2020 – Ken Schmetterer

A partner in DLA Piper’s Litigation group since 2001, Ken Schmetterer has focused his pro bono service on the challenging and often overlooked area of juvenile justice. Through his pro bono advocacy, he has worked for systemic reform to improve outcomes for children released from Chicago’s temporary juvenile detention center seeking a return to school, examined the impact of bail on juveniles and their families, and encouraged courts to consider the unique vulnerabilities children face in legal challenges to the sentencing of children to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the waiver of Miranda rights of students, and the automatic transfer of children from juvenile court to adult court.

Beyond his work in juvenile justice, Ken recently successfully supported PADS Lake County’s efforts to secure affordable housing to those deemed “chronically homeless” throughout the County. He has also advocated or supervised and supported younger lawyers on behalf of victims of domestic violence, tenants, and others throughout his career, helping to give a voice to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Over the past 5 years, Ken contributed close to 1,200 hours of pro bono with an additional several hundred hours dedicated to the two Boards he sits on: UMOJA Student Development Corporation and the National Juvenile Defender Center. Ken is deeply committed to the individuals and organizations he serves and to the colleagues he has been privileged to work alongside. Ken has been described by his colleagues as an enthusiastic, devoted, and kind leader and mentor who “shows up for young people.” He genuinely humbly gives back because he truly appreciates, respects, and cares about those he serves.