Our Pro Bono Commitment

Our Pro Bono Commitment

June 15, 2022 Jenner & Block Partner Tassity Johnson Named Rising Star by National Immigrant Justice Center

The National Immigrant Justice Center recognized Partner Tassity S. Johnson among its 2022 Rising Stars. The annual award honors lawyers who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to ensuring access to justice for immigrants. She is one of nine lawyers recognized this year.

Ms. Johnson has represented asylum seekers pro bono through the NIJC for nearly five years, litigating several complex cases before the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit during that time.

In a case before the Tenth Circuit, Ms. Johnson and Partner Matthew Price represented a political activist, who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape persecution by state security forces, in seeking asylum in the US. After Ms. Johnson and Mr. Price filed a brief in the Tenth Circuit on the Board of Immigration Appeals’ erroneous conclusion that their client had firmly resettled in Angola, among other errors, the government voluntarily moved to remand. When the Board denied their client’s asylum application for a second time, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Price again represented their client in the Tenth Circuit and obtained another remand, this time from the Court. 

Ms. Johnson, along with Mr. Price and Associate Urja R. Mittal, represented another asylum seeker, who fled Mexico after being kidnapped and violently assaulted for being a transgender woman, before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Tenth Circuit.  Ms. Johnson, Mr. Price, and Ms. Mittal filed a brief in the Tenth Circuit explaining that the Board, in denying their client asylum, had, among other errors, applied a wrongly heightened standard for whether the Mexican government could protect their client from further assault.  The government again voluntarily moved to remand. Ms. Johnson is currently representing their client before the Board, where their client’s claim is still pending.

Learn more about this recognition here.

CATEGORIES: Asylum, Awards, Awards and Recognition, Immigration, Pro Bono

PEOPLE: Matthew E. Price, Tassity Johnson, Urja R. Mittal

June 10, 2022 2021 Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll Recognizes 70 Jenner & Block Lawyers

The District of Columbia Courts, in partnership with the DC Access to Justice Commission and the DC Bar Pro Bono Center, announced their 2021 Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll honorees. Thirty-nine Jenner & Block lawyers were recognized in this year’s class for contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono service to those who cannot afford legal counsel. Thirty-one lawyers achieved the High Honor distinction for providing 100 hours or more.

“We know that your service is based not only from a commitment to your ethical obligations but also on your principled belief in equal access to justice,” said Chief Judges Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Anita Josey-Herring in an open letter to all honorees. “We are proud to recognize your dedication by including your name on this year’s Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll.”

Jenner & Block will also be honored by the District of Columbia Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services at the 40 at 50 Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast. The June 22nd event recognizes Washington area law firms that had at least 40% of their lawyers contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono services in 2021.

Below is a complete list of the Jenner & Block lawyers included on the 2021 Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll.

2021 High Honor Roll Honorees

Rachel K. Alpert

Jessica R. Amunson

Ashwini Bharatkumar

Gregory R. Capobianco

Andrew B. Cherry

David W. DeBruin

Rebecca R. Fate

John Flynn

Ian Heath Gershengorn

Rebekah P. Goodheart

Illyana A. Green

Victoria J. Hall-Palerm

Lindsay C. Harrison

Lauren J. Hartz

Tassity S. Johnson

Suedeen G. Kelly

Krystalyn Kinsel

Deanna Krokos

Urja R. Mittal

Coral A. Negron

Ronald J. Pabis

Leonard R. Powell

Zachary C. Schauf

Raymond B. Simmons

Carter Fielden Smith

Allison M. Tjemsland

Kyle N. Tramonte

Adam G. Unikowsky

William R. Weaver

Scott E. Whitman

Kathryn L. Wynbrandt

2021 Honor Roll Honorees

Camillie Landrón

Marc Van Allen

Paul N. Alp

Ishan K. Bhabha

David Bitkower

Noah B. Bleicher

Kali N. Bracey

Moshe Broder

Aaron R. Cooper

Mark Davis

Steven R. Englund

Samuel L. Feder

Madeleine V. Findley

Charles W. Galbraith

Alexander J. Hadjis

Amb. Keith M. Harper

Matthew L. Haws

Matthew S. Hellman

Sam Hirsch

Katherine B. Johnson

Kevin J. Kennedy

Claire M. Lally

Jonathan Alexander Langlinais

Mary E. Marshall

Douglass A. Mitchell

Thomas C. Newkirk

Michelle Onibokun

Luke C. Platzer

Matthew E. Price

Colleen Marie Reddan

David B. Robbins

Brian S. Scarbrough

Roger C. Sherman

Corinne M. Smith

Howard J. Symons

Alex S. Trepp

Lee K. Van Voorhis

Marc L. Warren

Carla J. Weiss

 

CATEGORIES: Awards, Awards and Recognition

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, Steven R. Englund, Marc A. Van Allen, David W. DeBruin, Samuel L. Feder (Sam), Lindsay C. Harrison, Matthew S. Hellman, Thomas C. Newkirk, Brian S. Scarbrough, Luke C. Platzer, Matthew E. Price, Adam G. Unikowsky, John Flynn, Coral A. Negron, Ishan K. Bhabha, Colleen Marie Reddan, Corinne M. Smith, Zachary C. Schauf, Alex S. Trepp, Jonathan A. Langlinais (Alex), Matthew L. Haws, Carla J. Weiss, Rebekah P. Goodheart, Lee K. Van Voorhis, Tassity Johnson, Kali Bracey, Marc L. Warren, David Bitkower, Paul Alp, Howard J. Symons, Suedeen G. Kelly, Katie B. Johnson, Sam Hirsch, Roger C. Sherman, Ian Heath Gershengorn, Lauren J. Hartz, Kathryn L. Wynbrandt, Andrew B. Cherry, Noah B. Bleicher, Allison M. Tjemsland, Claire M. Lally, Gregory R. Capobianco, Douglass A. Mitchell, Camillie Landrón, Charles W. Galbraith, Amb. Keith M. Harper, Krystalyn Kinsel, William R. Weaver (Will), Aaron R. Cooper, Kyle N. Tramonte, Rebecca Fate, Victoria Hall-Palerm, Illyana A. Green, Urja R. Mittal, Ronald J. Pabis, Rachel K. Alpert, Alexander J. Hadjis, Madeleine V. Findley, Mark Davis, Moshe Broder, Ashwini Bharatkumar, Scott E. Whitman, Michelle Onibokun, Kevin J. Kennedy, Mary E. Marshall, Carter Fielden Smith, Raymond B. Simmons, Deanna Krokos

June 1, 2022 Northern District of Illinois Honors Partner David Jimenez-Ekman for Efforts to Free Wrongfully Imprisoned Client

The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recognized Jenner & Block Partner David Jimenez-Ekman with its Annual Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service Award at a ceremony on June 1, 2022. Mr. Jimenez-Ekman was celebrated for his relentless advocacy for Ken Smith, who was imprisoned in 2001 for a murder and robbery he did not commit. Mr. Jimenez-Ekman started work on Mr. Smith’s case in 2006 and, with the support of various Jenner & Block lawyers over the years, was ultimately successful. In April 2021, the Seventh Circuit held that the evidence was constitutionally insufficient to sustain Mr. Smith’s conviction and Mr. Smith was freed from the Lawrence Correctional Center on May 6 of last year, ending what Mr. Jimenez-Ekman called an “almost two-decade nightmare.” 

CATEGORIES: Awards, criminal defense, Pro Bono Award

PEOPLE: David Jimenez-Ekman

January 11, 2022 Jenner & Block Team Recognized for Pro Bono Service by Eastern District of California

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California recently recognized Partner Kirsten Hicks Spira and Special Counsel Wesley M. Griffith as honorees for their commitment to pro bono during the District’s annual “Night to Honor Service.” 

Spira and Griffith were recognized for leading a team that included Associates Elizabeth Avunjian, and Effiong K. Dampha in a Section 1983 civil rights case.  The case arose from our client reporting several prison guards for misconduct.  In retaliation, the guards took our client to an isolated area of the prison that was closed for construction and beat him until he lost consciousness. The guards denied all wrong doing, claiming that the client had instead slipped and fell to the ground during escort. 

The client, who had limited education and financial means, was originally proceeding without counsel and having difficulty making his case in the face of the guards’ denial of any wrongdoing. The firm team, however, was able to secure evidence from the prison confirming that our client was taken to an outside hospital by ambulance for treatment for his injuries shortly after the attack, that the area where the attack occurred had no security cameras or other safeguards to prevent abuse of prisoners by staff, and that the guards involved had coordinated their incident reports before officially filing them.  Based on this evidence, the action was settled on the eve of trial on favorable terms for our client.

The Eastern District has one of the highest levels of pro se civil rights litigants in the country, and Jenner & Block lawyers have served on the District’s Civil Rights Pro Bono Panel for many years.

Associates Vivian L. BickfordKristen Green, and Julia K. Hirata and Paralegal Christal Oropeza also supported the matter. 

CATEGORIES: Awards, Litigation, Section 1983

PEOPLE: Kirsten Hicks Spira, Effiong K. Dampha, Vivian L. Bickford, Kristen Green, Elizabeth Avunjian

September 15, 2021 Jenner & Block Lawyers and Alumni Win Northern District of Illinois Pro Bono Award

The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association awarded several of our lawyers with the 2021 Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service for “providing outstanding pro bono and public interest representation in civil and criminal matters before the district court.” The award recipients were recognized for successfully completing three different cases:

  • In Conley v. US we represented Mr. Conley, who was convicted of conspiring to rob a fake drug stash house even though he was not a target of the prosecution, in a federal habeas challenge in the district court and on appeal.  The team also presented a petition for compassionate release, which the court granted, ordering his immediate release from prison. The award recipients included Jenner & Block Partner Mike Brody; Associates Eric Fleddermann and Theo Lesczynski; and former associate Leigh Jahnig.
  • In USA v. Rollins, we represented Mr. Rollins, who was convicted for a string of three robberies within a week’s time, in a reduction of a de facto life sentence. Partners Andrew Vail and Monica Pinciak, and Associate Josh Levin successfully argued for a reduction in sentence of 106.5 years to 28 years and one day. The judge wrote in his opinion that “a de facto life sentence far exceeds appropriate punishment.”
  • Paralegal Cheryl Kras, and former colleagues US Magistrate Judge Gabriel A. Fuentes, Christine Bowman, and Hon. Judge Brewer (ret.) also received the award for their work in Traharne, et al v. Illinois DCFS, et al., which was litigated and settled while Judge Fuentes and Ms. Bowman were with the firm. Judge Summers was the mediator on the matter.

CATEGORIES: Awards, Litigation

PEOPLE: Michael T. Brody, Andrew W. Vail, Monica R. Pinciak, Eric S. Fleddermann

August 23, 2021 Jenner & Block Receives Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award

The Pro Bono Institute (PBI) honored Jenner & Block with its Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) Partner Award for the collaborative efforts with McDonald’s Corporation and the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) in achieving asylum for several pro bono clients.

For several years, volunteers from the legal department of McDonald’s have partnered with Jenner & Block and Goldberg Kohn Ltd. on approximately 20 cases referred by NIJC, working collaboratively to represent immigrants applying for asylum.

By working together, the in-house and law firm lawyers and staff share resources and divide responsibilities, such as interviewing and developing rapport with clients who have been through harrowing situations; drafting the client’s affidavits and briefs; reviewing medical, news, and police reports; gathering personal statements from the client’s relatives; meeting with expert witnesses; and preparing for immigration court hearings. The partnership has obtained asylum for numerous individuals who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, and seeking to create a new life for themselves and their families in the United States.

Partner Wade A. Thomson leads the collaborative efforts of this important partnership. Other firm lawyers and staff involved throughout the collaboration include Partners Jennifer S. Amerkhail, Mark Davis, Terri L. Mascherin, Mike McNamara, Andrew F. Merrick, Megan B. Poetzel, Gay Sigel, Howard J. Symons, and Shaun M. Van Horn; Associates Umer M. Chaudhry, Brian B. Druchniak, Brenna J. Field, Maria del Carmen González, Meg Hlousek, Sam Jahangir, Ari Kanavy, Elpitha B. Lambros, Lindsey A. Lusk, Philip B. Sailer, and Hope H. Tone-Keefe; Attorneys Jennifer Beach, Edmundo Cuevas, Pedro Fernandez, and Anthony Nguyen; and several professional staff members including Terri Busch, Zulaikha Master, Fallon McDowell, Tricia Peavler, Margaret Petit, Paul Ramonas, and James Walsh.

Mr. Thomson and the legal teams were recognized for the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award on October 14 at 6:30pm ET during PBI’s Annual Awards Gala.

CATEGORIES: Awards, Pro Bono Award

PEOPLE: Terri L. Mascherin, Shaun M. Van Horn, Wade A. Thomson, Gabrielle Sigel, Andrew F. Merrick, Megan B. Poetzel, Jennifer T. Beach, Anthony L. Nguyen, Michael McNamara, Samuel Jahangir, Howard J. Symons, Lindsey A. Lusk, Philip B. Sailer, Brenna J. Field, Hope H. Tone-O'Keefe, Brian B. Druchniak, Maria del Carmen Gonzalez, Margaret M. Hlousek "Meg", Ariana Kanavy "Ari", Mark Davis

June 15, 2021 Firm Once Again Named to PILI’s Pro Bono Recognition Roster

On June 16, Public Interest Law Initiative will recognize Jenner & Block on its 2021 Pro Bono Recognition Roster. PILI’s Roster celebrates law firms and corporations that have made significant commitments and contributions to pro bono throughout Illinois. Jenner & Block has been named to the Roster since its inception in 2010.

To be eligible for the Roster, law firms must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • An average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional in Illinois per year.
  • A 5% increase in Illinois office(s) pro bono hours from the previous year.
  • 60% or more of the firm’s Illinois lawyers participate in pro bono work.
  • Participation in the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Law Firm Leadership Circle or signing one of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee Pro Bono Pledges.
  • Adoption of innovative steps to involve more Illinois office(s) legal department staff in pro bono work or to expand the law firm’s pro bono program.

The June 16 Virtual Annual Pro Bono Reception starts at 12 pm Central and will feature a pro bono tour of Illinois. It is free to attend but guests should register in advance.

CATEGORIES: Awards, Public Interest Law Institute

April 20, 2021 Jenner & Block Shortlisted in Chambers D&I Awards as “Outstanding Firm for Pro Bono”

The firm is proud to be one of only 10 firms in North America honored for pro bono service in the Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Awards. As Chambers D&I notes, the awards “shine a spotlight on role models and trailblazers in pro bono and corporate social responsibility as well as inclusion.” The firm is noted for the depth, breadth, and commitment to its nationally recognized pro bono program. Also recognized is Tracy Hannan, associate general counsel at client Exelon, who is shortlisted in the “Outstanding Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion” category. In partnership with the firm, Ms. Hannan secured the early release of a pro bono client who was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile. The awards ceremony will be held virtually on June 17.

CATEGORIES: Awards

PEOPLE: Debbie L. Berman, Michael W. Ross, Matthew E. Price, Christian Tuddenham, Todd C. Toral

November 9, 2020 Partner Cindy Robertson Honored with the “Champion of the Year” award from The Human Trafficking Legal Center

The “Champion of the Year Award” honors a single advocate who has gone above and beyond to provide pro bono services to survivors. Jenner & Block Partner Cynthia “Cindy” J. Robertson and her team successfully handled two complex immigration cases for trafficking survivors, winning T-visas for both of the clients around the Fourth of July holiday this year. The cases – one involving forced labor, the second involving sex trafficking – represented significant challenges. Both cases demanded creativity, tenacity, attention to detail, and excellent legal research to prevail. Through it all, Ms. Robertson supported the clients, providing trauma-informed legal guidance. The award will be presented on November 18, 2020.

CATEGORIES: Asylum, Awards, Immigration, Pro Bono, trafficking

June 26, 2019 Firm Ranks No. 1 in Pro Bono for 10th Year in The American Lawyer’s Annual Survey

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 10th time 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 2018 hours, which totaled more than 83,000.  Our lawyers contributed, on average, nearly 170 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 climbed four rankings to secure third place.

Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, comments in the profile that the firm doesn’t think of pro bono work in terms of politics, but instead in terms of serving those without access to legal representation.  “Our commitment to pro bono has continued over decades in various administrations.  We were one of the first law firms to join the fight against the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay under previous administrations.  We’ve been doing asylum work for many years and continue to do that today,” he says.  The publication also highlights our work to secure justice for hundreds of former students of the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute.

Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999.   The firm has placed among the leading 10 pro bono programs nationwide every year since the survey began in 1990.

CATEGORIES: Awards, Awards and Recognition

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail

June 24, 2019 Firm Named to PILI’s 2019 Pro Bono Recognition Roster

Jenner & Block is one of 48 law firms and corporations in Illinois named to the Public Interest Law Initiative’s (PILI) Pro Bono Recognition Roster.  Launched in 1999, the Pro Bono Initiative Program aims to enhance the scope and quantity of pro bono legal assistance in Illinois for those who lack access to justice.  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: Awards, PILI, pro bono recognition

September 19, 2018 The American Lawyer Names the Firm its “Pro Bono Champion”

The American Lawyer named the firm its “Pro Bono Champion,” a new award as part of the publication’s newly revamped set of recognitions.  The award is “meant to honor the exceptional work that goes on across the entire legal services delivery spectrum and the increasing interconnectedness among members of that community,” according to The American Lawyer.  This recognition is in addition to the firm’s number one US pro bono ranking, which The American Lawyer announced in June.  Award recipients receive formal recognition at a gala in New York on December 5.

CATEGORIES: American Lawyer, Awards

July 18, 2018 Lawyers and Staff Honored at Annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration

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."

CATEGORIES: A Jenner, Awards

PEOPLE: David W. DeBruin, Sarah F. Weiss

June 28, 2018 Firm Ranks No. 1 in Pro Bono for Ninth Time in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey

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 ninth time the firm has achieved the top spot in the annual survey of pro bono commitment among Big Law firms.  The firm is also recognized among the top 10 law firms on this year’s international ranking.

The ranking, in The American Lawyer’s annual survey, is based on 2017 hours, which totaled more than 90,700.  As The American Lawyer points out, the firm averaged 168 pro bono hours per lawyer.  On the international front, Jenner & Block is ranked seventh.

Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, observes in the profile that the firm has an “extremely broad and deep” commitment to pro bono work and puts considerable effort into identifying pro bono work for litigators and transactional lawyers.  In 2017, the firm increased its commitment to pro bono on asylum cases and also represented three people who were wrongfully convicted.  All three of the convictions were vacated.

Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 1999.   The firm has placed among the leading 10 pro bono programs nationwide every year since the survey began in 1990.

CATEGORIES: Awards, The American Lawyer

PEOPLE: Andrew W. Vail

November 1, 2017 Associate Brij B. Patnaik Honored with Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow Alumni Award

PILI award 2017Jenner & Block Associate Brij B. Patnaik was selected for the 2017 Distinguished Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow Alumni Award.  The Distinquished Alumni Award recognizes one former PILI Fellow for outstanding contributions of public interest and/or pro bono work.  In his profile, Mr. Patnaik is celebrated for his commitment to service, specifically highlighting his pro bono work with firm client Adam Gray.  Mr. Gray was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 14 for purportedly setting a fire in a Chicago apartment building that killed two people.  Twenty years later, Mr. Patnaik obtained records of chemistry testing not disclosed at trial that proved the central elements of Mr. Gray’s confession could not be true.  Mr. Patnaik then re-interviewed witnesses and worked with leading fire science experts to prove that there was actually no reason to believe the fire was caused by arson at all.  After years of litigation, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned Mr. Gray’s conviction and granted him his freedom in 2017.

Mr. Patnaik served as a PILI Fellow with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2009, prior to joining Jenner & Block.  He is a member of the Young Professionals Board of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Council of Lawyers.  He is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department.

CATEGORIES: Awards, PILI

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