June 30, 2023

Wesley Powell, Co-Chair of Willkie’s Pro Bono Practice Group, has been recognized as one of the top pro bono lawyers of the year at the Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Awards: USA 2023.

He was “Highly Commended” among the finalists for Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in recognition of his commitment to pro bono advocacy and leadership in fighting for healthcare rights, particularly for the transgender community.

Wes’s recent pro bono achievements include leading a federal class action, Toomey v. Arizona, with the ACLU, challenging a coverage exclusion for transition-related medical care imposed on employees in Arizona’s state university system. On June 27, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs issued an executive order that removes the ban on gender-affirming surgery for transgender state employees. In response to this landmark order, the ACLU and Willkie will file a motion with the court to approve a final class settlement in its case.

He also recently helped secure a historic settlement that provides expanded dental coverage to some five million Medicaid recipients in New York. Wes led the Willkie team that, alongside The Legal Aid Society and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, successfully brought a federal class action, Ciaramella et. al. v. Bassett, against the New York State Department of Health on behalf of Medicaid recipients in New York who were denied coverage for medically necessary dental care.

Wes also won a landmark transgender healthcare ruling last year in Lange v. Houston County, Georgia, that prohibits employers from denying coverage for gender-affirming care under employee health insurance plans. Wes led Willkie’s representation, with The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, of Sgt. Anna Lange, a Sheriff’s Deputy who was repeatedly denied insurance coverage for her medically necessary gender-affirming care. Wes not only secured summary judgment from the Georgia federal court holding that it is illegal for employers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care, but also won a jury verdict awarding Lange $60,000 in compensatory damages.

View the list of honorees of the Chambers D&I Awards: USA 2023 here and read more about Willkie’s Pro Bono Practice here.

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