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 Zach Newman at znewman@laaconline.org

Current Amicus Advocacy

Sacred Heart v. Santa Clara Superior Court (2021)

The Silicon Valley Law Foundation and the Western Center on Law  & Poverty requested LAAC’s amicus assistance in Sacred Heart Community Service v. Santa Clara Superior Court. They sought to challenge a local rule that effectively permits tenants to be evicted without ever having an opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge. LAAC submitted an amicus letter on January 14, 2021, focused on the impact of this rule on low-income Californians and other vulnerable court users, available here.

Past Amicus Advocacy

Frances Rivera, et al. v. Toby Douglas, et al., Case No. S257304 (2019)

LAAC and member organizations submitted an amicus letter urging the Court to grant review. LAAC supported the arguments made by Petitioners, Frances Rivera, et al., in their Petition for Review, because the Court of Appeal’s decision would have inflicted devastating consequences on low-income people. We argued that, as the Court of Appeal found, the decision finding that the Department of Health Care Services had no duty to make Medi-Cal eligibility determinations within 45 days, the work of legal aid organizations would have been for naught and low-income Californians would suffer.

American Diabetes Association v. US Dept. of the Army, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 16CV04051LHK (2018)

LAAC joined the Impact fund as amici in urging the Court to reverse the district court’s order concluding that the American Diabetes Association lacked direct organizational standing to challenge the policies of the Department of the Army governing care provided to children with diabetes.

The Kennedy Commission v. City of Huntington Beach (2018)

LAAC and other organizations joined as amici to support review. We did so because the Court of Appeal decision would have had devastating consequences to low-income people and the need for services due to increased homelessness would be placed on legal aid.

In re Attorney Discipline System, Cal. Supreme Court No. S237081 (2016)

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 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 Court. In it, the Bar requested an assessment large enough to fund both discipline as well as other public protection functions.

The 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 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. LAAC submitted a letter, along with another amicus letter filed on behalf of all IOLTA-funded legal aid organizations.

On November 17, 2016, the Supreme Court issued an order. The order granted the State Bar an interim Special Regulatory Assessment to collect member dues. The order also granted 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 acknowledged that the State Bar does important public protection functions outside of discipline (such as access to justice activities), these activities are not covered by the Assessment. The Court did encourage the State Bar to find another way to fund these activities.

Jameson v. Desta, California Supreme Court Case No. S230899

A former prisoner 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. 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 followed the change in many superior court policies eliminating court-provided court reporters from most civil courtrooms.

LAAC joined with Public Council, Western Center on Law & 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. LAAC then filed an application and amicus brief on the merits of the case.

Lafitte v. Robert Half, Int’l, California Supreme Court Case No. S222996

The case involved the question of how trial courts may calculate reasonable attorneys’ fees awards in class action cases. Specifically, the cases addressed 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 advocated 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. 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.

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 had major implications for litigation (e.g., homeless citation cases, etc.) where the need for availability of such fees is particularly acute.

LAAC filed an amicus letter, in partnership with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, urging the Court to grant review of the decision. The letter raised the narrow but important issue that review is necessary to 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.

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 sought 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 failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case addressed class certification, specifically the commonality requirement. The amicus brief argued 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). The Ninth Circuit granted CREEC’s Rule 23(f) petition for review of the district court’s order denying class certification. LAAC again signed on to an amicus brief authored by the Impact Fund when the Ninth Circuit heard the plaintiff’s appeal of the class certification denial.

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 Latinx applicants was challenged. The amicus brief did not address the lower court’s finding (they found the policy discriminatory), but rather it addressed the proper analysis of whether the policy had a disparate impact. The brief argued that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to the analysis, that rigid mathematical formulas are inappropriate, and that the trial court required 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, filed on April 27, 2016.

Sai v. United States Postal Service, United States Supreme Court Case No. 14-646

LAAC joined the Western Center on Law & Poverty to file a brief in this case in support of review of the lower court’s decision. The petition sought review of a decision that applicants for in forma pauperis status under 28 U.S.C. 1915(a) must disclose their private financial information when the documents get publicly filed. While California law is generally favorable, there was a circuit split on whether to include financial information in a fee waiver request.

Estate of Ida McQueen v. Carol Veres Reed, Cal. Supreme Court No. S209376

LAAC joined with California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, The Impact Fund, The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty in support of Plaintiff and Respondent Estate of Ida McQueen in McQueen v. Reed. The case involved a denial of attorney’s fees that were expended as the plaintiff sought enforcement of the original judgement. Specifically, the case addressed the availability of statutorily-mandated fees and costs incurred on appeal where the statutory authority underlying the award is the Elder Abuse Act (Welf. & Inst. Code §15600 et seq.).

Our brief was accepted and oral argument was held on May 7, 2014. Richard Pearl, formerly of California Rural Legal Assistance, participated in oral argument on behalf of the amici. On July 7, 2014 the court agreed with amici and held that statutory appellate fees incurred defending or obtaining reversal of a judgment are not subject to the limitations set out in the Enforcement of Judgments Act.

Fraley v. Facebook, Case No. 13-16919

In Fraley v. Facebook, one issue before the Ninth Circuit Court was what organizations can and should receive cy pres awards of un-distributed class action settlement funds and how that decision should be made. LAAC joined with many of its member organizations in seeking to file an amicus brief to support the position that legal services organizations are appropriate recipients of cy pres awards, even where the subject matter of their work does not exactly match the subject of the lawsuit.

The brief was filed and accepted in early July, 2014. On January 6, 2016, the Ninth Circuit upheld the settlement in the case. Unfortunately, our amicus argument that legal services organizations are appropriate recipients of cy pres awards was not recognized. The decision was designated not appropriate for publication and “not precedent.”

Velasquez v. Centrome, Inc., Case No. BC370319

This case addressed the admissibility of immigration status. Here, a litigant’s immigration status was admitted during his case regarding the recovery of medical expenses for his workplace injury. LAAC joined with the National Immigration Law Center, the National Employment Law Project, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and some of our other member organizations as amicus in this brief. We argued that an individual’s immigration status is not relevant, is prejudicial, and should not be admissible.

The brief was filed and accepted. The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District reversed the decision and found that the lower court erred when it informed the jury of the litigant’s immigration status. The Court held that immigration status was irrelevant to liability and the potential prejudice was strong.

K.I. v. Wagner, Case No. S219252

The California Appellate Court in this case held that attorney’s fees are not available for representation during underlying administrative proceedings challenging the denial of state or local social services that precede superior court litigation. LAAC wrote and filed an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court in support of a petition for review this case regarding the availability of attorneys fees. LAAC supported review of the appellate court’s decision, which limited attorneys fees that can be collected and often are collected by its member organizations. The lower court held that attorney’s fees are not available for representation during underlying administrative proceedings challenging the denial of state or local social services that come before superior court litigation.

The California Supreme Court accepted our amicus letter. Unfortunately, the Court denied the Petition for Review.

C.S. v. W.O., Case No. BF036276

In this case, the court denied a fee-waiver to a low-income litigant because she had borrowed money from family and friends to request a transcript in her case. LAAC joined with the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and other organizations as amicus in support of the availability of fee-waivers to low-income litigants.

The brief was accepted in July in the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District and went to oral argument on September 15, 2014. On September 26, 2014, the court agreed with amici and held that because C.S. is a recipient of public benefits, she is statutorily entitled to a fee-waiver under Government Code Section 68631 and that the trial court did not have discretion to deny that initial request.

Kim v. De Maria

LAAC joined other legal nonprofits in a collaborative effort to support the publication of a few cases. In Kim v. De Maria, the Appellate Division found that a court clerk could not partially grant and partially deny a proper fee waiver request. A tenant requested waiver of additional fees on his initial fee waiver request. The judge in the UD case found that the tenant had neither paid the $150 jury trial deposit nor had he requested a waiver of those additional fees. The court clerk had failed to check the “additional fees” box, and the judge did not consider that a request to waive the jury fees. Some court clerks were not allowing requests for waiver of additional fees unless the initial fee request had already been granted.

The court found that the initial fee waiver request was sufficient. In an earlier case, Nivo 1 LLC v. Atuenez, which was recently certified for publication, LAAC joined with others in the request for publication of a case involving a renter’s failure to secure renters insurance. The landlord argued that that breach in the rental agreement was ground for eviction. The Appellate Division found that trial courts should consider whether the breach was substantial.

Miles v. Wesley

LAAC joined several legal services and civil rights organizations and several law professors as amicus in Miles v. Wesley, Ninth Circuit Case No. 13-55620. The case dealt with the closure of housing courts in Los Angeles County.

Hendelman v. Los Altos Apartments, California Supreme Court S213598

In this case, our joint amicus letter argued for a reversal of the Court of Appeals’ decision in a habitability case. In brief, the Court had denied class certification for tenants in one complex because not all tenants knew of the defect. Although the California Supreme Court did not accept the case for review, it did order depublication of the opinion.

Munoz v. Silva

LAAC joined several of its members in supporting the publication of the decision in Munoz v. Silva. The case involved an indigent litigant’s right to a jury trial. The decision was published.

NIVO 1, LLC v. Amiteria Antunez

LAAC joined several nonprofits in supporting the publication of the decision in this case, which involved the interpretation of a provision of a form lease used widely throughout Southern California.

Pich v. Lightborne

LAAC wrote an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court in support of review of this case. The case addressed the availability of a writ of mandate, and LAAC supported review of a Third Appellate District decision which made these writs unavailable in certain situations even where the agency at issue did not meet its legal duties.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now v. Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc.

LAAC identified an issue of interest in this case and organized several of its members to join in an amicus effort. The case dealt with organizational standing requirements to sue under California Business & Professions Code Section 17200. Amici argued against a narrowing of standing that would prevent many public interest legal organizations from being able to address unfair business practices.