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March, 2001

First Impressions
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw lawyers won a fourth reversal in our 7th Circuit project 29 December when Audrey Fried Grushcow secured a reversal of a trial-level decision by Judge Milton I. Shadur. The other reversals were obtained by Mike Forde, Joe Weber, and Pat Jones. It is a remarkable record given that, of the approximately 30 appeals we have now accepted, approximately 20 have been completed-more than any other firm in the 7th Circuit, if not the nation (see related article, "A Singular Stake in Pro Bono").

"Do Pro Bono"
For Audrey, arguing her first case before the 7th Circuit was like a homecoming. Prior to joining Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw last year, she had clerked a year for Judge William Bauer of the 7th Circuit, and as she departed for private practice, the repeated advice she heard was, "Do pro bono when you get there."

She lost no time in seeking out Marc Kadish and signing on for a case representing an inmate at Tamms Correctional Center, the notorious prison in the southern tip of Illinois, built in 1998 "not to rehabilitate or even warehouse inmates," according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "but to isolate the worst of them from the rest of Illinois's 41,000 prisoners and break them of their violent habits through strict isolation." Her client had brought civil rights suits against several prison officials.

The suits had been dismissed as frivolous-the work of a jailhouse lawyer with too much time on his hands, many might have assumed-but one claim seemed to merit attention on appeal. It involved the inmate's dispute with a prison nurse, whom he had accused of shirking her responsibilities, including skipping his regular tuberculosis medications and retaliating against him for his complaints with reports of misconduct that cost him points and privileges in prison. The Court-without requiring an answer to the complaint or any fact development-quickly dismissed this claim along with others. In so doing, it finally gave him an issue of substance.

"Unlikeliness" Not a Standard
"We argued that the district court dismissed our client's retaliation claim based on the supposed unlikeliness of the allegations, without waiting to find out more about the facts as it should have," Audrey explains. The standard for dismissing factually frivolous suits under the Prison Litigation Reform Act was an issue of first impression in the 7th Circuit-a treat for Audrey's first time out. She got all the guidance a rookie might need from Marc Kadish, Director of Pro Bono, and Jim Schroeder, a veteran appellate lawyer in the Chicago office. "I did the research and drafted up the briefs, but they reviewed everything and gave lots of advice," Audrey recalls. Along with Asheesh Agarwal and Mike Scodro, Marc and Jim also staged a rehearsal of her oral argument, grilling and coaching her. "They made a point of posing questions they knew I considered risky to my case and hoped to avoid, which is the best preparation I could ask for."

When she appeared in the 7th Circuit courtroom the following day, she was greeted warmly by her former colleagues. Trying another Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw pro bono case that same day was Joe Weber, who would also win a reversal.

We have since taken six more appeals, which are being handled by Karnig Kerkonian, Kim Roosevelt, Drew Worseck, Britt Guerrina, and Jeff Sarles in the Chicago office and Tom Colby of the Washington office.

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