Jenner & Block

Jenner & Block Asks Alabama Governor for Apology And Compensation for Pro Bono Client Sarah Collins Rudolph

NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON, D.C., September 16, 2020 – Jenner & Block has sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeking justice on behalf pro bono client Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at the age of 12, was the victim of a 1963 bombing that left her partially blinded and killed her older sister.

Ms. Collins Rudolph, known as the “fifth little girl,” survived a bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. The attack killed four girls, including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae, as well as Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14. Ms. Collins Rudolph was severely injured in the attack, including losing her right eye. The bombers were inspired and motivated by then-Governor George Wallace’s racist rhetoric, including urging citizens to “take the offensive” on white supremacy and pay the “hard price” to retain “freedom of race.”

The letter sent to Gov. Ivey on September 14, calls for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeks compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured. “While social justice is always a worthy cause, given recent events, now is the time for Ms. Collins Rudolph to receive long overdue justice,” the letter states.

“It is a true honor and privilege to represent Ms. Collins Rudolph, who has shown exceptional courage and resilience after enduring such a terrible trauma,” said Ishan K. Bhabha, a partner at Jenner & Block in the firm’s Washington, DC office who represents Ms. Collins Rudolph. “Simply put, she deserves justice. She deserves to have her pain acknowledged by the State of Alabama, and she deserves an apology for the role the state played in encouraging the violence that irrevocably changed her life. As the entire country continues its national conversation around racial injustice, we believe Governor Ivey and the State of Alabama can play a critical role in beginning to right the wrongs that were committed against our client.”

 New York-based Jenner & Block Partner Alison I. Stein, who also represents Ms. Collins Rudolph, added “While nothing will undo the emotional and physical pain that Ms. Collins Rudolph endured for five and a half decades, Governor Ivey and the State of Alabama now have the opportunity to aid in her healing process and to bring justice and a sense of some closure to this remarkable woman. As we said in our letter to the Governor, justice is long overdue.”

Jenner & Block Associate Caroline Cease is also a member of the pro bono representation team.

Earlier this year, Ms. Collins Rudolph’s story was chronicled in a Washington Post feature, “Birmingham’s Fifth Girl.” For decades she lived in anonymity until she publicly shared her experience in 2000 at age 49. 

Jenner & Block represents Ms. Collins Rudolph on a pro bono basis.  “Our firm’s pro bono representation of Ms. Collins Rudolph is an embodiment of the firm’s core values – excellence, diversity and inclusion, collaboration, and pro bono and public service,” said Mr. Bhabha.

In 2020, The American Lawyer recognized the firm for the fourth consecutive year as the #1 pro bono firm in the United States, marking the 10th time in 13 years the firm has received this recognition. In 2020, the publication also recognized the firm as the #3 international pro bono firm, and in 2018, named the firm as its first "Pro Bono Champion.