Much of our work as trial lawyers and litigators takes place in the context of commercial law. We derive great satisfaction from helping our business clients understand, enforce, and protect their rights. As important as these matters are to us and our clients, they rarely capture the attention of the public or the media. We have had the good fortune to work on civil rights matters that have received a great deal of media attention. Highlighted below are some notable cases. They illustrate the energy and commitment we bring to all our cases and clients.
Sarah Murnaghan and Javier Acosta v. Kathleen Sebelius
In June 2013, Steve Harvey served as lead counsel to the parents of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan and 11-year-old Javier Acosta, two children who suffered from cystic fibrosis and needed new lungs to live. Steve led a team of lawyers from Pepper Hamilton LLP that challenged the federal “Under 12 Rule” of the organ allocation system in federal court. On June 5 and 6, 2013, the team secured temporary restraining orders for both children. The TROs required the children to be treated as if they were 12 years old for purposes of lung allocation. On June 10, 2013, Steve spoke to the Executive Committee of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which then decided to change the Under 12 Rule to permit exceptions in special cases. Both children have since had lung transplants and, thankfully, are alive today.
Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696 (decided May 5, 2014)
The issue in this case is whether a town violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution when it begins its public meetings with overtly sectarian prayer. Steve Harvey signed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Conference for Community and Justice, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews, an interfaith group that promotes nonsectarian prayer for public occasions. The amicus brief argues that legislative prayer should be nonsectarian.
Here is an excerpt from the amicus brief that captures the heart of the argument:
Can there be any question that overtly sectarian prayer in a legislative setting is highly offensive to persons outside of the religious majority? As Judge [Harvie] Wilkinson said, “To . . . Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’i, Hindu, or Buddhist citizens[,] a request to recognize the supremacy of Jesus Christ and to participate in a civic function sanctified in his name is a wrenching burden.” Joyner v. Forsyth Cnty., 653 F.3d 341, 354 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Amicus Br. of Am. Jewish Congress, et al. 8). In this respect, there is a huge difference between freely attending and possibly participating in a religious event or occasion outside of one’s own faith, such as a wedding of friends from a different religious tradition, and being forced to observe or join as the price of admission to participation in local government.
The Supreme Court decided the case in favor of the Town on May 5, 2014. Read a report on the decision here.
Steve Harvey, left, entered federal court with attorneys Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton LLP, right, and Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, Pa., on Friday, November 4, 2005, for the final day of landmark intelligent design trial.
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Steve Harvey served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the landmark “intelligent design” case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005).
Steve and colleagues from Pepper Hamilton LLP, along with lawyers from the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, successfully represented in federal court eight families who challenged the Dover policy that included intelligent design in the curriculum as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Federal Judge John E. Jones III decided in favor of the plaintiffs that intelligent design is a religious concept that cannot be presented in public school science class as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution.
The case generated considerable media attention and became the subject of four books as well as a NOVA special in which Steve is prominently featured entitled “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.”
Read Selected Media Coverage: