November 27, 2006

The Pro Bono Institute recently honored Jenner & Block with the 2006 John H. Pickering Award in recognition of the Firm’s “unswerving commitment to pro bono service” and the Firm’s history of handling ”controversial, challenging, and time-consuming pro bono matters.”

In bestowing the award, the Pro Bono Institute highlighted several of Jenner & Block’s recent pro bono accomplishments, including:

  • Representing several detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay who are challenging the legality of their prolonged detention.
  • Continuing to provide free legal services to non-profits so more of those organizations’ resources go to serve their institutional purposes, including helping groups obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and counseling them on tax, employment, and corporate issues.
  • Helping to develop the legal arguments for the Florida attorneys representing Michael Schiavo in the litigation concerning his wife, the late Terri Schiavo, who had been kept alive against her wishes by a Florida law supported by that state’s Governor.
  • Obtaining a federal court ruling in January 2005 in favor of 14,000 African-American public housing residents that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development violated the federal Fair Housing Act by failing to consider regional approaches to ameliorate racial segregation in public housing in the Baltimore region.
  • Representing Missouri and California death row inmates in challenging their state lethal injection protocols.  In Missouri, a federal court recently halted all executions in Missouri pending changes to the lethal injection protocol to ensure that the condemned are not subjected to unconstitutional pain and suffering.
  • Persuading the U.S. Supreme Court in Wiggins v. Smith to find that a death row inmate had received ineffective assistance of counsel, thereby extending Jenner & Block’s long-time leadership in death penalty cases, which began with the landmark 1968 decision in Witherspoon v. Illinois. 
  • Persuading the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas to strike down the Texas “homosexual conduct” law, which criminalized sexual intimacy by same-sex couples but not identical conduct by opposite-sex couples.  Jenner worked closely with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Lawrence.
  • Preparing an amicus brief on behalf of 65 major companies in the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- which challenged the University of Michigan’s affirmative action admission policies.  In a historic 5-4 decision, the Court expressly relied upon Jenner’s brief in upholding the Michigan Law School’s admissions program.   
  • Providing a partner as Co-Chair of the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment, which authored a report that was widely considered to be a critical factor in the historic decision to grant clemency to or pardon all of the individuals on the state’s death row. 

Jenner & Block Partner and Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Barry Levenstam accepted the award on behalf of the Firm. 

In 2005, the Pro Bono Institute established this award in memory of John H. Pickering, a recognized leader and committed advocate of pro bono legal work.  The annual award was created to recognize a major law firm that “embodies Mr. Pickering’s spirit of service” and demonstrates an “exceptional culture of pro bono service.”

Founded in 1996, the Pro Bono Institute is a non-profit organization that explores and identifies new approaches to - and resources for - the provision of legal services to the poor, disadvantaged, and other individuals or groups unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems.

The Institute launched the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge(SM) eleven years ago to change how pro bono work was viewed, managed and integrated in major law firms.  To date, the Challenge has resulted in over 23 million hours of pro bono legal assistance to those most in need.  Jenner & Block is a Founding Member of the Institute’s Law Firm Project and a Charter Signatory to the Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge(SM).

The Firm was presented with the award at the Institute’s inaugural Corporate Pro Bono Challenge(SM) Gala, held in New York on November 9 to signify the commencement of the Institute’s Corporate Pro Bono Challenge(SM), which is designed to empower corporate legal departments to identify, benchmark, and communicate their commitment to pro bono service.