Jenner & Block

Firm’s Albert E. Jenner Pro Bono Award Goes to O’Donnell, Tenney

Associates Brian P. O'Donnell and Amy L. Tenney were honored last week with Jenner & Block’s Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award, which annually recognizes those attorneys at the Firm who have been nominated by their peers as having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to pro bono or public service work.

Mr. O’Donnell, an intellectual property attorney in the Firm’s Chicago Office, was honored for dedicating over 500 hundred hours to a wide variety of pro bono matters, including civil rights, the criminal defense of the indigent, and intellectual property counseling and litigation services to a number of charitable organizations.

In 2004, Mr. O’Donnell negotiated a favorable monetary settlement to ongoing litigation on behalf of a pro bono client who had sued a local village for civil rights violations arising out of his unlawful detention in 2002.  Mr. O’Donnell was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on this matter.

Mr. O’Donnell also regularly provides pro bono legal services to a number of charitable organizations with intellectual property counseling and litigation needs, including:  (i) Food & Friends, a non-profit that prepares and delivers meals and groceries to people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses throughout the Washington, D.C. area, (ii) the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago (now known as the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago), an organization dedicated to preventing lung disease and promoting lung health, (iii) Southwest Women Working Together, a south side of Chicago non-profit that helps primarily women of color who are the victims of domestic violence, and (iv) Lydia Home Association, a 90 year old charitable organization headquartered in Chicago whose mission is strengthening families to care for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems and caring for those children when families cannot.

Mr. O’Donnell’s pro bono criminal work has included the defense of an indigent man accused of home invasion, the defense of a man charged with multiple armed robberies, and the defense of a man accused of a 25 year old murder.

Ms. Tenney, an attorney in the Firm’s Washington, DC office, was a leading member of the Firm’s team representing former Maryland death row inmate Kevin Wiggins, whose 12 year legal battle came to an end in late 2004 when Jenner & Block negotiated a favorable plea agreement between Mr. Wiggins and the State of Maryland.

Mr. Wiggins, a pro bono client of the Firm, had been convicted of a 1988 murder and sentenced to death by a Baltimore County jury.  In 2003, following years of representation by Partner Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Ms. Tenney, and others, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Mr. Wiggins’s death sentence. The Court ruled that Mr. Wiggins had received ineffective assistance of counsel at his original trial because his trial counsel had failed to investigate and present to the jury powerful mitigating evidence of childhood abuse and borderline mental retardation that may have swayed the jury against sentencing Mr. Wiggins to death. The Court’s decision set new ground rules for effective legal representation in death penalty cases.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the State of Maryland again sought the death penalty. Ms. Tenney devoted over 1,200 pro bono hours to representing Mr. Wiggins in his resentencing proceedings. Her representation included preparing dozens of pre-trial motions, locating and reviewing government and social service records spanning Mr. Wiggins’s entire lifetime, and interviewing over a hundred potential witnesses. On the eve of trial, in October 2004, the State agreed to a plea agreement rendering Mr. Wiggins immediately eligible for parole. Mr. Wiggins is now awaiting his next parole hearing. In the year since Mr. Wiggins’s plea agreement, Ms. Tenney has spoken at death penalty litigation conferences nationwide on how to conduct effective mitigation investigations in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mr. Wiggins’s case.

Ms. Tenney also devoted time last year to serve as a tutor to students from the Thurgood Marshall Academy.  The tutoring is part of an innovative tutoring program between the school and the Firm in which the students visit the Jenner & Block's DC office for weekly one-on-one help with homework and for other activities.

The pro bono award recipients were selected by the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. The award entitles the recipients to direct a contribution by the Firm to the charity of their choice.

The award was presented to the two attorneys at a Firm event in October by Pro Bono Committee Co-Chairs Barry Levenstam and David W. DeBruin.