Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:

 

 

September 21, 2020 Firm Assists Healthy Eating Non-Profit Strengthen the Delivery of its Services

The firm counseled Purple Asparagus as it explored a strategic alliance that would strengthen the delivery of its programming. Purple Asparagus educates children, families, and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Its flagship program, “Delicious Nutritious Adventures,” brings healthy foods to life for elementary school children in Chicagoland schools.

The matter began at the top of the year as a proposed merger with a local non-profit, but uncertainties caused by COVID-19 led to negotiations ending. Purple Asparagus and the firm team shifted focus to finding another home for the programming and ultimately entered into an agreement with another Chicago-based non-profit that will strengthen the delivery of all Purple Asparagus programs.

The firm team included Partner Gail H. Morse and Associates William R. Erlain and Rita L. Feikema.

CATEGORIES: Transactional

PEOPLE: Gail H. Morse, P.C., Rita L. Feikema, William Robert Erlain (Bill)

September 16, 2020 Letter to Alabama Governor Seeks Justice for Birmingham’s “Fifth Little Girl”

Jenner & Block Partners Ishan K. Bhabha and Alison I. Stein and Associate Caroline C. Cease sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeking justice on behalf pro bono client Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at age 12 was the victim of a 1963 bombing that left her partially blinded and killed her older sister.

Known as the “fifth little girl,” Ms. Collins Rudolph survived the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. The attack killed four girls, including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae, as well as Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14. Ms. Collins Rudolph lost her right eye in the attack.

The letter sent to Gov. Ivey on September 14 calls for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeks compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured. “While social justice is always a worthy cause, given recent events, now is the time for Ms. Collins Rudolph to receive long overdue justice,” the letter states.

Learn more in this press release about the case.

CATEGORIES: Pro Bono

PEOPLE: Alison I. Stein, Ishan K. Bhabha, Caroline C. Cease

September 14, 2020 Cross-Office Team Advises Lawyers Without Borders

Earlier this year, Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) asked the firm to conduct an in-depth analysis on wildlife trafficking and organized crime and whether there has been an impact since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Africa, South America, and Asia.

After diligent research by a cross-office team including Partner Christine Braamskamp, Staff Attorney Angelina Smith, and Paralegal Neha Patel, the team found that while there were travel bans and trade restrictions in effect that limited the move of goods and people, organized crime found ways to adapt their operations and continue wildlife trafficking. This includes finding alternative methods of transportation and increasing online wildlife trading and selling.

The team suggested that to mitigate the adaptation of organized crime, law enforcement agencies should increase security at check points on land borders and at ports where the transport of wildlife occurs the most. Further, the development of specific strategies to police virtual markets, such as cybercrime units and special monitoring programs, may be needed. Their research recommended that educating local communities on the dangers of wildlife trade and the potential diseases that can cause outbreak would help curb the demand in wildlife trafficking. The team urged the LWOB to have readily available information on the practice of illegal wildlife trafficking and its connection to the spread of disease, as well as provide communities with a way to report suspected illegal trafficking.

CATEGORIES: Pro Bono

PEOPLE: Angelina E. Smith, Christine Braamskamp

August 7, 2020 Third District Panel Upholds Historic Preservation Law in Protecting Rock Island County Courthouse from Demolition

On July 16, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that a state historic preservation law prevents local authorities from demolishing the nearly 125-year-old Rock Island County Courthouse. Justice William E. Holdridge wrote in a 46-page opinion that neither Rock Island County, nor the Chief Judge of the Rock Island Circuit Court could order the courthouse demolished without first complying with the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act. Under that Act, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency must undergo a process to look for alternatives to demolition. The Appellate Court enjoined any demolition until the county complies with the state law.

The Appellate Court decision is an important step forward in saving the historic landmark. The Rock Island County Courthouse, constructed in 1896 and determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, is included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

Jenner & Block represents, pro bono, all of the plaintiffs against the Rock Island County Public Building Commission and County Board; they include Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association, Rock Island Justice Center, and bondholder Fred Shaw. Associate Thomas E. Quinn argued the appeal. The firm team includes Charles W. Carlin, Hope H. Tone, Bill A. Williams, and Co-Managing Partner Randy E. Mehrberg.

CATEGORIES: Litigation

PEOPLE: Thomas E. Quinn, Randall E. Mehrberg, Charles W. Carlin, William A. Williams (Bill), Hope H. Tone-O'Keefe

July 7, 2020 Team Helps Pro Bono Client Secure Compassionate Release from Prison in the Wake of COVID-19 Threat

In 2012, our client was sentenced to 252 months in prison for a non-violent drug offense, a sentence that was 12 months longer than the minimum sentence. He has been an inmate at FCI Oakdale in Louisiana, despite being tried in the Northern District of Illinois and residing in Illinois. Oakdale has experienced a severe outbreak of COVID-19 and has a staggering 18.5% confirmed infection rate. This percentage is about 22 times worse than the United States overall. Furthermore, Oakdale has faced heavy scrutiny (including media attention) for its wardens’ negligent handling of the pandemic and endangering inmates. Our client has three of the most common COVID-19 comorbidities, making him highly susceptible to severe illness if he were to contract the virus. Out of fear for his life, he filed a pro se petition with Judge Lefkow for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i).

On June 18, Judge Lefkow appointed Partner Paul B. Rietema to assist our client with his petition. Associate Maliha Ikram quickly worked to gather necessary information to support the petition. Maliha spoke to our client on June 19to glean information on his friends, family and community members. Maliha contacted dozens of these individuals over the course of 10 days. On July 1, Paul and Maliha were able to make an evidentiary submission that included 22 letters and affidavits in support of our client’s release.

On July 7, our client’s motion was granted and his sentence was reduced to time served. He has been ordered to be released from custody at Oakdale as soon as practicable. His term of supervised release will commence immediately upon his release, with his first six months to be served in home confinement. Though our client’s prison sentence would have otherwise run until 2028, the court released him to home confinement with the remainder of his term to be served on supervised release.

In granting his motion, the court noted that our client does not pose “a danger to individual or community safety” and, while incarcerated, has shown remorse for past conduct, earned his GED, and enrolled in several self-bettering courses. To have kept him imprisoned at Oakdale would have been to put him at “extraordinary risk” for his life.

The team was assisted by Legal Assistant Mirella Marquez, Manager of Docketing Services Na’eem Conway, and Docket Assistant Dylan Doppelt, who were instrumental in compiling and filing documents on our compressed timeline.

CATEGORIES: COVID-19, Litigation

PEOPLE: Paul B. Rietema, Maliha Ikram

July 6, 2020 The American Lawyer’s Annual Survey Ranks the Firm No. 1 in Pro Bono for the Fourth Consecutive Year

Once again, The American Lawyer has recognized Jenner & Block as the No. 1 law firm in the United States for pro bono service. This marks the fourth consecutive year – and the 10th time in 13 years – that the firm has achieved the top spot in the annual survey of pro bono commitment among AmLaw 200 firms. 

The American Lawyer’s annual survey ranking is based on 2019 hours, which totaled more than 85,700. Firm lawyers contributed, on average, more than 175 hours of pro bono work during the year, and 100 percent of US-based lawyers performed more than 20 hours. In international pro bono work, the firm secured third place for the second year in a row.

Jenner & Blockhas a deep and historic commitment to pro bono and public service. Partners Thomas P. Sullivan, Prentice H. Marshall and Jerold S. Solovy launched the firm's formal pro bono program in the 1950s when, as active members of the Chicago Bar Association’s Defense of Prisoners Committee, they not only represented indigent criminal defendants, but also began recruiting dozens of other Jenner & Block lawyers to the same service.  The firm's name partners, Albert E. Jenner, Jr. and Samuel W. Block, worked on many pro bono cases involving civil and constitutional rights and were widely recognized for their contributions to public service.

The firm was named No. 1 in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999. 

CATEGORIES: American Lawyer

PEOPLE: Thomas P. Sullivan

July 2, 2020 Firm Joins New Alliance Aimed at Dismantling System Racism in the Law and Government

Jenner & Block was among more than 125 law firms nationwide to join the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), which formed late last month. 

LFAA is a coalition that will work with other organizations that are uniting to identify and dismantle systemic racism in the law and in government institutions.  LFAA will facilitate large-scale pro bono projects that address systemic racism, with priority areas determined by affected communities, community organizers, policy experts and legal aid partners.

“Recent events have affirmed and highlighted the need for law firms to do more to identify and dismantle structural or systemic racism in the law and in government institutions,” reads LFAA’s charter.  “Lawyers have a responsibility to use their knowledge and position to increase access to justice and to ensure a fair and equitable legal system.  Lawyers and law firms are uniquely positioned to analyze and to advocate to change laws, policies and institutional structures that encourage, perpetuate or allow racial injustice.”

Participant firms commit to leverage resources of the private bar to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism; better use the law as a vehicle for change to benefit communities of color; and promote racial equity in the law and in government institutions.

LFAA will mark its official launch with a virtual summit this summer.  Facilitated by experts in racial justice and systemic project design, the summit will include discussions among law firm leaders, diversity and inclusion professionals and pro bono professionals on developing LFAA's strategic focus and to plan a broad summit for the fall.

CATEGORIES: Pro Bono

June 23, 2020 Firm Wins Victory For Pro Bono Client In New York Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and ordered a new trial for firm client, David Lang, finding that the trial court had improperly substituted a juror mid-trial.  Mr.Lang, now 78 years old, was convicted in 2012 of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his brother on the farm where they lived together in upstate New York.  As a result of that conviction, Lang was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. 

The firm appealed first to the New York Intermediate Appellate Court, which affirmed the conviction.  The firm then petitioned the New York Court of Appeals to hear the case, and the Court of Appeals agreed to do so. Review by the Court of Appeals review is extremely rare—the court took only 34 cases out of about 2,500 criminal applications in 2019.

At issue in the appeal was the court’s substitution, on the ninth day of the trial, of a sitting juror with an alternate juror.  On the morning of that ninth day of trial, the trial judge announced that he had been told by a court official that a juror couldn’t be there because a family member had a medical appointment in Rochester, which was several hours away by car.  The court, when ordering the juror substitution, provided inaccurate (and limited) reasoning as to why it believed the juror might have suddenly become unavailable, and never actually made an inquiry into whether the juror was unavailable or likely to appear within a reasonable amount of time. 

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court failed to conduct the requisite “reasonably thorough inquiry” before substituting jurors.  “Not only did the court provide only limited – and inaccurate – reasons to support a finding of unavailability, there is nothing on the record reflecting that it made any inquiry into Juror Number 9’s whereabouts or likelihood of appearing prior to ordering the substitution of Juror Number 9 with Alternate Number 1,” reads the opinion.

The court reversed Lang’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial.

Partner Matthew S. Hellman argued before the Court of Appeals.  Associate Caroline C. Cease was also on the team.  They were supported by Legal Assistant Beth Gulden, Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson, Associate Manager of Docketing Services Tyler Edwards and Manager of Docketing Services Na’eem Conway.  Partners Jessica Ring Amunson and Zachary C. Schauf and Law Clerk Rachel Wilf-Townsend mooted the team.  Associate Samuel C. Birnbaum and former associate Marguerite Moeller assisted with the Third Department appeal, and the original team on the long-running case included former partner Peter Pope.

CATEGORIES: Litigation, New York Court of Appeals

PEOPLE: Matthew S. Hellman, Caroline C. Cease

June 22, 2020 Jenner & Block Named to PILI’s 2020 Pro Bono Recognition Roster

Jenner & Block is one of 47 law firms and corporations named to the Public Interest Law Initiatives (PILI) Pro Bono Recognition Roster.  The roster honors organizations that have made significant commitments and contributions to pro bono throughout the state of Illinois by helping individuals, families and communities who are in need receive legal services.  Law firms named to the roster must demonstrate a commitment to their pro bono programs and must meet at least two of the following qualifications: an average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional; a five percent increase in Illinois office(s) pro bono hours from the previous year; pro bono participation by 60 percent or more of the firm’s Illinois lawyers; participation in the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Law Firm Leadership Circle or one of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee Pro Bono Pledges; and adoption of innovative steps to expand the firm’s pro bono program. 

Jenner & Block has been on the roster since 2010.

CATEGORIES: Pro Bono

May 14, 2020 Jenner & Block Associates Join Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’ Associates Advisory Board

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) has voted Jenner & Block lawyers Wesley M. Griffith and Alice S. Kim to its Associates Advisory Board.

LAFLA is a nonprofit legal assistance organization that protects and advances the rights of some of the Los Angeles area’s most underserved populations by providing free, high-quality legal services to more than 100,000 people living in poverty each year. Its Associates Advisory Board is an association of like-minded professionals dedicated to supporting LAFLA’s mission by providing pro bono service, fundraising and raising awareness of LAFLA’s work in the greater Los Angeles community. The board provides leadership, professional networking, and pro bono and social opportunities for its board members.

The firm’s Los Angeles office frequently partners with LAFLA on the foundation’s cases and initiatives. Mr. Griffith and Ms. Kim are currently working with LAFLA on COVID-19-prompted legal aid clinics involving housing, homelessness, eviction defense, domestic violence and other areas of need during the pandemic. Earlier this year, the LA office hosted a LAFLA training for associates on defending against wrongful evictions. Partner Carissa Coze serves on the organization's board of directors.

Outside of their involvement with LAFLA, Mr. Griffith and Ms. Kim maintain active pro bono practices.

Mr. Griffith recently led a team that secured the release of a pro bono client who had been detained by ICE at a privately run, for-profit detention facility, and led another team that obtained a five-figure settlement for a wheelchair-bound prisoner in a civil rights claim against a prison physician. Ms. Kim was part of a team that obtained an acquittal of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter charges against a pro bono client. She also served on a firm team that obtained a significant win in the DC Circuit for two civilian lawyers who resigned from serving as counsel to the alleged mastermind of the attack on the United States Navy destroyer USS Cole who is facing a military trial at Guantánamo Bay. The civilian lawyers resigned on ethical grounds after discovering various government intrusions into the attorney-client privilege, including finding surveillance equipment in a client meeting room. Ms. Kim is currently working to secure a federal prisoner’s compassionate release.

CATEGORIES: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

PEOPLE: Wesley M. Griffith

May 8, 2020 Firm Files Amicus Brief for more than 50 Organizations Committed to Gender Justice

On May 7, Jenner & Block Partner Devi M. Rao and Associate Emily S. Mannheimer filed an amicus brief on behalf of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center and 49 additional organizations committed to gender justice.

The case, Francis v. Kings Park Manor, involves whether or not a housing provider is obligated under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to address tenant-on-tenant harassment if the provider had known about discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it.  A Second Circuit panel held that an African-American tenant plausibly alleged that his landlord had discriminated against him under the FHA by failing to address severe race-based harassment by another tenant. 

The brief addressed the consequences that the Second Circuit’s decision will have for tenants’ housing protections; particularly, for women facing sexual harassment.  Citing testimonies of women involved in sexual harassment cases, the brief observed that this widespread problem jeopardizes individuals’ access to a safe and stable home.  The brief noted how intersecting forms of harassment, which are “based on multiple aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, national origin, religion and disability” pose significant concerns for women tenants, who have often indicated that “they wereharassed precisely because of their race and stereotypes about women of color.”  It also explained that housing providers are empowered to take reasonable steps to address tenant-on-tenant harassment in accordance with the FHA and the First Amendment.

The Francis case is currently before the Second Circuit en banc.  The court will hear oral arguments in September 2020.

CATEGORIES: Litigation

PEOPLE: Emily S. Mannheimer

May 6, 2020 Associate Hope Tone Honored with NIJC’s “Rising Star” Award

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is recognizing Jenner & Block Associate Hope H. Tone with its “Rising Star” award.  The award celebrates Ms. Tone’s generosity in providing high-quality pro bono services to clients with complex immigration cases.  Ms. Tone will be honored at the 21st Annual Human Rights Awards on June 2, 2020.  NIJC hosts the awards each year to honor individuals who have made outstanding achievements to promote, protect and advance human rights throughout the world.

PEOPLE: Hope H. Tone-O'Keefe

May 5, 2020 Firm Once Again Named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List”

In its annual list of the “firms that do well by doing good,” The NLJ honors Jenner & Block for several pro bono victories in the past year.  In one case, the firm ensured that tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in Kentucky and Arkansas would not lose health insurance as a result of new restrictions on eligibility and coverage, including work requirements and lock-outs.  That team was led by Partner Ian Heath Gershengorn.

“It is extremely rewarding to use our skills to help change the lives of individuals whose voices are not always heard,” as noted in The NLJ’s profile of the firm.  “The Medicaid victory, in particular, is one in which tens of thousands of Americans can now continue to have access to health coverage and health care. The decision made clear that the administration cannot simply ignore the devastating real-world consequences of its policies.”

As the co-chairs of our Pro Bono Committee told The NLJ, pro bono is a core value at Jenner & Block.  “Representing those without the resources to protect themselves reminds us that the work we do can make all the difference in the world,” said Matthew E. Price, Michael W. Ross, Todd C. Toral, Christian Tuddenhamand Andrew W. Vail.

CATEGORIES: National Law Journal

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail, Michael W. Ross, Matthew E. Price, Christian Tuddenham, Todd C. Toral, Ian Heath Gershengorn

May 4, 2020 Team Wins Seventh Circuit Victory for Illinois Prisoner
A firm team representing an Illinois prisoner achieved an important victory in the Seventh Circuit last week when the court reinstated the prisoner’s lawsuit challenging a private healthcare contractor’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.  The court’s opinion paved the way for the prisoner to pursue his constitutional claims against the contractor in federal district court.  
 
Robert Williams brought suit against Wexford Health Sources in 2017, challenging the contractor’s “one good eye” policy, under which it refuses critical eye care to prisoners like Mr. Williams as long as they retain a modicum of visual acuity in one eye.  Although healthcare providers inside and outside the prison recommended eye surgery for Mr. Williams, Wexford refused that surgery for several years.  At the time he filed suit, Mr. Williams was completely blind in one eye and suffering from a host of conditions in both eyes.  The district court held that Mr. Williams’s complaint stated a colorable claim against Wexford for violating his constitutional rights.  Yet the district court granted summary judgment in Wexford’s favor, holding that Mr. Williams failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the Illinois Administrative Code.  
 
The Seventh Circuit reversed that decision last week.  In a precedential opinion, the court clarified the standards applicable to prisoners like Mr. Williams who used the emergency procedures to seek expedited review of their grievances by prison officials.  The court explained that while those emergency procedures were recently amended to require additional steps, those additional steps were not required of Mr. Williams, who submitted his grievances before the amendment.  In reaching this result, the court emphasized the importance of transparency and clarity in the grievance process, and criticized the prison authorities for trying to “move the goal posts while [Mr. Williams] was in the middle of his case and suddenly announce that special new requirements applied to him.”  The court also questioned Wexford’s “dubious” decision to refuse the surgery that Mr. Williams needed.
 
Associate Lauren J. Hartz briefed and argued the appeal, with supervision from Partner Ishan K. Bhabha.  They were assisted by former summer associates Erica Turret and Ray Simmons.  Partners Jessica Ring Amunson, Adam G. Unikowsky, and Devi M. Rao participated in moots, as did Associates Andrew C. Noll and Julian J. Ginos and former Associate Maria Liu.  Paralegal Mary F. Patston provided invaluable support, and Partner Michael T Brody coordinated the court-appointment.  

CATEGORIES: Illinois, prisoner rights, Seventh Circuit

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, Michael T. Brody, Adam G. Unikowsky, Ishan K. Bhabha, Lauren J. Hartz, Julian J. Ginos

April 29, 2020 Jenner & Block and the Chicago Bar Association Team Up to Provide Pro Bono Services to Healthcare Workers
Recognizing the sacrifices that essential healthcare workers are making on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, Jenner & Block is proud to partner with the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) in its Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program.  
 
The Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program is an extension of the Wills for Heroes program, a national program that the firm has partnered on with the CBA for many years. Through the Wills for Healthcare Heroes Program, the firm will provide free estate planning services to healthcare workers treating in the Chicagoland area, enabling them to prepare simple wills and powers of attorney for themselves, their spouses or partners.  The initiative was recently featured on a segment of WGN Midday News.
 
In a press release about the initiative, Joe Busnengo, who chairs the CBA’s Young Lawyers Section Wills for Heroes Program, said, “The Wills for Heroes Program has always been a way for attorneys to give back to those heroes who put their lives on the line to protect all of us like our veterans and police officers.  We are very excited to be expanding this program to help our healthcare heroes, who are shouldering an enormously heavy burden during this pandemic.”  
 
Jenner & Block has a longstanding partnership with the CBA, including in the Wills for Heroes program, and the firm is proud to be pitching in to help with legal assistance for healthcare workers, said Partner Andrew  W. Vail, co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee.
 
“This crisis demonstrates how healthcare providers put the rest of the community first,” Mr. Vail said.  “This is one small way that our law firm, together with the CBA and the legal community, can come together to help provide peace of mind for these heroes, along with the other heroes on the front lines as well as  their families.” 
 
To learn more about the program, please click here.
 

CATEGORIES: CBA, Pro Bono Partnership

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail

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