Third Circuit Supports Pro Bono Client’s Request for Protection from Deportation
Yemeni client Adel Ghanem presented evidence that “overwhelmingly demonstrates” his prior persecution on account of his political opinion, and that if he were returned to Yemen he would likely be tortured, a Third Circuit panel said in September.
In the opinion, the court vacated a Board of Immigration Appeals' decision that denied Mr. Ghanem’s request for protection from deportation, saying the board “ignore[d] overwhelming evidence" that he had been persecuted and would likely be tortured for his political beliefs if returned to Yemen.
News of the decision was reported by Bloomberg and Law360.
Associate William R. Weaver represented Mr. Ghanem. He was supervised by Partners Ian Heath Gershengorn and Matthew E. Price.
Court Approves DPA for Pro Bono Client
Jenner & Block secured a deferred prosecution agreement for pro bono client Pheerayuth Burden, who had been convicted of violating the Arms Export Control Act by sending gun parts to Thailand without a license. At trial, the main testimony against Mr. Burden came in by deposition because the cooperating witness was unavailable to testify live. The firm took the case on appeal to the DC Circuit, arguing that the introduction of the deposition evidence violated Mr. Burden’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him; we argued that the witness’s unavailability could not excuse the violation because the government itself procured that unavailability by deporting the cooperating witness before trial without making any plans to bring him back. The DC Circuit agreed and vacated Mr. Burden’s conviction, remanding for a new trial.
On remand, the firm team successfully negotiated a deferred prosecution agreement that will allow Mr. Burden to be free from burdensome pretrial release conditions and will ultimately allow for dismissal of the charges with prejudice.
The team was led by Partner Lindsay C. Harrison, with critical support from Partner David Bitkower.
Jenner & Block to Receive Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award from LCBH
On November 18, Jenner & Block will receive the Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing for the firm’s work supporting LCBH and the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance. The KRCO was passed after the 2008 financial crisis to encourage foreclosing banks and other financial institutions to keep tenants in properties on which they foreclose rather than evicting tenants and leaving properties vacant. The ordinance encourages this by requiring a $10,600 relocation fee, if the bank or financial institution elects to evict certain qualified tenants and does not let them continue to rent in the property.
Jenner & Block Team Achieves Favorable Settlement in Civil Rights Case
LCBH is the only non-profit legal aid organization in the Chicago area that focuses solely on low- and moderate-income renters in the private housing market. The firm and LCBH have worked closely over the past several years to defend the ordinance against various attacks by defendants in cases by tenants alleging violations of the KCRO.
“Our work with LCBH has really made a difference for Chicago renters who live in foreclosed properties,” said Partner Christopher Tompkins, who is on the LCBH board and will be receiving the award on behalf of Jenner & Block. “Our long-standing collaboration with LCBH has empowered truly disadvantaged renters by preventing wrongful evictions and fighting sub-standard living conditions over the years. We have also helped a number of tenants recover under the KRCO in our efforts to ensure all of our neighbors can have a safe and decent place to live.”
“Jenner & Block’s pro bono services will have a lasting impact on our agency and Chicago renters for years to come,” said LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz. “The KCRO will continue to give special protections and rights to renters living in foreclosed properties, and we thank Jenner & Block for being our partner.”
LCBH’s annual “Bringing Justice Home” event will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 pm Central at Revolution Brewing Brewer’s Lounge in Chicago. To learn more and register to attend, please click here.
Associates Wesley M. Griffith, Elizabeth Avunjian, and Effiong K. Dampha led a team that obtained a favorable settlement on the eve of trial in a Section 1983 civil rights case. The civil rights action arose from our client reporting several prison guards for misconduct. Our client alleged that in retaliation for his report, the guards took him to an isolated area of the prison that was closed for construction and beat him until he lost consciousness.
The client, who had limited education and financial means, was originally proceeding without counsel and having difficulty making his case in the face of the guards’ denial of any wrongdoing. The Jenner team was able to secure evidence from the prison confirming that our client was taken to an outside hospital by ambulance for treatment shortly after the attack and that the area under construction had no security cameras or other safeguards to prevent abuse of prisoners by staff. Based on this evidence, the action was favorably settled.
The team was supervised by Partner Kirsten Hicks Spira and supported by Associates Vivian L. Bickford, Kristen Green, and Julia K. Hirata and Paralegal Christal Oropeza.
Article Highlights Team’s Pro Bono Efforts on Behalf of Debtor
An article in Rochelle’s Daily Wire features Jenner & Block’s pro bono efforts to assist a “hapless debtor” who endured a trial, two appeals and a remand proceeding to discharge $112,000 in student loans. Thanks to Partner Catherine L. Steege and Special Counsel Carl N. Wedoff, along with firm alum and retired bankruptcy judge Eugene Wedoff, the debtor is on the brink of discharging her loans. “Without pro bono counsel, this debtor never would have discharged her student loans... This writer submits that something is wrong with a system that requires a debtor to go through so much for so long and with no chance of success were it not for the generosity of distinguished lawyers from the top ranks of the bankruptcy bar,” reads the article.
Pro Bono Efforts in Afghanistan Touch Individuals and Organizations in a Humanitarian Crisis
Jenner & Block has teams of lawyers assisting individuals and organizations navigate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. One team is helping NGOs navigate US sanctions laws so they can continue to work in Afghanistan, while another team is helping at-risk individuals leave the country. This work is part of the firm’s pro bono program.
Helping NGOs Provide Assistance in Afghanistan
When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, we provided guidance to non-governmental organizations about how US sanctions could affect their ability to work in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which the US government has designated as a terrorist group. We helped the NGOs identify which of their humanitarian assistance programs were not prohibited by counterterrorism laws, allowing those programs to continue, and also identify other programs for which additional US government guidance or authorization was necessary.
The firm’s efforts also included conducting outreach to the US government on behalf of various organizations, helping to explain how the situation in Afghanistan affected their employees, their operations, and the programs they implement. Among other outreach, the team drafted and submitted requests for authorization to carry out programming in Taliban-controlled areas.
On September 24, the US Department of the Treasury issued two general licenses to support the continued flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and other activities that support basic human needs there. As a result, NGOs can now carry out their work to help the people of Afghanistan without running afoul of US sanctions laws. Jenner & Block will continue working with organizations there and elsewhere to help provide lifesaving assistance consistent with US sanctions requirements.
The team is led by Partner Rachel K. Alpert and includes Associates Umer M. Chaudhry and Garrett J. Salzman. An article published by Ms. Alpert in Just Security proposes solutions to some of the challenges that the NGO sector faces in situations like Afghanistan.
Helping At-Risk Individuals Emigrate from Afghanistan
After the fall of Kabul, it was widely reported in the news (and confirmed by sources on the ground) that the Taliban had been delivering death threats to those seen as enemies or traitors to its regime. In these final chaotic days of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan a vast swathe of society – many of whom had spent years supporting Western state and civil society building endeavors - were suddenly trapped. Owing to the swift advance of the Taliban, these at-risk individuals were unable to flee the country. The international response to the growing refugee crisis has been disjointed and inadequate.
In response to this humanitarian crisis, we currently have nearly 50 lawyers, led by Partners Debbie L. Berman, Ishan K. Bhabha, Paul Feldberg, and Michael W. Ross and Of Counsel Richard J. Gray, from offices on both sides of the Atlantic working collaboratively to help those in mortal danger emigrate from Afghanistan and third-party countries. The firm’s efforts have taken the form of providing legal assistance, and where necessary engaging in lobbying efforts, to help identify US and UK entry requirements. We are also leveraging our international contacts to identify lawyers in Canada and Australia who are willing to undertake similar work in their respective jurisdictions.
At present, the firm is working to help 30 at-risk individuals, as well as their family members, who are seeking to leave Afghanistan. The list includes several academics, a female high-ranking former judge, a senior female police officer, a pregnant journalist,an interpreter, a government contractor employee and numerous other members of civil society. All these individuals are at-risk from violent reprisals at the hands of the Taliban, on the basis of their gender, education, or perceived support for the international intervention in Afghanistan.
Jenner & Block Amicus Brief Urges US Supreme Court to Strike Down Mississippi’s Abortion Ban
A Jenner & Block team has filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the US Supreme Court case considering a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The brief urges the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s decision and strike down the law.
The brief was written pro bono on behalf of reproductive justice advocates and organizers. It focuses on the impact that Mississippi’s law would have on people of color as well as disabled, low-income, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ people living in Mississippi and Louisiana.
“Amici have a unique window into the challenges people face when seeking to access abortion, and the additional barriers Mississippi’s 15-week ban will impose on marginalized people. They write to highlight the devastating consequences that will ensue if this Court eliminates the right to abortion,” reads the brief.
Partner Tassity S. Johnson and Associate Victoria Hall-Palerm wrote the brief. Partner Jessica Ring Amunson assisted.
Jenner & Block Lawyers and Alumni Win Northern District of Illinois Pro Bono Award
The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association awarded several of our lawyers with the 2021 Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service for “providing outstanding pro bono and public interest representation in civil and criminal matters before the district court.” The award recipients were recognized for successfully completing three different cases:
Jenner & Block Receives Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award
In Conley v. US we represented Mr. Conley, who was convicted of conspiring to rob a fake drug stash house even though he was not a target of the prosecution, in a federal habeas challenge in the district court and on appeal. The team also presented a petition for compassionate release, which the court granted, ordering his immediate release from prison. The award recipients included Jenner & Block Partner Mike Brody; Associates Eric Fleddermann and Theo Lesczynski; and former associate Leigh Jahnig.
In USA v. Rollins, we represented Mr. Rollins, who was convicted for a string of three robberies within a week’s time, in a reduction of a de facto life sentence. Partners Andrew Vail and Monica Pinciak, and Associate Josh Levin successfully argued for a reduction in sentence of 106.5 years to 28 years and one day. The judge wrote in his opinion that “a de facto life sentence far exceeds appropriate punishment.”
Paralegal Cheryl Kras, and former colleagues US Magistrate Judge Gabriel A. Fuentes, Christine Bowman, and Hon. Judge Brewer (ret.) also received the award for their work in Traharne, et al v. Illinois DCFS, et al., which was litigated and settled while Judge Fuentes and Ms. Bowman were with the firm. Judge Summers was the mediator on the matter.
The Pro Bono Institute (PBI) honored Jenner & Block with its Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) Partner Award for the collaborative efforts with McDonald’s Corporation and the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) in achieving asylum for several pro bono clients.
Jenner & Block Secures Settlement Agreement with NYCHA to Prevent Wrongful Evictions
For several years, volunteers from the legal department of McDonald’s have partnered with Jenner & Block and Goldberg Kohn Ltd. on approximately 20 cases referred by NIJC, working collaboratively to represent immigrants applying for asylum.
By working together, the in-house and law firm lawyers and staff share resources and divide responsibilities, such as interviewing and developing rapport with clients who have been through harrowing situations; drafting the client’s affidavits and briefs; reviewing medical, news, and police reports; gathering personal statements from the client’s relatives; meeting with expert witnesses; and preparing for immigration court hearings. The partnership has obtained asylum for numerous individuals who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, and seeking to create a new life for themselves and their families in the United States.
Partner Wade A. Thomson leads the collaborative efforts of this important partnership. Other firm lawyers and staff involved throughout the collaboration include Partners Jennifer S. Amerkhail, Mark Davis, Terri L. Mascherin, Mike McNamara, Andrew F. Merrick, Megan B. Poetzel, Gay Sigel, Howard J. Symons, and Shaun M. Van Horn; Associates Umer M. Chaudhry, Brian B. Druchniak, Brenna J. Field, Maria del Carmen González, Meg Hlousek, Sam Jahangir, Ari Kanavy, Elpitha B. Lambros, Lindsey A. Lusk, Philip B. Sailer, and Hope H. Tone-Keefe; Attorneys Jennifer Beach, Edmundo Cuevas, Pedro Fernandez, and Anthony Nguyen; and several professional staff members including Terri Busch, Zulaikha Master, Fallon McDowell, Tricia Peavler, Margaret Petit, Paul Ramonas, and James Walsh.
Mr. Thomson and the legal teams were recognized for the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award on October 14 at 6:30pm ET during PBI’s Annual Awards Gala.
Along with Legal Service NYC as co-counsel, Jenner & Block secured a settlement with the New York City Housing Authority, requiring the public housing agency to reform its rent adjustment system to prevent wrongful evictions and benefiting more than 400,000 NYCHA residents.
The agreement ensures that thousands of NYCHA tenants will have their rents reduced if their incomes were to decline – a process required by federal law that has become more urgent during the pandemic. The settlement also enhances protections for low-income residents by requiring that NYCHA may not prosecute nonpayment or chronic rent delinquency cases until they first resolve interim rent reduction requests or rent grievances. The settlement comes after a group of twelve families, who have lived in public housing anywhere between five and 50 years, sued NYCHA in federal court alleging illegal rent overcharges above 30% of income and eviction proceedings for unlawful amounts of rent.
NYCHA has agreed to pay tenants close to $190,000 in damages, lawyers’ fees, and rent overcharge claims and has six months to implement changes to its system-wide operations concerning rent readjustments and eviction cases. NYCHA is also subject to monitoring by the federal court for three years.
To learn more about the plaintiffs and the settlement, click here.
The Jenner & Block team included Special Counsel David W. Sussman, Associates Susanna Evarts and Olivia Hoffman, Law Clerk Keturah James, and former partner Andrew Weissmann.
Firm Partners with BMO Harris, United Way of Metro Chicago, and NIJC to Offer DACA Clinic
In a trailblazing partnership, the firm collaborated with client BMO Harris, United Way of Metro Chicago, and the NIJC to offer first-time DACA application assistance through the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago. Partner Andrew W. Vail, who serves as general counsel of the UWMC, organized the clinic. In addition to Mr. Vail, the firm team included Partners Angela M. Allen, Nicole A. Allen, Benjamin J. Bradford, Shoba Pillay, Megan B. Poetzel, Michael W. Ross, Erin R. Schrantz and Associate Amit B. Patel. The firm lawyers are partnering with in-house lawyers at BMO to create teams for each client.
Firm’s Amicus Brief Opposes Efforts to Block Construction of the Obama Presidential Center
On July 15, the firm submitted an amicus brief, pro bono, on behalf of 16 iconic Chicagoland museums and cultural institutions that oppose efforts to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
The plaintiffs inProtect Our Parks, Inc., et. al. v. Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, et. al., No. 21-cv-2006 (N.D. Ill.) sought a preliminary injunction to stop the center. The brief argues that the court should deny that request. On August 5, Judge John Robert Blakey issued a one-page opinion denying the request, writing that the plaintiffs “have not met the standard for injunctive relief on their federal claims.”
“The Chicagoland Museums believe the Obama Presidential Center will be a cultural and economic treasure for Chicago that will benefit the public by bringing new amenities and positive development to the surrounding community, boosting the local economy, and serving as a magnet for visitors to the City and the region. It will serve as an enduring and powerful symbol of the promise of America and the American Dream. In other words, the public interest strongly favors allowing construction to move forward without any further delays,” the brief reads.
The brief highlights the area’s long and rich history of featuring these world-class institutions: “Museums provide major educational and economic benefits and advance the public’s interest in knowledge and understanding. The Chicagoland Museums offer benefits to the public, the City, and the Chicago Park District—and offer benefits to each other when they are clustered together. Each museum is truly a treasure and Chicagoland, its residents, and visitors are fortunate to have them.”
The brief is signed by Co-Managing Partner Randy Mehrberg, joined by Partners Daniel J. Weiss and Gabriel K. Gillett and Associate Elena M. Olivieri.
The Chicagoland museums and cultural institutions that joined the brief include the following: Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bronzeville Children’s Museum, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago Architecture Center, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Field Museum of Natural History, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, and Shedd Aquarium.
This is the third brief the firm submitted in support of the Obama Presidential Center. In 2018, the firm submitted a brief in the district court on behalf of 11 museums in Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Chicago Park District, and submitted a brief in the Seventh Circuit when the plaintiffs appealed their loss. WTTW reported on the latest brief.
Jenner & Block Announces Winners of Annual Pro Bono Awards
Jenner & Block today gave the annual Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award to Partner David J. Bradford for a lifetime of pro bono service and for his leadership in a voting rights case in the 2020 presidential election. The firm also gave the Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award to a Jenner & Block team that challenged three Wisconsin laws imposing severe restrictions on abortion access at a trial last year. The firm gave the annual Jenner & Block Award for Excellence in Pro Bono or Public Service to Paralegal Mary Frances Patston for her long service to the firm’s pro bono work.
Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award – David J. Bradford
David J. Bradford was honored for his pro bono representation of United Healthcare Workers East in a lawsuit against Florida Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over changes to USPS policies last year. The changes would have delayed ballots and disenfranchise Floridians who were voting by mail in larger numbers than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Mr. Bradford and his team of Jenner & Block lawyers won a court order requiring postal facilities in the 10 largest counties in Florida to certify that they had processed all ballots by 8 am on Monday, November 2, the day before the election. The team that worked with Mr. Bradford on the USPS case included Partners Jessica Ring Amunson, Daniel J. Weiss, Ashley M. Schumacher, Associates Christopher M. Sheehan, Nayiri Keosseian Pilikyan, Senior Paralegal W. Michael Hughes, and Legal Assistant Fran M. Sattelmayer
Mr. Bradford has been at Jenner & Block since 1978, except for his time as a founding attorney of the MacArthur Justice Center. In addition to the Florida voting rights case, he was honored for a lifetime of service to some of the most important and challenging pro bono cases. Among them, he represented Mr. Rashid Awadh Rashid Al-Uwaidah, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He has successfully represented several death row prisoners and also worked with national organizations to try to abolish the death penalty. He was among a group of lawyers who helped convince Governor Pat Quinn to end the death penalty in Illinois in 2011.
Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award – reproductive rights trial team
A team of Jenner & Block lawyers was honored for its work challenging the constitutionality of three laws passed by the state of Wisconsin that severely restrict women’s rights to safe and legal abortion care. The team was led by Partners Ali M. Arain and Lori B. Day and included Partners Alison I. Stein and Susan J. Kohlmann, Associates Kara V. Brandeisky, Emily S. Mannheimer, Jessica A. Martinez, and Danielle Muniz, and Paralegals Esmeralda Bako and Albert Peterson.
The lawyers filed a complaint against the Attorney General of Wisconsin and other state officials challenging Wisconsin laws restricting who can provide abortion care in a state with a critical shortage of physicians. The plaintiffs included three advanced nurse practitioners directly impacted by the law and the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, as well as Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin itself.
In December 2020, the team conducted a week-long, virtual trial before Judge William M. Conley in the Western District of Wisconsin. The team presented testimony from plaintiffs, the COO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and multiple expert witnesses in addition to opening statements and closing arguments. The judge’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Kaul is pending.
Jenner & Block Award for Excellence - Mary Frances Patston
Paralegal Mary Frances Patston was honored with the Jenner & Block Award for Excellence in Pro Bono or Public Service. This award recognizes staff members who demonstrated an exceptional commitment to providing pro bono service. Ms. Patston initially joined Jenner & Block in 1983, left in 1999, and returned in 2004. She has supported lawyers in a variety of pro bono projects with grace and kindness. She has worked on more than 100 pro bono matters over the years. She has developed knowledge of and facility with the appellate practice, especially with filings before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. From appointment to preparing the record, to cite-checking and finalizing briefs, to preparing for oral argument, Ms. Patston makes sure that everything is done right so that our clients have the best chance of prevailing.
Past recipients of the Albert E. Jenner Award can be found here.
Jenner & Block’s pro bono program was founded in 1954. In addition to high-profile cases at every level of the judicial system, our lawyers provide pro bono representation in a wide range of legal areas. This includes pursuing asylum for those fleeing persecution; fighting injustice in our criminal justice system, governments and society; advising grass roots and non-profit organizations; advocating for veterans; protecting constitutional rights; assisting victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking; and fighting for environmental protection, among so many other issues that impact people and our communities.
In January, the firm launched its pledge to provide $250 million in free legal services to people in need over the next five years.
Jenner & Block has been recognized by The American Lawyer as the top pro bono firm in the United States for the last four years, and 10 of the past 13 years. We partner with dedicated legal aid organizations, law school clinics, in-house legal departments, and others committed to providing access to justice and serving the public good. As advocates for equity, we embrace our responsibility to serve those in need, better our communities, and protect our future.
Firm Once Again Named to PILI’s Pro Bono Recognition Roster
On June 16, Public Interest Law Initiative will recognize Jenner & Block on its 2021 Pro Bono Recognition Roster. PILI’s Roster celebrates law firms and corporations that have made significant commitments and contributions to pro bono throughout Illinois. Jenner & Block has been named to the Roster since its inception in 2010.
To be eligible for the Roster, law firms must meet at least two of the following criteria:
An average of 35 pro bono hours per legal professional in Illinois per year.
A 5% increase in Illinois office(s) pro bono hours from the previous year.
60% or more of the firm’s Illinois lawyers participate in pro bono work.
Participation in the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Law Firm Leadership Circle or signing one of PILI’s Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee Pro Bono Pledges.
Adoption of innovative steps to involve more Illinois office(s) legal department staff in pro bono work or to expand the law firm’s pro bono program.
The June 16 Virtual Annual Pro Bono Reception starts at 12 pm Central and will feature a pro bono tour of Illinois. It is free to attend but guests should register in advance.
Jenner & Block’s Pro Bono Efforts Lead to FCC Order Lowering Prison Phone Rates
A Jenner & Block team helped secure an order from the Federal Communications Commission lowering the rates that incarcerated persons and their families pay for phone calls.
On May 20, 2021, the Commission adopted an order lowering the interim rate caps on interstate inmate calling services to $0.12 per minute for all prisons and $0.14 for jails with average daily populations of 1,000 or more. The order also establishes caps on international calling services rates for the first time at all prison and jail facilities.
The team represented the Wright Petitioners, named after the late Martha Wright, who had struggled to pay for phone calls from her incarcerated grandson and later pushed for changes to the rules surrounding rates. The petitioners were among several advocacy groups and civil rights organizations that urged the Commission to lower the calling rates.
“The Wright Petitioners applaud the leadership of Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the Federal Communications Commission for taking this important incremental step toward providing much-needed relief for incarcerated people and their families from unreasonably high calling rates and fees, including capping international rates for the first time,” said Rebekah P. Goodheart, co-chair of the firm’s Communications, Internet, and Technology Practice who led the team representing the Wright Petitioners. “Studies consistently show that keeping in contact while incarcerated reduces recidivism. We look forward to working with the Commission on further reforms to bring additional relief to incarcerated persons and their loved ones.”
The team included Partner Howard J. Symons and Associate Gregory R. Capobianco. Senior Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Practice Assistant Beth Gulden provided key support.