Firm Team Receives Victory for Obama Presidential Center when Judge Dismisses Lawsuit
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
On June 11, Judge John Robert Blakey of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the lawsuit challenging construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), providing a significant victory for the delayed project on Chicago’s south side. In Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Chicago Park District, the plaintiffs alleged that creating the OPC in Jackson Park—and allowing the Obama Foundation to operate the center under an agreement that the Chicago City Council unanimously approved—would violate the Public Trust Doctrine and certain other laws.
Firm Files Amicus Brief Supporting Chicago Museums in Obama Presidential Center Dispute
However, in his 52-page decision, Judge Blakey wrote, “the OPC does not, as a matter of law, violate the public trust under the level of scrutiny applied to never-submerged lands” and “even under the heightened levels of scrutiny (applied to formerly submerged and submerged lands), the OPC still does not violate the public trust.” As a result, he found that “[t]he facts do not warrant a trial, and construction should commence without delay.”
In November 2018, a firm team including Chair Craig C. Martin, Partner Daniel J. Weiss and Associates Gabriel K. Gillett and Henry C. Thomas filed an amicus brief, pro bono, on behalf of all 11 museums located on Chicago parkland. In support of the now-granted motion for summary judgment, the amici provided the court with historical context about the long tradition of locating museums in Chicago’s public parks and highlighted the potential practical consequences that may result if the OPC was not allowed to open on parkland.
Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief, pro bono, on behalf of all 11 museums located on Chicago parkland. In Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Chicago Park District, the plaintiffs allege that creating the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park—and allowing the Obama Foundation to operate the Center under an agreement that the Chicago City Council unanimously approved—would violate the Public Trust Doctrine and certain other laws. The City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Obama Center’s creation and operation is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine and all other federal and state laws. The amici supported that motion by offering their unique insight and perspective. In particular, the museums provided the court with historical context about the long tradition of locating museums in Chicago’s public parks and highlighted the potential practical consequences that may result if the Obama Presidential Center is not allowed to open on parkland.
“The Park Museums believe the Obama Presidential Center will be a cultural and economic treasure for Chicago that will bring new amenities and positive development to the surrounding community, boost the local economy, and serve as a magnet for visitors the City and the region,” the brief says. “It will serve as an enduring and powerful symbol of the promise of America and the American Dream.”
Briefing is currently underway in the district court.
The 11 museums that currently operate on parkland in Chicago include the Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, The Field Museum of Natural History, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, The Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and John G. Shedd Aquarium.
The team authoring the brief includes Litigation Department Chair Craig C. Martin, Partner Daniel J. Weiss and Associates Gabriel K. Gillett and Henry C. Thomas.
Firm Team Urges Second Circuit to Keep DACA Program
In an amicus brief, the team argues that President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would harm American colleges and universities. The Obama-era program protects from deportation individuals brought to the country illegally as children. Trump ended the program last year, but the courts have blocked its elimination for now. Submitted on behalf of more than 70 schools including Pomona College, Rice University, and the California State University System, the brief contends that students protected by DACA “are among the most engaged both academically and otherwise” and enrich the campuses they attend. The colleges also argue that they will "almost certainly lose students mid-way through their degree programs, and the retention rate for this population will drop dramatically and beyond what institutions are prepared to accommodate through normal attrition cycles."
The brief was written on a pro bono basis by a team including Partners Ishan K. Bhabha, Lindsay C. Harrison and Thomas J. Perrelli and Associate Jennifer J. Yun.
The same team also filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to preserve DACA. That suit was filed in November 2017 on behalf of Princeton University, a Princeton student and Microsoft. It argues that the rescission of DACA violates both the United States Constitution and federal law.
Firm Files Amicus Brief Supporting Transgender High School Boy Seeking to Use Boys’ Restroom
Jenner & Block lawyers submitted an amicus brief in Gloucester County v. G.G., a case that was scheduled to be argued to the US Supreme Court on March 28, 2017. The case was an appeal from a ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowing a transgender student who identifies as a boy to use the boys’ restroom in his Virginia high school. On March 6, 2017, the US Supreme Court decided not to hear the case at this time, vacating the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The brief, in support of the respondent G.G., was filed on behalf of 20 leading medical and mental health organizations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians and mental health professionals, tens of thousands of medical students, over one hundred thousand physician assistants and millions of nurses. Citing the medical consensus regarding transgender individuals and generally accepted treatment protocols for gender dysphoria, a condition that affects many transgender individuals, the brief argues that access to single-sex facilities corresponding to one’s gender identity is a critical aspect of treatment of the condition. By contrast, the brief asserts, excluding transgender individuals from facilities consistent with their gender identity undermines their treatment, exposes them to stigma and discrimination as well as potential harassment, harms their physical health and impairs their social development, contributing to poorer health outcomes throughout life.
Partner Scott B. Wilkens led the firm’s team in drafting the brief, assisted by Partner Erica Ross and Associates Nicholas W. Tarasen and Ben J. Brysacz. Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson also made valuable contributions.
In August 2016, the firm won a preliminary injunction preventing the University of North Carolina from enforcing North Carolina’s House Bill 2 against three transgender plaintiffs. House Bill 2 effectively prohibits transgender North Carolinians from using restrooms or other facilities consistent with their gender identity in public buildings. Further trial court proceedings in that case have been stayed pending a decision in the Gloucester County case. Mr. Wilkens also leads the team in the House Bill 2 case, assisted by Partner Luke C. Platzer and Associates Mark P. Gaber, Lorenzo G. Di Silvio, Thomas D. Garza, Mr. Tarasen and Mr. Brysacz.
Firm Files Amicus Brief in Support of California Statute to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
Partner Daniel A. Rozansky, Associate Anna Marie A. Van Hoesen and Law Clerk Daixi Xu submitted an amicus brief in concert with the (FVAP) on behalf of FVAP and 10 other California-based nonprofit organizations that work with domestic violence survivors and their children. Filed in the California Court of Appeal for the Second District, the amicus brief supports the appellant, a victim of domestic violence, in appealing an order granting joint custody of her two young daughters to her abusive partner. Although California Family Code Section 3044 creates a rebuttable presumption against awarding custody to domestic abusers, trial courts such as this one have repeatedly failed to apply that presumption or properly consider the factors required to rebut it. As set forth in the brief, joint custody arrangements provide the opportunity for batterers to further abuse their former partners and their children. Studies have found that victims of domestic violence face serious safety risks in such custody arrangements and that children exposed to domestic violence are 74 percent more likely to commit crimes against other people, 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and much more likely to abuse their own partners. Accordingly, the brief urges the court of appeal to provide much needed guidance so that trial courts will understand and effectuate the legislative intent to protect children from the known harms associated with granting custody to domestic abusers.