2021 US Insurance Awards: Aon, Community Outreach Project of the Year (Pro Bono and Volunteer)Posted On: Nov. 1, 2021 12:00 AM CST
When the legal team at Aon PLC was asked earlier this year to address a situation in Louisiana that hearkened back to the Jim Crow era, the decision to get involved was unanimous.
Aon, with one of its law firm partners, is acting as a legal team for the Jim Crow Juries project, formed to rectify biases created by earlier jury practices in Louisiana and overseen by the Promise for Justice Initiative. It has also garnered Business Insurance’s U.S. Insurance Award for Community Outreach Project of the Year (Pro Bono and Volunteer).
“Once I heard about this project and started presenting it to my colleagues, it was clear that there was no choice,” said Peter Banick, senior counsel at Aon in Minneapolis.
Mr. Banick explained that about 125 years ago Louisiana held a constitutional convention that created the split-jury rule, which stated that a unanimous vote was not needed to convict someone — only nine out of 12 votes were needed. The result was higher incarceration rates, disproportionally affecting the Black community, he said.
In 2018, Louisiana amended its constitution, removing the split jury rule. But the change was not made retroactive, which affected some 1,800 incarcerated people. “Of those prisoners, 62% were serving life sentences — and 80% of them were Black,” Mr. Banick said.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in the spring of 2020, however, determined that anyone who applies will receive post-conviction relief within one year. This meant that individuals could request a new trial or other resolution.
“So there has been a push to get post-conviction paperwork on file, so that it can work its way through the system,” Mr. Banick said.
The project’s goal is to help as many of the 1,800 eligible people as possible to remedy the injustice. As a result, “They can get a new trial, or get the district attorney to negotiate in lieu of a trial, or get a reduced sentence,” he said.
“We have nine people involved in the project, six of whom took on individual client cases,” he said. “We’re still working through the process.”
He added, “We at Aon are still waiting for results from our cases, but there are reports of cases being resolved. So, it’s just a matter of time.”
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• Falvey Insurance Group — In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Falvey began and partially funded specific challenges for employees to give back to the community. Among other things, employees raised money for various causes and organized meal deliveries.
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• Marsh LLC — With online “Mapathons,” organized in coordination with Missing Maps, Marsh employees helped create map data for volunteer organizations to locate populations at risk from COVID-19 and the impacts of government-imposed lockdowns.