When deemed appropriate by LAAC’s Board pursuant to LAAC’s Advocacy Policy, LAAC will become involved in litigation, primarily as amicus curiae. LAAC is always open to hearing from its member programs and interested community members regarding the potential for amicus advocacy.
If you have any questions regarding LAAC’s amicus advocacy or are interested in discussing amicus opportunities, please contact Lorin Kline at email@example.com.
In re Attorney Discipline System, Cal. Supreme Court No. S237081
Following the failure of the California Legislature to authorize the State Bar of California to collect member dues, the Supreme Court of California wrote a letter directing the State Bar to submit a request to the court for an interim Special Regulatory Assessment to fund the State Bar’s discipline system. On September 20, 2016, the State Bar submitted its request to the Supreme Court. In it the State Bar requested an assessment large enough to fund both discipline as well as other public protection functions.
The Supreme Court accepted numerous amicus curiae letters in connection with the State Bar’s request. LAAC filed an amicus letter urging the Supreme Court to allow the State Bar to collect voluntary donations in support of legal services as well as sufficient fees to support the State Bar’s access to justice activities. You can read LAAC’s letter here. Another amicus letter was filed on behalf of all IOLTA-funded legal aid organizations. You can read it here.
On November 17, the Supreme Court issued an order. The order grants the State Bar an interim Special Regulatory Assessment to collect member dues. The order grants an assessment only to fund the State Bar’s discipline system. In its order, the Supreme Court explicitly did not address the argument of many amici, including LAAC, that the Court did have authority to order assessments to fund nondisciplinary functions. While the Court acknowledges that the State Bar does important public protection functions outside of discipline (such as its access to justice activities), these things are not covered by the Assessment. The Court does, however, encourage the State Bar to find another way to fund these activities.
Have questions about what this means for legal aid in California? Please email Lorin Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jameson v. Desta, California Supreme Court Case No. S230899
A former inmate challenged the medical care he received in prison. When he tried to appeal the trial court’s decision, he was unable to do so because he did not have a record of the trial court proceedings. The appellate court held the plaintiff’s inability to arrange for a court reporter at trial prevented him from challenging the court’s nonsuit ruling. In other words, the decision essentially says that if a trial court has a policy of not using official court reporters in civil trial, the parties have to pay for a private reporter. This is true even for a defendant who is indigent and would have had the official reporter’s fee waived under the government code, had the court provided it. This case comes following the recent change in many superior court policies eliminating court-provided court reporters from most civil courtrooms.
LAAC joined with Public Council, Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and Inner City Law Center, working with pro bono counsel at Gibson Dunn, to submit a letter in support of review in the California Supreme Court. Review of the case was granted. We then filed an application and amicus brief on the merits of the case. You can read LAAC’s amicus brief here.
This case is still pending. Oral argument has not yet been scheduled.
Lafitte v. Robert Half, Int’l, California Supreme Court Case No. S222996
The case involves the question of how trial courts may calculate reasonable attorneys’ fees awards in class action cases. Specifically, the cases addresses whether trial courts may use a common fund (percentage of benefit) to calculate fees or are limited to use of the lodestar method. The opponent also advocates modifications to the loadstar method that may be harmful to organizations who litigate cases involving non-monetary benefits as is often true in legal services cases.
LAAC signed on to an amicus brief at the recommendation of the Impact Fund, as did many other LAAC member organizations. You can read the brief here.
The California Supreme Court affirmed that attorneys’ fees in a class action may be calculated as a percentage of the common fund created by a settlement or judgment. You can read the opinion here.
Gray v. Superior Court, California Supreme Court Case No. S235824
The trial court denied California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5 fees (private attorney general fees) in an infraction case. The appellate division and the court of appeal refused to review the validity of the rationale adopted by the trial court — that such fees are never recoverable in infractions. The case has major implications for litigation (e.g., homeless citation cases, etc.) where the need for availability of such fees is particularly acute. The decision by the court of appeal is published.
LAAC filed an amicus letter, in partnership with Western Center on Law and Poverty, urging the Court to grant review of the decision. The letter raised the narrow but important issue that review is necessary clear up lower court confusion on the ability of courts to award private attorney general fees for cases in which the public interest plaintiff is challenging the validity of a practice that led to the plaintiff receiving an infraction. We argued the importance of indigent litigants’ ability to challenge ordinances that may be unconstitutional or otherwise discriminatory. You can read LAAC’s letter here.
The Petition for Review was filed in the California Supreme Court on July 12, 2016. Unfortunately, it was denied.
The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center et al. v. Hospitality Properties Trust, Ninth Circuit Case No. 16-80055
Plaintiffs seek certification of a class of individuals who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility and who have been denied full and equal enjoyment of the transportation services offered by hotels owned and/or operated by Hospitality Properties Trust, because they fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case addresses class certification, specifically the commonality requirement. The amicus brief argues that a defendant’s inaction (as opposed to an affirmative common policy, for example) can raise a common issue of law suitable for class treatment.
LAAC signed on to a brief authored by the Impact Fund and joined by several other programs in support of the plaintiff’s permission to appeal the denial of class certification under Rule 23(f). You can read the brief here. The Ninth Circuit granted CREEC’s Rule 23(f) petition for review of the district court’s order denying class certification. The Ninth Circuit will now hear the plaintiff’s appeal of the class certification denial. LAAC has again signed on to an amicus brief authored by the Impact Fund. You can read the brief here.
The case is still pending.
Guerrero v. CDCR, Ninth Circuit Case No. 15-17001
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s practice of asking in its employment application whether the applicant had ever used a different social security number and the disparate impact that had on Latino applicants is challenged. The amicus brief does not address the lower court’s finding (they found the policy discriminatory), but rather it addresses the proper analysis of whether the policy had a disparate impact. The brief argues that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to the analysis, that rigid mathematical formulas are inappropriate, and that the trial court requires some discretion to uphold the purpose of the law.
LAAC signed on to a brief authored by the Impact Fund and joined by several other programs. You can read the brief here. It was filed on April 27, 2016. The case is still pending.