Jamie Gorelick of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM)
The leading lawyers on Chicago’s new challenge to the Trump administration’s immigration policies are names that you’ve heard before.
There is David Ogden, the first deputy attorney general during the Obama administration years. There is Debo Adegbile, an unsuccessful assistant attorney general nominee in the Obama years who developed a corporate practice related to civil rights at Wilmer after joining the firm in late 2014. And there is Jamie Gorelick, another former deputy attorney general who represents Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, on their security clearance applications and federal ethics issues.
All three lawyers are partners at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Washington, D.C. Monday’s civil complaint filed by Chicago against U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions III sees the city’s all-star legal team claim that the federal government’s new policies for immigration enforcement are “unauthorized and unconstitutional.”
“These new conditions also fly in the face of longstanding city policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities, ensures access to essential city services for all residents, and makes all Chicagoans safer,” states the 46-page filing in a federal court in Chicago. Wilmer’s lawyers claim in court papers that their client’s case seeks to help keep Chicago “a Welcoming City.”
At risk—and prompting the suit—is federal funding available to cities. Sessions and the Justice Department are seeking to implement programs that help local police treat undocumented immigrants more strictly so they can continue to get federal grants. The extra grant criteria from the Justice Department includes requiring cities to give federal law enforcement officials greater access to immigrant detainees.
Chicago said it has received the grant at stake since 2005, earning $2.33 million from the federal stipend during its 2016 fiscal year. The city’s legal team includes four other lawyers from Wilmer, former Wilmer partner and current Chicago corporate counsel Edward Siskel (a nephew of the late film critic Gene Siskel) and three lawyers from Chicago’s Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila, a fast-growing firm formed last year by former Schiff Hardin partners.
The Chicago case isn’t the first time that Wilmer and Gorelick—who serves as chair of the firm’s regulatory and government affairs department and co-chair of its strategic response group—have dug into a sanctuary city challenge, nor is it Wilmer’s first venture into working for a major metropolitan area’s law department.
The cities of Baltimore and Chicago have previously brought in Wilmer to handle investigations related to police violence. In March, Wilmer hired partner Danielle Conley from the Justice Department to help build out the firm’s civil rights client offerings.
Gorelick also represents the Falls Church, Virginia-based nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center in another sanctuary city complaint filed against the Trump administration on behalf of San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County, California. In that case, Tahirih said Gorelick was working for the organization on a pro bono basis.
“We are grateful to partner with an attorney with the litigation skills and wisdom of Jamie Gorelick and her team at [Wilmer],” said a statement by Archi Pyati, Tahirih’s policy and programs chief. “As a nonprofit, Tahirih relies on pro bono legal services to represent and advocate on behalf of immigrant women and girls who are victims of domestic and sexual violence, including human trafficking, and whose safety is in peril under recent immigration policy shifts.”
Gorelick, in a statement of her own, clarified the nature of her firm’s representation of cities in such matters.
“Our representations of individuals in the government do not prevent us from representing other clients challenging government policies,” she said.
Last month Gorelick retreated from her role representing Kushner on issues related to former Wilmer partner-turned-special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation of Russia’s alleged role in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. In late June, Chadbourne & Parke partner Abbe Lowell—now a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright following the recent combination between both firms—joined Kushner’s legal team and took the lead on Russia-related matters.