The Public Interest Law Center and co-counsel Arnold & Porter received the 2018 Innovation in the Rule of Law and Access to Justice Award from Financial Times on December 10 at the North America Innovative Lawyers Awards, recognizing the firms for their successful challenge to partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. A total of 18 law firms, organizations, or partnerships from across the United States and Canada were shortlisted for the honor.
The Innovative Lawyers Awards, now in their ninth year, are presented annually in North America, Europe and Asia by Financial Times, the international business newspaper based in London. The awards and rankings “assess lawyers on their innovation for clients and in their own business.” The North America awards were presented on Monday evening in a ceremony held at Gotham Hall in New York City.
“We were deeply honored to receive this recognition with our co-counsel Arnold & Porter, and to be nominated alongside so many other inspiring champions of access to justice,” said Jennifer Clarke, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center. “We hope that our case inspires advocates for democracy across the United States to find ways to use the law to take on partisan gerrymandering and other barriers to free and equal elections.”
In an article accompanying the announcement of the award, Financial Times reporter Madison Darbyshire noted that the case succeeded where previous challenges to partisan gerrymandering in other states had failed by pursuing state constitutional claims in state court, rather than challenging the redistricting plan in federal court.
In the case, League of Women Voters et al., v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al., the Public Interest Law Center and Arnold & Porter represented the League of Women Voters of PA and 18 voter petitioners from each congressional district. The case challenged Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Voters contended that Pennsylvania elected officials manipulated congressional district boundaries to entrench a majority Republican delegation in Congress and minimize the ability of Democratic voters to elect U.S. House representatives. In January 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the map “plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution, and the court implemented a fair, constitutional map for the 2018 primary and general elections.