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Monday, September 17, 2007

"Ethics Discussion" on Pro Bono in Times Article

The latest salvos in the on-going issue of Davis Wright Tremaine collecting "pro bono" fees for the racial tiebreaker case against SPS were in this article published in today's Times'. A couple of interesting statements:

- "If a judge agrees to award the fees, Seattle Public Schools officials don't know whether the district's insurance will cover the amount; the district is self-insured up to $1 million. The rest would come out of either an insurance pool spread among several school districts or the district's own $490 million general-fund budget."

I had been under the impression that the District was liable for all of the amount. If insurance covers $1M that would help.

-"Anticipating backlash, Davis Wright Tremaine cited the Georgetown University-based Pro Bono Institute. According to that organization's Web site, collecting fees in pro bono cases is fine, but attorneys should donate the money, for example, to charity."
And later in the article,
"Davis Wright Tremaine spokesman Mark Usellis said the firm hasn't decided whether to donate money it may collect in the Seattle case."

Interesting that DWT would cite one source and then say they might not follow what that source advises.

-DWT says that many civil rights groups are left-leaning and disagree with the outcome of the case and therefore, they disagree with DWT getting paid. But then there was this:

"American Lawyer magazine, which publishes an annual ranking of firms based partly on the amount of time they spend on pro bono work, doesn't consider work pro bono if attorneys get paid. Davis Wright Tremaine was No. 72 out of 200 firms in this year's American Lawyer ranking.

"Our position is that if fees are granted in a pro bono case, that those fees should be moved along to a charitable organization," said executive editor David Brown. "It can't go into their pockets, because that's not pro bono." "

I doubt if American Lawyer magazine is left-leaning. It seems the magazine's position on pro bono is pretty clear.

And the last word from plaintiff Kathleen Brose,

"Kathleen Brose, president of Parents Involved in Community Schools, agreed.

"It sends a message to the school district that, if they're going to violate their students' civil rights, there are repercussions to their actions," she said. "The school district got themselves in this pickle." "

She's right. If there are no consequences, entities, both private and public, can do as they please. However, the other side of the coin is that is public entities back off of policies the minute someone says "lawsuit", then those entities might never change or work to right past wrongs.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Self-insured is a fancy way of saying that the District pays the first million no matter what. This is a civil rights case, insurance will not cover any of this, because insurance is only for things like accidents.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, Ms. Brose is wrong.

"It sends a message to the school district that, if they're going to violate their students' civil rights, there are repercussions to their actions," she said. "The school district got themselves in this pickle."

No one has ever concluded that the District violated a single student's civil rights. The court just ruled that the tie-breaker system was not narrowly tailored enough.

And, given that the District was follow 50+ years of case law, and the only reason that the case went against the District was the retirement of Justice O'Connor, this is not a case in which punishing the students of Seattle will "teach" other goverment actors to not do anything.

Anonymous said...

Annie - Your argument reminds me of the story "The Emperor's New Clothes".

You cannot cloak discrimination no matter how hard you try.

You don't know how Justice O'Connor might have ruled in this case.

Anonymous said...

Anon-

If you talk to anyone who knows this field at all, they will tell you that Annie is exactly right.

The Court didn't take the Lynn case (which presented the same issue) when Justice O'Connor was on the bench, and didn't take the PICS case when Justice O'Connor was on the bench. It was only after she retired and the composition of the court changed that the PICS case was accepted.

I think the real point is that the SSD was doing what years of case law and US Dept of Ed orders told them to do, which undercuts DWT's arguement of fees as punishment to desuade future action by others.

The real point is that DWT is doing something very slimy, and hopefully after the light has been shown on it, they will make a better decision.

Anonymous said...

Law firm minion and Annie are correct. A read of the entire Supreme Court ruling shows that a majority support Brown v Bd. of Ed. and did not want to dismantle it, nor did they think they were doing so. Rather, they thought they were clarifying Brown so that school districts couldn't throw together any kind of integration plan. Remember, this ruling was speaking to the country, not simply Seattle and Louisville. The narrowly-tailored rule that the Supreme Court put in place for higher ed exists in some fashion now for K-12.

It is also laughable, in a ghastly way, to hear Mrs. Brose talk about civil rights as she remains cloistered in one of the most segregated neighborhoods in the city. If she at least once acknowledge the legacy of discrimination that has led to the poorly-resourced schools in the South End, I think I might actually consider her point. Alas, not.

Anonymous said...

Still confused and,

Still waiting for answers from Governor Gary Locke, the Education Governor and partner at DWT.

Thougt the Times story was weak.

How PICS can do this under a 501(c)(3) tax designation? Political activities hugely verboten.

Whether PICS or DWT will share their fee agreement (and any changes) and/or minutes of their non-profit organization with the rest of us?

Whether DWT will put the "Pro Bono" donation in writing?

Whether the Alliance will step forward and ask for this fee application or recovery from DWT as a donation?

Why the fee application is before the 9th Circuit instead of the local Judges where we can all go down to the beautiful new courthouse at 7th and Stewart and see democracy in action?

Whether anyone has requested oral argument before the 9th Circuit and it is being scheduled here in Seattle so we can go watch.


The Case No. under 9th Circuit Website on Pacer - http://pacer.ca9.uscourts.gov/ -
US Govt's website
is: Court of Appeals Docket #: 01-35450 Filed: 5/14/01
Case Summary
Court of Appeals Docket #: 01-35450 Filed: 5/14/01
Nsuit: 3440 Other civil rights (Fed)
Parents Involved, et al v. Seattle School Dist, et al
Appeal from: Western District of Washington (Seattle)

Couldn't get the docket to print up the actual scanned electronically filed documents like it does in the local system??? How come?

Can someone help plase - law firm minion, leah, court watcher?

But here is the docket printout recently cut and pasted below:

8/14/07 Filed Parents Involved's request for clarification as to
when a cost bill and/or mtn for attys fees may be filed ;
served on 8/14/07 EN BANC PANEL [01-35450] (crw)

8/21/07 Received Michael Madden for aples letter dated 8/17/07 re:
response to aplts ltr dated 8/14/07. FEDEX TO PANEL
[01-35450] (crw)

8/22/07 Order filed: This case was remanded to us from the USSC.
See Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School
District No. 1, 127 S.Ct. 2738 (2007). In light of the
Supreme Court's decision, we VACATE our opinion in Parents
Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District
No.1, 426 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2005) (enbanc) and REMAND to
the district court for further proceedings. ( Terminated
on the Merits after Oral Hearing; Remanded; Written,
Signed, Published. Heard en banc; Mary M. SCHROEDER,
Harry PREGERSON, Alex KOZINSKI, Andrew J. KLEINFELD,
Michael D. HAWKINS, William A. FLETCHER, Raymond C.
FISHER, Richard C. TALLMAN, Johnnie B. RAWLINSON,
CONSUELO M. CALLAHAN, Carlos T. BEA ) [01-35450] (crw)

9/5/07 Filed order (Deputy Clerk: mcd) The due dates for filing a
cost bill and mtn for atty's fees are respectively, 14 days
and 28 days of entry of the 9th Circuit's judgment. FAXED
[01-35450] (gar)

9/5/07 Filed Appellant Parents Involved bill of costs for $4950.15
, served on 9/5/07 [01-35450] (crw)

9/5/07 Filed Appellant Parents Involved's motion to for attys fees
in the amount of $1,704,816.00 served on 9/5/07 [6280614]
[01-35450] (crw)

9/13/07 MANDATE ISSUED costs taxed against aples Seattle School
Dist for $2482.10 [01-35450] (crw)

9/17/07 Filed Appellee Nancy Waldman, Appellee Michael Preston,
Appellee Jan Kumasaka, Appellee Steven . Brown, Appellee
Donald Neilson, Appellee Barbara Schaad-Lamphere, Appellee
Joseph Olchefske, Appellee Seattle School Dist response
opposing appellant's motion for attorneys' fees [6280614-1]
served on 9/12/07 (PANEL) [01-35450] (bb)

Anonymous said...

There is no transfer right unless the school recieves Title I funding. Summit K-12 is the only school in the District that has a high school program that is Title I and is in School Improvement. I don't think Summit actually would be in AYP if you only looked a 9-12, but OSPI lumps together a whole school.