Jenner & Block Named to National Law Journal “Pro Bono Hot List”
For the fifth consecutive year, Jenner & Block has been named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List,” as one of only seven law firms across the United States selected for this recognition. “Pro bono and the work we do provides representation to those who otherwise would not be in a position to protect or defend or pursue their rights,” said Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of Jenner & Block’s Pro Bono Committee.
A feature article published by The National Law Journal spotlights the firm’s significant work on a voting rights and gerrymandering case (Gill v. Whitford), in which the firm partnered with the Campaign Legal Center in its work on the case. “Jenner & Block is the best. Their lawyers on voting rights cases are incredibly dedicated to obtaining a just result,” said Gerry Herbert, the senior director of voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center.
The profile also highlights Partner Adam G. Unikowsky’ s “Hat Trick for Pro Bono at Scotus.” Last term, Mr. Unikowsky argued three cases before the US Supreme Court within the span of four weeks and achieved unanimous wins in all three. “The cases are a point of pride because they demonstrate the firm’s deep commitment to pro bono litigation and its ability to achieve significant victories at the Supreme Court for individuals most I need of experienced counsel,” Mr. Unikowsky said.
Firm’s DC Office Recognized for Commitment to Pro Bono
At the 15th annual “40 at 50 Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast,” Jenner & Block was singled out as one of only two firms in the District of Columbia Circuit to have more than 70 percent of its lawyers contribute 50 hours or more to pro bono service last year. Held on April 24, 2018, the breakfast was sponsored by the DC Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. The committee honors DC law firms at which at least 40 percent of all lawyers contribute 50 hours or more to individuals with limited financial resources or to charitable organizations. In total, 37 firms were recognized, a record number and a significant increase from the first breakfast in 2002 when only seven firms qualified. Jenner & Block was one of only four firms with more than 60 percent of its lawyers devoting 50 hours or more. Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland, Chief Judge Beryl Howell and other federal judges attended the breakfast.
LA Office Team Secures Pro Bono Victory in Housing Discrimination Case
A team from Jenner & Block’s Los Angeles office helped secure a favorable settlement for a pro bono client in a lawsuit challenging a Southern California city’s discriminatory housing ordinances.
Serving as co-counsel with the ACLU, the firm represented the Victor Valley Family Resource Center (VVFRC), which provides transitional housing to individuals recently released from incarceration.
Beginning in 2016, the City of Hesperia, in California’s high desert, began issuing regular citations to VVFRC for violating a city ordinance—which hadn’t been enforced in years—barring two or more unrelated individuals on probation from living together. The City also began pressuring VVFRC’s landlords to evict the organization, relying on a new ordinance requiring landlords to evict upon notice any tenant engaged in unspecified criminal activity, regardless of whether an arrest was made or citation issued.
In response, the ACLU of Southern California filed a class action in the Central District of California against the City and the San Bernardino County Sheriff, alleging that the two ordinances were unconstitutional in that they violated state and federal equal-protection and due-process rights. Jenner & Block joined the case as co-counsel shortly after.
In the spring of 2017, Hesperia’s city council repealed one of the ordinances. Later that year, the city council adopted significant revisions to the other ordinance, many of which were drafted by Associate Christopher S. Lindsay and our ACLU co-counsel.
As part of a settlement agreement finalized in April 2018, Hesperia also agreed to pay a substantial award to make VVFRC and our other clients whole for the costs they incurred due to the city’s enforcement of the two ordinances, rescind any outstanding fines or citations, and release liens imposed against their properties. It also agreed to pay attorneys’ fees.
Several media outlets covered the settlement in the case, including the Los Angeles Times, San Bernardino Sun and Victor Valley Daily Press.
At a luncheon on June 8, 2018, the ACLU will honor the firm for its work on the case with its Homeless Rights Advocacy Award.
In addition to Mr. Lindsay, Associate Andrew G. Sullivan helped lead the firm team, with support from Partner A.J. Thomas and former associate Kate Spelman. Many other associates made valuable contributions, including Brian Adesman, Ben J. Brysacz, Sean D. Nelson and Daixi Xu; summer associate Anna Lyons; and former associate Calvin Mohammadi. Paralegals Alonso Ponce, Diana Vuong and Julian Valenzuela, and legal assistants Jennifer Rodriguez, Laura Saltzman and Kat White, supported the team.
Firm Team Urges Second Circuit to Keep DACA Program
In an amicus brief, the team argues that President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would harm American colleges and universities. The Obama-era program protects from deportation individuals brought to the country illegally as children. Trump ended the program last year, but the courts have blocked its elimination for now. Submitted on behalf of more than 70 schools including Pomona College, Rice University, and the California State University System, the brief contends that students protected by DACA “are among the most engaged both academically and otherwise” and enrich the campuses they attend. The colleges also argue that they will "almost certainly lose students mid-way through their degree programs, and the retention rate for this population will drop dramatically and beyond what institutions are prepared to accommodate through normal attrition cycles."
The brief was written on a pro bono basis by a team including Partners Ishan K. Bhabha, Lindsay C. Harrison and Thomas J. Perrelli and Associate Jennifer J. Yun.
The same team also filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to preserve DACA. That suit was filed in November 2017 on behalf of Princeton University, a Princeton student and Microsoft. It argues that the rescission of DACA violates both the United States Constitution and federal law.
Firm Team Achieves Victory in Pro Bono Voting Rights Case
Jenner & Block won a victory when a federal judge rejected the efforts of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU)—a conservative organization devoted, in part, to rooting out “voter fraud” in counties with large populations of racial minorities and Democratic-leaning swing state counties—to purge voters from Broward County’s rolls. In American Civil Rights Union v. Brenda Snipes, the ACRU alleged that the Broward County’s supervisor of elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes, failed to maintain accurate voter rolls and violated Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act; the group sought a court order requiring Dr. Snipes to purge voters. In 2016, the United Healthcare Workers East union intervened in support of Dr. Snipes and Broward County voters. The firm represented United Healthcare on a pro bono basis.
After a five-day trial in July 2017, the court found every piece of evidence offered by ACRU unconvincing, concluded that its accusations were thoroughly unfounded, and held that Broward County’s voter list maintenance program was fully compliant with federal law. On March 30, 2018, Judge Beth Bloom ruled in Dr.Snipes and SEUI's favor. In doing so, the judge wrote that Dr. Snipes “implemented a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters by reason of death or change of address.” The judge also held that the ACRU failed to prove a violation of Section 8 of the NVRA. “The court recognizes that the NVRA has a nationwide application, and for that reason, it declines to apply a subjective approach that would vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” she wrote.
The Jenner & Block team includes Partner Kali N. Bracey, Associate Tassity Johnson, former partner Carrie Apfel and former associate Marina Jenkins.
Firm Secures Victory on Behalf of Native American Tribe
Jenner & Block won a victory on behalf of a Native American tribe when a US district court ruled that the federal government has an affirmative obligation to provide adequate educational and mental health services at Havasupai Elementary School on the Havasupai Reservation in northern Arizona. In a lawsuit brought by several children and the Native American Disability Law Center, the court denied the government’s partial motion to dismiss and held that the government is required to address the impact of trauma and childhood adversity so that all students have the ability to learn and participate in school.
After the federal defendants moved to dismiss several of the students’ claims, the Havasupai Tribe enlisted Jenner & Block to draft an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs. Partner Brandon D. Fox, Associate Ben J. Brysacz and summer associate Omar Qureshi worked with the tribal chairman and tribal council to draft a brief informing the court of the history of the tribe and its federally operated school. The brief detailed not only the substandard conditions inside the school, but also decades of work by tribal officials to improve those conditions. The ruling recognizes that the federal government has been on notice of its failures for decades and will protect the rights of students at Havasupai Elementary to attend a school with enough resources, teachers and wellness services to provide a safe and effective learning environment.