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Jenner & Block Partner Barry Levenstam will receive the Seventh Circuit Bar Association’s First Annual Justice John Paul Stevens Pro Bono Award, in recognition of his career-long commitment to pro bono service in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Association will present the Stevens Award to Mr. Levenstam on Monday, May 3, as part of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference of the Seventh Circuit.
“We were especially impressed with the unwavering nature of your pro bono commitment,” the Association said in its letter notifying Mr. Levenstam that he is the inaugural winner of this award, which is named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The award is given based on significant pro bono or public service work in the federal courts within the Seventh Circuit and practice “at the highest degree of excellence and ethics,” according to the Association, which told Mr. Levenstam, “Your calling to pro bono service was evident to the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, and it should be celebrated by all.”
Mr. Levenstam was recognized by the Association for the body of his pro bono service before the Seventh Circuit. He has written briefs or argued orally on behalf of more than 75 pro bono clients in the Seventh Circuit alone. As the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee co-chair from 2000 to 2009, and frequently as appointed counsel in the Seventh Circuit, he has worked with countless young Jenner & Block attorneys seeking to gain pro bono and Seventh Circuit experience.
Mr. Levenstam’s pro bono work in the Seventh Circuit has its roots in the mentoring he received from Firm Chairman Emeritus Jerold S. Solovy, and from former Jenner & Block partner and Seventh Circuit judge, the late Philip W. Tone, for whom Mr. Levenstam clerked from 1978 to 1979. Mr. Levenstam took on his first pro bono client in the Seventh Circuit, Alonzo Jones, shortly after joining the firm as an associate in 1979. Mr. Jones had been sentenced to death for the murder of three correctional officers during the 1965 Menard prison riot, but his death sentence had been vacated under Furman and he was serving three 150 to 300-year terms when Mr. Levenstam began to represent him. Mr. Levenstam continued to represent Mr. Jones until he succeeded in getting Mr. Jones paroled in the mid-1990s; Mr. Levenstam then saw Mr. Jones through the successful completion of his term of parole late in the 1990s, when Mr. Jones was able to return to his family in Tennessee. Since then, Mr. Levenstam has been involved in numerous other pro bono criminal and habeas corpus cases, including three death penalty matters in the Seventh Circuit.
In addition to his representation of criminal defendants and prisoners, Mr. Levenstam has handled several civil cases on a pro bono basis in the Seventh Circuit. For example, he represented the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Friends of Milwaukee Rivers in their fight to prevent the use of Lake Michigan and its waterways for the dumping of raw sewage overflow. He also represented another environmental organization in its challenge to clear-cutting plans in the Shawnee National Forest.
Most recently, Mr. Levenstam was involved in a novel situation when he advocated as amicus in a case presenting the question of whether the use of video-conferencing to conduct a supervised release revocation hearing violated the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Because the government conceded error, the appellate court appointed Mr. Levenstam to defend the district court’s procedure. Although the Court of Appeals ultimately concluded that video-conference for this purpose does violate the Federal Rules, the Court, in a footnote to its opinion, thanked Mr. Levenstam and the Jenner & Block team for “ably discharging the responsibility” as amicus with which they had been charged.
Mr. Levenstam is a partner in the Firm’s Litigation Department and a member of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice, the Class Action Practice and the ERISA Litigation Practice. In 1995, the Federal Bar Association awarded him the Walter J. Cummings Award for “excellence in advocacy on the part of appointed counsel” before the Seventh Circuit. In 1998, Mr. Levenstam was elected to membership in the American Law Institute and, in 1999, he was admitted to the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers.
Mr. Levenstam has participated in Seventh Circuit-sponsored seminars teaching attorneys to represent parties on appeal in appointed cases, spoken at Seventh Circuit judicial conferences, and lectured for the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and the DuPage County Bar Association. He is the lead author of two chapters in The Attorney’s Guide to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (3d ed. 2005), which he updates annually. One chapter deals with habeas corpus law and the second addresses judicial review of administrative decisions.
Mr. Levenstam graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1975. In 1978, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law where he was a member of the Board of Editors of the Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. While in law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, then circuit court judge in Champaign County (now a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court). He is the incoming President of the Board of Directors of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and also serves on the Board of the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago.