Posts Tagged ‘pro bono’

And I think something else happened that day

Attorney celebrations in the news:

“Joseph P. Awad, the incoming president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and a partner in Garden City, N.Y.’s Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, was one of the lawyers who participated in TLC. He said the group was holding a dinner on the fifth anniversary of the [September 11] terrorist attacks to celebrate ‘the largest pro bono project in history.'”

(Anthony Lin, “Attorney’s $2 Million 9/11 Fee Called ‘Shocking, Unconscionable'”, New York Law Journal, Aug. 28).

Update: CAIR using litigation to silence critics?

The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has settled its Canadian lawsuit against the Web site, the Canadian terrorism expert David Harris, writer David Frum, and the National Post. The settlement is secret, but there was no retraction of the claim that CAIR is a “terrorist-supporting front organization . . .founded by Hamas supporters” that aims “to make radical Islam the dominant religion in the United States.” David Frum has details in the April 25 National Post, and expresses optimism that free criticism of terrorism supporters can now take place.

Update: As Bob B points out in the comments, elsewhere in the blogosphere, Israpundit, LGF, and Powerline. Daniel Pipes also writes with extensive detail. It reasonably appears CAIR dropped the suit, to avoid submitting to discovery: an important lesson for every libel plaintiff. Three cheers for Greenberg Traurig LLP, which did pro bono work that was actually pro bono.

Suing Craigslist — with your money

The federal taxpayer, by way of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, funnels substantial sums to private “fair housing” advocacy groups for purposes of suing landlords, newspapers, and other likely suspects over alleged housing discrimination; raising consciousness among potential claimants and others; and generally promoting expansive readings of housing-bias law. For example, in this listing of $20 million worth of fiscal 2002 grants, HUD boasts of bestowing $242,339 on the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. for something called its Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI), described as follows:

While addressing the needs of minorities in the metropolitan Chicago area, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights will increase awareness of fair housing rights; empower victims to report incidents of discrimination; develop credible, legitimate evidence to support discrimination complaints; increase the number of complaints referred to HUD for enforcement; and provide relief to discrimination victims. Utilizing access to pro bono attorneys from Chicago’s most prominent law firms, as well as their resources, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee will receive, document, and investigate individual complaints of discrimination.

If the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because it’s the group that last month filed a widely criticized lawsuit against Craigslist (Feb. 9, Feb. 20) seeking to force the online service to pre-censor users’ postings of roommate and other housing classifieds (rather than just pull them off after complaints, as now).

Even if the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee suit fails in court — as is widely expected — the controversy is likely to continue. In yesterday’s New York Times, Adam Liptak says the activists are likely to push for federal legislation stripping website operators of their current protection against being held liable for users’ postings. (“The Ads Discriminate, but Does the Web?”, Mar. 5). Don’t assume that “fair housing” advocates are powerless on Capitol Hill these days, either: at one set of hearings last week, all the witnesses called (including this one (PDF), quoted in the Times piece) were there to speak up for expansive enforcement of the law, with nary a dissenting word about any possible competing values at stake. More: Maggie’s Farm.

Speaking dangerously, online

“Lawsuits are occupational hazards for anti-cult blogger Rick Ross. Sued a half-dozen times during the past decade for his public pronouncements, especially on the Internet, he’s managed to win all but one case, with the help of pro bono counsel.” (Charles Toutant, “Suits Against Anti-Cult Blogger Provide Test for Online Speech”, New Jersey Law Journal, Jan. 10). In other news, a federal judge has thrown out the RICO and defamation lawsuit filed by the controversial healing-spiritualist Gentle Wind Project against former members of the group (see Aug. 30, 2004)(“Group’s Lawsuit Against Ex-Members Thrown Out”, WMTW, Jan. 9; “Court Rejects Online RICO Claims Based on Ex-Group Members’ Web Site”, Berkman Center, Jan. 11). Gentle Wind also happens to have sued Ross, unsuccessfully, according to the New Jersey Law Journal article.

Thanks, Palmer & Dodge

For stepping forward to represent the prison grievances of one of Massachusetts’s most infamous killers, Daniel LaPlante, supposedly on a pro bono basis; for your skill at turning into a civil rights claim LaPlante’s complaints that jailers were intercepting the pornographic pictures he was being sent in the mail, and that a guard had stolen his shower shoes; and for the smoothness with which you turned your supposedly pro bono efforts into a profit opportunity after you prevailed, submitting a $125,000 bill to state taxpayers of which federal judge Nancy Gertner approved $99,981. “We did it as efficiently as we could,” claimed George Olson [no relation], a partner at the elite Boston firm. “When we took the case, we didn’t expect to be compensated.” Thanks for that too! (Brian McGrory, “Injustice for almost all”, Boston Globe, Sept. 16).

Update: New York pro bono

More on that proposal (see Dec. 15) to let New York attorneys take pro bono credit for more activities along the lines of “improv[ing] the legal system”, which some think should mean, e.g., lobbying in Albany against liability reform: critics are saying the idea is shaping up as a public relations disaster for the state bar, and threatens to divert resources from the goal of helping poor persons with their legal problems (Thomas Adcock, “N.Y. State Bar Draws Fire With Proposal to Change Pro Bono Definition”, Jan. 18); and David Giacalone blasts the idea (Jan. 19). See Monica Finch, “Working group seeks input on expanded definition of pro bono”, NYSBA State Bar News, Nov./Dec.

“Public-interest lawyers cash in on classroom suits”

“Lawyers who recently won a very big public-interest lawsuit to make San Francisco schools more accessible to the disabled apparently hope that the case will produce some very big benefits for themselves as well — like $9 million in fees….

“Jose Allen, a partner at the San Francisco firm Skadden Arps, is asking for $810 an hour…. Allen is a local partner of the giant, New York-based Skadden Arps firm — whose Web site touts its commitment to pro bono law work.” City officials are protesting the fees as exorbitant, but lawyers say the city can if necessary sell off surplus property to pay the bill. (Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 17).

Lawyers’ pro bono obligations

Robert Starr, a Manhattan lawyer who is director emeritus of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, suggests that working for groups like NYSTLA that oppose litigation reform should count as pro bono work for lawyers. According to the New York Law Journal, “In April, the [New York] state bar House of Delegates voted to expand its definition of pro bono to include: activities to improve the law, the legal system or the profession; financial assistance to legal services organizations and services to organizations that protect civil rights, liberties or public rights; or when standard legal fees would ‘deplete the organization’s economic resources.'” (Elizabeth Stull, “Many Solo, Small Firm Attorneys Lack Time, Resources for Pro Bono”, New York Law Journal, Dec. 13)(via Giacalone). Update Jan. 23: more controversy.


Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of . . . pseudonyms and a small blog.

Greetings. I am The Monk, founder and primary author of The Key Monk a small politics-and-sports blog I started in April and which my old high school buddy and I now work on in our spare time.

I am a lawyer in Texas who has run the law firm private practice gamut: large general practice firm to medium-size insurance defense firm (where I was on the frontlines in the asbestos wars) to a small commercial litigation boutique. No, I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. I now practice primarily appellate litigation, which I prefer because it is analytical and there’s no discovery in appellate litigation. I have also worked as a prosecutor in North Carolina, a pro bono lawyer in Boston and was a journalist of sorts as the sports editor and advertising manager of my college newspaper.

The best work I’ve done as a lawyer is easy to select: my pro bono work for the Shelter Legal Services Foundation (formerly the Veterans Legal Services Project) — a foundation dedicated to providing legal help to homeless and indigent veterans, battered women and other people in the Boston area who cannot afford most legal services.

Hopefully I can bring some perspective as a practicing attorney who has worked in a variety of legal settings. I look forward to contributing to — long one of my bookmarks (sycophancy alert!) — for the next week.

Read On…