Our Pro Bono Commitment
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryJean Marc Nken Asylum Case Anniversary
October marks the fifth anniversary of the granting of asylum for pro bono client Jean Marc Nken. Mr. Nken fled Cameroon in 2001 after having been jailed and tortured by the government for his participation in pro-democracy protests. He lost his initial asylum case and several unsuccessful appeals and was set to be deported when Jenner & Block Partner Lindsay C. Harrison took on his case.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryAnniversary of Dowaliby Reversal
October marks the 25th anniversary of the Illinois Appellate Court reversing the conviction of pro bono client David Dowaliby in a high-profile case that centered on the kidnapping of Mr. Dowaliby’s 7-year-old daughter Jaclyn in 1988. The Illinois Appellate Court ruled the prosecutors failed to prove that no one else killed Jaclyn and that the evidence against him was not sufficient.
Click here to learn more about the case.
Our client owned a small business in El Salvador, and one of the country’s most violent and powerful gangs began extorting him and his family in 2013. When he refused to hide their guns in his business, gang members beat him into unconsciousness. While our client was in the hospital, the police raided one of the gang’s safe houses and arrested multiple gang members. The gang began accusing our client of collaborating with the police and threatening to kill him, and he and his family fled to the United States and found their way to the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in Chicago.
At the outset of the hearing in 2016, the immigration judge told our client that gang-based asylum claims are at the “cutting edge” of asylum law and “rarely” granted. The judge urged him to consider a government offer of administrative closure – a procedural mechanism that would stop him and his family from being sent back to El Salvador but leave them with no status in the United States. When, after consultation with his lawyers, our client declined that offer, the hearing proceeded. On September 26, 2016, the judge granted asylum to our client and his family, who expressed gratitude to the United States for giving them a “second chance” at life.
Allstate in-house counsel Dolores Ayala partnered with the Jenner & Block team, which included Partner Wade A. Thomson and Associate Alan J. Iverson, Staff Attorney Veronica Maldonado, and Summer Associate Vaishalee Yeldandi.
On September 26, 2016, the firm joined a team of civil rights organizations that filed suit in Alabama district court on behalf of US citizens with past felony convictions who have been denied the right to vote due to the state’s felony disenfranchisement system. The firm is working pro bono alongside the Campaign Legal Center and the Voting Rights Institute.
Thompson v. Alabama argues that the 14th Amendment does not allow the blanket disenfranchisement of citizens for minor non-violent offenses that are irrelevant to voting. The lawsuit calls for the court to rule that the law is racially discriminatory, unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act. It also asserts a theory that, if successful, could limit the scope of permissible felony disenfranchisement nationwide.
September marks the third anniversary of the firm’s victory in the Second Circuit on behalf of a class of 22,000 tenants and Pinnacle Group, one of New York City’s largest residential landlords that owned scores of rent-controlled apartments. Capping a five-year legal battle, the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s approval of a landmark settlement agreement between the parties.
Click here to read more and see a video about the case.
Jenner & Block achieved a significant early victory in its lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2, one of the most anti-LGBT laws in the nation. Among its provisions, House Bill 2 effectively prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using the restrooms or other facilities consistent with their gender identity where they live, learn and work. On August 26, 2016, a federal district court judge preliminarily enjoined the University of North Carolina (UNC) from enforcing House Bill 2 as to three plaintiffs represented by the firm – transgender students and employees at UNC institutions – holding that they are likely to succeed on the claim that House Bill 2 conflicts with the requirements of Title IX.
This decision followed months of effort by firm lawyers, working with colleagues from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU ofNorth Carolina. In addition to extensive expedited briefing,the team marshaled hundreds of pages of evidence in support of the preliminary injunction motion, documenting the frenzied enactment of the bill, the anti-LGBT animus that inspired it and its harmful impact on tens of thousands of transgender North Carolinians. The decision also followed a nearly four-hour hearing held earlier in August, during which Jenner & Block Partner Paul M. Smith argued on behalf of the plaintiffs.
In granting the injunction, the court rejected arguments by UNC – raised in fourrounds of briefing and in many procedural guises – that the claims against it were not justiciable ones.
In addition to Mr. Smith, the team on the case includes Partners Scott B. Wilkens and Luke C. Platzer; Associates Mark P. Gaber, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio, Thomas D. Garza and Nicholas W. Tarasen; and Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson.