Safeguarding Communities for All Generations
Growing Up Fast – The Ramirez Story
Karen and Greta Ramirez’ lives were forever changed when their father murdered their mother in 2011. Karen, then 19, and Greta, then 9, were effectively orphans. Six years later, the young women are thriving, in part due to the pro bono legal aid provided by Jenner & Block lawyers. Former partner Jeff Koppy and current Partner Gail Morse have spent the past years working to ensure the girls’ success. With legal issues ranging from title changes and taxes, to immigration and child custody, the firm has maintained a close relationship with the sisters and helped them navigate their journey to adulthood.
Victory for Brooklyn Tenants
Displaced After 2015 Fire
After a landlord of a Brooklyn, New York apartment building refused to repair the damage caused by a February 2015 fire, our clients—six residents of the building—were displaced from their homes for years. The tenants, some of whom were undocumented immigrants, were forced to find alternative housing, including homeless shelters. Despite agreeing to repair the building, our clients’ landlord, on multiple occasions, failed to meet court-ordered deadlines or offer any explanation as to why he could not complete necessary repairs. In May 2016, the court held the landlord in civil contempt of court for his ongoing failure to return the tenants to their apartments, and in October 2016, the court imposed civil penalties. Finally, the case partially settled on May 5, 2017. The resulting settlement includes a schedule of repairs that will hold the landlord accountable as well as $15,000 in compensation for each of our clients. The team representing the tenants included Associate Carl Wedoff and Partner Brian Fischer. Jenner & Block served as co-counsel to Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), the largest free civil legal services provider in the United States; South Brooklyn Legal Services served as co-counsel to the tenants. Carl is a member of LSNYC’s Pro Bono Associate Advisory Board.
Victory in “Impossible” Situation
Luther and Joseph Brown have made a lot of memories in the Chicago house where they have resided for the past 70 years. So, when their father passed away last year, the Brown brothers were proud to inherit the family home. Unbeknownst to them, they also inherited their father’s delinquent mortgage on a property that was severely underwater. The Browns and their lawyer, Mike Dickman of the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, tried to negotiate with the bank to assume the mortgage and make payments, but the bank refused to talk with them because they were not legal representatives of their father’s probate estate. The bank initiated foreclosure proceedings and set a date to sell the home.
Dickman reached out to Jenner & Block for help with opening a probate estate. Partner Debra Levin and Department Counsel Anne Brynn stepped up and quickly opened the estate—just days before the scheduled sale—and appointed Luther as the estate’s representative. But when the Browns contacted the bank, the bank still refused to halt the foreclosure sale.
Once again, the firm stepped up. Associate John VanDeventer and Partner Donald Horvath worked late into the night with Dickman to draft an emergency motion to stay the foreclosure sale, which was only two days away. The judge granted the emergency stay motion and encouraged the bank to negotiate with the Browns. Over the next several months, Carole Larry of Genesis Housing Development Corporation helped the Browns respond to the bank’s voluminous requests for documents while the Browns’ legal team negotiated with the bank. After two more stays, the legal team successfully moved the court to send the Brown’s case to foreclosure mediation.
After a productive mediation and months of back-and-forth, the bank offered the Browns a trial mortgage modification that allows the brothers to keep the house and cuts their mortgage payments in half. The Browns gladly accepted the offer. Dickman and John VanDeventer announced the resolution to both the foreclosure court and the probate court, and both judges commented that the Browns’ victory was a great outcome from what seemed like an impossible situation. Even the bank’s lawyer commented in the hallway that she wasn’t sure how these cases normally proceed because the bank “almost never” offers modification in cases where the borrower is deceased. The Browns successfully completed their trial mortgage modification and, in early 2018, entered into a permanent agreement with the bank to stay in their family home.
helping after Hurricane
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, devastating the island’s citizens. Eager to help, the governor of New York and his administration sent supplies, equipment and personnel to the island. He also called on Partner Jeremy Creelan, who worked for him and was responsible for establishing recovery programs after Superstorm Sandy struck New York in 2012. Jeremy and his colleagues were asked to help New York state officials and the Governor’s Office in Puerto Rico to develop a needs assessment to be sent to Congress to support an appropriation of disaster relief and recovery funds. Jeremy put together a team including Partner Edward Prokop and Associates Jacob Tracer and Irene Ten Cate. Together, they worked closely with the New York State Governor’s Office and the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico. Over a very hurried week, they completed the Governor's report, which requested a sum of $94 billion in federal funding to rebuild Puerto Rico.
Jenner & Block’s efforts helping the people of Puerto Rico recover from the hurricane’s devastation did not stop there. The firm raised $25,000 for the Unidos Disaster Relief and Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico to serve immediate and long-term needs of families and communities.
new pet Adoption Facility
Since 2004, Wright-Way Rescue has operated as a not-for-profit animal rescue organization that rescues dogs, cats, and other animals from rural animal control facilities and offers them a second chance at a loving home in the Chicagoland area. Prior to October 2, 2013, annual adoptions through Wright-Way’s facility on West Touhy Avenue in Niles exceeded 4000 animals. But that morning, its operations came to a screeching halt when a school bus crashed through the main entrance of the rescue facility, collapsing the roof, destroying the interior, trapping animals, and thoroughly disrupting operations.
While firefighters were able to successfully rescue all of the trapped animals from the debris, the building was deemed unfit for operations, and Wright-Way Rescue was forced to relocate. Finding a temporary location proved difficult because zoning requirements require a permit to house live animals, with the permitting process normally taking up to six months. Wright-Way made do with temporary residency in a warehouse. But it took another year before the organization could secure a new facility in Morton Grove to serve as its base of operations.
Struggling with the effects of the accident, Wright-Way was unable to pay employees and saw the number of adoptions drop dramatically. But two years after the incident, a team of Jenner & Block lawyers stepped in to help Wright-Way rebound.
In 2015, the firm filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging that the bus company was liable for the actions of a distracted bus driver who fell off her seat and lost control of the vehicle, and who later was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Fortunately, only the driver and a trainee were on the bus at the time of the accident and no one was hurt, but the damages to Wright-Way were real and substantial. The lawsuit sought in excess of $100,000.
“As a result of the crash, Wright-Way Rescue transformed from a growing and leading animal rescue organization to an organization that no longer had the means to sustain its operations and important mission,” according to the lawsuit.
After the parties began the discovery process, settlement discussions ensued in April 2017, and ultimately the parties agreed to a confidential settlement that enabled Wright-Way to continue with its important mission.