Our Pro Bono Commitment
The District of Columbia Courts, in partnership with the DC Access to Justice Commission and the DC Bar Pro Bono Center, announced their 2021 Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll honorees. Thirty-nine Jenner & Block lawyers were recognized in this year’s class for contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono service to those who cannot afford legal counsel. Thirty-one lawyers achieved the High Honor distinction for providing 100 hours or more.
“We know that your service is based not only from a commitment to your ethical obligations but also on your principled belief in equal access to justice,” said Chief Judges Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Anita Josey-Herring in an open letter to all honorees. “We are proud to recognize your dedication by including your name on this year’s Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll.”
Jenner & Block will also be honored by the District of Columbia Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services at the 40 at 50 Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast. The June 22nd event recognizes Washington area law firms that had at least 40% of their lawyers contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono services in 2021.
Below is a complete list of the Jenner & Block lawyers included on the 2021 Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll.
2021 High Honor Roll Honorees
Rebecca R. Fate
Tassity S. Johnson
Ronald J. Pabis
2021 Honor Roll Honorees
Corinne M. Smith
Working in partnership with abortion service providers and civil liberties groups, a Jenner & Block team filed a lawsuit in Florida to block the implementation of a new state law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and could put doctors in jail for providing essential care beyond that point.
The lawsuit argues that the law, which is set to take effect on July 1, 2022, would limit an individual’s right to access abortion services in violation of the Florida state constitution. It seeks an emergency injunction against the law taking effect.
The Jenner & Block team is led by Partner April Otterberg along with Partners Shoba Pillay and Tassity Johnson and includes Associates Reanne Zheng, Sara M. Crook, Meg Hlousek, Annie K. Schoenfeldt, Emily A. Merrifield, and Savannah E. Berger, and Paralegal Fallon McDowell. Associates Sara M. Stappert, Casey Jedele, and Karolina L. Bartosik provided additional assistance.
Read the ACLU press release here: Florida Health Centers Challenge 15-Week Abortion Ban in State Court | American Civil Liberties Union (aclu.org)
The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recognized Jenner & Block Partner David Jimenez-Ekman with its Annual Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service Award at a ceremony on June 1, 2022. Mr. Jimenez-Ekman was celebrated for his relentless advocacy for Ken Smith, who was imprisoned in 2001 for a murder and robbery he did not commit. Mr. Jimenez-Ekman started work on Mr. Smith’s case in 2006 and, with the support of various Jenner & Block lawyers over the years, was ultimately successful. In April 2021, the Seventh Circuit held that the evidence was constitutionally insufficient to sustain Mr. Smith’s conviction and Mr. Smith was freed from the Lawrence Correctional Center on May 6 of last year, ending what Mr. Jimenez-Ekman called an “almost two-decade nightmare.”
Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief on behalf of the NAACP and the Ohio State Chapter of the NAACP urging the Ohio Supreme Court to hear Oberlin College’s appeal in Gibson Bros, Inc., et al., v. Oberlin.
Oberlin is seeking to reverse a lower court decision finding the college liable for more than $30 million in damages for allegedly facilitating the distribution of defamatory statements during student protests against a local bakery.
Oberlin students were protesting Gibson’s bakery after a 2016 incident involving an altercation between three Black Oberlin students and an employee of the bakery. The three students were arrested, but not the employee. Oberlin students organized a boycott of Gibson’s bakery to protest, among other things, the use of force against a Black student, the law enforcement response, and other accounts of racial profiling and discrimination involving the bakery. Student activists created fliers expressing outrage over the “assault” and the bakery’s “long account of racial profiling,” and the Student Senate passed a resolution expressing similar sentiments.
Gibson’s sued Oberlin, asserting that the college and its personnel facilitated the distribution of defamatory statements during the protests. The trial court found that, although the students’ chants were constitutionally protected, Oberlin could be liable for supporting the distribution of the allegedly defamatory statements in the flier.
Oberlin has petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse this ruling and find that those statements fall within the free speech and association protections guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Ohio Constitution.
Jenner & Block’s brief supports Oberlin’s appeal, based on the important constitutional protections that are threatened by the lower court decisions. The brief outlines the historical development of First Amendment principles protecting free speech and political expression, driven by the crucial role that boycott and protest played during the civil rights movement. This history also demonstrates the importance of student organizing, in particular in opposing discriminatory practices or actions taken by private businesses. The brief also notes that civil tort liability has historically been wielded as a weapon by opponents of civil rights to stifle and suppress essential political organizing and alerts the court to the grave implications of this decision.
A team led by Jenner & Block Partner Michelle M. McAtee will receive Housing Forward’s Corporate Partner Award at its 24th Annual Have a Heart Gala for their longstanding pro bono support of the organization. Housing Forward serves the needs of those in a housing crisis in Cook County, Illinois, helping them out of homelessness and into housing stability.
Our lawyers handle Housing Forward’s real estate, tax, corporate and other legal needs as they arise, thereby expanding the range of services offered by Housing Forward.
The gala will take place on May 21. Learn more here.
Starting in February, lawyers from Jenner & Block and our client Cboe worked together to host a series of clinics aimed at helping individuals renew their status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Within two months of the clinics, eight people received their renewals from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Jenner & Block lawyers who participated in the clinics include Partners Gregory M. Boyle, Reid J. Schar, Coral A. Negron, Rachel K. Alpert, Michelle M. McAtee, Peter H. Rosenbaum, and Sheila C. Kailus, and Associates Molly J. Piazzi, JX Quek, and Emily A. Merrifield.