Our firm has a strong commitment to pro bono representation. Regardless of who we are representing, from a large class to disadvantaged individuals facing difficult legal circumstances, we bring the same energy, passion, and successful strategies to bear for which our firm has been well-recognized.
We frequently work with the Northern District of California’s Federal Pro Bono Project (FPBP), which operates in conjunction with the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Justice and Diversity Center (JDC). Among other activities, the JDC provides pro bono services to underserved San Francisco residents and communities, and the organizations that serve them. Their services are provided through volunteer attorneys, paralegals, law students, college students, social workers, and other qualified professionals. Its staff and volunteers assist thousands of clients with legal consultation and representation in nearly every area of civil law.
To be referred for placement with a pro bono attorney, the Court issues an order asking FPBP to identify counsel. A litigant must be representing themselves, lack the resources to retain counsel, and have a case that warrants pro bono legal representation. Many cases involve federal civil rights violations. Appointments may be for full-scope representation for the duration of a case or for limited purposes, e.g., representation at a settlement conference or hearing on a motion to dismiss.
Many of our attorneys donate their time to this beneficial project. And we have received court praise for our “excellent” work at achieving successful results for our clients. Partner Steven Williams has received the JDC’s 2020 Crystal Award for “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year” and was recognized by the JDC in 2019 as an “Outstanding Volunteer.” Our pro bono team has attended JDC events, and its members have received certificates of appreciation from the JDC. In 2021, the firm was shortlisted as an “Outstanding Firm for Pro Bono” for the Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Awards: North America 2021. And its program was profiled in Super Lawyers magazine.
An overview of our pro bono cases
Inmates Calling Service: The firm served as counsel for defendants in an action brought by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC’s October 2020 complaint sought a permanent injunction and other relief against defendants for providing inmate calling services. The inmate calling services industry is remarkably expensive and notoriously complex to navigate. Defendants were trying to make it cheaper for those trying to call their incarcerated loved ones, while the government was protecting the interests of the for-profit inmate calling industry, an unfortunate consequence of the mass incarceration era that succeeded Jim Crow. Through the firm’s efforts, the parties reached a settlement—involving no financial consideration—that was approved and entered by the court in October 2021. As the court noted, via the favorable settlement terms defendants neither admitted nor denied any of the complaint’s allegations.
Excessive Use of Force: Represented a plaintiff alleging assault and unlawful detention by the police. After being charged with resisting arrest and assault of a police officer, the plaintiff proceeded to trial and was acquitted on both counts. The plaintiff subsequently sued the police force for excessive force and unreasonable arrest, which resulted in plaintiff’s job loss, liquidation of savings to post bail, and emotional trauma. Plaintiff sought punitive damages, a requirement that police officers always wear body cameras, and implicit bias training as part of the officers’ cultural sensitivity training. A favorable settlement was reached.
Wrongful Termination: Negotiated a meaningful monetary settlement, reached at a settlement conference, in a wrongful termination matter against a large, multinational corporation. The plaintiff—an African American truck driver—alleged that the defendant company discriminated against the plaintiff due to his race and wrongfully terminated his employment. A confidential settlement was reached.
Excessive Force and Search and Seizure: Represented plaintiff in a lawsuit asserting both federal and state causes of actions against federal and state defendants, seeking civil recovery for alleged violations of the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights by defendants. Plaintiff asserted, among other claims, violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the use of excessive force. After summary judgment was briefed and argued, settlement was reached for significant monetary consideration and also non-monetary consideration that would have been otherwise unavailable as relief if the firm had prevailed at trial.
Violation of Prisoner’s Medical Needs: Represented a plaintiff who alleged employees at Salinas Valley State Prison were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. A settlement was reached after extensive discovery and motion practice, an order on motion for summary judgment, four settlement conferences, and ultimately the parties’ mutual acceptance of a mediator’s proposal.
Wrongful Foreclosure: Represented (scope limited to settlement conference involvement) a couple claiming a defendant bank wrongfully foreclosed on their property. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that defendant, the legal property owner, failed to give them adequate opportunity to make up for missed payments. Plaintiffs also alleged defendant failed to give proper notice regarding its foreclosure and failed to properly communicate to plaintiffs regarding correcting their outstanding mortgage payments and entering into a loan modification. The suit alleged that defendant violated plaintiffs’ Constitutional due process rights (14th Amendment), among other violations. Plaintiffs sought a Court order quieting title, injunctive relief, monetary damages, and other relief.