Anniversary of Second Circuit Decision in Pinnacle
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
September marks the third anniversary of the firm’s victory in the Second Circuit on behalf of a class of 22,000 tenants and Pinnacle Group, one of New York City’s largest residential landlords that owned scores of rent-controlled apartments. Capping a five-year legal battle, the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s approval of a landmark settlement agreement between the parties.
Click here to read more and see a video about the case.
Firm Wins Preliminary Injunction in North Carolina House Bill 2 Challenge
Jenner & Block achieved a significant early victory in its lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2, one of the most anti-LGBT laws in the nation. Among its provisions, House Bill 2 effectively prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using the restrooms or other facilities consistent with their gender identity where they live, learn and work. On August 26, 2016, a federal district court judge preliminarily enjoined the University of North Carolina (UNC) from enforcing House Bill 2 as to three plaintiffs represented by the firm – transgender students and employees at UNC institutions – holding that they are likely to succeed on the claim that House Bill 2 conflicts with the requirements of Title IX.
This decision followed months of effort by firm lawyers, working with colleagues from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU ofNorth Carolina. In addition to extensive expedited briefing,the team marshaled hundreds of pages of evidence in support of the preliminary injunction motion, documenting the frenzied enactment of the bill, the anti-LGBT animus that inspired it and its harmful impact on tens of thousands of transgender North Carolinians. The decision also followed a nearly four-hour hearing held earlier in August, during which Jenner & Block Partner Paul M. Smith argued on behalf of the plaintiffs.
In granting the injunction, the court rejected arguments by UNC – raised in fourrounds of briefing and in many procedural guises – that the claims against it were not justiciable ones.
In addition to Mr. Smith, the team on the case includes Partners Scott B. Wilkens and Luke C. Platzer; Associates Mark P. Gaber, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio, Thomas D. Garza and Nicholas W. Tarasen; and Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson.
Protecting Art, Sealing Legacies — The Story of Jason Wulf
Jason Wulf was a well-known graffiti artist in Queens, NY who was killed at the age of 42, electrocuted by the third rail in a Brooklyn subway station. Jason’s death garnered significant media attention. Others in the graffiti community took advantage of that media attention and began selling copies of his graffiti tags and other artwork to make money, without the permission of the Wulf family. This was particularly upsetting for the Wulf family, who did not even have enough money to purchase a headstone for Jason. That is when Jason’s sister, Christina, approached Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA), an organization that connects struggling artists with law firms for pro bono legal representation. Christina was seeking assistance in obtaining copyright protection for Jason’s works. VLA connected Christina to Jenner & Block, and the firm represented her in obtaining copyright registrations for Jason’s artwork.
Partner Helps Second-Year Associate Win Second Pro Bono Jury Trial in Two Years
First, the team had to navigate New York Surrogate’s Court and close out Jason’s estate. Next, they facilitated the transfer of the copyrights in Jason’s works from Jason’s parents to Christina, which was accomplished through informal mediation between Christina and her parents. Once Christina obtained the right to register Jason’s copyrights, the team selected the right pieces from Jason’s extensive collection of work for which to seek registration – they needed pieces that were broad enough to give Christina the most protection, but artistic enough to be copyrightable. The area of graffiti as copyrightable artwork is a “hot” area in intellectual property law, and the team dug deep into recent case law and academic literature when choosing the pieces.
On April 29, 2015, Christina received copyright registrations for three of Jason’s pieces of artwork, giving her piece of mind, as well as great pride around her brother’s legacy. The team consisted of Partner Andrew H. Bart, Associate Alison I. Stein, and former associate Ava McAlpin. Partner Steven R. Englund provided invaluable assistance as well.
For the second time in two years, Jenner & Block Partner Louis E. Fogel and second-year Associate E.K. McWilliams teamed up to win a jury trial for a pro bono client. The case stemmed from a car accident that occurred in January 2015. The client, Sakib Choudhury, initially filed a pro se complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging that the defendant collided with his car while the defendant was attempting to merge lanes on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The defendant’s insurance company denied the claim, forcing Mr. Choudhury to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to repair his car. Although he prevailed at non-binding arbitration, the defendant’s insurance company still refused to settle the case.
At that point, the Chicago Bar Association and CARPLS (Cook County’s largest provider of free legal services) reached out to the firm seeking pro bono representation for Mr. Choudhury.
After a one-day trial in which McWilliams conducted voir dire, selected the six-person jury, presented opening statement, questioned two witnesses on direct and re-direct examination, cross-examined the defendant’s fact witness and made the closing argument, the jury awarded Mr. Choudhury $3300, which was 30 percent more than the defendant’s final settlement offer. The award included transportation-related costs for the four months that Mr. Choudhury did not have access to his vehicle.
Summer associates Mila Babic, Jing X. Quek and Smitha B. Uthaman attended the trial, joining Mr. Fogel and McWilliams in the judge’s chambers for argument on motions in limine and jury instructions.
Firm Provides Assistance to Cook County Public Defender’s Office
Jenner & Block’s work with Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA) to develop a series of advocacy-based trainings for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was spotlighted in the CCA’s July 2016 newsletter. Over the past several months, the firm collaborated with three other law firms to develop a unique training curriculum for lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office. A team of firm lawyers including Partners Andrew W. Vail, Gabriel A. Fuentes, Barry Levenstam and Michael A. Scodro and Of Counsel Benjamin K. Miller contributed time and material to the project. The newsletter article quoted Public Defender Amy Campanelli as saying, “Part of what is so exceptional about this project is that four of Chicago’s law firms came together with a common purpose: to equip the Public Defender to better serve the public.” In addition to creating the initial training and advocacy materials, the firms developed a sustainability playbook that will allow us to provide ongoing support.
Last month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sent letters to the participating firm lawyers, thanking Jenner & Block for its commitment to helping the Public Defender’s Office provide the best representation possible for its clients.
Watch Partner Andrew Merrick Accept the CBF Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award
Partner Andrew F. Merrick was named the recipient of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s (CBF) 2016 Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award. The award is named in memory of two exceptional lawyers – father and son – who each exhibited a lifelong devotion to the law and the community. The son, Maurice S. Weigle, pictured to the right, was a Jenner & Block partner in the 1970s and ‘80s. Specifically, the award is based on a lawyer’s contributions to furthering the ideals of the legal profession; making the organized bar an effective force for improving the profession and helping the community; and demonstrated commitment to pro bono and community service. Please click here to read more.