Firm's Pro Bono Client Is Released after Serving 19 Years
A team working with attorneys from Northwestern University Law School’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions and Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Marshall represented Juan Rivera in appealing his third conviction of the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Holly Staker. Jenner & Block, along with the Center on Wrongful Convictions, represented Mr. Rivera in his third trial. At trial, the defense team proved that DNA evidence excluded Mr. Rivera as the rapist and killer. Despite that evidence, a jury found him guilty and the court sentenced him to natural life in prison without parole. On this day in 2011, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District reversed Rivera’s conviction, finding insufficient evidence to support his conviction in light of the DNA evidence excluding him as the perpetrator. According to the Court’s 24-page ruling, the conviction was "unjustified and cannot stand." In its opinion, the court said it sympathized with the Staker family but also concluded that “Mr. Rivera, too, has suffered the nightmare of wrongful incarceration.” Mr. Rivera was released after serving 19 years in prison. In a statement at the time, the firm said it donated more than 12,000 hours of legal work on the trial and appeal and called the ruling a "tremendous victory for Mr. Rivera and a great day for justice in the State of Illinois." The Jenner & Block team on Mr. Rivera’s defense included current Partners Thomas Sullivan, Terri Mascherin and Andrew Vail, with assistance from Associate Daniel Fenske and former Associate Sarah Terman. In 2014, authorities announced that DNA evidence from the case matched a potential suspect in a separate murder.
Firm Opens New York Office
On this day in 2005, Jenner & Block opened its New York office. At the time, then-Managing Partner Gregory Gallopoulos said, “We intend to build an even stronger [transactional] practice in New York, the international capital of commerce, finance and industry, while continuing to give our clients here the full benefit of our renowned litigation and transactional practices.” In 2005, the office was home to a core group of about nine partners, including current Partners Paul Jock, Toby Knapp, Richard Levy and Gianni Servodidio. Today, the office at 919 Third Avenue is home to nearly 60 attorneys.
Firm Inducted into Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame
On this day in 2011, the firm was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, the country’s only known government-sponsored hall of fame that celebrates contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The firm was honored as a “Friend of the Community.” The GLHF was established in 1991 with the support of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. Its purpose is to recognize achievements of LGBT Chicagoans and the help they have received from others. In recognizing the firm, the GLHF noted that Jenner & Block “often has represented individuals and organizations in successful precedent-setting cases, besides providing pro bono legal assistance…and financially sponsoring LGBT charities and community organization events. Jenner & Block…has long been a leader in advocating for LGBT communities…in the courtroom and in society. Its work makes the quality of life appreciably better for LGBT individuals in Chicago and the nation.” The induction ceremony took place at the Chicago History Museum and featured remarks by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Long Asylum Case Ends in Victory for Pro Bono Client
A four-year trek from the Fourth Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court, back to the Fourth Circuit and then back to the Immigration Court ended on this day in 2011 when Jenner & Block pro bono client Jean Marc Nken was granted asylum. A native of Cameroon, Mr. Nken fled in 2001 after having been jailed and tortured by the Cameroonian 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. Lindsay identified a split among the circuits on the standard applied to obtain a stay in these matters, and the Jenner & Block team sought and obtained certiorari at the Supreme Court. An associate at the time, Lindsay argued the case in the Supreme Court in 2009. In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that the traditional standard for a stay motion should apply to immigration appeals rather than the more stringent standard that had been adopted by several circuit courts. The precedent helped thousands of asylum-seekers to remain in the United States while their appeals are pending as long as they have a likelihood of success and a risk of harm if deported. After the U.S. Supreme Court victory, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Bureau of Immigration Appeals had erred and remanded the case to the BIA, giving Mr. Nken another chance to obtain asylum. The firm worked countless hours to put together the strongest possible case for Mr. Nken’s eligibility. Lindsay and her team presented Mr. Nken’s case in a contested hearing before an immigration judge. A decade after he fled Cameroon, the judge ruled that Mr. Nken was entitled to asylum, and the government agreed to waive its right to appeal. As a result, Mr. Nken was allowed remain in the United States with his wife and young son.
Firm Secures Victory for Movie Studios in Seminal File-Sharing Copyright Case
The firm effectively shut down one of the world’s largest BitTorrent websites, protecting our movie and television clients from a popular, easy and anonymous form of digital piracy. Reached on this day in 2013, the settlement with Gary Fung, owner of isoHunt Web Technologies Inc., ended nearly eight years of litigation. IsoHunt had allowed users to search for and find “BitTorrent links" to movies, television shows and virtually every other form of copyrighted content. In January 2010, the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the studios, finding that isoHunt was liable for “inducement” of copyright infringement under the seminal Supreme Court standard (which was set in an earlier case litigated by the firm). The Court also rejected the defendant’s attempt to compare isoHunt to a conventional search engine such as Google. In May 2010, the Court granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendant from providing access to the studios’ content. In March 2013, the Ninth Circuit affirmed both the finding of liability and the injunction. When the settlement was announced in October, the Washington Post opined that isoHunt’s demise was “a well-deserved victory for the motion picture industry,” adding that the courts had found “clear evidence that isoHunt was trying to profit from infringement.” Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, was quoted saying that the settlement “sends a strong message that those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers and will be held accountable for their illegal actions.” In addition to closing down isoHunt, the consent judgment awarded $110 million in damages against the defendants. The team representing the movie studios included current Partners Gianni Servodidio, Ken Doroshow and Dave Handzo, as well as Paul Smith, who led efforts in the Ninth Circuit.
Firm Secures Victory for Class of Tenants in Pro Bono Housing Matter
Capping a five-year legal battle, the Second Circuit on this day in 2013 affirmed a district court’s approval of a landmark settlement agreement between 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. Low-income tenants had accused the company of orchestrating a harassment campaign against them to force them to move out so that new tenants, not under rent control, would move in. The settlement included an independent and streamlined claims administration process; a $2.5 million legal assistance fund established by Pinnacle to assist the tenants in asserting their rights; an injunction wherein Pinnacle agreed to honor best practices enforced by a court-appointed claims administrator; and an audit of new rents, among other things. Fewer than 1 percent of the class members opted out or objected to the settlement, but all five named class representatives did object and voiced their objections to the district court. The district court conducted a fairness hearing, carefully considered all of the objections, and in June 2012, issued a 54-page opinion granting final approval to the settlement. The five named class representatives and three objecting class members then appealed to the Second Circuit, which called the district court’s decision “thorough” and “well-reasoned.” The Second Circuit also noted that the named class representatives were the “more militant members of the class” and pointed out that “the district court thoroughly and carefully reviewed the settlement and concluded that it was a fair and sensible way to resolve these claims.” The team representing the tenants included current attorneys Richard Levy, Ross Bricker, Marisa Perry and Joshua Rubin with assistance from Michael Brody, Matthew Hellman, Paul Smith and Elizabeth Edmonson.
Lehman Brothers Files for Bankruptcy; Firm Chairman Later Appointed Examiner to Investigate
On this day in 2008, the fourth largest investment bank in the country filed for bankruptcy protection. The collapse of 158-year-old Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, was one event that precipitated the late-2000s global financial crisis. At the time, it was the largest failure of an investment bank in 18 years. “Throughout the day, employees carrying tote bags, suitcases and boxes packed with contents of desks and offices streamed out of Lehman's Times Square-area headquarters,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. In January 2009, the court appointed firm Chairman Tony Valukas as examiner, charged with investigating why Lehman had failed. Later that year, Chicago Lawyer magazine named Tony “Person of the Year,” in part because of his work on Lehman. In 2010, Tony presented his 2,200-page report, coined the “Valukas Report” and applauded for its clarity and usefulness in determining what brought about Lehman’s demise.
Firm Wins $101 Jury Verdict for Ventas
On this day in 2009, a jury awarded $101 million to client Ventas, a leading healthcare real estate investment trust. Following a three-week trial in Kentucky, the verdict was awarded as compensatory damages against competitor HCP for tortious interference with business expectation arising out of Ventas’ acquisition of the Sunrise Senior Living REIT in 2007. HCP had topped Ventas' initial bid for Sunrise, which prompted Ventas to increase its offer by about $101 million. Ventas ultimately acquired Sunrise for about $2 billion and later sued HCP, arguing that it had interfered with Ventas' purchase agreement by making misleading public statements relating to the bid. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit not only affirmed the verdict but also remanded the case to the trial court to allow Ventas to pursue punitive damages. “The record is replete with evidence of intentional misrepresentations, deceit, and/or concealment of material facts by HCP,” the opinion read. For his work on the appeal, David Bradford was named American Lawyer’s “Litigator of the Week” in May 2011. In addition to David, the team resenting Ventas included current Partners Michael L. Cebula, Terri L. Mascherin, Paul M. Smith, Daniel J. Weiss and Bradley M. Yusim and Associates Anthony B. Borich, Rachel S. Morse and Shaun M. Van Horn.
Firm Convinces Supreme Court to Strike Down California's Law Restricting Violent Video Game Sales
Representing the Entertainment Merchants Association, a team including Paul Smith and Matthew Hellman convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors on the grounds that the law ran afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and expression. After the firm’s victory in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association on this day in 2011, Paul was quoted saying he felt as though he was on the “front lines of the digital war” and noted that the case and others like it would help to write the basic foundation of laws in the future.
Former Partner Don Verrilli Sworn In as U.S. Solicitor General
On this day in 2011, former partner Don Verrilli was sworn in as the solicitor general of the United States. Don was nominated by President Barack Obama in January 2011 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on a 72-16 vote. While at Jenner & Block, Don focused his practice on telecommunications law, copyright law, and First Amendment law. He was the chair of the Telecommunications Practice and co-chair of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice.
Firm Expands to the West Coast with Office in Los Angeles
Jenner & Block opened its 11,000-square-foot Los Angeles office on this day in 2009. Launched by two lateral hires from Kirkland & Ellis, Rick Richmond and Brent Caslin, the new office in the landmark U.S. Bank Tower has since grown to 33 attorneys. At the time, the Los Angeles Daily Journal quoted firm leadership saying that the recession then gripping the country would not derail plans for its West Coast expansion -- a long-term goal prompted by client needs. Rick, the office’s managing partner, recalled that his interest in Jenner & Block dated back to when he clerked at the Seventh Circuit in 1987 and saw then-partner Barry Sullivan in practice. “I had an epiphany. I said, ‘Wow, that’s how lawyers make their argument.’ I was totally transfixed,” he said at the time. Today, the office includes several federal appellate law clerks, a former White House associate counsel, a former Justice Department counsel and award-winning lawyers in their areas of focus. With their location on the Pacific Rim, attorneys in the Los Angeles office represent clients from Asia in U.S. legal matters and manage international arbitration proceedings around the Asia-Pacific region.
Firm Wins High-Stake Infringement Battle against File-Sharing Service
On this day in 2005, in perhaps the most watched commercial case of the Supreme Court’s term, then-partner Don Verrilli argued on behalf of client MGM and other studio and content owners in MGM Studios v. Grokster, a case that would establish whether file-sharing services such as Grokster could be held liable for infringement for enabling customers to download music and movies protected by federal copyright laws. Lower courts held that because Grokster could point to legal uses of its software, such as distributing works in the public domain, it could not be held liable. But Don told the justices that these file-sharing companies could show only "minuscule" legitimate uses of their products – and should not "get a perpetual free pass" simply because they could speculate on ways a customer might use their services legitimately. In June, the Court agreed, ruling that Grokster could be held liable for inducing copyright infringement. In November, the company announced that it would no longer offer its peer-to-peer file-sharing service.
Firm Wins Dismissal of Harassment Claims in Landmark Matter
The firm successfully defended national trucking company CRST Van Expedited, Inc., in a landmark harassment matter brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC sued in 2007, claiming that the company intentionally tolerated a practice and pattern of sexual harassment of its women drivers. CRST argued that the EEOC failed to show evidence of its claims. An Iowa federal trial court dismissed 268 of the 270 claims; on this day in 2012, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed all but two of the individual claims. According to a Law360 account of the dismissal, the majority ruling of the Eighth Circuit “held that the EEOC had not tried to ascertain the size of its putative class of employees, and that as a result it had not tried to investigate the claims of the 67 women during its investigation of the sexual harassment charge — brought by a single CRST employee — that led to the litigation.” Two years later, the victory was capped when a judge awarded CRST $4.6 million in attorneys fees, believed to be the largest of its kind in an EEOC case. John Mathias led the team that included Carla Rozycki, James Malysiak, Sally Sears Coder, Richard Campbell, Emma Sullivan, Ashley Schumacher and Christine Bowman.
Firm Helps Secure Pro Bono Client’s Release
On this day in 2013, the Seventh Circuit took the unusual step of ordering pro bono client Nicole Harris released on bond from prison, setting the stage for what ultimately became a successful effort by the firm and Northwestern University Law School’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions to exonerate her. "I just feel overwhelmed with joy," she told reporters covering the high-profile case. Ms. Harris had been convicted in 2005 of murdering her 4-year-old son and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The firm and the CWC became involved after trial, appealing the case through state and federal courts and losing at each turn until October 2012, when the Seventh Circuit held that the trial judge had excluded the testimony of Ms. Harris’ surviving son, 5 years old at the time, that he had seen his younger sibling strangle himself with the elastic from a bed sheet when their mother was not in the room. With her conviction reversed, the team asked the Seventh Circuit to order Mrs. Harris released on bond pending further proceedings. “We are grateful to have achieved this result for Ms. Harris,” said Bob Stauffer, who led the firm’s team. “It is very unusual for a federal appellate court to find it necessary to order a state prisoner released pending further proceedings; that the Seventh Circuit did so here suggests that it believes not only that her conviction was unconstitutional, but that it agrees with us that Ms. Harris is actually innocent.” On June 17, Ms. Harris’ freedom was secured when the state announced it would not retry her. Other members of the firm’s team included current attorneys Matt Hellman, Kara Kapp, Andrew Kennedy and Elin Park.
Pro Bono Case Was First in Illinois Granting Post-Convicting Ballistics Testing
On January 26, 2011, a team including Robert Stauffer, Andrew Vail and Kyle Palazzolo achieved a groundbreaking result in a pro bono post-conviction case on behalf of client Patrick Pursley. The Pursley case was the first case in Illinois granting a prisoner ballistics testing under the Post-Conviction Testing Act. Mr. Pursley has adamantly maintained his innocence since his conviction for first-degree murder during the course of an attempted robbery in 1993. The decision was featured in the January 2012 Pro Bono Hot List by The National Law Journal.