Appellate Court Affirms Firm Team’s Win of a New Trial for Patrick Pursley
A Jenner & Block team won another significant victory on behalf of pro bono client Patrick Pursley, who served 23 years in prison on wrongful charges of murder. On May 3, the Illinois Second District Appellate Court affirmed 17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw’s decision last year to vacate Mr. Pursley’s conviction and award him a new trial. The State had appealed Judge McGraw’s decision. This week’s ruling was based on new ballistics evidence establishing that the gun recovered from Mr. Pursley’s residence did not – contrary to the Illinois State Police testimony presented at his trial – fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene. Associate Kevin J. Murphy argued Mr. Pursley’s case before the appellate court. “The appellate court got it right,” Mr. Murphy said in a Rockford Register-Star article on the case. “Patrick has presented new and powerful evidence of his innocence.”
Other members of the Mr. Pursley’s team include Partners Andrew W. Vail and Robert R. Stauffer and Associate Monika N. Kothari. In addition, Partners Anton R. Valukas, Michael J. Nelson and Clifford W. Berlow, along with Associate Matthew T. Gordon, assisted with briefing and preparation for oral argument.
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.
Firm Team Represents the NAACP and Prince George's County, MD in Suit Over Unconstitutional Census Preparations
Jenner & Block is representing the NAACP and Prince George's County, Maryland in a lawsuit against the federal government over unconstitutional census preparations. Filed on March 28, 2018 in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, the lawsuit aims to combat the impending threat that the 2020 Census will unconstitutionally undercount minority communities, leading to inequalities in political representation and federal funding. Together with the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School, the firm is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which, in addition to the NAACP and Prince George’s County, also include the NAACP Prince George’s County Branch and two county residents.
Census results determine the number of congressional seats each state receives, the redrawing of legislative district lines and the enforcement of voting rights laws. The federal government also uses Census data to distribute federal funding. In the 2010 Census, Prince George’s County, which has a majority African American population, suffered a 2.3 percent net undercount—the largest net undercount of any county in Maryland and one of the largest of any county in the nation. The lawsuit seeks to compel the Bureau of the Census, an agency within the Department of Commerce, to prepare for and conduct a full and fair 2020 Census, as the Constitution requires.
Partner Angela Allen Profiled in Chicago Lawyer for Her Pro Bono Work with the Military
The feature about Jenner & Block Partner Angela M. Allen highlights her work with the Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSJDN), a group of law-practicing spouses of active-duty service members. Ms. Allen received the organization’s 2017 Exceptional Service Award for going above and beyond to serve others in the military and legal communities through her state licensing work, pro bono and mentoring efforts. Among her efforts: Ms. Allen testified before the Michigan Senate in support of a bill that would make licensing accommodations for military spouses stationed in Michigan. Two bills were signed into law. The feature also notes that she started the firm’s Veteran/Military Families Affinity Group and that she does pro bono work with the newly established Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network. The firm’s pro bono efforts include partnering with CARPLS, a Cook County-based free legal service provider that operates a veteran’s legal aid hotline. “We continue to partner with CARPLS, supporting them and volunteering to help get the word out about the legal aid network so that veterans and military families who have pro bono needs know to call CARPLS to get assistance,” Ms. Allen says.
Ms. Allen is a member of the firm’s Restructuring and Bankruptcy Practice. She serves as the director of the Illinois chapter of MSJDN and on the board of directors of the Turnaround Management Association.
Team Petitions Seventh Circuit for Rehearing in Case of Disabled Athlete
A firm team is seeking to revive its lawsuit that aims to compel the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to create a separate division to accommodate para-ambulatory athletes.
Judge Orders DHS to Respond More Quickly to Muslim Group’s FOIA Request
Since 2010, the firm has represented Evanston High School senior student-athlete Aaron Holzmueller on a pro bono basis. Aaron, who has cerebral palsy, asked IHSA to establish a separate division and qualifying times for certain races in its track program for para-ambulatory athletes. He also asked IHSA to create a para-ambulatory division for the Road Race, a 5-K race open to high school students across Illinois.
IHSA’s executive director denied his requests in October 2015. A team led by Partner Louis E. Fogel assisted Aaron’s family in its administrative appeal of the denial, but the IHSA board affirmed the decision two months later. The team filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking injunctive relief to permit Aaron to have a chance to compete.
In September 2017, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of IHSA. Aaron. appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. With Mr. Fogel’s assistance, Jenner & Block lawyer Devi M. Rao, then an associate and today a partner, argued the case in November 2017. In early February 2018, a Seventh Circuit panel affirmed the District Court’s decision.
While the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, the panel was ultimately divided. Judge Ilana Rovner dissented, explaining, “Allowing disabled athletes to compete in a separate division would no more undermine the competitive nature of the track-and-field program than does the current practice of allowing wheelchair athletes and male and female athletes to compete in separate divisions.”
Mr. Fogel and the team have petitioned the Seventh Circuit for en banc rehearing, and that petition is currently pending.
To learn more about the case, please visit The Heart of the Matter annual pro bono report.
Jenner & Block Associate Joshua M. Parker and Partner Kelly M. Morrison are mentioned in a Law360 article about the latest development in a Freedom of Information Act request. The team represents a public interest group called Muslim Advocates on a pro bono basis. The group seeks information under FOIA related to allegedly discriminatory policies targeting Muslims for searches following the Trump administration’s immigration ban. According to the article, titled “DHS Must Speed Up Travel-Ban Doc Production, Judge Says,” at a status conference convened at the request of Muslim Advocates, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ordered the DHS and CBP to “pick up the pace” on its productions in response to Muslim Advocates’ FOIA request. The judge shot down the CBP’s proposed cap of 250 incident reports, instead ordering that CBP produce the 1,800 incident reports Muslim Advocates requested, and to do so at a faster pace than CBP offered to do.
Partner Jessica Ring Amunson Wins US Supreme Court Victory on behalf of Pro Bono Client
Jenner & Block Partner Jessica Ring Amunson represents Rodney Class, a retired veteran who was convicted of and pleaded guilty to possessing firearms on US Capitol grounds. In Class vs. United States, Ms. Amunson argued that her client’s guilty plea does not bar him from appealing the conviction on Second Amendment and due process grounds. In a 6-3 decision announced on February 21, 2018, the Court held that “a guilty plea, by itself, does not bar a federal criminal defendant from challenging the constitutionality of his statute of conviction on direct appeal.”
“In this case, Class neither expressly nor implicitly waived his constitutional claims by pleading guilty,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch. The holding flows directly from the Court’s prior decisions, according to the opinion. The holding means that the earlier decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
This term, the firm has six cases before the Court; five of those are for pro bono clients. The Court’s decision in favor of Mr. Class is the second victory this term for a Jenner & Block pro bono client in the Supreme Court. On January 22, 2018, the Court agreed with arguments made by Partner Adam G. Unikowsky in Artis v. District of Columbia, a case that concerns the statute of limitations for litigants who file state-law claims in federal courts only to have those courts decline to exercise jurisdiction over those claims. The firm also represents pro bono clients in Marinello v. United States, argued by partner Matt Hellman on December 6, 2017; Gill v. Whitford, argued by former partner Paul M. Smith on October 3, 2017; and Abbott v. Perez, which has not yet been set for argument.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Ms. Amunson. “Mr. Class has maintained all along that he was convicted under an unconstitutional statute, and he will now have the chance to make those arguments to the court of appeals. As to the broader ramifications of the decision, as the dissent pointed out, roughly 95 percent of felony cases in federal and state courts are resolved by guilty pleas, so this decision potentially impacts a broad range of cases.”
In addition to Ms. Amunson, the team representing Mr. Class includes Associates Joshua M. Parker, Corinne M. Smith and Leonard R. Powell; Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson; Docket Assistant Tyler J. Edwards; and Legal Secretary Sheree A. Anyiam.
Partner Louis Fogel Elected to Board of the Public Interest Law Initiative
PILI’s mission is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families and communities in need. Mr. Fogel is an alumnus of PILI’s Graduate Fellowship Program, which places associates from Chicago law firms at public interest law agencies in Illinois.
The Heart of the Matter 2017 Report
Jenner & Block is pleased to present The Heart of the Matter
, our annual report that covers highlights of our pro bono and community service from 2017.
Our dedicated micro-website reflects the breadth of Jenner & Block’s pro bono program. Through featured articles and videos, we have illustrated stories of how Jenner & Block has changed the lives of the clients and organizations we are privileged to represent.
Helping Unaccompanied Minors
To stay informed about new pro bono developments in 2018, please also visit The Heart of the Matter blog
In October of 2017 and in January of 2018, about 20 young people facing deportation from the United States – legally called “unaccompanied minors” – came to Jenner & Block’s New York office for day-long clinics aimed at screening them for immigration relief.
The firm partnered with KIND, or Kids In Need of Defense, to run the clinic. KIND’s mission is to protect children who enter the US immigration system alone and strives to ensure that no such child appears in immigration court without representation. The firm has a longstanding relationship with KIND and has handled many immigration cases referred to the firm from them.
The clinics held last fall and this year represented the first time that Jenner & Block and KIND joined forces to screen young clients on-site and direct them to their next steps in the immigration process.
The firm participants – including lawyers, staff and others – first underwent a training session and then jumped into the work, interviewing one or two clients each. At the end of the screening process, the interviewers would guide the clients toward the appropriate next step, such as applying for a visa or asylum and set them up to find lawyers to seek that immigration relief.
The firm team that organized the clinics with KIND included Partner Michael W. Ross, Associates Jacob D. Alderdice and Thomas D. Garza and Legal Assistant Azza Khalifa.