Amazing People, Changing Lives: Meet Public Counsel's 2013 Pro Bono Heroes
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With more than 5,000 volunteer attorneys and professionals from the nation’s top law firms, companies and private practitioners, Public Counsel is the nation’s largest not-for-profit law firm of our kind. But it wouldn't happen without our pro bono heroes.
Public Counsel holds its Pro Bono Awards on July 24 in Los Angeles.
"Our pro bono partners are our greatest asset," said Public Counsel President and CEO Hernán Vera. "They are generous people who enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to serve people in need of justice."
Meet the 2013 honorees:
Appellate Law Program
Center for Veterans AdvancementThe Honorable Paul Enright
Retired Superior Court Commissioner Paul Enright brings more than 30 years experience in the criminal justice system to his work representing veterans in court. Veterans often fail to appear due to being homeless, losing paperwork, or having other issues. Without counsel they probably would just plead guilty and be heavily fined, putting them farther behind.
In one case Paul helped a former paratrooper who had once served with the 82nd Airborne Division. He had a plastic brace on his back, which wrapped around to his front and made him awkward and uncomfortable. He had made a long journey from his home at the West LA VA facility to a courthouse in Pomona to answer an infraction, and on his Failure to Appear charge, that carried substantially more severe penalties. But with Paul’s help this veteran was able to settle his case and move on. We are grateful that Paul is on veterans’ side.
Children's Rights Project - AdoptionsLauren Sliger
PERKINS COIE LLP
The Adoptions Project is proud to acknowledge the extraordinary work done by Lauren Sliger of Perkins Coie on her recent adoption case. In addition to finalizing the adoption, Lauren advocated for the family to receive specialized funding based on the child’s medical condition as well as 10 years of retroactive funding, as the family had consistently received the wrong rate.
Due to a recent change in policy by the County, only 18 months of retroactive benefits were initially approved. Lauren did not stop there, but took the case to an Administrative Fair Hearing. Not only was the hearing required, but due to the novel argument by the County in denying the funding, additional briefing was required by the Administrative Law Judge.
Lauren went above and beyond in her work on this case, researching the issue, arguing the case and drafting an extensive supplemental brief. Due to Lauren’s superb advocacy she won her case and the family will receive 10 years of retroactive funding totaling $32,800. Lauren’s brief also now serves as a model that can be used by other pro bono attorneys when faced with the same arguments and will serve to assist countless other families.
Children's Rights Project - Education RightsRabbi Ron Stern, STEPHEN S. WISE TEMPLE
SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT LLP
Jeremy Rosen, HORVITZ & LEVY LLP
The Children’s Rights Project is proud to honor Stephen S. Wise Temple for its pro bono efforts. Last year, Rabbi Ron Stern and Temple members Chet Kronenberg and Jeremy Rosen contacted Children’s Rights Project to identify pro bono opportunities for Temple members. While Chet and Jeremy have access to coordinated pro bono opportunities directly through their firms, many Temple members in small firms and private practice lack such coordinated access.
Rabbi Stern, Chet and Jeremy now function as an in-Temple pro bono committee for Temple members. Through the last year over 20 Temple attorneys have participated in pro bono trainings, and many of those attorneys are now advocating for the educational rights of children with disabilities.
For example, in one case a Temple pro bono has assisted the family of an 8-year-old who was adopted from the foster care system and recently diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. This little boy was repeatedly sent home from school last year because his teacher “needed a break,” but when the family asked the school for help staff told them their son was fine and refused to offer any assistance. Through pro bono advocacy, he was evaluated for special education and is now being offered a free appropriate public education through an individualized educational program.
Children's Rights Project - GuardianshipWill Wong
SNELL & WILMER LLP
Will took his first Peace of Mind guardianship case(which allow terminally ill parents to have joint guardianship with their children’s future caregiver) last year and within one week had already calendared a temporary hearing. This mom was very ill, and needed a speedy result from her lawyer. After the permanent guardianship was granted, Will kept asking for cases. He has taken on a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status guardianship, which is moving now at lightning speed, and is working on his second Peace of Mind case at the same time. Will has also connected us with other pro bono attorneys in his firm who have taken on cases. He’s been amazing.
Community Development Project
Consumer Law ProjectPhilip Cook
The contribution that Jones Day and its Los Angeles partner, Philip Cook, have made to the work of the Consumer Law Project has been nothing short of immense. In 2012, for example, Jones Day accepted 10 cases for pro bono placement. These cases ranged from people who had been defrauded out of title to their homes, to an elderly couple defrauded by a car dealership when they sought to purchase a vehicle to transport the 100-year-old woman to doctor’s appointments.
This year, Jones Day stepped up to the plate to rescue a woman whose landlord had sprayed their unit with a toxic pesticide. The woman and her children were without representation a matter of weeks before trial, and Jones Day, despite having very little time to prepare for trial, agreed to represent them.
Every summer, Jones Day and the Consumer Law Project schedule an intake night. Jones Day attorneys and their entire summer associate class come to
Public Counsel, meet with a number of intake clients, and get started on their cases. At any given time, Jones Day usually has more Consumer Law Project cases in active litigation than any other firm in Los Angeles.
Time and time again, Jones Day has come through for Consumer Law Project and its clients. We are especially grateful to Phil Cook and the other attorneys at Jones Day because they are willing to take the tough cases—the cases that the Consumer Law Project staff believes have real merit, but which are proving to be very difficult to place. We would like to express the deep appreciation it has for Jones Day by naming it to receive this year’s Pro Bono Award.
Debtors Assistance ProjectRodger Landau
LANDAU GOTTFRIED & BERGER LLP
This team took on an a complex adversary proceeding against an unscrupulous creditor, who was notorious for filing non-meritorious complaints against pro se litigants in bankruptcy courts throughout the Central District of California. When we contacted them to represent our client against this creditor, the trial was only a month away. Our client was in dire need of representation and in danger of facing a $100,000 judgment against him if he did not have an attorney to represent him at trial. After speaking with Rodger, Roye and Monica about taking the case, they immediately said, “Yes. We want the case.”
They had no hesitation and within a few days met with our client and obtained a continuance of the trial date. They then proceeded to aggressively litigate the case, and WON! We are happy to report that since that victory, this unscrupulous creditor is no longer filing these types of complaints in bankruptcy courts in the Central District of California. The remarkable litigation team of Landau Gottfried & Berger not only made a difference in the life of our client, but also in the lives of countless individuals who will not have to face a complaint by this unseemly creditor.
On behalf of Public Counsel’s Debtors Assistance Project, it is a great privilege to thank Rodger Landau, Roye Zur and Monica Rieder for their outstanding work on this case and to recognize them as this year’s Pro Bono Award recipients.
Early Care and Education Law UnitSean Matsler
MANATT, PHELPS & PHILLIPS, LLP
The Early Care and Education Law Unit is proud to honor Sean Matsler. Sean is a fantastic volunteer who wins over tough critics and gets spectacular results for communities that need it most.
Over the past several years, Sean has dedicated countless volunteer hours to help increase the availability of quality child care for working families. Specifically, he worked with Public Counsel’s Land Use Coalition from 2009 to 2012 to identify land use barriers that discourage qualified, licensed child care providers from opening child care programs.
In addition, despite his busy schedule Sean always volunteered to assist with Public Counsel’s annual symposium on child care development to provide educational talks to elected officials and city planners about the importance of planning for early care and education. In short, his volunteer hours have been invaluable for assuring that working families will have access to quality child care for their young children.
Federal Pro Se ClinicDaniel Allender
Emily L. Cox
Thomas L. Jackman
Keith A. Orso
Benjamin N. Simler
John G. Snow
Kevin M. Winzer
IRELL & MANELLA LLP
This team of attorneys joined the fast-paced practice at the Federal Pro Se Clinic to provide services for unrepresented litigants in the Central District of California. The attorneys helped our clients navigate through complicated issues in cases involving intellectual property, civil rights, social security appeals, and other matters. Through their assistance, an elderly, disabled man was able to release a $750,000 lien on his house so that he could remain in his home. Another man who was being sued in a cyber-squatting case received the team’s assistance and managed to settle his case. The team brings not only a strong knowledge of federal practice to the Clinic but also a compassionate desire to help those who are less fortunate.
Homelessness Prevention Law ProjectAmber Gosney
MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP
McDermott Will & Emery has taken several unlawful detainer cases over the past year on behalf of some of our most vulnerable clients.
In three of these cases, they have not only demonstrated their expertise and commitment by successfully defending our clients in their unlawful detainer actions, but have separately filed and are preparing to file affirmative cases on their behalf.
It is for taking this extra step to make our clients whole that we recognize them today.
Immigrants' Rights Project
Impact Litigation Project