Alabama Governor Issues Apology, Invites Compensation Dialogue for Pro Bono Client Injured in 1963 Church Bombing
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
The firm represents Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at age 12 was the victim of a 1963 church bombing that left her partially blinded. Carried out by the Ku Klux Klan, the explosion at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham killed Ms. Collins Rudolph’s older sister and three other girls.
Earlier this month, the team sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, calling for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeking compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured.
On September 30, Gov. Ivey responded. “Moreover, there should be no question that Ms. Collins Rudolph and the families of those who perished – including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, as well as Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair – suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades. For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology – an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” reads the letter.
In the letter, the governor also suggests opening a dialogue with the firm team regarding the sought-after compensation.
“We are gratified by Governor Ivey’s unequivocal acknowledgment of the egregious injustice that Ms. Collins Rudolph suffered, and by the Governor’s apology for the State’s racist and segregationist rhetoric and policies that led to Ms. Collins Rudolph’s injuries. We look forward to engaging in discussions in the near future with the Governor about compensation, which Ms. Collins Rudolph justly deserves after the loss of her beloved sister and for the pain, suffering and lifetime of missed opportunities resulting from the bombing,” said Partners Ishan K. Bhabha and Alison I. Stein in a statement. Associate Caroline C. Cease is also on the team.
The team’s initial letter was reported by multiple news outlets, and Governor Ivey’s response was reported by media including the Associated Press, Washington Post, NBC News, Montgomery Advertiser, WBRC Fox Birmingham, CBS 42 Birmingham, and AL.com.
Firm Assists Healthy Eating Non-Profit Strengthen the Delivery of its Services
The firm counseled Purple Asparagus as it explored a strategic alliance that would strengthen the delivery of its programming. Purple Asparagus educates children, families, and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Its flagship program, “Delicious Nutritious Adventures,” brings healthy foods to life for elementary school children in Chicagoland schools.
The matter began at the top of the year as a proposed merger with a local non-profit, but uncertainties caused by COVID-19 led to negotiations ending. Purple Asparagus and the firm team shifted focus to finding another home for the programming and ultimately entered into an agreement with another Chicago-based non-profit that will strengthen the delivery of all Purple Asparagus programs.
The firm team included Partner Gail H. Morse and Associates William R. Erlain and Rita L. Feikema.
Jenner & Block Partner Gregory Boyle Selected to Chicago Bar Foundation Leadership Team
On September 21, 2020, Partner Gregory M. Boyle was selected as second vice president of the Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) Board of Directors. After serving as a vice president for two years, Mr. Boyle will become CBF president in 2022. Comprised of diverse lawyers and judges, CBF officers and board of directors develop plans to carry out its mission: “to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone.”
As the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), the CBF brings the Chicago legal community together to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone. The Foundation addresses large systemic issues, such as the sharp increase of unrepresented people in the courts. Through community leadership, the CBF develops new solutions for providing access to justice, including advocating within the courts and at all levels of government for laws and policies that make the justice system more fair and accessible.
In addition, Through its annual Investing in Justice Campaign, the CBF raises millions of dollars to support legal aid organizations and programs throughout Chicago. Since its inception in 2007, the Campaign has raised more than $18.5 million to fund legal services for low- and middle-income people in need.
Another CBF initiative is the Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP), which is a small-business incubator that helps lawyers start practices serving low- and middle-income Chicagoans. The JEP has helped several lawyers build sustainable practices, serving more than 4,000 clients and securing more than $4 million in revenue over the past year. As a JEP board member for many years, Partner Terri L. Mascherin currently serves as chair of its Advisory Board.
In addition to Ms. Mascherin, Mr. Boyle joins a long tradition of Jenner & Block lawyers who have been involved with the Foundation and who have held CBF leadership positions. The late Floyd E. Thompson, who was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, CBA president, and a former Jenner & Block partner, made the initial gift to establish the CBF in 1948. Partner Jeffrey D. Colman served as CBF president, in addition to long service as a board member. Partner Terry J. Truax was also a longstanding board member. Partner Jason M. Bradford currently serves as vice president of its Young Professionals Board. Since 2005, Partner Howard S. Suskin has served as a member of the CBF’s Cy Pres Committee.
Jenner & Block lawyers have also been recognized by the CBF for contributions to the profession, including Partner Andrew F. Merrick, who received the Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award in 2016. Mr. Weigle was a Jenner & Block partner in the 1970s and 80s.
Letter to Alabama Governor Seeks Justice for Birmingham’s “Fifth Little Girl”
Jenner & Block Partners Ishan K. Bhabha and Alison I. Stein and Associate Caroline C. Cease sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeking justice on behalf pro bono client Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at age 12 was the victim of a 1963 bombing that left her partially blinded and killed her older sister.
Known as the “fifth little girl,” Ms. Collins Rudolph survived the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. The attack killed four girls, including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae, as well as Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14. Ms. Collins Rudolph lost her right eye in the attack.
The letter sent to Gov. Ivey on September 14 calls for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeks compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured. “While social justice is always a worthy cause, given recent events, now is the time for Ms. Collins Rudolph to receive long overdue justice,” the letter states.
Learn more in this press release about the case.
Cross-Office Team Advises Lawyers Without Borders
Earlier this year, Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) asked the firm to conduct an in-depth analysis on wildlife trafficking and organized crime and whether there has been an impact since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Africa, South America, and Asia.
Third District Panel Upholds Historic Preservation Law in Protecting Rock Island County Courthouse from Demolition
After diligent research by a cross-office team including Partner Christine Braamskamp, Staff Attorney Angelina Smith, and Paralegal Neha Patel, the team found that while there were travel bans and trade restrictions in effect that limited the move of goods and people, organized crime found ways to adapt their operations and continue wildlife trafficking. This includes finding alternative methods of transportation and increasing online wildlife trading and selling.
The team suggested that to mitigate the adaptation of organized crime, law enforcement agencies should increase security at check points on land borders and at ports where the transport of wildlife occurs the most. Further, the development of specific strategies to police virtual markets, such as cybercrime units and special monitoring programs, may be needed. Their research recommended that educating local communities on the dangers of wildlife trade and the potential diseases that can cause outbreak would help curb the demand in wildlife trafficking. The team urged the LWOB to have readily available information on the practice of illegal wildlife trafficking and its connection to the spread of disease, as well as provide communities with a way to report suspected illegal trafficking.
On July 16, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that a state historic preservation law prevents local authorities from demolishing the nearly 125-year-old Rock Island County Courthouse. Justice William E. Holdridge wrote in a 46-page opinion that neither Rock Island County, nor the Chief Judge of the Rock Island Circuit Court could order the courthouse demolished without first complying with the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act. Under that Act, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency must undergo a process to look for alternatives to demolition. The Appellate Court enjoined any demolition until the county complies with the state law.
The Appellate Court decision is an important step forward in saving the historic landmark. The Rock Island County Courthouse, constructed in 1896 and determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, is included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.
Jenner & Block represents, pro bono, all of the plaintiffs against the Rock Island County Public Building Commission and County Board; they include Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association, Rock Island Justice Center, and bondholder Fred Shaw. Associate Thomas E. Quinn argued the appeal. The firm team includes Charles W. Carlin, Hope H. Tone, Bill A. Williams, and Co-Managing Partner Randy E. Mehrberg.