Jenner & Block

Firm Wins ISBA's 2013 Community Leadership Award

Jenner & Block is the 2013 winner of the Community Leadership Award given by the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. 

The award recognizes individuals and organizations that have worked to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as to foster understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and the legal issues of concern to them.

Jenner & Block is the first law firm to be honored with the award, which was created in 2006.

The firm was nominated for the award by the American Medical Association for an amicus brief regarding standards of care for transgender individuals. That brief was prepared and submitted to the Seventh Circuit in Fields, et al. v. Smith and was filed on behalf of the AMA, Mental Health America, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Dr. Wylie Hembree and Dr. Loren Schechter.

Dr. Schechter, the only plastic surgeon in Illinois and one of fewer than a handful of doctors in the country who performs gender confirmation surgery for transgender individuals, is a co-recipient of the ISBA award.

The Fields case involved three transgender women incarcerated in male correctional facilities in Wisconsin.  The women challenged a Wisconsin law barring access to hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery for prison inmates (and others in state custody) with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), regardless of medical need or prior treatment.  The plaintiffs argued that the law violated the Eighth and 14th Amendments by denying medically necessary treatment to transgender prisoners.  The district court agreed and entered an injunction against the law.

The amicus brief provided additional medical and mental health research to support the plaintiffs’ argument that the Wisconsin law was fundamentally at odds with widely accepted standards of care in the field.  During questioning of the Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General, Seventh Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner specifically cited the firm’s brief, stating that it made it “clear as clear can be” that the medical community accepts hormone therapy as appropriate treatment for individuals with GID.  In its opinion affirming the lower court’s decision, the Court relied on the standards of care discussed in the amicus brief.

Jenner & Block’s team included Partner David M. Kroeger and Associates D. Matthew Feldhaus and Kyle A. Palazzolo.  Partner Barry Levenstam also provided valuable contributions in preparing plaintiffs’ counsel for oral argument.

The award will be presented at the Award Luncheon on June 21 during the ISBA’s Annual Meeting.