Our Pro Bono Commitment

Our Pro Bono Commitment

May 25, 2022 Amicus Brief Urges Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Appeal in High-Profile Case about First Amendment Protections

Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief on behalf of the NAACP and the Ohio State Chapter of the NAACP urging the Ohio Supreme Court to hear Oberlin College’s appeal in Gibson Bros, Inc., et al., v. Oberlin.

Oberlin is seeking to reverse a lower court decision finding the college liable for more than $30 million in damages for allegedly facilitating the distribution of defamatory statements during student protests against a local bakery.

Oberlin students were protesting Gibson’s bakery after a 2016 incident involving an altercation between three Black Oberlin students and an employee of the bakery. The three students were arrested, but not the employee. Oberlin students organized a boycott of Gibson’s bakery to protest, among other things, the use of force against a Black student, the law enforcement response, and other accounts of racial profiling and discrimination involving the bakery. Student activists created fliers expressing outrage over the “assault” and the bakery’s “long account of racial profiling,” and the Student Senate passed a resolution expressing similar sentiments.

Gibson’s sued Oberlin, asserting that the college and its personnel facilitated the distribution of defamatory statements during the protests. The trial court found that, although the students’ chants were constitutionally protected, Oberlin could be liable for supporting the distribution of the allegedly defamatory statements in the flier.

Oberlin has petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse this ruling and find that those statements fall within the free speech and association protections guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Ohio Constitution.

Jenner & Block’s brief supports Oberlin’s appeal, based on the important constitutional protections that are threatened by the lower court decisions. The brief outlines the historical development of First Amendment principles protecting free speech and political expression, driven by the crucial role that boycott and protest played during the civil rights movement. This history also demonstrates the importance of student organizing, in particular in opposing discriminatory practices or actions taken by private businesses. The brief also notes that civil tort liability has historically been wielded as a weapon by opponents of civil rights to stifle and suppress essential political organizing and alerts the court to the grave implications of this decision. 

Partner Jessica Ring Amunson led the team, joined by Partner Ishan K. Bhabha, Associate Deanna Krokos, Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson, and Manager of Docketing Services Tyler Edwards. 

CATEGORIES: Amicus Brief, Appellate, NAACP

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, Ishan K. Bhabha, Deanna Krokos

July 22, 2019 NAACP Recognizes Firm Team with “Foot Soldier in the Sand Award”

During its annual convention in Detroit, the NAACP presented the firm with its “Foot Soldier in the Sand Award” for our pro bono work fighting for a fair 2020 Census.

In the case, the firm and the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School are representing the NAACP, Prince George’s County, Maryland, the NAACP’s Prince George’s County branch and two county residents.  Filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, NAACP v. Census Bureau aims to combat the threat that the 2020 Census will unconstitutionally undercount minority communities, leading to inequalities in political representation and federal funding. 

Census results determine the number of congressional seats each state receives, the redrawing of legislative district lines and the enforcement of voting rights laws.  The federal government also uses Census data to distribute federal funding.  In the 2010 Census, Prince George’s County, which has a majority African American population, suffered a 2.3 percent net undercount—the largest net undercount of any county in Maryland and one of the largest of any county in the nation.  The lawsuit seeks to compel the Bureau of the Census to prepare for and conduct a full and fair 2020 Census, as the Constitution requires.

The federal government sought to dismiss the suit, but in January 2019, US District Court Judge Paul Grimm denied the Census Bureau’s motion to dismiss.  The case is pending.

The team includes Partners Susan J. Kohlmann, Jeremy M. Creelan and Michael W. Ross; Associates Jacob D. Alderdice, Alex S. Trepp, Logan Gowdey, Amy Egerton-Wiley, Olivia Hoffman, Zachary Blau and Matthew  J. Phillips; Law Clerks Alexa Kissinger and Andrew Whinery; and Project Assistant Esmeralda Bako.


 

CATEGORIES: Awards and Recognition, Census, NAACP, Prince Georges County

PEOPLE: Susan J. Kohlmann, Michael W. Ross, Jeremy M. Creelan, Alex S. Trepp, Matthew J. Phillips, Jacob D. Alderdice

March 29, 2018 Firm Team Represents the NAACP and Prince George's County, MD in Suit Over Unconstitutional Census Preparations
Jenner & Block is representing the NAACP and Prince George's County, Maryland in a lawsuit against the federal government over unconstitutional census preparations.  Filed on March 28, 2018 in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, the lawsuit aims to combat the impending threat that the 2020 Census will unconstitutionally undercount minority communities, leading to inequalities in political representation and federal funding.  Together with the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School, the firm is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which, in addition to the NAACP and Prince George’s County, also include the NAACP Prince George’s County Branch and two county residents. 
 
Census results determine the number of congressional seats each state receives, the redrawing of legislative district lines and the enforcement of voting rights laws.  The federal government also uses Census data to distribute federal funding.  In the 2010 Census, Prince George’s County, which has a majority African American population, suffered a 2.3 percent net undercount—the largest net undercount of any county in Maryland and one of the largest of any county in the nation.  The lawsuit seeks to compel the Bureau of the Census, an agency within the Department of Commerce, to prepare for and conduct a full and fair 2020 Census, as the Constitution requires. 
 
The Washington Post, The New York Times and Law360 reported on the lawsuit.
 
The Jenner & Block team representing the plaintiffs includes Partners Susan J. Kohlmann and Jeremy C. Creelan; Associates Jacob D. Alderdice and Jonathan M. Diaz; and Legal Assistant Azza K. Khalifa. 
 

CATEGORIES: Census, NAACP, Prince Georges County

PEOPLE: Susan J. Kohlmann, Jeremy M. Creelan, Jacob D. Alderdice

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