Jenner & Block Team Recognized for Pro Bono Service by Eastern District of California
Our Pro Bono Commitment
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. Bickford, Kristen Green, and Julia K. Hirata and Paralegal Christal Oropeza also supported the matter.
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:
Jenner & Block Receives Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award
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.
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.
Firm Once Again Named to PILI’s Pro Bono Recognition Roster
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Firm Ranks No. 1 in Pro Bono for Ninth Time in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
"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."
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.
Associate Brij B. Patnaik Honored with Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow Alumni Award
Jenner & 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.
Firm Named to PILI’s 2017 Pro Bono Recognition Roster
Jenner & Block is one of 47 law firms and corporations in Illinois named to the Public Interest Law Initiative’s (PILI) Pro Bono Recognition Roster. Law firms named to the Roster met at least two of the following criteria: an average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional; a 5 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/or innovative steps to expand the firm’s pro bono program.
“Through the collective efforts of law firms and corporations like yours, more low-income and under-represented individuals across Illinois have access to the justice they deserve,” expressed Michael G. Bergmann, PILI executive director.
Jenner & Block has been on the roster since 2010.
To learn more about Jenner & Block’s pro bono program, visit our pro bono page or read The Heart of the Matter newsletter.
Jenner & Block Named No. 1 Law Firm for Pro Bono in American Lawyer’s Annual Survey
Jenner & Block has once again been recognized as the No. 1 law firm in the country for pro bono service by The American Lawyer magazine. This marks the eighth time the firm has achieved the top spot in The American Lawyer’s annual survey of pro bono commitment among Big Law firms. Jenner & Block was also named No. 1 in 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.
The 2017 rankings are based on pro bono hours performed in 2016. Jenner & Block lawyers provided 141 pro bono hours per lawyer on average and 95 percent of them contributed more than 20 hours to pro bono matters. Overall, Jenner & Block lawyers performed more than 75,500 hours of pro bono work in 2016. The American Lawyer notes that the firm’s most significant pro bono matter in hours in 2016 was the court challenge to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which required that access to restrooms and changing facilities in all public buildings be restricted based on whether users are shown as male or female on their birth certificates -- thus effectively barring use by transgender persons. As co-counsel with Lambda Legal, the firm represented transgender students and employees at University of North Carolina institutions and devoted more than 1,800 hours toward the case. Last August, a federal district court judge enjoined the University from enforcing the bill, holding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the claim that the bill conflicted with requirements of Title IX.
The American Lawyer’s July edition includes an article in which Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Andrew W. Vail is quoted saying that the firm has a longstanding commitment toward LGBT rights cases, along with immigration rights and death penalty cases. “We’re very proud, and not in the ranking itself, but that it’s a reflection of and a recognition that pro bono is in Jenner & Block’s DNA. And, as the firm has grown in size, diversity, reach and practice, our pro bono program – and its numbers, impact and scope – has grown,” Mr. Vail says.
In another article about the survey, Mr. Vail observes that the reason the firm’s lawyers do so much pro bono work is that they like it. “Our attorneys are diverse and have a diverse range of passions and take on matters that they are passionate about,” he says.
For more information about Jenner & Block’s recent pro bono efforts, we invite you to check out the latest edition of The Heart of the Matter.
Jenner & Block Receives Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award
Jenner & Block was recently selected by the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation as one of only four firms worldwide – and the sole North American firm – to receive the 2017 Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award. This award is presented annually to honor Lex Mundi member firms that have provided critical pro bono legal services that help strengthen the global rule of law and improve the lives of the world’s poor and disenfranchised.
The award was presented at Lex Mundi’s annual meeting in Prague on April 27, 2017. Partner John H. Mathias, Jr. accepted on behalf of the firm.
In recognizing the winning firms, Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Managing Director Chloe Holderness said, “The honorees demonstrate how members of the Lex Mundi network are using their pro bono resources of time and expertise to have a tremendous impact on many of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. The recipients also represent how our member firms, as leading law firms in their jurisdictions, have a larger commitment to growing and strengthening the global pro bono culture.”
As an example of Jenner & Block’s exceptional pro bono contributions, Lex Mundi highlighted the firm’s work in support of the African Leadership Academy (ALA). This South African-based foundation was established in 2004 with the philosophy that a new generation of ethical, committed leaders would be the key to Africa’s development. It educates children at a Johannesburg campus and also provides scholarships to some of these children to pursue university degrees in North America.
ALA is undertaking a five-year plan for growth, partly funded by a loan from OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation), a US federal governmental agency that provides loans typically in circumstances where borrowers have limited access to capital in local markets. Partners Neil Cummings and Geoffrey M. Davis and Associate Rafi W. Mottahedeh assisted ALA in connection with obtaining this loan, including providing tax advice on the deal and follow-up work.
The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation is the nonprofit affiliate of Lex Mundi, the world's leading association of independent law firms. Lex Mundi member law firms are located throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. Each member firm is selected on the basis of its leadership in its local market. Firms must maintain their level of excellence to retain membership within the Lex Mundi network. Since Jenner & Block became Lex Mundi’s Illinois member law firm in 2013, the firm has handled approximately 15 matters through the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation. The majority of these have been transactional matters.