Week of October 1, 2007

"We do not find it self-evident a law firm's commendable willingness to provide its services on a pro bono basis to low income clients should necessarily justify a diminishment in the fee award when that pro bono representation proves successful."

Justice Earl Johnson, Jr.
Cruz v. Ayromloo (Oct. 3, 2007, B190959)
p. 9

Comment: The opinion makes it very clear that if the respondents had appealed the trial court's ruling that the fee award should be reduced because the respondents' counsel had agreed to represent them pro bono, the Court of Appeal would have reversed that ruling. In two lengthy footnotes that contain a multitude of citations Justice Johnson explains that pro bono representation should neither prevent nor reduce a fee award. It may be that the Justice, who retired two weeks later, wanted to do as much as he could to encourage future pro bono work before he left the bench. The successful respondents in this action were thirty-two tenants who were evacuated by the City of Los Angeles because the building they were living in was unsafe, and were then illegally evicted when the landlord refused to let them move back in. Their case highlights the need for pro bono representation.