Thursday, September 06, 2007

So Here's the (Possible) Cost for the Supreme Court Case

This article appeared in today's Times about the cost to the district for the Supreme Court case involving tiebreakers. The District's own costs were $434,000 and the law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, wants $1.8M (kind of takes your breath away).

From the article:

"Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted with the majority, said in a separate opinion supporting his decision that racial balance is a worthy goal for school districts and that districts can use other methods to achieve it.

That opinion has both the district and the parent group, Parents Involved in Community Schools, declaring victory. It's one reason the district, which spent about $434,000 on its portion of the seven-year battle, doesn't believe it should have to pay the plaintiffs' fees.

Technically, the parents group still has to get a U.S. district judge to declare them the "prevailing party," said Seattle Public Schools attorney Shannon McMinimee."

Those paragraphs raise some interesting legal questions (and I don't know the answers, anyone else?). It would seem that the plaintiffs did prevail so does it matter that Justice Kennedy wrote a separate opinion that supported the use of race as part of a plan (thus supporting the minority)?

But here's the real kicker:

"If the firm wins, the fees likely wouldn't be covered by the district's insurance carrier, McMinimee said. So the money would have to come out of the district's $490 million general-fund budget."

What folly. How did it get to this and what will not happen because that almost $2M is walking out the door?

20 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think that this reflects directly on Mr. Manhas and Mr. Green and their administration of the District.

This is just one more unnecessary expense that Mr. Manhas incurred for the District. The District could have settled out of Court with PIC by agreeing not to use the racial tie-breaker. This would have been an easy concession to make since they had decided not to use it anyway. If the District had settled out of Court, their own legal costs would have been reduced and there's no way that they would have had to pay PIC's.

That's another $1.8 million that Raj cost us.

Anonymous said...

Davis Wright and Tremain is costing us the money. You, Charlie, may believe that settling the case was the appropriate choice, but it was also completely legitimate to pursue it. It was a point of unsettled law, and a completely reasonable position to argue in front of the court.

Frankly, everyone who would rather this 2 million dollars be spent on the school should be writing to Davis and telling them so. Under no circumstances is Davis _required_ to collect these funds.

http://www.dwt.com/index.htm

Call them if you'd rather this money didn't walk out the door from the school children to the partners at Davis.

Anonymous said...

Charlie-

Charlie-

Raj Manhas was not even the Sup. at the time the case was raised. The School Board had no reason to settle last year, they were the winners at the 9th Circuit.

The villians are DWT and PICS, who always said that this was pro bono. And keep in mind that Ms. Brose was on this board not long ago proclaiming that she wanted all of the districts reasources to be spent on improving the struggling schools. What a crock!

Brita said...

Hello all,

Please note that our board did NOT make any decision regarding whether or how to use the racial tie-breaker. We did agree to suspend its use until we got a final decision, even though the district had prevailed in some of the decisions along the way.

Best,

Brita

maureen said...

Can anyone out there identify DWT's major corporate clients? Do any of them claim to support public education? Are any of you in a position to encourage them to pressure DWT to drop their plans to go for a payoff?

Anonymous said...

The great irony is that DWT itself donated money to the Alliance for Education last year. Wonder if they will ask SPS to give that money back?

DWT's most notable client is the Seattle Times, though they also represent Virginia Mason and a lot of other large corporations.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone here thinking about the fact that thousands of students civil rights were violated over several years by the District? Doesn't that bother anyone? Forced busing based on race hurt white and non/white families alike. Is anyone thinking about the emotional and financial impact of discrimination on all of these families? What the District did was wrong! They lost the case and now they have to pay. Charlie is right. The District could have settled out of Court with PICS by agreeing not to use the racial tie-breaker. Joseph O. was the superintendent when the lawsuit started, but Raj could have settled it.

Still Confused said...

Ms. Brose and PICS

You never did answer any of the questions posted previously - how do you as a 501(c)(3) do this?

What was the fee agreement?

You asked us to ask your firm those questions, but surprise they don't answer any Emails or phone calls.

If DWT posts this lawsuit for years as Pro Bono, how pray tell in good conscious do they petition for fees now?

How do folks like Gov. Gary Locke feel about this? Know several DWT employees that are truly not pleased.

Pls. recall that before the Supreme Court decision, SPS won at the 9th Circuit - usually means you need to keep going - was obviously a relevant issue for the Supremes to take the cert and hear the arguments.

Maybe SPS should do something revolutionary and ask the taxpayers what they think and bundle the comments in declarations before the Court.
reprints posted below on same issue to give folks a flavor of the non-answers and non-dialogue and non-transparency.

*****

Anonymous said...
"You might be upset over the money it is going to cost the district (and leave our classrooms). It's not the plaintiffs' fault that their lawyers have chosen to act like lawyers (meaning, they say one thing and do another; hey, I know lawyers, love talking law but I wasn't surprised at all when DWT decided to go for the money). It's a bitter pill but that's it."

Actually, it is PICS, as the CLIENT who has the right to seek the recovery of thier reasonable attornies fees.

DWT has NO independent authority to seek fees.

If Ms. Brose and the rest of the PICS leadership decide that they don't want to seek fees for thier lawyers, DWT can't on thier own ask for fees. I challenge her (and the rest of the PICS members) to stand up and do the right thing.

6:59 PM
Melissa Westbrook said...
Thank you last Anonymous post; I just learned something new about the law.

7:06 PM
Anonymous said...
Melissa -

"It's not the plaintiffs' fault that their lawyers have chosen to act like lawyers (meaning, they say one thing and do another;"

This comment is beneath you and is truly a slam on most folks doing good things - the rest of the Pro Bono program at DWT looked pretty darned impressive, I thought. (Davis Wright's 2005 Pro Bono Report - truly impressive - http://www.dwt.com/pro_bono/2005_ProBonoReport.pdf) Because of DWT's and apparently PICs change of heart you're bashing a whole segment of our society?

Ms. Brose, would still very much appreciate the answers to the questions previously posted on the other thread:

Truly appreciate your willingness to participate in this blog. I can't imagine that these years have been easy given the lawsuit.

Can you please address the Davis Wright Tremaine "Pro Bono" fees? I and many others are having serious problems with the concept that it was "pro bono" until the decision is considered a victory. What sort of fee agreement did the group sign with DWT? Was it contingent, hourly, blended, costs only, etc.? How is it that one of Seattle's oldest and finest law firms can find itself sucked into this PR morass that casts all of its fine personnel in such a greedy light? I have no problem with someone making a fee - I have a problem with the seeming extraordinary misrepresentation of "pro bono" a concept that used to be considered quite honorable.

Have you and your group as the client been kept apprised of the fees - what exactly is the number? The media reports vary quite widely.

Does anyone know the briefing schedule? Who the attys are that will be defending this expected fee petition? Any chance of amicus as taxpayers to object to the mischaracterization?

Thank you.

5:35 AM

6:23 AM
Leah said...
I checked with the Federal District Court (they have a website called PACER that lets attorneys/paralegals/secretaries look up cases and filings online), DWT has not officially made the fee claim yet.

It looks like Mike Madden and the District's general counsel are still the attorneys for the district at this point.

Presuming that Ms, Brose and PICS as the client directs DWT not to seek fess (which she/they have the power to do), this ultimately becomes a business and integrity decision for DWT. I wrote their managing partner as well as partner Gary Locke to ask them to make a better choice, and am encouraging anyone who feels the same to do so as well. A friend who works at DWT tells that I am not the only person writing in.

Ms. Brose typically answers questions posed to her on this blog, her avoidance on this topic is pretty obvious.

As people I respect (Brita) believe that she is a person of principle, I can only hope that she disagrees with the greed at public expense her attorneys are displaying, and has taken the issue up with them in private. Again, she and PICS hold the power to tell DWT that taking millions of dollars from school children is not the right thing to do, particularly as DWT has reported this as pro bono work for years, and would never have sent PICS a bill if they had lost.

If not, she certainly has no business asking the district to spend tens of millions of dollars to grant her "wish" for a new high school, or tritely writing that the district should now be spending “all of its time and resources on improving the struggling schools” while at the same time allowing her attorneys divert funds that could be used for these tasks for their own profit.

The "it will be used for more pro bono" is a hollow line. If Ms. Brose and PICS allow DWT to seek fees, anything that is recovered will be reported as Harry's Korrel's contribution to the firm. Once it comes in the door, it will be put in the firm’s receivables account, and ultimately shared among the partners as income. It will certainly boost Mr. Korrel’s bottom line, as the more a partner brings in means the more the partner takes home at the end of the year.

And, keep in mind that DWT apparently has a twisted view (that is NOT shared by many firms in town) that suits against government entities are profit making ventures, not real “pro bono publico” (for the public good) opportunities.

8:47 AM

*****

Anonymous said...
Ms. Brose, I would still very much appreciate the answers to the questions previously posted on the other thread and above:.

Can you please address the Davis Wright Tremaine "Pro Bono" fees? I and many others are having serious problems with the concept that it was "pro bono" until the decision is considered a victory. What sort of fee agreement did the group sign with DWT? Was it contingent, hourly, blended, costs only, etc.? How is it that one of Seattle's oldest and finest law firms can find itself sucked into this PR morass that casts all of its fine personnel in such a greedy light? I have no problem with someone making a fee - I have a problem with the seeming extraordinary misrepresentation of "pro bono" a concept that used to be considered quite honorable.

Have you and your group as the client been kept apprised of the fees - what exactly is the number?

Are you and your group, as the client, going to exercise your power to tell your attorneys not to flipflop on this issue?

If not, can you please stop asking the district to spend tens of millions of dollars to grant your "wishes" or tritely writing that the district should now be spending “all of its time and resources on improving the struggling schools”

7:45 AM
Kathleen Brose said...
Dear Anonymous:

Why don't you use your real name? Are you that uncomfortable asking these questions?

Our attorneys worked for free for 7 years. In fact, their firm had to put out over a hundred thousand dollars of their own just for the printing of the paperwork that was required by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Seattle School District and their in-house counsel and outside counsel knew that our attorneys would want to collect fees and costs if PICS should ultimately win the case. No PICS board members will financially gain from the lawsuit. We will not be reimbursed for our hours as well as the many expenses we incurred over the last 7 years.

You might want to ask the SSD why they didn't choose to settle once they knew we were going to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. They took a calculated risk that they could lose the case.

We didn't want to sue the District. We knew it was going to be expensive in $$ and time. We even told the District before the assignments were made in 2000 that the use of the racial tiebreaker would impact our neighborhoods severely in a negative way. We asked them to be pro-active on this issue at a school board meeting. They ignored us. The SSD would not settle. We tried mediation in the very beginning with a different school board 7 years ago. The current school board could have settled before the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. You might ask the current school board if they even discussed the case with their attorneys. The SSD got themselves in this pickle and you you should direct your frustration and disappointment toward them. They violated the civil rights of our children! They are accountable for their actions or inactions.

Our attorneys are not being greedy.
They worked very hard and they deserve to be fairly compensated.
They worked for free for 7 years.

I know that I'm not telling you what you want to hear.

Regarding a new high school for Queen Anne and Magnolia, I am not requesting it for myself. My children are grown. These tax paying communities' children deserve fair access to a good high school reasonably close to their home. They are not asking for a brand new facility either. Either make room for the kids at Ballard, Garfield or Roosevelt or reconfigure some of the existing buildings.

These communities have also urged the SSD to make sure that every community has access to a good high school. We want the schools in the southend to be successful too! We want the entire district to have great schools in every neighborhood so parents can be more easily involved in their children's education.

11:49 AM
Anonymous said...
Ms. Brose,

Thanks for your input.

Can you please respond to specific questions posed before?

1. What sort of fee agreement did the group sign with DWT? Was it contingent, hourly, blended, costs only, etc.?

2. Have you and your group as the client been kept apprised of the fees [and costs] - what exactly is the number?

3. New questions - is PICS a 501(c)(3) organization - who is on your board and what authority to they have regarding these fees and costs and whether or not they are petitioned for - see above posting regarding "it's the client's choice - not DWT's". Is that true?

Your correct, it's not what I and many others wanted to hear - but as much as we ask the School Board for transparency, we'd appreciate some on your end as well.

Thank you.

9:15 PM
Kathleen Brose said...
Dear Anonymous:

Speaking of transparency, why won't you post with your real name?

Please feel free to contact our attorneys for more specific answers to your questions.

For me, the lawsuit is over and I'm not going to discuss it anymore on this blog.

4:19 PM
Anonymous said...
I am not the one trying to take money from the District while asking it to grant my wishes.

11:16 PM
Anonymous said...
"In fact, their firm had to put out over a hundred thousand dollars of their own just for the printing of the paperwork that was required by the U.S. Supreme Court."

If so, that is because they printed vanity copies to hand out.

11:17 PM
Leah said...
Ms. Brose-

If, as you say, the lawsuit is over for you, dare I hope that you and the PICS leadership have elected to not return to federal court to seek a fee award? After all, you alone hold the power to take action, your attorneys only act at your direction.

I also presume from your questioning of the SSD motives for not settling the case after the won at the 9th Circuit, you and your attorneys approached them with a settlement offer that was rejected?

It is after all typically the party that loses on appeal who seaks a settlement, not the winner. If so, when was your settlement offer made so that other can seek a public records request to see what terms you offered and what response the SSD provided?

12:15 AM
Still confused said...
Ms. Brose,

I don't understand your defensiveness. These are simple questions to answer. Regarding contacting your attorneys, they have been contacted by dozens of interested people and I understand they are not answering any questions or even confirming receipt of the questions. Maybe PICS as the client could request that they do so, or answer them yourselves as they were directed to you as the client.

Also understand that there are many folks within DWT who are displeased about this whole topic.

I absolutely defend your right to bring any lawsuit you wish, but in doing so you do open yourself up to questions especially when you make specific choices as to which questions who want to answer and remain silent about others - if the press were interviewing you as they did when the decision was handed down - would you tell them the same thing?

Suspect that these questions will be answered in the fee petition portion of the lawsuit, since it is all extremely relevant information, to the press and to us taxpayers and at the end of the day, to the court.

11:55 AM

****

Joanie said...
Melissa-

You write "Yes, the district will have to pay lawyers' fees. I personally thought they should have dropped the lawsuit a long time ago and always wondered why it continued given the district stopped using it anyway."

Up until today, the District was the prevailing party. There is no reason to "drop" a case when you are the prevailing party, particularly when up until Justice O'Connor retired, there was no reason to think that the Supreme Court would even take the case. (The Court denied to hear a similar case from Massachuettes last term before her retirement).

It is my understanding that the law firm of Davis Wright Tremain has always treated this as a pro bono case, meaning that the parents group has paid no fees. I would hope that a firm as large and profitable as Davis (its client include the Seattle Times) would not now try to recover fees that they never would have charged if the case went the other way, to the detriment of the students of Seattle. Even if they do, they have to go back to the trial court who ruled against them in the first place to ask for fees anyway. The court will take into consideration that the Parents did not get the relief they wanted, which was an injunction preventing the District from ever using race. That did not happen today.

Instead, the Court upheld that diversity is a compelling government interest (which the Parents also asked be overturned), and Justice Kennedy, whose opinion carries the day, said that school districts can use race concious measure to achieve diversity, even being able to explictly assign individual students to school based upon race alone in some cases.

At the end of the day, even though the specific plan was stuck down, I think that the District won on all of the key issues.

* * * *

Kathleen Brose said...
We are pleased that the racial tie-breaker will not be used anymore.

We look forward to the Seattle School District putting all its time, money and effort into helping the struggling schools.

Every student deserves access to a good neighborhood school.

Kathleen Brose
President
Parents Involved in Community Schools

9:47 AM
Joanie said...
Ms. Brose-

Your attorney, in the profile today said that he took the case pro bono. However, the Times now reports that he said he is going to seek over a million dollars in fees. How do you feel about a law firm as big as Davis profiting off of this case, rather than putting that same million dollars into schools? You write that you look forward to the School District putting that money into struggling schools, and that you want all students to have access to a good school. Can you persuade your attorney that making his law firm money off of this case, when he professed that it was a pro bono matter is not the right thing to do? It is really shameful for him to profess that this is pro bono then to try to go after the money that I think you would agree is better spent on improving all schools.

11:20 AM
Anonymous said...
Joanie: Given the fact that you are concerned about the disposition of any attorneys' fees incurred in the case, how do you feel about the no doubt large sums expended by the District for its attorneys' fees in the case? (By the way, the District used non-District, outside attorneys, not its own in-house attorneys.) If anything, the District's payment of such fees is much more alarming (and "shameful", to use your word) given the fact that (1) the District lost the case (despite its attempt to "spin" its loss as a victory for "diversity"), and (2) the District used taxpayers' money (i.e., your money and my money, if you are a Seattle resident) to pursue a losing cause. Perhaps your question is better directed to the District's administrators and to its Board: why did you waste hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a plan that has been deemed discriminatory? (Funds that could have been used to "improve" (again, to use your word) failing schools?) I applaud Ms. Brose and her attorney for doing the right thing, and for achieving a result that will benefit not just Seattle, but the entire nation. (O.K., now everyone can start calling me a "racist.")

3:33 PM
Joanie said...
The District did not file the suit. Ms. Brose and her group did. The District defended itself, and won at every level until yesterday. There is no shame in that.

More importantly, they never publically professed, as Mr. Korrell did this morning, that it was at no cost (i.e. pro bono). The District was upfront that they spent 400,000 over six years. It appears that Mr. Korrell was happy to do this case pro bono, and to brag about it as pro bono up until today.

My point is Mr. Korrell needs to be honest, this is either a pro bono case or a way for his firm to profit. And Ms. Brose ethier needs to stand behind her committment to the idea of putting the money in the schools, or acknowledge that that money is going to a law firm instead. I frankly wonder if this her lawyer trying to profit without her knowing about it.

3:53 PM
Anonymous said...
Joanie: I don't want to belabor this issue, but I do want the people who read this blog to have the correct facts. To wit: you are incorrect in stating that, until the Supreme Court's decision, the District "won at every level." In fact, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the District both in 2002 and 2004. (And, yes, the Ninth Circuit reversed itself in an en banc ruling issued in 2005.) Thus, the District did not "win at every level." (For the convoluted history of the case, please see pages 5 through 7 of the Supreme Court opinion.)
However, beyond the legal history of the case, I find it interesting that you say that the District was just "defending itself" in a suit started by "Ms. Brose and her group." Yes, you are correct: the District tried unsuccessfully to defend what has now been determined by the Supreme Court to be a constitutionally-impermissible discriminatory policy. To state it clearly: the Seattle School District's plan violated the United States Constitution. I respectfully suggest that, instead of attempting to shift the focus to attorneys' fees, you focus on the real problem: according to the Supreme Court (whether you like it or not), the Seattle School District discriminated against its own students in violation of the United States Constitution. That, to provide a civics refresher, is now the law of the land. (Whether [il]liberals and [un]progressives like it or not.) (And however they try to obfuscate the truth by raising red herrings.) From my point of view, Ms. Brose (whom I have never met nor spoken with) has done more than enough to protect our Constitutional rights, and does not need to concern herself with what her attorney does or does not do about his fees. Her family has been the victim of illegal discrimination. Please give some thought to that before you presume to give her directions as to how to exercise her judgment with respect to this non-issue.

6:36 PM
Joanie said...
Anon-

I wish you would identify yourself, even if only by some sort of reference. You miss that the Ninth Circuit withdrew its opinion, and sent the case to the Washington Supreme Court, were the District also prevailed. That to me is winning at every turn.

With respect to discrimination, you are clearly failing to recognize that the Roberts opinion was the majority only in part. No one ruled that Ms. Brose was discriminated against (in fact, I found it interesting that even Roberts did not use her child, he used the example of Jill Kurfirst's child), at the end of the day, the controlling opinion was that diversity is still a compelling government interest, and in some cases (but not this) students still can be individually assigned to schools based on race alone.

Dispite your rhentoric, I think I have asked a legitimate question, which is does Ms. Brose what the money to go to improving all schools as she blogged, or does she want her law firm to profit off of a case that the for years claimed was "pro bono?"

I don't care about what you think regarding the opinion, what I want to know is from Ms. Brose, does she agree with her attorney's decision to have a case be pro bono up until there is a chance to profit, and is she okay with that profit coming at the expense of improving all schools, which she said she wants.

I am still hopeful that Ms. Brose (who has the courage to actually indentify herself) will answer what is a real question for those of us whose children attend the very "struggling" schools that she says she wants the District to spend "all" of its money and time helping.

8:03 PM
classof75 said...
So after the attorney for the parents answers the question Re: should he have to donate his time and earnings to the district,Id like to hear the explanation from the district regarding their decision to spend time and money fighting for the ability to assign students to schools outside their neighborhoods over students who live in those neighborhoods- if it increases racial diversity in the school, rather than take that money and put it into the school of the neighborhood the student was trying to get "out" of.


A timeline of the racial-tiebreaker case

July 2000: Parents Involved in Community Schools sue Seattle Public Schools over the use of a racial tiebreaker to assign some students to high schools.

April 2001: U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein of Seattle upholds the tiebreaker, saying it counteracts the city's segregated neighborhoods and does not violate voter-approved Initiative 200, which eliminated the use of race for college admissions, public employment and contracting.

April 2002: A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rules 3-0 that the tiebreaker violates the state's I-200. Ballard High Principal David Engle resigns to protest the decision, saying it will resegregate his school.

June 2002: The federal appeals court withdraws its earlier ruling and says the Washington State Supreme Court should answer the I-200 question. Although the federal court's injunction against the tiebreaker is lifted, the school district decides to suspend its use until legal questions are resolved.

June 2003: The state Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, says assigning students on the basis of race does not violate I-200's prohibition on racial preference, because it affects students of all races in a similar manner. The constitutional question goes back to the federal appeals court.

July 2004: A 9th Circuit panel again rejects the tiebreaker, this time in a 2-1 decision, saying it violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

October 2005: The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the tiebreaker after an appeal by the district.

June 2006: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the Seattle case.

December 2006: The U.S. Supreme Court hears Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, along with a similar case involving the Louisville, Ky., school system.

Thursday: In a 5-4 ruling, the court strikes down both districts' integration plans.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times

11:58 PM
Kathleen Brose said...
Dear Joanie:

First of all, I am not a lawyer.

Attorneys take on cases, pro bono, knowing that if they win, they can collect their fees and costs at the end of the lawsuit. If they lose, they don't get anything.
They take the risk.
The District knew this when we started the lawsuit. PICS, the non-profit organization, asked for no money whatsoever if we won. The PICS officers volunteered all their time and services over 7 years. We ony wanted the District to stop using the racial tiebreaker permanently.

I'm not in the insurance business either, but I imagine that the District has an insurance policy for lawsuits, just like we have car and home insurance. Maybe their rates will go up now.

Have you thought about the costs that parents have incurred during 25 years of forced busing in the Seattle School District? Private school costs and moving costs are in the millions. Can you put a price tag on the emotional costs of the students and their parents? How about all the lost hours that kids spent on buses, or the amount of polution those buses put in our air. These parents are not asking for reimbursement for their costs over the years, even though their children's civil rights were violated.

Here are some answers to your questions.
There were 2 plaintiffs named in the briefs who lived closer to Ballard than my family. They were affected by the racial tiebreaker only. My family was affected by both the racial and distance tiebreakers. However, if my daughter had been labeled non-white, she would have been assigned to Ballard, her first choice high school, instead of her 4th choice school. I was elected as the President of PICS and became their spokesperson, even though my daughter is not a named plaintiff in the briefs. Never-the-less, my daughter was discriminated against.

We did not go into this lawsuit lightly. We begged the school district to drop the use of the racial tiebreaker. We went through mediation with Judge Dwyer. The majority of the existing school board, in June of 2000, said no to our pleas, so we sued.

We teach our children that there are repercussions to their actions.

Think of all the private tutoring hours the District could have purchased with all the money they spent on the lawsuit. Those hours could have helped thousands of students to pass the WASL's.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Brose
President
Parents Involved in Community Schools

2:01 AM
Anonymous said...
I am not a lawyer either but here is the definition of pro bono: "a Latin term meaning "for the good"; used to describe a lawyers services that are provided free of charge"

I don't see how something can both be pro bono and for profit.

I am sorry, you can't have it both ways: pro bono or for profit. If the law firm wants to make a profit off of this case, that is thier right, but they should not at the same time keep saying that it was pro bono. And you in turn have to either agree that money should be put into the struggling schools (or speny on tutors, or other things that benifit kids) or stop saying that and acknowledge that a lot of money will go to a large firm that was happy to do the work free of charge the whole way until they saw a chance to profit.

6:43 AM
Anonymous said...
SPS has no insurance coverage from claims up to a million dollars. So if the law firm wants a million or more, at least a million will come from the district, not an insurance company.

6:44 AM
Anonymous said...
Kathleen do you mean pro-bono or on contingency. We used a lawer once for a personal injury case and they took in "on contingency". Which meant we pay nothing, unless we win. They felt the case strong enough to take it on. If they had lost, they would have been paid 0. We won and paid 40% of our winnings.

That is contingency, not pro-bono as far as I know.

7:12 AM
Pro Bono???? said...
Several cites for those that want more information:

Davis Wright Tremaine's, a multi-national law firm started in 1908, Managing Partner is David Baca of Portland:
http://www.dwt.com/lawdir/attorneys/BacaDavid.cfm

and his email address is:

davebaca@dwt.com

Davis Wright's media contact:

Media Contact: Barrie K. Handy, Firmwide Communications Manager
barriehandy@dwt.com


The Davis Wright Diversity Report makes for interesting reading in contrast to the WA Legal Foundation's politics:

http://www.dwt.com/recruit1/intro/2005_DiversityReport.pdf

From Thompson-West definition of Pro Bono:

Law Encyclopedia



Home > Library > Legal > Law Encyclopedia This entry contains information applicable to United States law only.
Pro Bono

Short for pro bono publico [Latin, For the public good ]. The designation given to the free legal work done by an attorney for indigent clients and religious, charitable, and other nonprofit entities.

As members of a profession, lawyers are bound by their ethical rules to charge reasonable rates for their services and to serve the public interest by providing free legal service to indigent persons or to religious, charitable, or other nonprofit groups. A lawyer's free legal service to these types of clients is designated as pro bono service.

Lawyers have always donated a portion of their time to pro bono work, but in the United States the demand for legal services from people who cannot afford to hire an attorney has grown since the 1960s. Lawyers previously donated time on an ad hoc basis. The establishment of legal aid organizations to serve indigent persons in the 1960s changed the way attorneys obtained pro bono work. Legal aid attorneys, who were unable to satisfy all the legal needs of poor people, created programs to recruit private attorneys willing to donate some of their time. These programs recruit attorneys and then train them to handle common types of cases.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has become a national leader in the effort to enhance pro bono legal services. The ABA Center for Pro Bono assists ABA members and the legal community in developing and supporting effective pro bono legal services in civil matters as part of the profession's effort to ensure access to legal representation and the justice system. The center helps create, design, and implement pro bono programs. It sponsors an annual conference for bar leaders, pro bono program managers, legal service staff, and others involved in the delivery of pro bono legal services to poor people.

State and local bar associations also assist in the creation and maintenance of pro bono programs. Despite these efforts, the need for legal services outstrips the pro bono services provided. State court systems have explored ways to get more lawyers involved in donating their time and skills. In Minnesota, for example, the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers state, "A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year" (rule 6.1).

Davis Wright's 2005 Pro Bono Report - truly impressive - http://www.dwt.com/pro_bono/2005_ProBonoReport.pdf - Mr. Korrell is listed as a Pro Bono participant but no mention of this suit.

Davis Wright's Press Release and Mr. Korrell's Email address: Note: words "Pro Bono" are not referenced in this press release. . . . .


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2007

Davis Wright Tremaine Partner Wins at Supreme Court

Decision Favors Parents in School Discrimination Case

SEATTLE, WASH., JUNE 28, 2007—National law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (DWT) secured another win at the U.S. Supreme Court today as the justices ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Parents Involved in Community Schools (“Parents”) v. Seattle School District.

Since the initial suit was filed in 2000, a team of DWT attorneys, led by partner Harry Korrell of the firm’s Seattle office, represented Parents through seven years of litigation that included arguments in the federal trial and appellate courts (including three arguments to the Ninth Circuit, one en banc), the Washington State Supreme Court, and in December of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today’s landmark decision adopted Parents’ argument that the government’s desire for a particular racial balance does not justify race discrimination and that a local school board cannot assign students to public schools based on their race, absent the need to remedy past discrimination by that school board.

“This case was about protecting all children - regardless of skin color - from race discrimination,” said lead attorney Harry Korrell. “The parents are very pleased with the Court’s decision. Despite all the attention this case has received, it has often been overlooked that Seattle’s race preference denied minority children, as well as white children, admission to their chosen schools and that the parent association includes both white and minority families.” According to Korrell, “the Court adopted the Parents’ argument that absent the need to remedy past discrimination, the government should not be allowed to make school admissions decisions about people based on their membership in a racial class. The Supreme Court today affirmed this bedrock principle of our republic and requires school officials to stop defining students by their skin color. School districts around the country should now focus on improving how and what they teach all children.”

In addition to today’s win, DWT's appellate group recently garnered wide acclaim for successfully arguing and winning two landmark Supreme Court cases in the 2003-04 Term. Firm partner Jeff Fisher argued and won in both Crawford v. Washington and Blakely v. Washington. In addition, DWT lawyers have recently represented clients — parties and amici curiae — in numerous matters before the U.S. Supreme Court, including in Deborah Morse, et al. v. Joseph Frederick, 2007 WL 1804317 (2007); John Cunningham v. The State of California, 127 S. Ct. 856 (2007); Salim Ahmed Hamdan v. Donald H. Rumsfeld, et al., 126 S.CT. 2749 (2006); US v. Cuauhtemoc Gonzalez-Lopez, 126 S. Ct. 2557 (2006); Adrian Martell Davis v. Washington, 126 S. Ct. 2266 (2006), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster Ltd., 125 S. Ct. 2764 (2006). Click here for more information on DWT’s appellate practice.


About Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is a national business and litigation law firm with more than 480 attorneys in nine offices: Seattle and Bellevue (Wash.), Portland (Ore.), Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Anchorage (Alaska) and Shanghai, China.

For the text of the Court’s decision visit www.supremecourtus.gov.

# # #

CONTACT:
Harry Korrell
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine
(206) 757-8080, harrykorrell@dwt.com


Pro Bono can be written off as a charitable contribution as PICS is apparently a 501(c)(3)

The Tax Group's managers appear to be: dirkgiseburt@dwt.com and garryfujita@dwt.com

7:59 AM
Joanie said...
Wow! I wonder if they have taking the tax benifit for all of this time. And to think that Mr. Korrell is still calling it pro bono, though he says that pro bono now means pro bono but we get paid.

8:12 AM
Anonymous said...
"Pro Bono????"

Got me curious. On Davis's "Recruiting Page" - where they have ironically have this statement diversity "At DWT, we believe that increasing the diversity of our attorneys and staff is central to DWT's ability to fulfill its commitments to its clients and the community. In short, diversity is critical to DWT's long-term success." - They have the a Pro Bono Report that talks about the PICS case being one of thier pro bono projects (page 8). http://www.dwt.com/pro_bono/2005_ProBonoReport.pdf

8:19 AM
Anonymous said...
Joanie: Please, for the sake of accuracy, do not try to "spin" the Supreme Court's opinion as a "win" for the District. If the District "won", then why have the usual [il]liberal suspects been knashing their teeth and wailing for the past 3 days? If the District "won", then why did Justice Breyer file a voluminous dissent? Deal with it: the District discriminated against its own students in violation of the Constitution. (Just as the school districts did in Brown v. Board of Education, by the way.)
I never said that there was a ruling that Ms. Brose was discriminated against. I said that "her family was the victim of illegal discrimination," which is certainly true: her children were illegally denied access to the schools of their choice based upon the color of their skin. (Again, it sure sounds like Brown v. Board of Education doesn't it?)
Finally, for the benefit of accuracy, please do not misstate the Supreme Court's holding: the majority of the Court (which includes Justice Kennedy) held that the District's plan is unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy joined in the result. Please read what Justice Kennedy said in his concurring opinion ("concurring" means that he agrees with the other 4 Justices, by the way): "To make race matter now so that it might not matter later may entrench the very prejudices we seek to overcome. In my view the state-mandated racial classifications at issue, official labels proclaiming the race of all persons in a broad class of citizens - elementary school students in one case, high school students in another - are unconstitutional as the cases now come before us." (Concurring Opinion, pages 1 and 2.) Please stop the Orwellian spin: the District lost!
As to the current obsession in the posts regarding Davis Wright Tremaine's fees, it is a classic example of [il]liberal cognitive dissonance at work: unable and unwilling to accept a reality or truth that conflicts with what they believe to be the "truth," they change the subject. (By the way, I have no connection whatsoever with Davis Wright Tremaine or Ms. Brose.)

8:36 AM
Anonymous said...
Wow. A lot of rage aimed at the wrong source. I think that Joanie was asking legitmate questions of Ms. Brose, given her first posting in this thread.

And, as to the fee issue, clearly, other people are asking the same questions because both newpapers in town wrote stories about it today (ironically, the Times is one of Davis's clients).

I happen to agree with Justice Breyer, the decision is one that "the court and the nation will come to regret."

One of the best things about this blog is when people use it for honest discussion of issues. You and I have different view points, but I wish you would do more than type about how you feel about "liberals."

I also think it is "spin" for you to keep saying over and over againt that the District was "illegally discriminating."

Up until Thursday, the Seattle was doing what the Courts and the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights have ordered districts to do for 50 years. The law changed because the composition of the court changed.

"Yesterday, the plans under review were lawful. Today they are not. Yesterday, the citizens of this nation could look for guidance to this court's unanimous pronouncements concerning desegregation. Today, they cannot. Yesterday, school boards had available to them a full range of means to combat segregated schools. Today, they do not."


Ann

11:56 AM
* * *

Anonymous said...
Apparently "Contingent Fee" and "Pro Bono" mean the same thing at Davis Wright Tremaine.

Pro bono means "for free", but apparently not for DWT. Apparently, it's the tax payers and the kids who need to pay for DWT's rent on the top how ever many floors of the Century Square Building downtown.

9:09 PM
Melissa Westbrook said...
To be fair, perhaps the law firm will be using the money to continue to do pro bono work. However, if, as Ms. Brose states in a PI article that she and her group knew all along the firm was going to ask for the money if they won and so did the law firm, it might have been nice to be public about it. I'm sure the District considered that this might occur. You'll note the District has not said they "lost" - rather that the case was decided against them.

I believe a judge will decide if the outcome of the case will cause the District to have to pay up or the District may be able to make the case that the basic premise of their case - that districts can use race as part of their arsenal to create equity - was won by them and thus, they didn't "lose".

I have to say, as a closet lawyer, I have enjoyed the spirited legal discussion here.

2:04 PM
Anonymous said...
As a large law firm lawyer (not DWT, but a firm of similar size), I hate to burst the bubble, but the money will not go to do more pro bono work.

It will be reported as part of Mr. Korrell's contribution to the partnership, and then will be distributed among the partners as income. It will certainly increase the money Mr. Korrell will take home, as it will boost his profit share, which I understand was down after the Republican party stiffed him on fees in Rossi govenor case.

As someone above noted, all large law firms are challenged by the ABA do contribute 3% of the firms time to pro bono matters, and that is true "for free" work, not contigency fee work, which is what DWT is turning this case into. DWT will continue to do pro bono work to meet the ABA challenge regardless of if they make a profit on this case. Pro bono work is supposed to be financed by for profit work, and done for the good of the cause. And, DWT is a very proiftable firm, who is soon to be recieving a large share of the 4 billion dollar Exxon settlement.

I have to agree with the quote from the school district's attorney, there is nothing "for the public good" about recovering fees from the public school system, even though it is perfectly lawful for DWT to try to get those fees.

I would hope that the rest of the firm can convince Mr. Korrell that winning the case itself, and all of the press he got related to it - including a prfoile in the Times - is victory enough, and that the better course of valor is to leave the public's money in the public's school system.

3:43 PM
Anonymous said...
Ah, the hieght of hypocrisy:

Davis Wright Tremaine is listed as a sponsor of Seattle School District Alliance for Education and contributed between $5000 and $9999 according to the 2006 Annual Report. So it is apparent that Davis Wright Tremaine believes that as a corporate citizen they should be supporting the Seattle School District. Odd that they now want to take the money back (along with at least another $990,000) to boost the firm's bottom line.

3:04 PM

Anonymous said...

Considering the amount of money that is wasted by this district every year in defending poor practices and teachers, considering the amount of money they just wasted on installing a math program that most of the country has already rejected as failing, I find the 1.8 million in attorneys fees to be a drop in the bucket.

The district was finally held accountable for a bad decision, and they should have to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Honestly folks: The best way to apply pressure to DWT is to apply it to them directly. They do need to worry about how they look, and as it is, pursuing this fee petition directly takes money from the children in Seattle Public
Schools and gives it to Davis Wright and Tremaine. I don't know if sufficient pressure will get them to leave it in the SPS, but it might get them to donate the fees back to the Alliance for Education or some other organization that benefits SPS.

Davis will want to defend the principle that they have a right to be paid for their work (folks do have a right to pursue fees in pro bono cases, and not-for-profit law groups, like legal services foundation do so because it allows them to live to fight another day). But, with sufficient pressure, it should be possible to get Davis to donate the money.

Write a letter to the managing partner, and ask them not to ask for the money from SPS, and if they can't bear that, to ask for them to donate their fees.

David C. Baca, Firmwide Managing Partner, Davis Wright and Tremaine
http://www.dwt.com/lawdir/attorneys/BacaDavid.cfm

and, the partner in charge of the SPS case: Harry Korrell

http://www.dwt.com/lawdir/attorneys/KorrellHarry.cfm

Regarding PICS -- will PICS as an entity receive any compensation as a result of this case?

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous at 7:02

"The district was finally held accountable for a bad decision, and they should have to pay for it."

Even if you believe this (which I don't -- I think they made a decision, which ended up failing in a divided and changing supreme court), should the children of SPS have to pay for it? 'cause they're the ones who are going to pay.

In fact, Anonymousness's reason is why firms do pursue legal fees, at times when the public finds it offensive, to make sure that entities fighting them include the cost of litigation in making their legal decision. That's a reason to push DWT to donate the money back to the children of SPS, rather than pushing them not to claim fees to which they are legally entitled. But, if DWT is pressured to make this promise, someone has to keep an eye on them to make sure they do it.

BTW, 2 M in legal fees could mean 50K or so in the pockets of the partners.

Anonymous said...

PICS will not receive a dime from any settlement. The parents sued the District to stop discrimination. They were not in it for money. They do not want any other student in the District to ever be told again that they can't attend a particular school because they have the wrong skin color.

Anonymous said...

Anon above:

Okay, so why should DWT take the money given that PICS alone has the right to seek it, of you say PICS "were not in it for money?"

Anonymous said...

They won the case and deserve to be paid, just like you and I deserve a paycheck for working. They also are legally entitled to be paid.

Please don't forget----The District violated the civil rights of its students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the District (as well as any other district in the country) CAN use race in their assignment plans. It is being used as we speak. The only thing this case determined is whether the specific plans in Louisville/Seattle used race properly. The Court ruled they didn't but the door has been left wide open for race to be part of an assignment plan (via the minority and Justice Kennedy's opinion).

The last post said:

"Please don't forget----The District violated the civil rights of its students."

In the letter of the ruling, yes. But the District was NOT, at the time they enacted this plan, willfully violating any law. And, again, race is used and likely will be continued to be used in assignment plans in K-college until there is a Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to do so.

Do I think the District will try it again? Likely not but they are legally able to should they want to try again.

Cara said...

"They won the case and deserve to be paid, just like you and I deserve a paycheck for working."

Then PICS can pay them. After all, under the Amercian system, you are almost always obligated to pay your own attorneys.

Do you work for DWT or not care about the money that will be taken out of SPS for this?

Anonymous said...

Obviously, from your postings, you are comfortable with the District discriminating against its students, because of their interpretation of the 14th amendment.

I hope you never know how it feels when your child is told they cannot attend a school because they have the wrong skin color. Thanks to the efforts of PICS, you won't.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I am not comfortable with discrimination. But at the time, the District was not legally discriminating. If you perceive that using race, in any manner, for the assignment plan is discrimination,then you would believe they were. And no one was told they could not attend a school because of their skin color. They were told there was a plan in place to create diversity, that they could attend other schools or be on the waitlist for that school.

And once again, all the PICS got from this court case was this particular use of race in this particular assignment plan thrown out. Race CAN be used and is being used throughout the country. I'm not sure why this is hard to grasp but it is indeed the final outcome of this case.

From past postings (on other topics), it does seem that many people value their students being able to attend their closest high school over diversity. If that is the desire of the majority of parents who communicate this to the Board (via their votes) and to the Superintendent (via communication), then that is what will bear out.

Anonymous said...

Melissa:

I know you mean well, but you have your head in the sand. The racial tiebreaker was about denying students access to a school because of their skin color;just like Louise Brown in Brown vs. the Board of Education.

Indeed, parents have spoken with their feet. They fled to private schools when their children were denied access to their neighborhood high school. Forced busing didn't solve anything. If anything, it broke up the relationship between parents and their neighborhood school.

This busing experiment lasted almost 25 years in Seattle. It didn't improve our schools. Let parents decide where to send their children to school.

The neighborhoods in Seattle are becoming more diverse all on their own, slowly but surely. The genie is out of the bottle, and people are renting or buying homes where they want to or are able to.

Cara said...

Anon above-
First of, talk about getting your head out of the sand, put a name to your postings.

Second, the PICS group could care less about diversity. This case is and has always been about getting a Mag/QA high school and in the absence, access to Ballard. If you think it was about anything else, you clearly have not followed the posting of Ms. Brose.