Our pro bono practice has long been dedicated to devoting our time and resources to a wide range of civil rights matters, using our legal skills to ensure a just and fair society and accelerate the societal change necessary to reach that goal.
A Sidley team provided significant pro bono assistance in the preparation of a recently issued report that is receiving acclaim from human rights organizations throughout the world. The 193-page report, “‘Nowhere is Safe’: The Myanmar Junta’s Crimes Against Humanity Following the Coup d’État,” is based on more than 120 testimonies, leaked documents and information, and in-depth legal analysis of new evidence concerning the deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters and attacks on innocent civilians during the first six months after the military’s coup on February 1, 2021. The report lays the groundwork for prosecution of officials who commanded and conducted the attacks. Sidley provided assistance to the publishers of the report, Fortify Rights and the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, and the firm’s contribution is recognized in the report itself and in the press release that announced publication.
Representing three nonprofit organizations as amici, Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, Interfaith Alliance, and Anti-Defamation League, Sidley helped secure a pro bono victory for two Sikh men who sued the U.S. Marine Corps and other defendants, arguing that Corps policies prevented them from joining the Corps because they violated their religious beliefs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that plaintiffs could immediately begin recruit training without having to shave their heads and their beards. Overturning the district court’s preliminary injunction, the appeals court found that plaintiffs had an “overwhelming likelihood” of success on the merits and declined to grant deference to defendants’ arguments that allowing plaintiffs to wear their articles of faith during bootcamp would jeopardize unit cohesion, the sacrificial mindset, and national security. The appellate ruling was reported by several media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR.
Sidley won a significant victory for our client, Nathaniel Williams, who was sentenced to life in Illinois state prison for a three-strikes violation in 1998. Following a written petition and oral argument, a three-member panel of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted to grant Mr. Williams’ release under the recently enacted Joe Coleman Medical Release Act. The client, who is now 78 years old and in poor health, left prison in December 2022.
A Sidley team obtained parole for a client who had been incarcerated for nearly half of his life, serving a 40-120 year sentence in New York for a series of burglaries he committed in Washington, D.C. in the 1990s. He was denied parole at a prior hearing in 2020. At the conclusion of the September 2022 hearing, and based on Sidley’s written submission and oral presentation, the Hearing Examiner stated that he would recommend that the U.S. Parole Commission grant parole.
“I find myself thinking about many of the future plans and goals I’ll need to achieve and because of all your hard work how it’s now within sight…you gave me that spark of hope.”
— Saladin Howell, Sidley client