Jenner & Block

Shriver Center Bestows Pro Bono Award on Firm

On April 24, 2014, Jenner & Block received the 2014 Corporate Partner Award from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law at its 2014 Benefit Dinner.  The theme of the event was “Building Better Lives: Honoring the Fight for Justice and Opportunity for Women in Poverty.” 

Partner Reena R. Bajowala accepted the award on behalf of the firm, which was recognized for its work on orchestrating a settlement in which the City of Joliet (Illinois) made important affordable housing commitments.  Reena was also featured in a short movie about housing justice that aired during the event.

Jenner & Block served as co-counsel with the Shriver Center in representing four Evergreen Terrace tenants in an eminent domain suit brought by the City of Joliet.  Evergreen Terrace principally houses low-income families with young children, headed by single, African-American mothers.  The local government sought to condemn the Section 8 housing complex where our clients lived, stating that it intended to demolish the complex.

The settlement was attained in the midst of a federal trial that had gone on for 95 days over a period of 15 months and is in post-trial briefing for the remaining non-settling parties.  The trial included dozens of fact witnesses and experts and thousands of exhibits.  The settlement preserves safe, stable housing for our clients and also helps maximize the number of affordable housing units that will remain in Joliet.

Also during the benefit dinner, Juanita Abernathy, widow of civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, received the Shriver Center’s 2014 Equal Justice Award.  Christopher Kennedy and his wife, Sheila, who co-chaired the dinner, presented opening remarks; well-known Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington served as the evening’s emcee.  Jenner & Block Partner Charles B. Sklarsky was a member of the benefit’s Host Committee.

The dinner was also attended by Joy Reid, host of MSNBC’s “The Reid Report.”  Please click here to watch a video segment of her comments about the Evergreen Terrace case, the Shriver Center and the event.  Reena is pictured in the video, with the clients and the award.

In addition to Reena, key lawyers on the case included Partner Daniel J. Winters; Associates Thomas A. Bousnakis, Christine M. Bowman, Ethan E. Kent, Jason F. Krigel, Brienne M. Letourneau, Elin I. Park, Paul B. Rietema, Ashley M. Schumacher and Blake P. Sercye; and Staff Attorney Christopher M. Sheehan.