Our Pro Bono Commitment

Our Pro Bono Commitment

July 23, 2019 North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” Dispute Ends with Consent Decree Protecting Transgender Individuals

Jenner & Block served as pro bono co-counsel with Lambda Legal and the ACLU of North Carolina in a three-year battle to protect the rights of transgender individuals.  On July 23, a federal judge approved a consent decree clarifying that transgender individuals cannot be prohibited from using state-run restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The dispute dates back to 2016, when the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2, which required transgender people to use public facilities matching their birth sex.  The firm filed a lawsuit against the state and the University of North Carolina, where several of the named plaintiffs worked or attended.  The plaintiffs won a partial preliminary injunction blocking HB 2 on Title IX grounds.  But in 2017, the General Assembly passed HB 142.  Although HB 142 repealed HB 2, it also pre-empted any further “regulation “ of access to restrooms and other facilities by any state agency, local government, school board or other government entity.

The consent decree prohibits the executive branch defendants, including their successors, from interpreting HB 142 to prevent transgender individuals from lawfully using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity and permanently enjoins the executive branch from applying HB 142 to bar, prohibit, block, deter or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity. 

Associate Andrew C. Noll argued for the plaintiffs in favor of the consent decree at hearings earlier this year.  In addition, the team included Partners Devi M. Rao and Emily Chapuis and Associates Caroline C. Cease and Zachary BlauPartners Ian Heath Gershengorn and Adam G Unikowsky and Associate Lauren J. Hartz helped prepare Mr. Noll for oral argument.  Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Associate Manager of Docketing Services Tyler Edwards provided critical paralegal and docketing support. 

News of the consent decree was reported widely, including in the New York Times and Law360.


PEOPLE: Adam G. Unikowsky, Emily Chapuis, Ian Heath Gershengorn, Lauren J. Hartz, Caroline C. Cease

July 15, 2016 Partner Paul Smith Discusses Firm’s Pro Bono Support of LGBT Community

Paul Smith headshot used for pro bono blogPartner Paul M. Smith notes the firm’s strong history of pro bono work in an article about law firms that are teaming up with advocacy groups to support the LGBT community.  Titled “The BigLaw Firms Fighting for Transgender Rights,” the article in Law360 explains that the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund have tapped Jenner & Block to challenge North Carolina’s controversial HB 2, which requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate in public facilities.  The article notes that, in 2003, Mr. Smith won the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the US Supreme Court declared that sodomy bans were illegal.  “The firm culture is very, very pro bono-oriented, civil rights and civil liberties-oriented, but any kind of pro bono,” Mr. Smith says. “This is just one piece of that. It became a big part of our pro bono practice after Lawrence. There were just a lot of people who wanted to work on these issues. One thing leads to another and once you've got a connection with the organization, you know them and they trust you, you get more and more opportunities to do interesting things.”


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