Lawyers and Staff Honored at Annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration
Our Pro Bono Commitment
On July 18, the firm hosted its annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration, honoring the firm's long-standing commitment to pro bono work and those who performed and supported pro bono service in exceptional ways. Partners David W. DeBruin and Sarah F. Weiss received the "Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award (AEJ Award)" – an award recognizing firm lawyers for their pro bono work. Paralegal Daniel Garcia and Legal Assistant Nora Peralta received the inaugural "Jenner & Block Award for Excellence in Pro Bono or Public Service" – an award recognizing professional staff who support the firm's pro bono and community service efforts.
"It [Our pro bono work] changes people's lives and in some cases it saves people's lives; people who need but would not have access to legal services if not for the lawyers at Jenner & Block…and many others in the firm who share that same commitment," said Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Andrew J. Thomas.
The honorees were presented with their respective award by their nominating lawyer. They also gave remarks after receiving their honor.
Ms. Peralta: "I'm going to leave you with a new word to add to your vocabulary: volunesia. It's that moment when you forget that you are volunteering to change lives because doing so is changing yours."
Mr. Garcia: "There's a commitment to the work that we do and this kind of event really recognizes the firmwide efforts to advocate for people and pursue justice. I think it's remarkable."
Mr. DeBruin: "For me, the greatest return from pro bono cases has been working with individuals and finding that when you listen to them, when you respect them as people and when you fight for them, what a difference that makes to that person."
Ms Weiss: "One reason I do this work is that it is truly one of my greatest privileges as a lawyer to try to help the people and families who are most impacted by our criminal justice system."
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryVictory in Witherspoon Case Reforms Jury Selection Process in Capital Cases
June marks the 48th anniversary of the firm’s victory on behalf of pro bono client William Witherspoon before the US Supreme Court. The case would have major implications for how juries are selected in capital cases throughout the nation. In 1960, a jury sentenced Witherspoon to death. The jury was selected in a process that permitted the prosecution an unlimited number of challenges for cause with respect to any potential juror who expressed qualms about the death penalty. As a result, the jury that sentenced Witherspoon to death was composed only of people who had no qualms about capital punishment. Jenner & Block represented Mr. Witherspoon in a post-conviction review that successfully challenged the constitutionality of this process.
Please click here to read more about the case. Click here to read the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Witherspoon. Click here for a recording of Mr. Jenner’s oral argument presented to the Court.
A History of Pro Bono and Public Service: 1960sWitherspoon v. Illinois Impacts 350 People on Death Row
In this landmark death penalty case, the Jenner & Block team led by Albert E. Jenner, Jr. helped stop a planned state execution of Mr. Witherspoon on constitutional grounds just a few weeks before the sentence was scheduled to be carried out. Mr. Jenner argued that the jury selection process was unconstitutional and impermissible. The US Supreme Court agreed. After this ruling, an estimated 350 people on death row across the United States were re-sentenced.
A History of Pro Bono and Public Service: 1960sLitigation with Committee on Un-American Activities
Thomas P. Sullivan and Albert E. Jenner, Jr. represented clients in a historic confrontation and extended civil and criminal litigation with the US House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. The committee was later abolished in large part due to these proceedings.
A History of Pro Bono and Public Service: 1960sSenior Counsel to Warren Commission
Albert E. Jenner, Jr. held various prominent public service positions throughout his long career. Among other things, he served as senior counsel to the Warren Commission that was created to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
A History of Pro Bono and Public Service: 1940sAlbert E. Jenner, youngest president of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA)
Albert E. Jenner, Jr. joined the firm as an associate in 1935. In 1947 at the age of 40, Mr. Jenner became the youngest president of the ISBA. He was also president of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1955, Mr. Jenner’s name was added to the firm name, which ultimately became Jenner & Block in 1969.