Chicago Tribune Features Pro Bono Client Aaron Holzmueller
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Aaron, who has cerebral palsy, is a devoted student athlete, and the article traces his athletic career from childhood to college. Part of his story includes a pioneering legal battle against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), a case the firm took on, pro bono. For years, the firm represented Aaron as he fought to compel the IHSA to institute a para-ambulatory division for the state track meet so that these athletes could have an opportunity to competein the season’s showcase event. In February 2018, a Seventh Circuit panel affirmed a lower court’s opinion in favor of the ISHA. Aaron has since graduated from high school and now competes in track and cross-country at Beloit College in Wisconsin. “I just wanted to try to get awareness out,” Aaron told the Chicago Tribune of his battle against the IHSA. “Even though I didn’t get the result I was hoping for, I wanted to let people know about runners like me. I definitely can see it changing one day.” The firm team included Partners Louis E. Fogel, Devi M. Rao, Clifford W. Berlow, and Shaun M. Van Horn; Associates Abraham M. Salander, Lina R. Powell, Ren-How H. Harn, David B. Diesenhouse and James Dawson; and paralegal Daniel Garcia.
Click here to read more about Aaron’s case in The Heart of the Matter and here for a video.
Click here to read the Tribune article, titled “Evanston’s Aaron Holzmueller Hasn’t Let Cerebral Palsy Keep Him from Competing as a College Runner. And He Has His Eyes on a Future Paralympic Games.”
Team Petitions Seventh Circuit for Rehearing in Case of Disabled Athlete
A firm team is seeking to revive its lawsuit that aims to compel the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to create a separate division to accommodate para-ambulatory athletes.
Inclusion for Disabled Athletes: The Aaron Holzmueller Story
Since 2010, the firm has represented Evanston High School senior student-athlete Aaron Holzmueller on a pro bono basis. Aaron, who has cerebral palsy, asked IHSA to establish a separate division and qualifying times for certain races in its track program for para-ambulatory athletes. He also asked IHSA to create a para-ambulatory division for the Road Race, a 5-K race open to high school students across Illinois.
IHSA’s executive director denied his requests in October 2015. A team led by Partner Louis E. Fogel assisted Aaron’s family in its administrative appeal of the denial, but the IHSA board affirmed the decision two months later. The team filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking injunctive relief to permit Aaron to have a chance to compete.
In September 2017, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of IHSA. Aaron. appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. With Mr. Fogel’s assistance, Jenner & Block lawyer Devi M. Rao, then an associate and today a partner, argued the case in November 2017. In early February 2018, a Seventh Circuit panel affirmed the District Court’s decision.
While the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision, the panel was ultimately divided. Judge Ilana Rovner dissented, explaining, “Allowing disabled athletes to compete in a separate division would no more undermine the competitive nature of the track-and-field program than does the current practice of allowing wheelchair athletes and male and female athletes to compete in separate divisions.”
Mr. Fogel and the team have petitioned the Seventh Circuit for en banc rehearing, and that petition is currently pending.
To learn more about the case, please visit The Heart of the Matter annual pro bono report.
Learn more about the Aaron Holzmueller case in this video.