Our Stories

Homeless Man Faced with Navigating the Appeals System to Get His House Back

Max Pilar became the owner of real property when his elderly aunt transferred the title to him. Unbeknownst to Mr. Pilar and his aunt, someone forged the signatures of Mr. Pilar's aunt and a notary on a grant deed purporting to transfer the property to a third party. As a result, Mr. Pilar was rendered homeless and was forced to live out of his car. Acting in pro per, Mr. Pilar filed a handwritten complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court against the purchaser, the purchaser's realty company, and the title company that searched the County recorder's records in advance of the purchase. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, saying Mr. Pilar did not adequately explain why he was entitled to relief. Mr. Pilar appealed.

Mr. Pilar sought assistance from the Appellate Law Program which placed the case with appellate attorney Sarvenaz Bahar. Ms. Bahar filed an Appellant's Opening Brief in the Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in dismissing the action because the facts established that the defendants committed actionable wrongs that harmed Mr. Pilar. Several weeks after Ms. Bahar filed her brief, defendants quitclaimed the title to the property back to Mr. Pilar, effectively conceding he had been the property's true owner. With title in hand, Mr. Pilar has returned to his family home.  In describing why she volunteers with the Appellate Law Program, Ms. Bahar stated: "the most disadvantaged amongst us are the most ill equipped to secure their rights through our court system without the assistance of legal counsel. Without pro bono counsel, the promise of obtaining justice through the courts would be illusory."