Firm Files Amicus Brief for more than 50 Organizations Committed to Gender Justice
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
On May 7, Jenner & Block Partner Devi M. Rao and Associate Emily S. Mannheimer filed an amicus brief on behalf of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center and 49 additional organizations committed to gender justice.
The case, Francis v. Kings Park Manor, involves whether or not a housing provider is obligated under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to address tenant-on-tenant harassment if the provider had known about discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. A Second Circuit panel held that an African-American tenant plausibly alleged that his landlord had discriminated against him under the FHA by failing to address severe race-based harassment by another tenant.
The brief addressed the consequences that the Second Circuit’s decision will have for tenants’ housing protections; particularly, for women facing sexual harassment. Citing testimonies of women involved in sexual harassment cases, the brief observed that this widespread problem jeopardizes individuals’ access to a safe and stable home. The brief noted how intersecting forms of harassment, which are “based on multiple aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, national origin, religion and disability” pose significant concerns for women tenants, who have often indicated that “they wereharassed precisely because of their race and stereotypes about women of color.” It also explained that housing providers are empowered to take reasonable steps to address tenant-on-tenant harassment in accordance with the FHA and the First Amendment.
The Francis case is currently before the Second Circuit en banc. The court will hear oral arguments in September 2020.
Associate Hope Tone Honored with NIJC’s “Rising Star” Award
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is recognizing Jenner & Block Associate Hope H. Tone with its “Rising Star” award. The award celebrates Ms. Tone’s generosity in providing high-quality pro bono services to clients with complex immigration cases. Ms. Tone will be honored at the 21st Annual Human Rights Awards on June 2, 2020. NIJC hosts the awards each year to honor individuals who have made outstanding achievements to promote, protect and advance human rights throughout the world.
Firm Once Again Named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List”
In its annual list of the “firms that do well by doing good,” The NLJ honors Jenner & Block for several pro bono victories in the past year. In one case, the firm ensured that tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in Kentucky and Arkansas would not lose health insurance as a result of new restrictions on eligibility and coverage, including work requirements and lock-outs. That team was led by Partner Ian Heath Gershengorn.
“It is extremely rewarding to use our skills to help change the lives of individuals whose voices are not always heard,” as noted in The NLJ’s profile of the firm. “The Medicaid victory, in particular, is one in which tens of thousands of Americans can now continue to have access to health coverage and health care. The decision made clear that the administration cannot simply ignore the devastating real-world consequences of its policies.”
As the co-chairs of our Pro Bono Committee told The NLJ, pro bono is a core value at Jenner & Block. “Representing those without the resources to protect themselves reminds us that the work we do can make all the difference in the world,” said Matthew E. Price, Michael W. Ross, Todd C. Toral, Christian Tuddenhamand Andrew W. Vail.
Team Wins Seventh Circuit Victory for Illinois Prisoner
A firm team representing an Illinois prisoner achieved an important victory in the Seventh Circuit last week when the court reinstated the prisoner’s lawsuit challenging a private healthcare contractor’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The court’s opinion paved the way for the prisoner to pursue his constitutional claims against the contractor in federal district court.
Robert Williams brought suit against Wexford Health Sources in 2017, challenging the contractor’s “one good eye” policy, under which it refuses critical eye care to prisoners like Mr. Williams as long as they retain a modicum of visual acuity in one eye. Although healthcare providers inside and outside the prison recommended eye surgery for Mr. Williams, Wexford refused that surgery for several years. At the time he filed suit, Mr. Williams was completely blind in one eye and suffering from a host of conditions in both eyes. The district court held that Mr. Williams’s complaint stated a colorable claim against Wexford for violating his constitutional rights. Yet the district court granted summary judgment in Wexford’s favor, holding that Mr. Williams failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the Illinois Administrative Code.
The Seventh Circuit reversed that decision last week. In a precedential opinion, the court clarified the standards applicable to prisoners like Mr. Williams who used the emergency procedures to seek expedited review of their grievances by prison officials. The court explained that while those emergency procedures were recently amended to require additional steps, those additional steps were not required of Mr. Williams, who submitted his grievances before the amendment. In reaching this result, the court emphasized the importance of transparency and clarity in the grievance process, and criticized the prison authorities for trying to “move the goal posts while [Mr. Williams] was in the middle of his case and suddenly announce that special new requirements applied to him.” The court also questioned Wexford’s “dubious” decision to refuse the surgery that Mr. Williams needed.
Jenner & Block and the Chicago Bar Association Team Up to Provide Pro Bono Services to Healthcare Workers
Recognizing the sacrifices that essential healthcare workers are making on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, Jenner & Block is proud to partner with the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) in its Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program.
The Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program is an extension of the Wills for Heroes program, a national program that the firm has partnered on with the CBA for many years. Through the Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program, the firm will provide free estate planning services to healthcare workers treating in the Chicagoland area, enabling them to prepare simple wills and powers of attorney for themselves, their spouses or partners. The initiative was recently featured on a segment of WGN Midday News
In a press release
about the initiative, Joe Busnengo, who chairs the CBA’s Young Lawyers Section Wills for Heroes Program, said, “The Wills for Heroes Program has always been a way for attorneys to give back to those heroes who put their lives on the line to protect all of us like our veterans and police officers. We are very excited to be expanding this program to help our healthcare heroes, who are shouldering an enormously heavy burden during this pandemic.”
Jenner & Block has a longstanding partnership with the CBA, including in the Wills for Heroes program, and the firm is proud to be pitching in to help with legal assistance for healthcare workers, said Partner Andrew W. Vail
, co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee.
“This crisis demonstrates how healthcare providers put the rest of the community first,” Mr. Vail said. “This is one small way that our law firm, together with the CBA and the legal community, can come together to help provide peace of mind for these heroes, along with the other heroes on the front lines as well as their families.”
To learn more about the program, please click here
Cross-Office Team Advises Lincoln Center in Transition to Virtual Programming
A cross-office team led by Partner Alison I. Stein is providing pro bono counsel to Lincoln Center as the arts organization transitions to virtual programming after “closing its doors” indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched in early April, “Lincoln Center At Home” provides a unique way for the organization to virtually distribute extraordinary content and keep its audience and donors engaged. The program includes an education channel for kids and access to both live and archived world-class performances such as a performance of Schubert’s Quintet in C Major. To learn more about Lincoln Center, click here.
In addition to Ms. Stein, the Lincoln Center team includes Partner Steven R. Englund; Associates Camila A. Connolly, Allison N. Douglis, Amy Egerton-Wiley and Emily S. Mannheimer; and Law Clerk Isabel Farhi. The team continues to work hard on the unique rights and other legal issues arising during this unprecedented time.