PURSUING JUSTICE. IMPACTING LIVES.
PURSUING JUSTICE.
IMPACTING LIVES.

Emerging Enterprises

“The pro bono representation provided by Sidley’s volunteers is invaluable to veterans who lack the resources to successfully apply for disability benefits on their own.”

— Rochelle Bobroff, Director of Pro Bono Program, NVLSP


“Thanks to Sidley’s critical support, we were able to join with other advocates … thereby defending the fundamental human rights of those seeking safety and protection in the United States.”

— Sabrineh Ardalan, Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School

“The Sidley team was invaluable to us throughout 2020 as we navigated and executed major milestones.“

— Caitlin Dolkart, Director of Capsule Global (the parent company of Flare)


“Thanks to Sidley’s critical support, we were able to join with other advocates … thereby defending the fundamental human rights of those seeking safety and protection in the United States.”

— Sabrineh Ardalan, Clinical Professor, Harvard Law School
“Our relationship [with Sidley] has been one of the mainstays of the charity’s success.”

— General Sir Nick Parker (KCB, CBE), Chair of RE:ACT Disaster Response

“... a basic minimum education has a longstanding presence in our history and tradition, and is essential to our concept of ordered liberty.”

— From the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on behalf of the plaintiffs, a class of Detroit schoolchildren represented by Sidley

“The Equal Justice Initiative continues to be energized by the level of diligence, compassion, and skill that Sidley’s lawyers demonstrate in their death penalty cases.”

Randy Susskind, Deputy Director, Equal Justice Initiative


“I’ll forever be thankful for ... the team of experienced and caring professionals who championed my cause and earned my release.”

– Lebert Gordon, Sidley client, pictured here with Sidley Project Assistant S.J. Smith

“We are grateful beyond words for Sidley’s generosity and guidance.”

— Mary Colman St. John, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer, Aperture Foundation

Project Overview

2020 STAT: 16 OPEN CASES
2020 STAT: 16,000+ hours dedicated to helping immigrants
2020 STATS: 8,000+ hours | 135 matters
2020 STATS: 180+ clients | 55+ countries | 50,000+ hours

The Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program provides legal support to small and medium-sized for-profit enterprises and market-focused nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits. Our lawyers work together with clients who are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have a clear positive social and economic impact across Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic touched every corner of the world, organizations and social enterprises faced overwhelming challenges. More than ever, we feel inspired by the resilience and accomplishments of our pro bono clients.

“The Equal Justice Initiative continues to be energized by the level of diligence, compassion, and skill that Sidley’s lawyers demonstrate in their death penalty cases. When other law firms are reluctant to take even one capital case, we point to Sidley’s Capital Litigation Project as the example of how it can be done successfully with many clients. Sidley’s commitment to fighting for fairness and due process on behalf of people who are on death row in Alabama has created optimism for everyone concerned about justice in Alabama.”

— Randy Susskind, Deputy Director, Equal Justice Initiative

“Sidley has partnered with NVLSP since 1986 and has consistently demonstrated excellence and a deep commitment to pro bono representation on behalf of our nation’s veterans. While many firms accept only a few pro bono referrals from Lawyers Serving Warriors® per year, Sidley has been eager to help dozens of veterans each year. The pro bono representation provided by Sidley’s volunteers is invaluable to veterans who lack the resources to successfully apply for disability benefits on their own. Furthermore, since many of the veterans applying for disability benefits suffer from debilitating mental health conditions or other cognitive impairments, the assistance of volunteer lawyers from Sidley is vital to enable disabled veterans to succeed with their claims.”

— Rochelle Bobroff, Director of Pro Bono Program, Lawyers Serving Warriors®, a project of the National Veterans Legal Services Program

In the opinion, the Sixth Circuit cited decisions by the Supreme Court underscoring “the critical importance of education.” The Sixth Circuit recognized that public education is “foundational to our system of self-governance,” and “a great equalizer, giving all children a chance to meet or outperform society’s expectations, even when faced with substantial disparities in wealth and with past and ongoing racial inequality.” For these reasons, the Court held, “a basic minimum education has a longstanding presence in our history and tradition, and is essential to our concept of ordered liberty.”

— From the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on behalf of the plaintiffs, a class of Detroit schoolchildren represented by Sidley

Photo above: Flare. Photos below clockwise from top: Flare; Costa Rica Insect Company (CRIC); InspiraFarms; Victory Farms; InspiraFarms; Flare.

Photo above: Flare. Photos below from top to bottom: Flare; Costa Rica Insect Company (CRIC); InspiraFarms; Flare; InspiraFarms; Victory Farms.

Photo above: Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) - Sorinn Lillico, Dragged Through The Fire - 2day Eye 2 Eye (5) This Is My Heart, photographed by Adi Talwar. Photos below clockwise from top: Kilowatt Dance Theater; BCA - Sorinn Lillico, Dragged Through The Fire - Cloud Head (In The Tomb 3D), photographed by Adi Talwar; BCA - Estelle Maisonett, The Bronx Is Not for Sale, photographed by Adi Talwar; Aperture Foundation - Roe Ethridge, Apple and Black Glove, 2020; Kilowatt Dance Theater; BCA - Longwood Youth Program May 2018.

Photo above: Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) - Sorinn Lillico, Dragged Through The Fire - 2day Eye 2 Eye (5) This Is My Heart, photographed by Adi Talwar. Photos below from top to bottom: Kilowatt Dance Theater; BCA - Sorinn Lillico, Dragged Through The Fire - Cloud Head (In The Tomb 3D), photographed by Adi Talwar; BCA - Estelle Maisonett, The Bronx Is Not for Sale, photographed by Adi Talwar; BCA - Longwood Youth Program May 2018; Kilowatt Dance Theater; Aperture Foundation - Roe Ethridge, Apple and Black Glove, 2020

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Overview

Europe Overview

2020 STATS: 4,100+ hours across Brussels, Geneva, and Munich
Our pro bono efforts in Europe have global reach and local impact. We help individuals and families who face significant barriers in obtaining access to justice. Our lawyers work with a range of organizations, from startup social enterprises to some of the largest charities in the world, focusing on enhancing community impact and strengthening the fundamental rule of law.

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Climate Action Network Europe

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition on climate and energy issues. CAN Europe had concerns about reports of increased air pollution, largely attributed to emissions associated with coal-fired thermal power plants, in certain countries that are Contracting Parties of the Energy Community Treaty. Sidley advised CAN Europe on the Energy Community Treaty obligations requiring Contracting Parties to implement key EU legislation on industrial emissions and the available legal tools to enforce compliance with the relevant treaty obligations.

Gymnastics Ethics Foundation

The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) and its president, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former President of Switzerland, recently appointed Dorothee Schramm, partner in our Geneva office, as one of 12 members of the GEF Disciplinary Commission for the 2021–2024 term. In panels of three, the Disciplinary Commission holds hearings and decides on sanctions against coaches and judges for abuse of gymnasts and other violations of ethical rules on a global level. This prestigious pro bono appointment gives Doro the chance to uphold ethics and address abuse allegations in a sport where such allegations regularly make front-page news, including Sidley’s representation of middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

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Overview

UK Overview

2020 STATS: 8,300+ UK pro bono hours
Our pro bono program in London has expanded rapidly in recent years and focuses on access to justice, the rule of law, and assisting charities and social enterprises. We strive to find projects that have the biggest impact on our communities and match the interests and skills of our lawyers.

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DISABILITY REPRESENTATION

Children with Disabilities

During 2020, our lawyers obtained an additional 208 hours of care per week for families with disabled children through our involvement in LawWorks and Together for Short Lives’ Voices for Families project.

Working with Together for Short Lives, a UK-registered charity, Sidley helped obtain a successful outcome for a single mother with a disabled 18-month-old child. As a result of this assistance, the woman was provided with nursing care and nursing support seven nights a week, enabling her son to be discharged from the hospital and to return home to her and attend nursery school.

DISABILITY REPRESENTATION

Disability Benefits

During 2020, our lawyers recorded a 100% success rate in our representation of multiple clients in the Social Security Tribunal. At a time when poverty is increasing, people with a disability face many additional costs and higher unemployment rates. Personal Independence Payments can be a lifeline to the people that we assist through this project. The Sidley team comprises lawyers from across nearly all practice area teams in our London office.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) UK

KIND UK is a collaboration between four UK-based nonprofit organizations that specialize in children’s immigration and asylum law. KIND UK partners with Kids in Need of Defense in the United States, the leading national organization advocating for the rights of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in the country. In 2020, Sidley London launched a partnership with KIND UK to provide advice and support to children and their families with uncertain or undocumented immigration status. Working closely with the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, our lawyers help children to apply for British citizenship and be granted their full legal rights.

"We are delighted to have partnered with KIND UK in the provision of pro bono advice to children in their applications for British citizenship. There are many thousands of undocumented children living in the UK, many of whom know no other country as their home. We have a number of active cases already and we are starting to make a difference to the future of the children and their families."

— Sidley Partner Jade Williams-Adedeji


Bloomberg Partnership

A London team acted alongside co-counsel from Bloomberg’s Legal and Compliance Department to support the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), which is a coalition of over 200 organizations aiming to tackle inequality in the education system. The FEA required advice on preparing grant award documentation for its “Scaling Award” and inaugural “Intrapreneurship Award.”

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Overview

Asia Pacific Overview

2020 STATS: 1,800+ hours across our Asia Pacific offices
Sidley is deeply committed to aiding local Hong Kong charitable organizations and businesses in achieving their goals. In 2020, the Law Society of Hong Kong honored Effie Vasilopoulos with the “Gold Award” at its 2020 Pro Bono and Community Work Recognition Program. The annual awards recognize legal practitioners in Hong Kong who have made exceptional contributions to the community.

Effie received the award for leading Sidley’s team in connection with a number of pro bono projects, including the firm’s work in developing a new domestic private fund regime benefiting the private equity, venture capital, real estate, infrastructure, credit, and hedge fund segments of the market, which was enacted in August 2020 following a multi-year commission.

Sidley also helped establish and continues to advise Hong Kong-registered charity Help for Children (Asia) Limited. Help For Children is a global foundation that is strongly supported by the hedge, private equity, and wider alternative investment management sector. The foundation provides grants to the most effective child abuse prevention and treatment organizations in six countries, with the goal of making the world a safer place for children.

We are also active in the cancer impact investment field, partnering with clients and industry contacts to establish investment funds that raise and deploy capital for companies and projects that are developing innovative research and treatment options for cancer prevention and cures, particularly in relation to pediatric cancers.

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Overview

Civil Rights Overview

Our pro bono practice has had a longstanding commitment — both firmwide and in our local communities — to promoting civil and human rights and social justice. We are dedicated to devoting our time and resources to these matters, using our legal skills to ensure a just and fair society and accelerate the societal change necessary to reach that goal.

Section 1983 work
Sidley’s Section 1983 practice — suits for violations of citizens’ civil rights — has been a fixture of our pro bono practice for many years in trial courts in New York, California, and Illinois; in the appellate courts; and at the United States Supreme Court. The firm represents numerous clients seeking redress for violations of their constitutional rights, including victims of police misconduct and violence, individuals whose rights have been violated while detained in jails, and prisoners deprived of medical care, held in inhumane conditions, or subjected to prison violence. The firm litigated more than 20 active Section 1983 matters in 2020, amounting to approximately 11,300 pro bono hours on behalf of our clients.

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Successful Resolution of COVID-19 Religious Liberty Dispute

In May 2020, Sidley secured a major policy change from Minnesota officials to allow houses of worship to reopen on the same terms as businesses as the state relaxed its COVID-19 shutdown orders. Working together with co-counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Sidley team represented Minnesota Catholic and Lutheran leaders whose churches could not hold services with more than 10 people, even though businesses including restaurants, bars, and shopping malls were permitted to reopen. The policy change allowed Minnesotans to attend public worship services as long as they observed the same physical-distance and hygiene requirements that applied in other public places. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order reflecting the terms of the settlement.

The victory came just three days after Sidley and Becket wrote a letter to Governor Walz on behalf of the churches, urging him to reconsider the state’s unconstitutional restrictions on religious gatherings, which were far harsher than the restrictions imposed on commercial activity. “This unequal and unfair treatment violates the Churches’ cherished constitutional freedoms,” the letter said, “and, more importantly, hobbles unconscionably their pastoral mission.” A Wall Street Journal editorial about the letter observed that “[i]t’s hard to see how under any reading of the First Amendment the Mall of America can be allowed to reopen while churches must keep their doors closed to all but a handful.”

Disability Rights Victory

After three years of intense litigation, Sidley obtained a major victory in the field of disability rights when a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted final approval to a settlement agreement between the State of Ohio and firm client Disability Rights Ohio. The class action was brought on behalf of thousands of disabled persons in Ohio who continue to live and work in segregated institutions, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision. The agreement obligates the state to offer more vigorous “options counseling” for individuals currently housed in, or heading toward, medium and large residential institutions; funding for community housing and employment placements; and $24 million in capital housing assistance over the next two years. The agreement also establishes criteria by which future funding and placement levels are to be determined.

Clemency Petition Milestone

In June 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he was granting clemency to 61-year-old inmate Freddie Harris pursuant to a petition submitted by Sidley in October 2018. The matter was primarily handled by Yasir Latifi, now a Sidley alumnus, who said of his representation of Mr. Harris: “From our first conversations, it was clear that Mr. Harris had turned his life around during his incarceration, including mentoring others. It was an honor to assist with his clemency application.” This development was a huge milestone for the firm’s pro bono program in New York, as this is the first decision on any of the firm’s clemency applications in the state and one of the first for a nationwide state-focused clemency initiative, the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project. The project has submitted approximately 120 petitions from New York lawyers, nearly all of which remain under consideration.

Groundbreaking Forensic Evidence Case

A team of Sidley lawyers helped secure a groundbreaking ruling from a New Jersey appellate court protecting the rights of criminal defendants to understand and challenge the state’s evidence against them. In a case of “first impression” in New Jersey, the Appellate Division in State v. Pickett held that an expert witness presenting evidence produced by TrueAllele, a black-box probabilistic genotyping program, must disclose the source code and other proprietary materials to the defendant for scrutiny.

Sidley represented computer science professors Jeanna Matthews and Mats Heimdahl as amici curiae in the case, and filed a brief explaining that TrueAllele — like any other complex software program — almost certainly contains undiscovered flaws that can only be identified by a thorough review of its source code. The court’s opinion relied heavily on Sidley’s brief and oral argument. As the court noted, Drs. Matthews and Heimdahl argued that the “reliability of the TrueAllele software cannot be evaluated without full access to ‘executable source code and related documentation,’ something that no one to date has seen. They contend that doing so is not only prudent, but essential to determining whether TrueAllele operates as Cybergenetics claims, which is fundamental to any fair, legitimate, and impartial assessment of reliability.” Agreeing with this reasoning, the court concluded that, without access to the source code, a defendant “is relegated to blindly accepting” the developer’s claims regarding TrueAllele’s reliability. “Hiding the source code is not the answer,” the court continued. “Intellectual property law ... was never meant to justify concealing relevant information from parties to a criminal prosecution.”

Success on Behalf of D.C. Family

A Sidley team in D.C. obtained a successful settlement in a landlord-tenant case that was referred to the firm by the Legal Aid Society of D.C. and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. The client was facing eviction for withholding rent after her landlord failed to repair a significant water leak in the ceiling of her apartment. Under the settlement, the landlord agreed to hire a contractor to remediate the water and mold damage, waive several months of rent, repair other housing code violations, and place the client’s family in a hotel until the repairs were completed. The client and her family will be able to remain in their home.

Wildlife Justice Commission

Climate Action Network Europe

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition on climate and energy issues. CAN Europe had concerns about reports of increased air pollution, largely attributed to emissions associated with coal-fired thermal power plants, in certain countries that are Contracting Parties of the Energy Community Treaty. Sidley advised CAN Europe on the Energy Community Treaty obligations requiring Contracting Parties to implement key EU legislation on industrial emissions and the available legal tools to enforce compliance with the relevant treaty obligations.

Gymnastics Ethics Foundation

The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) and its president, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former President of Switzerland, recently appointed Dorothee Schramm, partner in our Geneva office, as one of 12 members of the GEF Disciplinary Commission for the 2021–2024 term. In panels of three, the Disciplinary Commission holds hearings and decides on sanctions against coaches and judges for abuse of gymnasts and other violations of ethical rules on a global level. This prestigious pro bono appointment gives Doro the chance to uphold ethics and address abuse allegations in a sport where such allegations regularly make front-page news, including Sidley’s representation of middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

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Overview

Racial Justice Overview

Racial justice issues captured headlines throughout the summer of 2020. Sidley assisted with the defense of protestors and is participating in joint programs with other firms to explore ways in which legal action might address racial injustice and other diversity issues. Sidley has a long history of pro bono success and of partnering with various civil rights and other organizations focused on combating racial injustice. We reiterate our commitment to continue to use the power of our collective voices and resources to deepen and extend the work we are already doing to combat racial injustice and to advance the fundamental principles of equality, inclusion, and justice.

Visit the links below to learn more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion:
Sidley’s Message of Solidarity
Sidley Stands Against Anti-Asian Violence
Sidley Joins ACLU Campaign Against Discriminatory Policing Practices

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#WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest

The Greater Los Angeles office provided pro bono legal representation to develop #WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest, a one-night-only event to benefit civil rights organizations. This event evolved as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists and allies were looking for ways to get involved at a time when the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery brought greater attention to social justice issues.

Ensuring Just Policing Practices and School Admissions Policies

Sidley represents the ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts as part of the Living While Black on Campus – Massachusetts Colleges/Universities Initiative. Through this initiative, ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts created the Racially Just Policing Model Policy, which focuses on providing best practices to be used, in the first instance, by higher education institutions in Massachusetts and their campus police departments. The policy will be used as a model for all colleges and universities nationally in the quest to ensure just policing practices are implemented and to reduce incidents of racial profiling on college campuses. Sidley’s Boston and New York offices contributed to the model policy.

“Sidley had the distinct honor of assisting ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts with its Living While Black on Campus – Massachusetts Colleges and Universities Initiative,” said Sidley counsel Doreen Rachal. “ACLU has created an impactful mechanism — the Racially Just Policing Model Policy — that, when implemented by higher education institutions nationally, will inevitably change the landscape and help to address the unjust experiences of staff, students, and guests of color who have been targets of racial profiling on campuses from coast to coast. The Model Policy provides a phenomenal and thoughtful framework that will certainly provide meaningful opportunities to address racial profiling and will hopefully help to eradicate a primary area of concern that has had an extraordinary daily impact on people of color throughout the United States.”

“The Model Policy provides a phenomenal and thoughtful framework that will certainly provide meaningful opportunities to address racial profiling and will hopefully help to eradicate a primary area of concern that has had an extraordinary daily impact on people of color throughout the United States.”

— Sidley Counsel Doreen Rachal

Sidley also represents the NAACP Boston Branch along with several other community organizations and individuals in a matter seeking to uphold an interim admissions plan for Boston’s highly selective public high schools. The interim plan allows for students across the City of Boston to compete for an opportunity to attend one of these schools and promotes geographic, neighborhood, and racial diversity. The plaintiff in this matter alleged that the interim plan is unconstitutional because the defendants considered race as a factor when developing the plan. The District Court judge in Massachusetts recently issued a decision upholding the interim plan as constitutional and finding that the policy is rationally related to a compelling government interest — diversity. The matter is currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“We proudly represent the defendant intervenors in this matter,” Rachal said. “The recent decisions issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals and the District of Massachusetts relating to the Boston Public School District’s interim admissions plan has provided students across the City of Boston opportunities to compete for spots at the highly selective schools. These are historic decisions that support the use of race as a factor when governmental bodies develop policies without triggering strict scrutiny review. These decisions will have a positive impact on education equity in Boston and throughout the United States for years to come and will have a life changing impact on students throughout the City of Boston.”

Law Firm Antiracism Alliance

Sidley is a founding member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), a partnership between several private law firms established in June 2020 to identify and dismantle structural racism through large-scale pro bono projects that seek to change laws and policies that perpetuate racial injustice. Sidley lawyers and staff are actively involved in moving LFAA’s mission and efforts forward. To date, more than 20 Sidley lawyers have signed up for at least one of LFAA’s 16 working groups. For Sidley, our allyship with LFAA and support of its work is an extension of our longstanding commitment and work to address racial and social justice issues.

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Overview

Supreme Court Overview

Sidley’s Supreme Court pro bono program has been representing clients for many years. Our pro bono presence in the Supreme Court is well reflected in our body of work. Committed to pro bono at the highest level, we have taken on many civil and criminal cases that have resulted in precedent-setting decisions and made a lasting impact on our clients.

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Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic

Sidley’s partnership with Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law gives students the opportunity to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court. Third-year law students are supervised by Sidley lawyers in researching and drafting briefs in cases at the petition stage and on the merits. The students also monitor lower court decisions to identify potential candidates for petitions for writs of certiorari. Sidley partners Carter Phillips and Jeffrey Green serve as the Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic’s directors, along with Northwestern faculty member Sarah O. Schrup.

In 2020, the Clinic filed 9 petitions for a writ of certiorari, 9 reply briefs, 2 briefs in opposition, and 3 briefs as amicus curiae. Students also contributed to briefing on the merits, including 3 briefs for petitioner, 3 reply briefs, and 1 brief for respondent.

A Landmark Decision on Behalf of Detroit Schoolchildren

Sidley obtained a landmark victory on behalf of a class of Detroit schoolchildren who have been denied their fundamental right of access to literacy. In an historic decision, the Sixth Circuit held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution confers a fundamental right of access to literacy, and held that the Detroit schoolchildren stated a claim that they were deprived of this right. This groundbreaking decision is the first time a court has held that there is a fundamental federal right of access to literacy, and has been described as “the most momentous circuit court decision in the field of education in decades.”

The class action, originally filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, was brought against Michigan’s then-Governor Rick Snyder and state education officials. That court dismissed the complaint, on the ground that the schoolchildren failed to state a claim because there is no fundamental right to a defined minimum level of education by which they can attain literacy. On April 23, 2020, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ due process claim, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Sidley partner Carter Phillips, who argued the appeal, said, “The court in Cincinnati took a bold step today in recognizing a fundamental constitutional right of access to literacy and in doing so has given hope to the school children in Detroit who were so neglected for so long.”

The Sidley team worked together with co-counsel Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project, and Professor Evan Caminker of the University of Michigan Law School, who said, "This is an extraordinary legal ruling. The court recognized that both historically and today, access to a basic minimum education supporting literacy is an extraordinary prerequisite for full participation in our constitutional democracy."

“The court in Cincinnati took a bold step today in recognizing a fundamental constitutional right of access to literacy and in doing so has given hope to the school children in Detroit who were so neglected for so long.”

— Sidley Partner Carter Phillips

In the opinion, the Sixth Circuit cited decisions by the Supreme Court underscoring “the critical importance of education.” The Sixth Circuit recognized that public education is “foundational to our system of self-governance,” and “a great equalizer, giving all children a chance to meet or outperform society’s expectations, even when faced with substantial disparities in wealth and with past and ongoing racial inequality.” For these reasons, the Court held, “a basic minimum education has a longstanding presence in our history and tradition, and is essential to our concept of ordered liberty.”

“Today’s decision will help ensure that future schoolchildren are not burdened with the stigma of illiteracy, but instead benefit from — in the court’s words — the ‘great equalizer’ of a basic education," said Sidley partner Tacy Flint. "I’m honored to represent the plaintiffs in this case, who have fought for and deserve the chance to learn, and to work alongside all the lawyers on this outstanding team.”

In recognition for the outstanding quality of Sidley’s work and the service that the firm has given to their clients, Public Counsel previously awarded Sidley its 2019 Public Counsel Pro Bono Award.

Voting Rights Brief

On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of so-called “faithless elector” laws, which penalize or remove presidential electors who fail to vote for the candidate they have pledged to support. Sidley filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the Campaign Legal Center and Issue One in support of the states in the two cases before the Court: Chiafalo v. State of Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca.

Supreme Court Brief on Behalf of Prisoners Convicted by Non-Unanimous Juries

Sidley filed an opening merits brief in the Supreme Court in defense of the rights of prisoners in Louisiana and Oregon who were convicted by non-unanimous juries under state laws the Supreme Court invalidated earlier in 2020. In April, the Supreme Court recognized that non-unanimous jury rules in Louisiana and Oregon offended the Constitution and were rooted in discrimination based on race and religion; however, the Court left open the question of whether those already in prison as a result of non-unanimous jury verdicts could challenge their convictions in federal habeas proceedings. Sidley now urges the Supreme Court to hold that prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries should have a path to a new trial.

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Wildlife Justice Commission

Climate Action Network Europe

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition on climate and energy issues. CAN Europe had concerns about reports of increased air pollution, largely attributed to emissions associated with coal-fired thermal power plants, in certain countries that are Contracting Parties of the Energy Community Treaty. Sidley advised CAN Europe on the Energy Community Treaty obligations requiring Contracting Parties to implement key EU legislation on industrial emissions and the available legal tools to enforce compliance with the relevant treaty obligations.

Gymnastics Ethics Foundation

The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) and its president, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former President of Switzerland, recently appointed Dorothee Schramm, partner in our Geneva office, as one of 12 members of the GEF Disciplinary Commission for the 2021–2024 term. In panels of three, the Disciplinary Commission holds hearings and decides on sanctions against coaches and judges for abuse of gymnasts and other violations of ethical rules on a global level. This prestigious pro bono appointment gives Doro the chance to uphold ethics and address abuse allegations in a sport where such allegations regularly make front-page news, including Sidley’s representation of middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya.

IMPACT LITIGATION

FEATURE STORY

FEATURE SECTION

Helping Pro Bono Client Flare Elevate Kenya’s Emergency Response

In countries such as Kenya that lack a coordinated emergency response system, rescue teams lose precious seconds trying to efficiently locate their patients. Enter Flare, coined the “Uber for ambulances,” a Nairobi-based healthcare technology company that has built 911 infrastructure and operations for Kenya and other countries in need of emergency systems. Flare’s platform brings together hundreds of ambulances across the country under one umbrella, operating an integrated dispatch center to receive and triage all emergency requests. As the startup sought to expand its reach and save as many lives as possible, the founders turned to Sidley’s lawyers for counsel via the firm’s Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program, which supports the growth of small- and medium-size businesses in developing countries.

“With the help of our knowledge and resources, we are able to equip emerging enterprises with a firm legal foundation to support their growth into meaningful conduits for societal change, and that is an incredible thing to be a part of,” said Tamara Sonenshein, an associate with the firm’s M&A practice in Chicago.

The firm’s Geneva office engaged Capsule Global (the parent company of Flare) as a pro bono client and built out the Sidley team, which included partner David Zampa, also in Chicago, as well as over 15 lawyers across seven offices who collectively contributed more than 1,500 hours of pro bono service to Capsule Global. Sidley represented Capsule Global in its Series A financing round, led by Blue Haven Initiative, an impact investment organization that focuses on early-stage energy, fintech, and logistics companies in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The Sidley team was invaluable to us throughout 2020 as we navigated and executed major milestones."

— Caitlin Dolkart, Director of Capsule Global

The Series A financing was the culmination of close to a year of advising Capsule Global on a reorganization of its corporate structure and matters relating to corporate governance, tax, technology transactions, and employee benefits and executive compensation. The financing provided Capsule Global with the capital it needed to continue its operations and grow its business.

“The Sidley team was invaluable to us throughout 2020 as we navigated and executed major milestones,” said Caitlin Dolkart, Director of Capsule Global. “Their skill, experience, and commitment left us in an extremely strong place to grow from, and their team will always be part of ours. We are incredibly grateful for the hours beyond hours they spent with us and the team to get us to where we are today.”

“For transactional lawyers, the legal services Sidley provides through the Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono program are directly relevant to our practice,” said Sonenshein. “Pro bono projects present an opportunity for lawyers to take on a variety of unique assignments and gain substantive experience.”

Since its launch, Flare has been so successful that it was named one of the top 100 inventions of 2020 by Time magazine. Whereas Kenyans previously needed to call hundreds of phone numbers to reach an ambulance, they now dial one; and instead of waiting hours, it now takes an average of 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on scene, thanks to Flare’s technology and centralized emergency dispatch center.

“Being able to contribute to the company’s mission and purpose inspired me,” Sonenshein said. “I became immensely close with the founders and personally invested in the success of their startup,” she shared. “I thoroughly enjoyed being their trusted adviser, collaborating with colleagues across offices, and learning about other areas of law outside of my daily practice.”

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INDIVIDUAL ASYLUM CASES

CLINIC WORK

Victory Farms

Victory Farms owns and operates a tilapia fish farming and processing business on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria, with distribution capacity throughout Kenya. Its mission is to build a commercial tilapia farm that can provide two billion Africans with affordable, accessible, and healthy protein. Victory Farms and its innovative technologies bring together aquaculture practices from around the globe to tackle this challenge. Sidley advised Victory Farms on a significant new convertible loan. DOB Equity was the investor in the new convertible loan, and Open Capital acted as financial adviser to the company.

“The Sidley team has been a true pleasure! In our rugged, African-agritech world, we are moving at light speed, on the frontier of what is possible in fish production. We have found Sidley’s team to be instrumental, through delivery of world-class legal advice and services, to helping us stay focused on feeding the world’s most vulnerable and underserved populations.”

— Joseph Rehmann, Founder and CEO, Victory Farms

InspiraFarms

InspiraFarms produces solar powered, energy-efficient pre-cooling and cold rooms, packhouses, and automated ripening chambers; delivers client-centered technical support; and provides affordable asset financing terms in order to allow agribusinesses to leapfrog barriers to emerging technology and finance and to grow sustainably. Sidley advised InspiraFarms on a significant new funding round. KawiSafi Ventures was the lead investor in the funding round, which included participation from various other co-investors, including Energy Access Ventures, Untapped LLC, and Pymwymic. By providing a solution to agribusinesses, including smallholder farmers and small-scale farming cooperatives, InspiraFarms is contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

“In 2020, Sidley’s Pro Bono Programme has enabled InspiraFarms to seamlessly close a B-series round with equity investors from multiple jurisdictions, allowing the company to grow its footprint and impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, further reducing food loss, and enabling agribusinesses to make our fresh food supply chains more efficient and sustainable. The openness, dedication, and professionalism of Sidley’s lawyers has been fundamental to our business. We are deeply honored to work with a team that understands and responds quickly to the needs of a small and emerging company working in eight countries.”

— Dr. Michele Bruni, Chief Commercial Officer, InspiraFarms

Leaf Global Fintech

Leaf is a global virtual bank that helps refugees and migrants safely store and transport their money across borders. In light of the ongoing pandemic and the increased vulnerability that refugees face, Leaf has adapted its products and services to be entirely virtual. The company is also working to develop new ways to get money directly into refugees’ hands (or Leaf wallets) conveniently and legally. Sidley lawyers helped Leaf with multiple projects in 2020, including reviewing agreements and crowdfunding donations in the UK and EU to directly support refugee customers in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We benefitted tremendously last year from Sidley’s pro bono support. The legal teams in the UK evaluated crowdfunding regulations for us to raise capital for Leaf and explored the option to source donations through crowdfunding that can then be given directly to our refugee customers’ mobile wallets in the future. The Sidley privacy team helped us update our privacy and cookie policies for our app, which is available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Leaf has been able to help over 2,200 people open Leaf wallet accounts and processed nearly 30,000 transactions worth $165,000 since launching in September in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.”

— Nat Robinson, CEO, Leaf Global Fintech

Costa Rica Insect Company (CRIC)

As food scarcity becomes a valid concern for future generations, CRIC wants the world to start considering insects as healthy alternatives. CRIC creates insect-based products as an alternate solution for food scarcity and as a high-quality nutritional food source and healthy solution for malnutrition. The environmental benefit of using insects as food has been proven to be not only the option that benefits the most, but also the only option that is scalable and sustainable for the future. Sidley’s lawyers are providing market access advice for exports of insect-based products for human consumption, among other projects for CRIC.

ITC SheTrades

Since 2017, we have partnered with ITC SheTrades to enhance the legal skills and knowledge of women entrepreneurs. Under this partnership, we have delivered a series of capacity-building activities, including webinars and workshops. Throughout the years, ITC SheTrades has referred women-owned and -oriented businesses from Africa, Asia, and Latin America to the Emerging Enterprises program so they can benefit from our world-class legal advice and continue to grow their businesses. In 2020, we focused our efforts on webinars covering key legal concepts, such as contracts, intellectual property, and licensing. In total, 660 people participated in the 2020 webinar series, out of which 602 were women entrepreneurs.

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