January 18, 2003

The National Law Journal announced in its Jan. 6 issue that Jenner & Block is one of seven individuals or law firms to win the publication’s prestigious “Pro Bono Award” for 2002. According to the NLJ, the Firm was honored for its “leadership role” in addressing the pressing need for counsel in capital cases.

“Jenner & Block stands out among the firms doing good work,” said Robin Maher, director of the American Bar Association’s death penalty project. “Every time I’ve asked for their assistance, they’ve come through.”

Although the pro bono award was based on the Firm’s team effort in addressing numerous capital cases, several Jenner & Block Partners were interviewed by the NLJ.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who will argue a closely-watched death penalty case before the U.S. Supreme Court in March, told the NLJ that his experience as a clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court handling last-minute stay requests led to his commitment to such work. “There was so much unfairness that I felt compelled to spend some of my career on [changing] that,” he is quoted as saying.

Partner Terri L. Mascherin, who is seeking clemency for another death row inmate, told the NLJ that “It’s a part of every attorney’s obligation to give something back…I can’t imagine a group more in need.” Indeed, the newspaper stated, Jenner & Block attorneys are working on two other Illinois death row cases in which they are seeking clemency from Governor George Ryan, while filing amicus briefs or otherwise assisting in several additional death penalty cases.

Said Anton R. Valukas, a member of the Firm’s Policy Committee: “There has to be a special commitment to the capital cases because of the consequences.”

Mr. Valukas noted that Jenner & Block has a long history of involvement in criminal defense work, including Chairman Jerold S. Solovy’s leading role in Witherspoon v. State of Illinois, a landmark case that challenged prosecutors’ practice of striking jurors who had scruples against the death penalty. Most recently, the NLJ related, Partner Thomas P. Sullivan co-chaired the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment, which earlier this year issued an acclaimed report on the use of the death penalty in Illinois. Moreover, the newspaper added, the Firm’s attorneys have handled a number of high profile murder defense cases, including the Illinois appellate court’s decision in May to vacate the murder convictions of two brothers who had spent the past 10 years in prison, based on new eyewitness testimony.

Still, the NLJ emphasized, Jenner & Block’s legendary pro bono program is hardly limited to criminal defense matters. For instance, the Firm’s attorneys have worked with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of same-sex sodomy laws and have also filed an influential amicus brief on behalf of more than 30 major corporations, supporting the constitutionality of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action admissions policy.

Late last year, The American Lawyer Magazine included Jenner & Block in its 2002 "Pro Bono Honor Roll," partly in recognition of its successful voluntary work in several closely-watched fair housing and environmental impact cases.

Practice Groups:
Affirmative Action Plans and OFCCP Proceedings
Appellate and Supreme Court Practice
Environmental and Workplace Health & Safety Law
History and Tradition
Litigation Department