Press Releases

September 09, 2014

Public Counsel Launches Opportunity Under Law as New Force in Fight for Equality

Nationally known civil rights litigators Mark Rosenbaum, Anne Richardson, and Gary Blasi to lead effort to combat economic injustice in all its forms. 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Public Counsel announced the launch of a new project, Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, to be led by nationally recognized civil rights leaders Mark Rosenbaum, Anne Richardson and Gary Blasi. Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law sets as its mission the elimination of causes of economic injustice in communities that are losing ground in the fight for opportunity. 

“We do not accept as a given that there must be underachieving schools and out of reach higher education, dead end jobs, homelessness or childhood trauma associated with poverty and the failure of our democratic institutions to strengthen families and afford meaningful opportunity,” said Mark Rosenbaum, director of Opportunity Under Law. “We do not define these conditions as legal problems, legislative conundrums or organizing goals. Rather, they are all of the above and more, calling for comprehensive, innovative strategies to reinvent and reinvigorate those institutions that are the foundation of our democracy. Economic injustice in all its forms is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

The creation of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law dramatically expands its impact litigation program, which was launched in 2009 by David Johnson, founder of Act 4 Entertainment, Brian Strange, managing partner of Strange & Carpenter, Roman Silberfeld, Regional Managing Partner of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. and private foundations and initially led by Catherine Lhamon, who left Public Counsel to become Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Johnson, Strange and Silberfeld have been instrumental in defining a new vision drawing upon our Constitutional traditions to ensure across-the-board solutions that promise an end to economic injustice once and for all. 

Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law will develop alliances with other organizations specializing in economic research and policy analysis, communications, as well as political and social action campaigns to achieve its goals.

“Creating opportunity is America’s great unfinished business,” said Hernán Vera, President and CEO of Public Counsel. “True justice demands a societal commitment to ensuring that everyone has a real chance to succeed. Public Counsel is thrilled to launch Opportunity Under Law to pursue this fight for fairness in our courts and our communities.”

Staff attorneys Kathryn Eidmann and Organizer Viridiana Chabolla continue their work for Public Counsel, and Alisa Hartz will also join Opportunity Under Law. 

"We are delighted that Mark, Anne and Gary are joining Kathryn, Alisa, and Viridiana to launch Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. For decades Public Counsel has served individuals and communities excluded from basic rights due them. The vision that Hernán, Roman and Brian and our entire Board of extraordinary attorneys and others are implementing with the creation of Opportunity Under Law is to take that work and go beyond — to eliminate the root causes of economic injustice by strategic campaigns that utilize every lever of social change available that our democracy has to offer. It is an extraordinarily ambitious goal, but I can’t imagine a team better suited and more equipped for the task than this one led by Mark,” said David Johnson of Act 4 Entertainment.

“The inequality gap has never been larger, and the need for creative problem-solving has never been greater,” said Anne Richardson, associate director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. “This initiative provides a tremendous opportunity to spearhead lasting change, and I am excited to be part of this new team.”

 “The growth of poverty and the loss of opportunity are not the result of some law of economic nature,” said Gary Blasi, who will serve as special counsel. “Economic inequality is the product of systematic injustice that is often illegal, and, where government is involved, unconstitutional.”

Mark Rosenbaum joins Public Counsel from his roles for over four decades with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, most recently as Chief Counsel. Rosenbaum has been principal counsel in landmark cases in the areas of K-12 public and higher education, voting rights, poverty law and homelessness, racial, gender, class and sexual orientation discrimination, health care, immigrants’ rights, foster care and criminal defendants’ rights. He has argued on multiple occasions before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Anne Richardson joins Public Counsel from Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick in Pasadena, California. She specializes in employment, civil rights, privacy, consumer class actions, and international human rights law. Anne’s work both in California and on the national scale has led her to always fight hard for many of the same things Public Counsel has been for years. She has been recognized by Super Lawyers, named California Lawyer Attorney of the Year, and has been called one of California’s Top 100 Attorneys. In addition to her work in the courtroom, Anne has taught at Loyola Law School and Whittier College of Law as an adjunct professor in Civil Rights Litigation and Appellate Advocacy.

For over four decades, Gary Blasi has been a devoted and zealous advocate for issues relating to disability rights, education, housing, homelessness and poverty. He is Professor of Law Emeritus at UCLA School of Law, where he was a founding faculty member at the law school's David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.  He has served a lead or co-lead counsel in several path-breaking cases in the areas of housing, education, homeless prevention, and civil rights. He has served as President of the National Coalition for the Homeless and several other nonprofit organizations and was a board member and chaired strategic planning efforts at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Inner City Law Center. He has won numerous awards for his work advocating on behalf of homeless veterans, children in substandard schools, tenants in slum housing, and other members of what he calls “the other one percent.”

Kathryn Eidmann is a former associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and a graduate of Yale Law School. Alisa Hartz is a graduate of the University of California Irvine School of Law. Viridiana Chabolla is a graduate of Pomona College.  

Elected and legal leaders praised Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. 

"Public Counsel strengthens our city by leveling the playing field for Angelenos and tirelessly fighting for the civil rights that every American is supposed to enjoy,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I am pleased to see them strengthening their legal team and look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of those most in need." 

“Mark is perhaps the most talented lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege to work closely, and he is building an exciting team of lawyers, policy experts, legislative advocates, organizers, social workers, academics, and grassroots groups to tackle the most intractable socio-economic problems our society faces -- from homelessness to illiteracy, from family disintegration to educational deprivation and economic inequity,” said Laurence Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. “The vision that Mark and Public Counsel are pursuing together combines ambition and realism, aspiration and pragmatism, in equal measure. Together, they are bound to improve the lives of many.”

About Public Counsel:  

Public Counsel is the nation’s largest pro bono law firm with a staff of more than 120 attorneys, social workers, and intake specialists and the support of 5,000 pro bono partners from the nation’s top law firms, leading law schools and major corporations. Public Counsel's activities are far-ranging and impact a wide spectrum of people who live at or below the poverty level. Our attorneys are national experts on immigration, veterans’ benefits, child welfare, nonprofit law, and school discipline among other areas.