Bill Brewer (LL.M. '78) fights illegal immigration rules

February 9, 2009

An article in the Houston Chronicle highlights the efforts of Bill Brewer (LL.M. ’78), co-founder of the law firm Bickel & Brewer, to take on civil rights and commercial cases for clients who may not be able to pay.

The firm, which has offices in Dallas and New York, opened the Bickel & Brewer Storefront in 1995, a pro bono satellite office in south Dallas. Since then, Brewer has guided numerous lawsuits, including one that allowed athletes in wheelchairs to compete in the New York City Marathon and another that helped prevent a small evangelical Hispanic church from being swindled out of its building.

“The goal here was to do something a little different and it was – and is – to bring the resources that are available to our corporate clients to community impact cases,” Brewer told the Chronicle. “There’s no budget here on any case, period. The only imperative... in the Storefront or in the firm is to win the case.”

Brewer is currently representing residents fighting a Dallas suburb’s efforts to prevent illegal immigrants from renting apartments and houses. The firm successfully got the measure on the ballot in 2007, but residents approved it in the nation’s first public vote on a government measure targeting illegal immigration.

In a victory for the residents, a federal judge later blocked the suburb from enforcing the ordinance after finding city officials didn’t defer to the federal government on immigration matters and tried to create their own classifications on who could live there.

The judge is now considering how much money the suburb will have to pay for opposing attorney’s fees. The Storefront seeks nearly $500,000, which it plans to use for its Future Leaders Program, bringing students from economically depressed areas in Dallas to elite private schools for classes and mentoring.

The firm also founded the Law School’s Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights Scholarship Program, which provides two full-tuition scholarships to students on the basis of academic excellence, commitment to community service, and interest in pursuing a career that promotes justice for the Latino community.