In Celebrating Its 225th Year Anniversary, University of North Carolina Notes Alum and Partner Andrew Vail’s Contribution
Our Pro Bono Commitment
The university is sharing profiles of some of the many “Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.” On November 14, the university featured a profile of 1929 graduate Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians who was the first person of color to be admitted to –– and graduate from –– the university. At UNC, Mr. Owls’ master’s thesis was titled “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians: Before and After the Removal.” In 1930, Mr. Owl was denied the right on the grounds that Indians were illiterate; he presented his thesis to the county voting registrar. But he was denied a second time on the grounds that Cherokees were wards of the government and not US citizens, in opposition to a 1924 law. Owl later testified before Congress, which then passed a law guaranteeing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizenship and the right to vote.
The profile of Mr. Owl notes that Jenner & Block Partner Andrew W. Vail, a 1999 UNC graduate who concentrated in American Indian history, established the Henry Owl Scholarship Fund for Undergraduate Students. The scholarship provides need-based funds to one or more undergraduate majors in the American studies department, with a preference for students in American Indian and indigenous studies.
“My major concentration was in Native American history, so I felt an immediate connection to Owl’s background,” Mr. Vail said in a 2014 interview with the university. “The distinction of being the first person of color to get a degree from Carolina is extremely significant and something that should be recognized. Also, Owl’s lifelong dedication to education –– to building a better life for himself, his family and community and those around him –– it all struck a chord in me.”
Partner Leah Tulin Represents Congressman in Student Art Dispute
Jenner & Block Partner Leah J. Tulin is working on a pro bono basis in the First Amendment case of a former high school student whose award-winning painting was removed from public display in the US Capitol after it became the subject of a negative media campaign. Ms. Tulin is representing the artist, David Pulphus, and Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, who each year sponsors a student artist from his district as part of the annual Congressional Art Competition. For the 2016 competition, Mr. Clay sponsored a painting by Mr. Pulphus called “Untitled #1,” which depicts a scene from Ferguson, MO, with police officers and protestors represented as animals. After being on public display in the Cannon Tunnel in the US Capitol Complex for nearly seven months, the Architect of the Capitol ordered the painting removed in response to pressure from a number of conservative media outlets and a group of lawmakers.
In a lawsuit filed in federal district court on February 21, 2017, Ms. Tulin and the team allege that the painting’s removal violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Mr. Pulphus and Mr. Clay. It is a basic and fundamental principle that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting or prohibiting speech just because it disagrees with a speaker’s viewpoint, according to the complaint. The suit names the Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers as the defendant.
Joining Ms. Tulin on the team are Associates Tassity Johnson and Sati Harutyunyan.
News of the federal lawsuit was reported by media outlets including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Hill and The Washington Post.