After being denied housing following a flawed background check, a homeless client came to our Second Chance Legal Clinic at the West Bay Community Center. The background report was extremely prejudicial, listing pages of court reference or document numbers with no identifying information or any indication that these court records were at all relevant to the client; most of them were not. In fact, numerous entries even listed a different name. The report reflected several violations of state and federal law, and an overall lack of concern for accuracy or fairness on the part of the background check company.
Lawyers’ Committee Second Chance Legal Clinic staff members were grateful to find a partner on this case in a nationally recognized law firm located in San Francisco that focuses on class action and patent litigation. Although the firm has only seven attorneys, its named partner and an associate immediately stepped up to the challenge, filing a complaint on the client’s behalf and spending over two hundred hours litigating the case. They eventually reached a settlement with the background check company, giving the client a newfound feeling of financial stability. The lawyers were pleased to have achieved such a positive outcome for the client, and generously decided to donate their attorney’s fees of $45,000 to the Lawyers’ Committee. The firm has asked not to be identified, to comply with a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement.
“We applaud these attorneys for their work, and the critical difference this victory has made for the client, who will finally be able to access stable housing and pursue his dream of starting a handyman business,” said Meredith Desautels, Lawyers’ Committee Staff Attorney and supervisor of the Second Chance Legal Clinic.
“This case really demonstrates the significant difference pro bono counsel can make,” says Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director. “Access to high quality legal counsel can create pathways of opportunity for our low-income clients. The exemplary work by this small law firm—which we wish we could recognize more publicly—and the firm’s generosity in donating fees enables us to continue defending the civil rights of underserved and disenfranchised clients who come to our clinics for legal services. And, for that, we are most appreciative.”