Jenner & Block for pro bono representation of a detained group of Eritrean women seeking asylum in the United States.
As a granddaughter of immigrants, Ms. Casto was compelled and eager to help those in need -- in particular, a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee who, if deported, would be vulnerable to serious danger, imprisonment and possibly death. However, thanks to Ms. Casto’s hard work and dedication, she was granted asylum.
In recognition of her efforts, the Chicago Foundation for Women featured Ms. Casto in its 2017 Annual Report video, including an in-depth article about her experiences during the case.
“The relief and happiness I felt when the judge finally said, ‘I am granting you asylum; you’ll be released tomorrow’ cannot match any experience that I’ve had in my life,” Ms. Casto said.
With asylum secured, the Eritrean refugee is currently acclimating to life in the States and, with the assistance of the Chicago Foundation for Women, will receive the help and care needed to prosper and thrive during her time here.
Firm’s Amicus Brief Challenges Constitutionality of Georgia’s Bail Practice
On November 20, 2017, Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the American Bar Association (ABA) in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Calhoun, Georgia’s practice of detaining defendants prior to trial pursuant to a preset money-bail schedule that exclusively relies on the offense charged to assess the bail amount due, without an initial determination of an individual defendant’s ability to pay.
In Walker v. City of Calhoun, GA, the plaintiff, a mentally disabled individual, was arrested for a misdemeanor and detained for 11 days due to his inability to afford a standard $160 cash bond to secure his release. A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the municipal defendant to “implement post-arrest procedures that comply with the Constitution.” While further proceedings were pending, the City of Calhoun issued a new Standing Bail Order governing pre-trial detention of arrestees. The plaintiff again challenged the constitutionality of the new Standing Bail Order, and the federal district court found that the Standing Bail Order “still violates the Constitution insofar as it permits individuals who have sufficient resources to post a bond (or to have one posted for them) to be released immediately, while individuals who do not have those resources must wait forty-eight hours for a hearing.” The federal district court issued a second preliminary injunction prohibiting the City of Calhoun from detaining indigent misdemeanor arrestees who are otherwise eligible for release but are unable to pay money bail because of their poverty, and directing the city to provide indigent arrestees with an individualized hearing assessing their inability to pay within 24 hours of their arrest. The City of Calhoun appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
The brief in support of the plaintiff-appellee argues that money-bail systems that fail to adequately consider a defendant’s ability to pay violate the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards and that jailing otherwise release-eligible defendants solely because they cannot buy their freedom is unconstitutional. It explains that, after studying the issue over many decades, the ABA has concluded that money-bail systems harm criminal defendants, do not serve the fair and proper administration of justice and do not advance public safety or the interests of justice. The brief also explains that a consensus has developed that money-bail schemes are unfair and do not work. It urges the Eleventh Circuit to affirm the decision of the district court.
The Jenner & Block team includes Partner Elizabeth A. Edmondson and Associates Jessica M. Ly and Jonathan M. Diaz, borrowing substantially from and building upon an amicus brief submitted to the Fifth Circuit on behalf of the ABA by Partner Lindsay C. Harrison and former Associates Peter A. Goldschmidt and Grace C. Signorelli-Cassady in O’Donnell v. Harris County and McGruder et. al. v. Harris County.
Team Argues for Release of Documents Related to Travel Ban
Jenner & Block Partner Kelly M. Morrison and Associate Joshua M. Parker are mentioned in a Law360 article about their lawsuit on behalf of the public interest group Muslim Advocates. Titled “Judge Frustrated with DHS Response to Travel Ban FOIA,” the article explains that the group seeks information under FOIA related to allegedly discriminatory policies targeting Muslims for searches following the Trump administration’s immigration ban. At a recent status conference, Judge Chutkan of the District Court for the District of Columbia deemed the government’s lack of responsiveness to Muslim Advocates’ request “unacceptable.” Mr. Parker is quoted arguing that Muslim Advocates seeks far less than the government’s claim of some 70,000 pages of potentially responsive documents. He also is quoted saying that Muslim Advocates has agreed to limit the search parameters, but the government continues to insist that it faces an undue burden without substantiation. The team is representing Muslim Advocates on a pro bono basis.
Associate Brij B. Patnaik Honored with Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow Alumni Award
Jenner & Block Associate Brij B. Patnaik was selected for the 2017 Distinguished Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow Alumni Award. The Distinquished Alumni Award recognizes one former PILI Fellow for outstanding contributions of public interest and/or pro bono work. In his profile, Mr. Patnaik is celebrated for his commitment to service, specifically highlighting his pro bono work with firm client Adam Gray. Mr. Gray was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 14 for purportedly setting a fire in a Chicago apartment building that killed two people. Twenty years later, Mr. Patnaik obtained records of chemistry testing not disclosed at trial that proved the central elements of Mr. Gray’s confession could not be true. Mr. Patnaik then re-interviewed witnesses and worked with leading fire science experts to prove that there was actually no reason to believe the fire was caused by arson at all. After years of litigation, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned Mr. Gray’s conviction and granted him his freedom in 2017.
Mr. Patnaik served as a PILI Fellow with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2009, prior to joining Jenner & Block. He is a member of the Young Professionals Board of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Council of Lawyers. He is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department.
Partner Andrew Vail Discusses Pro Bono Opportunities for Corporate Clients
This Bloomberg BNA article explores how corporate legal departments are increasingly turning to law firms to establish and grow their pro bono programs. Jenner & Block has created a menu of pro bono opportunities for in-house lawyers so clients can identify the best fit, including cases by subject matter, type of legal work and the duration of a case, Mr. Vail says.
Associate Daniel Epstein Discusses Importance of Pro Bono Work
Jenner & Block Associate Daniel A. Epstein is interviewed at length in an article for the National Immigrant Justice Center, which ensures human rights protections and access to justice for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Mr. Epstein recently joined a team defending a group of women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Michigan. Asked why he does pro bono work, Mr. Epstein responds: “There are people who are lost in a system that I can navigate. I feel duty-bound to help them. I think justice demands high quality legal defense, regardless of ability to pay. And, happily, my firm feels the same way.”