Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

June 7, 2017 Jenner & Block Lawyers Win Asylum for Pro Bono Client

Jenner & Block Associate Nayiri K. Pilikyan recently won asylum for pro bono client Souraya “Sam” Semaan who fled to the United States from Lebanon to escape persecution.

Ms. Semaan, a lesbian, experienced police harassment in her native country, which has laws that are used to discriminate against the LGBT community. Several of her friends were arrested and subjected to physical abuse as a result of their sexual orientations. Ms. Semaan fled to relatives in California and sought asylum in 2014 with the assistance of Public Counsel, which enlisted the support of Jenner & Block’s on her case.

Ms. Pilikyan represented Ms. Semaan throughout the entire asylum process, which included spending several years on a waiting list. In February 2017, Ms. Pilikyan received a call asking her and Ms. Semaan to come in to the immigration office the next day for an administrative hearing. Although Ms. Pilikyan and her client had only one night to prepare, they were successful, and three months later, Ms. Semaan’s asylum application was granted. She is looking forward to her new life in the US, where she hopes to start her own business and continue writing for her blog. 

Other Jenner & Block lawyers contributing to the case included Partner Andrew J. Thomas and Associates Christina Avedissian Aryafar and Max T. Selfridge.

CATEGORIES: Asylum, Lebanon

PEOPLE: Andrew J. Thomas, Christina Avedissian Aryafar, Nayiri Keosseian Pilikyan, Max T. Selfridge

June 6, 2017 Second Circuit Rules in Favor of Firm’s Investigative Journalist Client Seeking DEA Video

A Jenner & Block team secured an important appellate win in a long-running pro bono Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) matter.  

In August 2012, investigative journalist Mattathias Schwartz filed a FOIA request with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seeking video footage of a May 2012 DEA operation in rural Honduras that resulted in the shooting deaths of four Honduran civilians.  The DEA refused to release the video, claiming it was exempt from disclosure under FOIA because it would reveal law enforcement “techniques or procedures.”

In September 2013, a firm team filed suit against the DEA on behalf of Mr. Schwartz, and in January 2016 – after multiple rounds of briefing, two rounds of oral argument, numerous additional submissions, and in camera review of the video – Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment in Mr. Schwartz’s favor and directed the DEA to release the video to him.  The DEA appealed.

On April 6, 2017, Associate Carl N. Wedoff presented oral argument to the Second Circuit, and on June 6, the appellate court affirmed the district court.  It concluded that the alleged law enforcement techniques and procedures DEA relied on to withhold the video (i) are disclosed in publicly available materials, (ii) are not disclosed by the video, or (iii) are not law enforcement techniques or procedures at all, but rather are only the circumstances in which publicly known techniques and procedures were employed.

In addition to Mr. Wedoff, the team consisted of Partner Brian J. Fischer, Associate Brittany R. Lamb and Summer Associate Alexandra Bursak, with help from Law Clerk Nicole Taykhman, Paralegal Amanda E. Factor and New York Office Managing Clerk Na’eem A. Conway.

CATEGORIES: DEA, FOIA request, Mattathias Schwartz, Video

PEOPLE: Brian J. Fischer, Carl N. Wedoff, Brittany R. Lamb

June 2, 2017 11 Lawyers Receive Firm Awards for Exceptional Pro Bono and Mentoring Efforts

Partner Erica Ross and Associates Daniel A. Epstein and Alan J. Iverson were presented with the Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award, which recognizes firm lawyers who have provided exceptional legal services to the under-resourced. 

Partner Robert L. Graham, who recently retired, received the inaugural Robert L. Graham Mentor Award in recognition of his commitment to mentoring younger lawyers throughout his 45 years at the firm.

The Associates Committee Mentorship Awards went to Partners Amy M. Gallegos, Erin R. Schrantz andformer Partner Leah J. Tulin; Special Counsel James S. Woolrich  and Associates Jonathan A. Beitner, Hannah K. Costigan Cowles and David B. Diesenhouse.

Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award

Ms. Ross was noted for her exceptional work focusing on appeals in state and federal appellate courts and the US Supreme Court.  In 2015, Ms. Ross took on a pro bono appeal challenging an Illinois Medicaid policy that was said to be “the most complex regulatory scheme ever seen in a pro bono appeal” by one of her nominators. Ms. Ross briefed and argued the case at the Seventh Circuit, winning a remand.

Mr. Epstein was recognized for his devotion of more than 1,500 hours of pro bono work since arriving at the firm in 2015.  He has represented clients in a variety of cases, including winning emergency and plenary orders of protection for a domestic violence victim; researching and drafting a brief and mooting a partner who was presenting oral argument to the Supreme Court in a habeas case in which the Court favorably ruled that its grant of certiorari had been “improvidently granted,” ultimately leading to the clients’ release from prison; achieving a favorable plea deal for a homeless man accused of attempted murder; and writing a merits brief and drafting a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc in the Seventh Circuit in a denial of a habeas petition.

Mr. Iverson was honored for his impressive work on asylum and immigration cases.  As a second year associate, he has successfully first-chaired a challenging asylum case and has helped bring about several; wins in cases involving gang-based and domestic violence claims – both developing areas of law that can present difficult issues of proof.

Named for one of the firm’s name partners, the Albert E. Jenner Award has been presented annually since 2001. Each winner receives $5,000 that they may donate to the charity or charities of their choice.

Robert L. Graham Mentor Award

The Robert L. Graham award, named for Jenner & Block’s long-time partner and former managing partner, will be awarded annually to firm lawyers who exemplify Mr. Graham’s dedication to mentorship, the public good and the highest ideals of the legal profession. Throughout his tenure at the firm, Mr. Graham took seriously the responsibility of passing on the culture of the firm to younger lawyers. He shared his belief that the law is a profession and not just a business and that lawyers must always maintain professionalism, specifically, being involved in the organized bar and in the community, representing the underrepresented and underprivileged, treating opposing counsel and parties with respect and civility while fighting for clients and being a part of a diverse firm where people can express different views and still come together.

CATEGORIES: Albert E Jenner, Bob Graham, mentoring

PEOPLE: Robert L. Graham, Erin R. Schrantz, Amy M. Gallegos, Hannah K. Costigan Cowles, Erica Ross, Jonathan Alan Beitner, David B. Diesenhouse, Alan J. Iverson, Daniel A. Epstein, James S. Woolrich

May 22, 2017 Team Wins Asylum for Honduran Woman and Her Son

On May 22, 2017, a team led by Jenner & Block Associate Jonathan A. Enfield and Discovery Attorney Pedro I. Fernandez, supervised by Partner Gabrielle Sigel, won asylum for a Honduran woman and her young son who had fled from their home to escape the woman’s extremely abusive husband.

Mr. Enfield prepared a well-written and comprehensive legal brief.  He and Mr. Fernandez tracked down witnesses in Honduras who were willing to testify, and Mr. Enfield lined up an expert on Honduran violence and police disinterest to testify at the hearing.  Neighbors who could hear the violence and see its aftereffects never helped; police “took a report” but did not attempt to protect her when she went to the police with obvious injuries. 

At the evidentiary hearing in the US Immigration Court, Mr. Enfield put on a compelling direct examination of the client.  After the government conducted its cross, the judge announced that she did not need to hear redirect examination and that, based on the team’s brief, written declarations and exhibits and the client’s testimony, the judge was granting asylum to her and derivatively to her son.  The government waived any right to appeal the decision. 

Senior Paralegal Debra E. Abelson, Legal Secretary April Thomas and Case Assistant Annette M. Young provided invaluable assistance to the team (the judge commented on how well the briefs and exhibits were prepared for filing and use at the hearing).  Associates Daniel W. Bobier and Alan J. Iverson and Staff Attorney Leonardo Morales helped moot a bilingual examination of the clients.  Discovery Attorney J. David Pedraza provided key document translations, and the team appreciated the advice and support of Partners Michele L. Slachetka and Wade A. Thomson and of the National Immigrant Justice Center.

CATEGORIES: asylum Honduran client

PEOPLE: Wade A. Thomson, Gabrielle Sigel, Jonathan A. Enfield

May 17, 2017 Jenner & Block Receives Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award

logo for award May 2017Jenner & Block was recently selected by the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation as one of only four firms worldwide – and the sole North American firm – to receive the 2017 Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award.  This award is presented annually to honor Lex Mundi member firms that have provided critical pro bono legal services that help strengthen the global rule of law and improve the lives of the world’s poor and disenfranchised.

The award was presented at Lex Mundi’s annual meeting in Prague on April 27, 2017.  Partner John H. Mathias, Jr. accepted on behalf of the firm.

In recognizing the winning firms, Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Managing Director Chloe Holderness said, “The honorees demonstrate how members of the Lex Mundi network are using their pro bono resources of time and expertise to have a tremendous impact on many of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.  The recipients also represent how our member firms, as leading law firms in their jurisdictions, have a larger commitment to growing and strengthening the global pro bono culture.” 

As an example of Jenner & Block’s exceptional pro bono contributions, Lex Mundi highlighted the firm’s work in support of the African Leadership Academy (ALA).  This South African-based foundation was established in 2004 with the philosophy that a new generation of ethical, committed leaders would be the key to Africa’s development.  It educates children at a Johannesburg campus and also provides scholarships to some of these children to pursue university degrees in North America.

ALA is undertaking a five-year plan for growth, partly funded by a loan from OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation), a US federal governmental agency that provides loans typically in circumstances where borrowers have limited access to capital in local markets.  Partners Neil Cummings and Geoffrey M. Davis and Associate Rafi W. Mottahedeh assisted ALA in connection with obtaining this loan, including providing tax advice on the deal and follow-up work.

The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of Lex Mundi, the world's leading association of independent law firms.  Lex Mundi member law firms are located throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America.  Each member firm is selected on the basis of its leadership in its local market.  Firms must maintain their level of excellence to retain membership within the Lex Mundi network.  Since Jenner & Block became Lex Mundi’s Illinois member law firm in 2013, the firm has handled approximately 15 matters through the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation.  The majority of these have been transactional matters.

CATEGORIES: Lex Mundi

PEOPLE: Geoffrey M. Davis (Geoff), John H. Mathias, Jr., Rafi W. Mottahedeh, Neil Cummings

May 10, 2017 Firm Wins Victory for Pro Bono Client Aaron Isby

Partner Ishan K. Bhabha won a significant pro bono victory on behalf of Aaron Isby, a federal inmate who has been housed in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgement on Mr. Isby’s due process claim challenging his prolonged placement in isolation and remanded the case for further proceedings in the district court.

Mr. Isby was convicted of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in 1989 and was incarcerated at a correctional facility in Indiana. After a violent altercation during a cell extraction, Mr. Isby was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and battery, sentenced to 40 additional years in prison and placed in solitary confinement in 1990.  In 2006, Mr. Isby was transferred to a new correctional facility; weeks after his arrival, he was moved to solitary confinement where he has remained since. He is confined in his cell for 23 hours per day, eats all meals alone, and has essentially no human contact. Inmates placed in isolation have their placements reviewed every 30 or 90 days to determine if continued placement is necessary. In the 10 years that Mr. Isby has been in solitary confinement, he has received the same two-sentence reasoning for his continued placement in isolation at every review – “Your status has been reviewed and there are no changes recommended to the Southern Regional Director at this time. Your current Department‐ wide Administrative segregation status shall remain in effect unless otherwise rescinded by the Southern Regional Director.”

Mr. Isby filed suit against various prison employees, claiming his prolonged placement in solitary confinement violated his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Due Process Clause. On May 10, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that his isolation did not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation as there was “no evidence of serious, physical, mental or psychological harm to Isby,” but the court reversed summary judgment on Mr. Isby’s due process claims. Given his lack of disciplinary problems for long stretches of time and the conflicting reasons for his segregation, the court found that there was a genuine dispute of fact as to whether the reviews of his confinement were meaningful, non-pretextual and meet constitutional due process standards.

Partner Barry Levenstam worked with Ishan on the brief; Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Paralegal Mary Frances Patston provided invaluable assistance.

CATEGORIES: Isby, solitary confinement

PEOPLE: Barry Levenstam, Ishan Kharshedji Bhabha

May 10, 2017 State Dismisses All Charges Against Wrongfully Convicted Pro Bono Client Adam Gray

Adam Gray was 14 in 1993 when he was arrested and charged with starting a fatal fire that killed two elderly people in a Chicago apartment.  He was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole, under the law in place at the time.  The conviction was based primarily on testimony from Chicago Fire and Police Department experts that burn patterns showed an accelerant was used in the fire, as well as a confession he gave after seven hours of interrogation by Chicago police without a parent or guardian present.  Despite that confession, Mr. Gray has subsequently maintained his innocence. 

An art teacher at Chicago’s juvenile detention center who met Mr. Gray eventually came to believe he was wrongfully convicted.  That teacher reached out to Jenner & Block, providing the firm with affidavits and other materials that she had collected; in 2010, the firm took on Mr. Gray’s representation.  In the course of litigating his post-conviction petition, the team investigated and presented newly discovered evidence from three well-known fire science experts as well as from lay witnesses.  Based on advances in the field of fire science, the experts showed that there was no evidence to believe there was arson at all.  Further, physical evidence proved that the central elements of Mr. Gray’s confession could not have been true. 

The tenacious arguments made by Jenner & Block Partner Terri L. Mascherin finally persuaded the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to take another look at the case and, in the summer of 2016, the office announced it would join Mr. Gray’s request for a retrial.  Unfortunately, in November, the circuit court judge denied the joint request and the firm filed a notice of appeal.  After further negotiations with prosecutors, the new Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that the State would agree to voluntarily dismiss the charges against Mr. Gray.  The court approved the dismissal on May 3, 2017, and Mr. Gray was released from prison later that day.

In addition to Ms. Mascherin, the team representing Mr. Gray includes Partners Barry Levenstam and Daniel T. Fenske; Associates Brij B. Patnaik and James Dawson; and Paralegal Mary Patston.  Serving as co-counsel with Jenner & Block was Exoneration Project Staff Attorney Tara Thompson.

CATEGORIES: Adam Gray

PEOPLE: Terri L. Mascherin, Daniel T. Fenske, Barry Levenstam, Brij B. Patnaik, James Dawson

May 5, 2017 Firm’s Washington, DC Office Recognized as Pro Bono Leader

Jenner & Block’s Washington, DC office was once again recognized for its outstanding leadership in the area of pro bono service.  At the 14th annual “40 at 50” Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast held on April 27, 2017 at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse,the judges of the District of Columbia federal courts honored local law firms in which at least 40 percent of all attorneys dedicated 50 or more hours in 2016 to providing free legal representation to individuals with limited financial resources or to charitable organizations.  Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the US District Court for the District of Columbia were among those in attendance.

Judge Garland expressed his gratitude to the legal community for fighting for access to justice in the District. “The need is high. You fill that gap,” Garland said, also telling the assembled lawyers that their work tells people that they matter. “Clients get validation that their legal problems are important,” he stated.

Beyond achieving the “40 at 50” benchmark, Jenner & Block was noted as one of a select group of three firms where more than 65 percent of all attorneys contributed at least 50 hours of pro bono service in 2016.

The DC Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services sponsors this annual event to promote the goal that each lawyer in the District contribute at least 50 pro bono hours per year.  The Judicial Conference has recognized the firm every year since the “40 at 50” list’s inception.

To read the Judicial Conference’s press release, please click here.

CATEGORIES: Awards, DC, Pro Bono

May 5, 2017 Jenner & Block Named to National Law Journal “Pro Bono Hot List”

November 2016 For the fourth consecutive year, Jenner & Block has been named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List,” as one of only 12 law firms across the United States selected for this recognition.

A feature article published by theNLJ spotlights the excellent results firm teams achieved in six pro bono cases won in the US Supreme Court in 2015-2016, as well as the significant transactional work done by a multi-disciplinary, cross-office team for the Young Center, a nonprofit that represents unaccompanied immigrant children.

The article also notes that more than 75,000 pro bono hours were contributed by firm lawyers in 2016 alone, representing an average of 138 hours per lawyer.  Nearly 94 percent of lawyers performed 20 hours or more of pro bono – an all-time firm record.

CATEGORIES: Awards, Litigation, Pro Bono

PEOPLE: Adam G. Unikowsky

May 4, 2017 Pro Bono Client Released From Prison Pending Appeal and Retrial

On April 27, pro bono client Patrick Pursley was released from prison on bond after being incarcerated for more than 23 years on a murder conviction that was recently thrown out.

Earlier this year, lawyers from Jenner & Block won Mr. Pursley a new trial based on new ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene.  17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State of Illinois’ own examiners, who refuted Illinois State Police testimony presented at Mr. Pursley’s initial trial, entitled Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  The State is appealing Judge McGraw’s decision.

The firm’s lawyers appeared before Judge McGraw on April 13 and argued that, given the likelihood Mr. Pursley would be acquitted of the charges against him at a retrial, he should be granted a low monetary bond pending the appeal.  The judge set a bond of $50,000 for Mr. Pursley, a fraction of the $500,000 to $1 million bond sought by the State. The judge’s decision required Mr. Pursley to post bail of $5,000, which he did with the help of friends and family. The Rockford Register Star published a story Mr. Pursley’s release, in which he said that the Jenner & Block team and other lawyers representing him were “doggedly determined and excellent.”

Jenner & Block, along with Steven A. Drizin of the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008, winning on appeal a reversal that he was entitled to new ballistics testing under the Illinois Post Conviction Act. You can read more about that work in The National Law Journal  article titled, “This Win Required a Trip to the Legislature.”

The Jenner & Block team representing Mr. Pursley includes Partners Andrew W. Vail and Robert R. Stauffer and Associates Kevin J. Murphy and Monika N. Kothari.

 

CATEGORIES: Litigation, Pro Bono

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail, Robert R. Stauffer, Kevin J. Murphy, Monika N. Kothari

April 25, 2017 Jenner & Block Wins Low Monetary Bond for Client Whose Conviction Was Vacated

A Jenner & Block team recently won another pro bono victory on behalf of Patrick Pursley, who has served more than 23 years in prison on a murder conviction that was recently thrown out.

The firm’s lawyers appeared before 17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw on April 13 and argued that, given the likelihood Mr. Pursley would be acquitted of the charges against him at a retrial, he should be granted a low monetary bond.  Judge McGraw set a bond of $50,000 for Mr. Pursley, a fraction of the $500,000 to $1 million bond sought by the State of Illinois.  The judge’s decision means that Mr. Pursley will need to post $5,000 to be released from prison awaiting his new trial—an amount he will likely be able to assemble with the help of friends and family.

Earlier this year, lawyers from Jenner & Block won Mr. Pursley a new trial based on new ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene.  The judge further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State’s own examiners, which refuted Illinois State Police testimony presented at the 1994 trial, entitled Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  The State is appealing Judge McGraw’s decision.

The firm, in connection with Steve Drizin of the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008.  The Jenner & Block team representing Mr. Pursley includes Partners Andrew W. Vail and Robert R. Stauffer and Associates Kevin J. Murphy and Monika N. Kothari.

CATEGORIES: Ballistics, Matters of Note, Patrick Pursley

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail, Robert R. Stauffer, Kevin J. Murphy, Monika N. Kothari

March 31, 2017 Firm Represents Cities Initiative in Challenge to Diversion of Lake Michigan Water

Jenner & Block is representing, pro bono, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) in its challenge to a decision by the Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) allowing the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin to divert water from Lake Michigan. The Waukesha diversion is the first-ever approval of a diversion of Great Lakes water to a community outside the Great Lakes basin. The case has far-reaching implications for both the region and water law.

The Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of more than 120 cities whose mayors and local officials are working to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.  In August 2016, on behalf of the Cities Initiative, the Jenner & Block team submitted a request for a hearing before the Compact Council for reconsideration of the diversion and submitted a 64-page written statement detailing the legal and technical reasons reconsideration was appropriate. On March 20, 2017, after additional extensive briefing, the Compact Council held a hearing and allowed oral argument by the Cities Initiative and the City of Waukesha. Partner Jill M. Hutchison argued on behalf of the Cities Initiative. The Compact Council took the matter under advisement at the close of arguments, and a written decision in expected to be issued in early May.

Multiple outlets have reported on the hearing including Milwaukee Public Radio, NPR and Great Lakes Now.

In addition to Ms. Hutchison, the Jenner & Block team representing the Cities Initiative includes Partners E. Lynn Grayson, Steven M. Siros and Allison A. Torrence; Of Counsel Stephen H. Armstrong and Anne (Andi) Samuels Kenney; and Associates Laura C. Bishop, Alexander J. Bandza and Daniel S. Quarfoot.

CATEGORIES: Cities Initiative

PEOPLE: Stephen H. Armstrong, E. Lynn Grayson, Anne Samuels Kenney (Andi), Allison A. Torrence, Steven M. Siros, Jill M. Hutchison, Laura Christine Bishop, Alexander J. Bandza

March 14, 2017 The Heart of the Matter 2016 Report

Jenner & Block is pleased to present the firm’s 2016 The Heart of the Matter, which covers pro bono and community service highlights. 

The report features some of the ways that our lawyers continue to bring Jenner & Block's high standard of excellence in transactional and litigation services to those most in need in our communities. The firm’s pro bono program reached record numbers in 2016.  The sheer volume of hours Jenner & Block provided and the high percentage of our lawyers doing that work reflect the firm’s deep and abiding commitment to pro bono.  

But the numbers alone cannot tell the story of the impact of the firm’s work on the lives of our individual clients and their families; the not-for-profit organizations we partner with or represent; the communities we serve; and the development of the law. This publication aims to reflect the breadth of Jenner & Block’s program and highlight a cross-section of the many matters the firm has handled.     

To read more and keep abreast of 2017 developments, please continue to visit The Heart of the Matter Blog.

CATEGORIES: Newsletters

March 13, 2017 Jenner & Block Team Wins Victory for Pro Bono Client Patrick Pursley

A Jenner & Block team won a recent pro bono victory on behalf of Patrick Pursley, who has been incarcerated for the past 23 years, serving a life sentence for a murder conviction.  On March 3, Mr. Pursley was granted a new trial based on ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene.

The firm, along with the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008, winning on appeal a reversal that he was entitled to new ballistics testing under the Illinois Post Conviction Act. You can read more about that work in The National Law Journal in an article titled, “This Win Required a Trip to the Legislature.” In December of 2016, the firm presented the new ballistics evidence at an evidentiary hearing before Chief Judge Joseph McGraw in Rockford.  The hearing was covered by the Rockford Register Star, and the Associated Press also issued a story that was picked up by numerous media outlets.

Judge McGraw ruled that expert testimony presenting the new ballistics evidence is newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  Judge McGraw further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State’s own examiners—which refuted the Illinois State Police testimony presented at the 1994 trial—are newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial.  The ruling was covered by local media.

The State plans to appeal Judge McGraw’s decision.  The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, at which the Court will hear Mr. Pursley’s bond motion.

CATEGORIES: Ballistics, Matters of Note, Patrick Pursley

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail, Robert R. Stauffer, Kevin J. Murphy, Monika N. Kothari

March 6, 2017 Firm Files Amicus Brief Supporting Transgender High School Boy Seeking to Use Boys’ Restroom

Jenner & Block lawyers submitted an amicus brief in Gloucester County v. G.G., a case  that was scheduled to be argued to the US Supreme Court on March 28, 2017.  The case was an appeal from a ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowing a transgender student who identifies as a boy to use the boys’ restroom in his Virginia high school.  On March 6, 2017, the US Supreme Court decided not to hear the case at this time, vacating the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

The brief, in support of the respondent G.G., was filed on behalf of 20 leading medical and mental health organizations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians and mental health professionals, tens of thousands of medical students, over one hundred thousand physician assistants and millions of nurses.  Citing the medical consensus regarding transgender individuals and generally accepted treatment protocols for gender dysphoria, a condition that affects many transgender individuals, the brief argues that access to single-sex facilities corresponding to one’s gender identity is a critical aspect of treatment of the condition.  By contrast, the brief asserts, excluding transgender individuals from facilities consistent with their gender identity undermines their treatment, exposes them to stigma and discrimination as well as potential harassment, harms their physical health and impairs their social development, contributing to poorer health outcomes throughout life.

Partner Scott B. Wilkens led the firm’s team in drafting the brief, assisted by Partner Erica Ross and Associates Nicholas W. Tarasen and Ben J. Brysacz.  Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson also made valuable contributions.

In August 2016, the firm won a preliminary injunction preventing the University of North Carolina from enforcing North Carolina’s House Bill 2 against three transgender plaintiffs.  House Bill 2 effectively prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using restrooms or other facilities consistent with their gender identity in public buildings.  Further trial court proceedings in that case have been stayed pending a decision in the Gloucester County case.  Mr. Wilkens also leads the team in the House Bill 2 case, assisted by Partner Luke C. Platzer and Associates Mark P. Gaber, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio, Thomas D. Garza, Mr. Tarasen and Mr. Brysacz.

CATEGORIES: Amicus Brief

PEOPLE: Luke C. Platzer, Scott B. Wilkens, Erica Ross, Thomas D. Garza, Lorenzo Di Silvio, Ben J. Brysacz