Letter to Alabama Governor Seeks Justice for Birmingham’s “Fifth Little Girl”
Our Pro Bono Commitment
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.
Team Helps Pro Bono Client Secure Compassionate Release from Prison in the Wake of COVID-19 Threat
In 2012, our client was sentenced to 252 months in prison for a non-violent drug offense, a sentence that was 12 months longer than the minimum sentence. He has been an inmate at FCI Oakdale in Louisiana, despite being tried in the Northern District of Illinois and residing in Illinois. Oakdale has experienced a severe outbreak of COVID-19 and has a staggering 18.5% confirmed infection rate. This percentage is about 22 times worse than the United States overall. Furthermore, Oakdale has faced heavy scrutiny (including media attention) for its wardens’ negligent handling of the pandemic and endangering inmates. Our client has three of the most common COVID-19 comorbidities, making him highly susceptible to severe illness if he were to contract the virus. Out of fear for his life, he filed a pro se petition with Judge Lefkow for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i).
On June 18, Judge Lefkow appointed Partner Paul B. Rietema to assist our client with his petition. Associate Maliha Ikram quickly worked to gather necessary information to support the petition. Maliha spoke to our client on June 19to glean information on his friends, family and community members. Maliha contacted dozens of these individuals over the course of 10 days. On July 1, Paul and Maliha were able to make an evidentiary submission that included 22 letters and affidavits in support of our client’s release.
On July 7, our client’s motion was granted and his sentence was reduced to time served. He has been ordered to be released from custody at Oakdale as soon as practicable. His term of supervised release will commence immediately upon his release, with his first six months to be served in home confinement. Though our client’s prison sentence would have otherwise run until 2028, the court released him to home confinement with the remainder of his term to be served on supervised release.
In granting his motion, the court noted that our client does not pose “a danger to individual or community safety” and, while incarcerated, has shown remorse for past conduct, earned his GED, and enrolled in several self-bettering courses. To have kept him imprisoned at Oakdale would have been to put him at “extraordinary risk” for his life.
The team was assisted by Legal Assistant Mirella Marquez, Manager of Docketing Services Na’eem Conway, and Docket Assistant Dylan Doppelt, who were instrumental in compiling and filing documents on our compressed timeline.
The American Lawyer’s Annual Survey Ranks the Firm No. 1 in Pro Bono for the Fourth Consecutive Year
Once again, The American Lawyer has recognized Jenner & Block as the No. 1 law firm in the United States for pro bono service. This marks the fourth consecutive year – and the 10th time in 13 years – that the firm has achieved the top spot in the annual survey of pro bono commitment among AmLaw 200 firms.
The American Lawyer’s annual survey ranking is based on 2019 hours, which totaled more than 85,700. Firm lawyers contributed, on average, more than 175 hours of pro bono work during the year, and 100 percent of US-based lawyers performed more than 20 hours. In international pro bono work, the firm secured third place for the second year in a row.
Jenner & Blockhas a deep and historic commitment to pro bono and public service. Partners Thomas P. Sullivan, Prentice H. Marshall and Jerold S. Solovy launched the firm's formal pro bono program in the 1950s when, as active members of the Chicago Bar Association’s Defense of Prisoners Committee, they not only represented indigent criminal defendants, but also began recruiting dozens of other Jenner & Block lawyers to the same service. The firm's name partners, Albert E. Jenner, Jr. and Samuel W. Block, worked on many pro bono cases involving civil and constitutional rights and were widely recognized for their contributions to public service.
The firm was named No. 1 in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999.
Firm Joins New Alliance Aimed at Dismantling System Racism in the Law and Government
Jenner & Block was among more than 125 law firms nationwide to join the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), which formed late last month.
LFAA is a coalition that will work with other organizations that are uniting to identify and dismantle systemic racism in the law and in government institutions. LFAA will facilitate large-scale pro bono projects that address systemic racism, with priority areas determined by affected communities, community organizers, policy experts and legal aid partners.
“Recent events have affirmed and highlighted the need for law firms to do more to identify and dismantle structural or systemic racism in the law and in government institutions,” reads LFAA’s charter. “Lawyers have a responsibility to use their knowledge and position to increase access to justice and to ensure a fair and equitable legal system. Lawyers and law firms are uniquely positioned to analyze and to advocate to change laws, policies and institutional structures that encourage, perpetuate or allow racial injustice.”
Participant firms commit to leverage resources of the private bar to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism; better use the law as a vehicle for change to benefit communities of color; and promote racial equity in the law and in government institutions.
LFAA will mark its official launch with a virtual summit this summer. Facilitated by experts in racial justice and systemic project design, the summit will include discussions among law firm leaders, diversity and inclusion professionals and pro bono professionals on developing LFAA's strategic focus and to plan a broad summit for the fall.