Merchant & Gould Named Pro Bono Firm of the Year by State Bar of Wisconsin

June 16, 2017

Merchant & Gould, a national intellectual property law firm with an office in Madison, Wisconsin, is pleased to announce that it has received the 2016 Pro Bono Firm or Organization of the Year award from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

In the June 15, 2017 Member Recognition Celebration at its Annual Meeting & Conference, the State Bar of Wisconsin presented Merchant & Gould with its 2016 Pro Bono Firm or Organization of the Year award. This Legal Assistance Committee Pro Bono Award is given to an organization which has demonstrated dedication to the development and delivery of legal services to the poor or contributed significantly toward developing innovative ways to deliver volunteer legal services.

Merchant & Gould was selected in part because of its pro bono work in Kingsley v. Hendrickson, which originated in the Western District of Wisconsin. The District’s pro bono coordinator offered the case to Merchant & Gould, and a team in the Madison office accepted the offer. With the assistance of attorneys and professionals in some of the firm's eight other offices, the team represented Michael Kingsley pro bono in an excessive force case that he had previously filed on his own.

The primary players on the Merchant & Gould team for the Kingsley case were Wendy Ward, Edward Pardon, Emily Wessels, Jeffrey Ward, Paige Stradley and Stephen Howe. Assistants Julie King and Amy Miller also supported the team throughout the trial and appeal process.

The pro bono effort culminated in Wendy Ward, a partner in the Madison office and lead attorney on the case, successfully arguing the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2015. In its June 2015 decision, the Court held that the standard for evaluating a pretrial detainee’s excessive force claim under the Fourteenth Amendment is solely an “objective reasonableness” standard and that no subjective element needed to be proved. The decision carried important ramifications for jail and police practice throughout the country and settled a circuit split in the matter.

Justice Daniel Kelly of the Wisconsin Supreme Court presented the 2016 Pro Bono Firm or Organization of the Year award to Wendy Ward and Ed Pardon from the Merchant & Gould team on June 15, 2017. Photo by Shannon Green courtesy of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Used by permission.