Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

December 6, 2016 Financial Times Recognizes Firm for Innovation in Social Responsibility

Jenner & Block has been recognized by the Financial Times (FT) in its North America Innovative Lawyers 2016 Report, which highlights the firm's pro bono work in a landmark US Supreme Court case.

The firm was designated as a “Standout” – FT’s highest rating – and ranked #2 overall among all law firms in the “Social Responsibility–Pro Bono Cases” category for an important win in the representation of Gregory Welch.  Mr. Welch was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15years’ imprisonment based on the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act—a statutory provision that the Supreme Court subsequently struck down because it was so vague that it violated the Constitutional right to due process.  In Welch v. United States, fifth-year Associate Amir H. Ali argued to the Supreme Court that its decision striking down the residual clause must be applied retroactively to people like Mr. Welch, whose conviction and sentence had already become final.  The Court agreed in a 7-1 vote.  In announcing the recognition, FT noted that the firm “proved that thousands of inmates were serving unconstitutional sentences and achieved a rare Supreme Court ruling” in favor of those inmates.

In addition to Mr. Ali, the firm’s team included Partners Lindsay C. Harrison and Matthew E. Price, Associates R. Trent McCotter and Joshua M. Parker, former Law Clerk Adrienne L. Benson, Senior Paralegal Cheryl L. Olson, Docketing Assistant Tyler J. Edwards, Legal Assistant Mary “Beth” E. Gulden and Legal Secretary Curlene B. Wellington.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions

PEOPLE: Lindsay C. Harrison, Matthew E. Price, Joshua M. Parker (Josh)

October 26, 2016 Former Managing Partner Susan Levy Recognized for Commitment to Pro Bono

October 2016Jenner & Block’s former managing partner Susan C. Levy was honored by the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services (LAS) at its 2016 award luncheon on October 26.  Ms. Levy, now executive vice president and general counsel at Northern Trust, was presented with the LAS William H. Avery Award for Equal Access to Justice for her contributions to pro bono and community service.  Firm Chairman Anton R. Valukas interviewed Ms. Levy during the program segment of the luncheon, asking her questions about her tenure as Jenner & Block’s first woman managing partner and about her commitment to giving back. Ms. Levy noted that the firm’s emphasis on pro bono was one of the features that attracted her when she was deciding where to practice after graduating from Harvard Law School.  “We used to call it ‘the Jenner tax,’” she recalled, explaining that some of everyone’s salary supports the firm’s pro bono work.  The award event was attended by 325 members of Chicago’s legal community and raised more than $365,000 for the Legal Aid Society. 

Jenner & Block’s Litigation Department Chair Craig C. Martin was a member of the event’s Host Committee.  Partner William D. Heinz recently completed 30 years as a member of Metropolitan Family Services Board of Directors and the LAS Advisory Board.  Partner Amanda S. Amert is now serving as an LAS  board member, and Partner John R. Storino is a new member of the Metropolitan Family Services Board of Directors.  An article about the award event appeared in the October 31 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Photograph by LeVern Danley, LAD4 Creations

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions, Legal Aid Society, S Levy

PEOPLE: Amanda S. Amert, Anton R. Valukas, John R. Storino, Craig C. Martin, William D. Heinz

October 13, 2016 Jenner & Block’s DC Office Recognized for Providing Pro Bono Assistance in Housing Cases

On October 13, 2016, Jenner & Block’s Washington, DC office was recognized by the DC Bar Pro Bono Center for its participation in the Center’s Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project.  The Project is a groundbreaking collaborative effort bringing together the legal services community and the private bar to reduce evictions from subsidized housing and resolve other housing issues.  More than 35,000 eviction cases are filed each year in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the DC Superior Court.  Of these, approximately 95 percent of the tenants involved appear without legal representation, whereas approximately 95 percent of landlords have counsel.  The Project is part of the broader DC Housing Initiative, a communitywide coalition convened by the DC Bar Pro Bono Center and the DC Access to Justice Commission, to address the housing crisis in the District.

Partner Damon Y. Smith is coordinating the firm’s participation in the pilot project and supervising cases; Partners Kenneth L. Doroshow and Jerome L. Epstein are also supervising.  Associates handling cases have included Emily A. Bruemmerand Marguerite L. Moeller.   

The recognition event was reported in the DC Bar Newsletter on October 24.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions

PEOPLE: Jerome L. Epstein, Kenneth L. Doroshow, Damon Y. Smith, Emily A. Bruemmer, Marguerite L. Moeller

October 13, 2016 Firm Regains Position on Law360’s Pro Bono Firms of Year List

2016Jenner & Block has once again been named to Law360’s list of the top pro bono firms in the United States.  This marks the sixth time the firm has been selected for the series, which began in 2010.

In a lengthy profile, Law360 highlighted the firm’s “influential wins at the US Supreme Court, lifesaving work for clients on death row and a firmwide commitment to pro bono work at every level.”

In the feature, Partner Adam G. Unikowsky explains why he got involved in the case of V.L. v. E.L., representing an adoptive parent who had essentially been stripped of her parental rights to her three children by the Alabama Supreme Court when her same-sex relationship with the biological mother ended.  Mr. Unikowsky told Law360, “I felt this … really was quite inconsistent with very settled law.  And … it really would have a terrible effect on families.”  He reached out to National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys who had been working on the case and offered to help get it in front of the US Supreme Court, where the Alabama court’s actions were reversed.

Additionally, Associates Amir H. Ali and R. Trent McCotter relate their experience before the Supreme Court in Welch v. US, which Law360 called “a ruling that decisively invalidated unconstitutional prison sentences for thousands of incarcerated individuals.”  Mr. Ali describes the firm’s involvement as a “momentous opportunity to give a voice to people who would otherwise be voiceless,” while Mr. McCotter notes that the case “inspired a lot of other associates to realize that the pro bono work that they do is meaningful, and that they can stay in charge of the case, even at the highest level.”

The article also discusses Jeremy M. Creelan and Susan J. Kohlmann’s work with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic that is helping Vietnam veterans with PTSD that was undiagnosed when they left the service upgrade their other-than-honorable discharges.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions, Law360

PEOPLE: Susan J. Kohlmann, Adam G. Unikowsky, Jeremy M. Creelan

August 1, 2016 Firm Provides Assistance to Cook County Public Defender’s Office

For pro bono blog: Firm Provides Assistance to Cook County Public Defender’s Office Jenner & Block’s work with Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA) to develop a series of advocacy-based trainings for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was spotlighted in the CCA’s July 2016 newsletter.  Over the past several months, the firm collaborated with three other law firms to develop a unique training curriculum for lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office.  A team of firm lawyers including Partners Andrew W. Vail, Gabriel A. Fuentes, Barry Levenstam and Michael A. Scodro and Of Counsel Benjamin K. Miller contributed time and material to the project.  The newsletter article quoted Public Defender Amy Campanelli as saying, “Part of what is so exceptional about this project is that four of Chicago’s law firms came together with a common purpose: to equip the Public Defender to better serve the public.”  In addition to creating the initial training and advocacy materials, the firms developed a sustainability playbook that will allow us to provide ongoing support.

Last month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sent letters to the participating firm lawyers, thanking Jenner & Block for its commitment to helping the Public Defender’s Office provide the best representation possible for its clients.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions, CCA, Cook County Public Defenders office

PEOPLE: Gabriel A. Fuentes, Andrew W. Vail, Benjamin K. Miller, Barry Levenstam

July 27, 2016 Watch Partner Andrew Merrick Accept the CBF Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award

Picture of Maurice Weigle  Partner Andrew F. Merrick was named the recipient of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s (CBF) 2016 Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award.  The award is named in memory of two exceptional lawyers – father and son – who each exhibited a lifelong devotion to the law and the community.  The son, Maurice S. Weigle, pictured to the right, was a Jenner & Block partner in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Specifically, the award is based on a lawyer’s contributions to furthering the ideals of the legal profession; making the organized bar an effective force for improving the profession and helping the community; and demonstrated commitment to pro bono and community service.  Please click  here to read more.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions, CBF

PEOPLE: Andrew F. Merrick

June 30, 2016 For 26 Years, Firm Maintains Top 10 Pro Bono Standing

Once again, Jenner & Block ranks among the top 10 in The American Lawyer’s guide to pro bono commitment among the nation’s 200 highest-grossing firms. Based on 2015 hours, the firm ranks #7 in AmLaw’s 2016 guide. Further, Jenner & Block is tied for 10th place in “breadth of commitment,” a chart that ranks firms by the percentage of US-based lawyers who performed more than 20 hours of work in 2015: 77 percent of Jenner & Block lawyers did so. In total, firm lawyers devoted 54,510 hours to pro bono work in 2015. AmLaw has ranked the firm #1 in pro bono seven times, most recently in 2015.

Please click here to read more of our pro bono statistics.

Earlier this year, Jenner & Block was named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List,” one of only 10 law firms across the United States that made the list.

Please click here to read more about The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List.”

CATEGORIES: American Lawyer, Awards and Recognitions, National Law Journal

June 23, 2016 Firm Wins 2016 Exceptional Service Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project

Death Penalty Pro BonoThe firm has won the 2016 Exceptional Service Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project.  In noting the “exceptionally strong” pool of applicants under consideration this year, the Project’s Awards Committee felt that the breadth of our past and present pro bono commitments, along with our influence on the development of capital punishment law, set us apart.

To read more, please click here to learn more about the firm’s submission for the award.

CATEGORIES: ABA, Awards and Recognitions, Death Penalty

May 26, 2016 Judge Nominates Team for “Excellence in Pro Bono Service” Award

A Jenner & Block team won the admiration and respect of a federal judge, who nominated the team for an “Excellence in Pro Bono Service” award presented by the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association. District Judge Matthew Kennelly had appointed Partner Matthew R. Devine to represent a client who alleged that a police officer in the Village of East Dundee had violated his constitutional rights. Associates Hillary E. August and Jordan C. Blumenthal joined the team. The team defeated a motion to dismiss and then settled the case on terms favorable to the client. 

Please click here to learn more about the award presented in May.

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognitions

PEOPLE: Matthew R. Devine, Hillary E. August, Jordan C. Blumenthal