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.
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.
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.
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.
Firm Achieves Settlement in Long-running Chicago Urban League School Funding Suit
On February 22, 2017, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unanimously voted to settle a Chicago Urban League lawsuit challenging the state’s school funding system on the basis that it disparately impacts low-income and minority students. Jenner & Block has served as pro bono counsel to the Urban League throughout the litigation, which began in 2008.
In 2009, the lawsuit survived a key legal hurdle when a Cook County judge denied, in part, the defendant’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs had stated a valid claim under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003. It was the first school funding case that had been able to advance past the initial claims. ISBE agreed to settle the case against the backdrop of the plaintiffs’ pending motion for summary judgment.
The settlement will end the Board of Education’s “proration” practice for decreasing funding, which was an across-the-board method of cutting funding to districts when there is insufficient money available for the state to meet its required payments. The lawsuit alleged that this practice disparately impacted school districts with a majority of black and Hispanic students. The settlement will require that, in the event of a funding shortfall, state aid will be distributed based on student and district need.
The case was filed by a team led by former partner Lisa T. Scruggs, who has continued to lead the case in recent years as co-counsel with firm Partners Robert L. Graham and David J. Bradford. Partner Gail H. Morse was also a member of the team working on this matter. Of Counsel Benjamin K. Miller also made valuable contributions to the case, as did Associates Kathryn Hunt Muse, Ramon Villalpando, Briana Sprick Schuster and Reena Sikdar. Paralegals Jessica Merkouris and Mary Patston also assisted. Other team members through the years included former partner Sandi Toll; former associates Herbert C. Brown, Brian L. Dougherty, Grace S. Ho, Stephanie Jean-Jacques, Shannon J. Jones, Katherine Neville, Kyle A. Palazzolo and Elie Zenner; former litigation counsel Shyni R. Varghese; and former paralegal Gabriella Guajardo.
News of the settlement was reported by many media outlets including US News, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ News.
Partner Leah Tulin Represents Congressman in Student Art Dispute
Jenner & Block Partner Leah J. Tulin is working on a pro bono basis in the First Amendment case of a former high school student whose award-winning painting was removed from public display in the US Capitol after it became the subject of a negative media campaign. Ms. Tulin is representing the artist, David Pulphus, and Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, who each year sponsors a student artist from his district as part of the annual Congressional Art Competition. For the 2016 competition, Mr. Clay sponsored a painting by Mr. Pulphus called “Untitled #1,” which depicts a scene from Ferguson, MO, with police officers and protestors represented as animals. After being on public display in the Cannon Tunnel in the US Capitol Complex for nearly seven months, the Architect of the Capitol ordered the painting removed in response to pressure from a number of conservative media outlets and a group of lawmakers.
In a lawsuit filed in federal district court on February 21, 2017, Ms. Tulin and the team allege that the painting’s removal violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Mr. Pulphus and Mr. Clay. It is a basic and fundamental principle that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting or prohibiting speech just because it disagrees with a speaker’s viewpoint, according to the complaint. The suit names the Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers as the defendant.
Joining Ms. Tulin on the team are Associates Tassity Johnson and Sati Harutyunyan.
News of the federal lawsuit was reported by media outlets including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Hill and The Washington Post.
Firm’s Pro Bono Client Featured in Four-Part Sun Times Series
Jesse Webster, the firm’s pro bono client who was granted executive clemency after serving 20 years of a life sentence on charges related to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, is the subject of a four-part series by Chicago Sun Times columnist Mary Mitchell. The series chronicles Mr. Webster’s run-in with the law at age 26 and how he had been in prison for 14 years and lost several appeals when he “crossed paths” with Partner Jessica Ring Amunson. A federal appeals court appointed the firm in 2009 to represent Webster in his last, and final, appeal. Ms. Amunson is photographed and quoted throughout the series, telling Ms. Mitchell that, “I was honest about how much odds were against” clemency. “But I decided to take on his clemency case because I could not understand why someone like Jesse would be spending the rest of his life in jail for a non-violent drug offense. It just made no sense to me that our criminal justice system would work that way.”
On March 30, 2016, President Obama granted executive clemency to Mr. Webster and 60 other individuals “serving years in prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws,” according to the White House. The series tells of Mr. Webster’s work to re-integrate himself in society since his release, including getting a job at Catholic Charities. It also describes Mr. Webster’s first face-to-face meeting with Ms. Amunson, in October at a restaurant in downtown Chicago. “It wasn’t like I was meeting her for the first time,” Mr. Webster says. “I felt like I knew her.” Ms. Amunson is quoted saying, “It was a pretty amazing thing to be a part of helping someone spend the rest of their life with their family, rather than spending the rest of their life in prison.”
In addition to Ms. Amunson, Partner Barry Levenstam and Associate Caroline DeCell worked on the case. The team’s efforts included petitioning Capitol Hill and sharing Mr. Webster’s story with major media outlets such as the New York Times. Ms. Mitchell also wrote several columns about Mr. Webster in the past and published Mr. Webster’s open letter to youth. “It took a lot of caring people to get Webster back home safely,” the series concludes. “Without them, he would still be wasting away behind bars.”
Firm Files Amicus Brief in High-Profile Suit Regarding Detainees’ Right to Sue Officials
An amicus brief filed on behalf of a number of immigrant rights groups argues that the US Supreme Court should permit immigrants detained in the wake of 9/11 the right to sue top officials for civil rights violations. In 2015, the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the detainees, but last October, the Court agreed to take on three petitions in the consolidated case: one from ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft and ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller; one from ex-Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar; and one from Dennis Hasty and James Sherman, respectively the former warden and associate warden of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where the detainees were held. The firm’s brief is among at least 10 amicus briefs filed in support of detainees.
The brief argues that the detainees can sue the federal officials under the Bivens doctrine. That doctrine stems from the 1971 Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents decision in which the Supreme Court held that plaintiffs can sue individual federal officials for monetary damages when no other remedy is available to protect a constitutional right.
Denying a Bivens remedy, the brief says, “would effectively immunize tens of thousands of federal officers, and large swaths of federal law enforcement activity, from damages, no matter how egregious the officers’ conduct.” The brief continues, it “would effectively immunize federal officers from damages liability even for torture, so long as the torture arises in a context involving national security or noncitizens. This Court should reject that extreme position and affirm the critical importance of a Bivens remedy in deterring unconstitutional conduct and enforcing constitutional rights.”
News of the amicus brief was reported in Law360.
The brief was written by Partner Matthew E. Price and Associates Marina K. Jenkins, Tassity S. Johnson and Michael E. Stewart.
Financial Times Recognizes Firm for Innovation in Social Responsibility
Jenner & Block has been recognized by the Financial Times (FT) in its North America Innovative Lawyers 2016 Report, which highlights the firm's pro bono work in a landmark US Supreme Court case.
The firm was designated as a “Standout” – FT’s highest rating – and ranked #2 overall among all law firms in the “Social Responsibility–Pro Bono Cases” category for an important win in the representation of Gregory Welch. Mr. Welch was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15years’ imprisonment based on the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act—a statutory provision that the Supreme Court subsequently struck down because it was so vague that it violated the Constitutional right to due process. In Welch v. United States, fifth-year Associate Amir H. Ali argued to the Supreme Court that its decision striking down the residual clause must be applied retroactively to people like Mr. Welch, whose conviction and sentence had already become final. The Court agreed in a 7-1 vote. In announcing the recognition, FT noted that the firm “proved that thousands of inmates were serving unconstitutional sentences and achieved a rare Supreme Court ruling” in favor of those inmates.
In addition to Mr. Ali, the firm’s team included Partners Lindsay C. Harrison and Matthew E. Price, Associates R. Trent McCotter and Joshua M. Parker, former Law Clerk Adrienne L. Benson, Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson, Docketing Assistant Tyler J. Edwards, Legal Assistant Mary “Beth” E. Gulden and Legal Secretary Curlene B. Wellington.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryJuan Rivera’s Conviction Is Reversed
December marks the fifth anniversary of the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District reversing the conviction of pro bono client Juan Rivera. Mr. Rivera had been convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The Illinois court found insufficient evidence to support his conviction in light of the DNA evidence excluding him as the perpetrator.
Click here to learn more about the case.
Firm Files Amicus Brief in Support of California Statute to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
Partner Daniel A. Rozansky, Associate Anna Marie A. Van Hoesen and Law Clerk Daixi Xu submitted an amicus brief in concert with the (FVAP) on behalf of FVAP and 10 other California-based nonprofit organizations that work with domestic violence survivors and their children. Filed in the California Court of Appeal for the Second District, the amicus brief supports the appellant, a victim of domestic violence, in appealing an order granting joint custody of her two young daughters to her abusive partner. Although California Family Code Section 3044 creates a rebuttable presumption against awarding custody to domestic abusers, trial courts such as this one have repeatedly failed to apply that presumption or properly consider the factors required to rebut it. As set forth in the brief, joint custody arrangements provide the opportunity for batterers to further abuse their former partners and their children. Studies have found that victims of domestic violence face serious safety risks in such custody arrangements and that children exposed to domestic violence are 74 percent more likely to commit crimes against other people, 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and much more likely to abuse their own partners. Accordingly, the brief urges the court of appeal to provide much needed guidance so that trial courts will understand and effectuate the legislative intent to protect children from the known harms associated with granting custody to domestic abusers.
DC, Chicago Lawyers Assist Non-Profit in Spin-Off from Sponsor
A team of Jenner & Block lawyers recently provided pro bono assistance to the Young Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the United States. The Young Center, which has offices in several major US cities, sought to spin off and become an independent entity from another nonprofit that had been its sponsor. Jenner & Block Partner Richard F. Levy is a member of the Young Center’s Board of Directors and in addition to giving his time, he arranged for the firm to provide pro bono assistance to the organization. Partners D. Joe Smith, Carrie F. Apfel, S. Tony Ling and Peter H. Rosenbaum; Of Counsel Emma J. Sullivan; and Associate Grant B. Schweikert provided counsel on multiple aspects of the Young Center’s separation, including the novation of its contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services; drafting transactional agreements governing its spin-off; providing counsel regarding certain labor and employee benefit matters; and advising its Board of Directors in connection with the spin-off. The spin-off was completed on October 1. To read a letter of appreciation to Jenner & Block Managing Partner Terrence J. Truax from the Young Center’s executive director and managing director, please click here.
Firm Hosts Immigration Clinic for Synchrony Financial Legal Department
On November 4, Jenner & Block’s New York office hosted a half-day pro bono immigration / naturalization clinic for the Legal Department of client Synchrony Financial. The clinic was organized with the assistance of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and brought more than 30 members of the Synchrony Legal Department into the New York office for a half-day of training and legal service. The attorneys were trained on assisting with naturalization paperwork for green card holders, and then spent the rest of the morning paired up with clinic participants who they helped fill out the paperwork needed to apply for U.S. citizenship. The clinic was organized in New York by Partners Joseph L. Noga and Michael W. Ross, with the capable assistance of New York’s Legal Assistance Group’s support staff.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryFirm Inducted in LGBT Hall of Fame for Pro Bono Assistance
November marks the fifth anniversary of Jenner & Block being inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, now known as the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. The firm was honored as a “Friend of the Community.”
Former Managing Partner Susan Levy Recognized for Commitment to Pro Bono
Click here to learn more.
Jenner & Block’s former managing partner Susan C. Levy was honored by the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services (LAS) at its 2016 award luncheon on October 26. Ms. Levy, now executive vice president and general counsel at Northern Trust, was presented with the LAS William H. Avery Award for Equal Access to Justice for her contributions to pro bono and community service. Firm Chairman Anton R. Valukas interviewed Ms. Levy during the program segment of the luncheon, asking her questions about her tenure as Jenner & Block’s first woman managing partner and about her commitment to giving back. Ms. Levy noted that the firm’s emphasis on pro bono was one of the features that attracted her when she was deciding where to practice after graduating from Harvard Law School. “We used to call it ‘the Jenner tax,’” she recalled, explaining that some of everyone’s salary supports the firm’s pro bono work. The award event was attended by 325 members of Chicago’s legal community and raised more than $365,000 for the Legal Aid Society.
Jenner & Block’s Litigation Department Chair Craig C. Martin was a member of the event’s Host Committee. Partner William D. Heinz recently completed 30 years as a member of Metropolitan Family Services Board of Directors and the LAS Advisory Board. Partner Amanda S. Amert is now serving as an LAS board member, and Partner John R. Storino is a new member of the Metropolitan Family Services Board of Directors. An article about the award event appeared in the October 31 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
Photograph by LeVern Danley, LAD4 Creations