Pro Bono Spotlight

Each quarter, Inner City Law Center’s Pro Bono Spotlight recognizes the dedicated attorneys who volunteer their time to ICLC to help create safe and affordable housing, help homeless veterans get off the streets, and prevent families from being evicted into homelessness. Pro bono assistance is critical to serving ICLC’s clients and fulfilling its mission. In 2015, more than 420 pro bono attorneys, paralegals, law students, and other professionals volunteered their time and talent to make a difference. The value of these free legal services is conservatively estimated at over $14 million.

 

  • April 2015 – Sharre Lotfollahi, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP
  • September 2015 – Holley Horrell, formerly an associate at Irell & Manella LLP
  • December 2015 – Trevor Stutz, associate at Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC
  • April 2016 – Colin McGrath and Molly Wyler, associates at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

April 2015

Sharre Lotfollahi, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Los Angeles Office.

Sharre LotfollahiIn 2013, Sharre and a group of attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis, including Chris Lawless, Ben Yaghoubian, Colin Michel, Graham Cole, Michael Eshaghian, and Patrick Park, joined ICLC as co-counsel on a large slum housing case involving nearly 120 low-income plaintiffs who suffered under atrocious conditions in the apartment building they called home. After filing suit against two sets of landlords and a total of five defendants, Sharre led the team in gracefully defeating various defense tactics, including demurrers and attempts to delay trial, while continuing to pound the defense with necessary discovery.

Beyond her legal experience and skill, Sharre’s warmth and kindness have been a huge asset to our case. Sharre sacrificed countless nights and weekends in order to meet with clients for hours on end, enabling our clients to share intimate and painful experiences during their grueling and contentious depositions. As a result of Sharre’s hard work and dedication, over twenty plaintiffs gave vivid and detailed deposition testimony that made opposing counsel visibly uncomfortable and gutted affirmative defenses. ICLC will miss working with Sharre when this case is over, as her energy and commitment to our clients is inspiring.

Inner City Law Center’s Pro Bono Spotlight recognizes the dedicated attorneys who volunteer their time to ICLC to help create safe and affordable housing, help homeless veterans get off the streets, and prevent families from being evicted into homelessness. Pro bono assistance is critical to serving ICLC’s clients and fulfilling its mission. In 2015, more than 400 pro bono attorneys, paralegals, law students, and other professionals volunteered their time and talent to make a difference. The value of these free legal services is conservatively estimated at over $10 million.


September 2015

Holley HorrellHolley Horrell, formerly an associate at Irell & Manella’s Los Angeles office, for her pro bono work.

Holley has been a tremendous pro bono partner to ICLC’s Homeless Veterans Project. In the last year alone, Holley has represented three veteran clients and advocated on their behalf in discharge upgrade and benefits cases. In these matters, Holley has worked tirelessly to build relationships with our homeless veteran clients, gathered facts and evidence surrounding the mental and physical trauma suffered by the clients, drafted briefs supporting our clients’ rights to discharge upgrades and benefits, and helped them obtain the benefits that they are owed due to their time in service.

Most recently, Holley represented a client who served in the U.S. Army for close to two years. During the client’s deployment to Iraq, she was written up for a “pattern of misconduct” and ultimately discharged with a less-than-honorable status. The client’s low discharge status meant she was ineligible for certain benefits and ashamed of her military record. Holley flew to Washington, D.C. to appear in front of the Army Discharge Review Board and argued that the client’s discharge was inequitable in light of the severe mental health conditions with which the client was visibly struggling at the time of the “misconduct” that led to her discharge, including PTSD, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder. Holley also argued that these conditions were linked to the sexual harassment and attempted sexual assault the client faced in service. The Board concluded that the discharge characterization was too harsh and inequitable in light of circumstances surrounding the discharge. Thanks to Holley’s advocacy, the client now has the opportunity and means to take steps to further her education and live a healthy and stable life, and the client takes pride in her honorable service record. ICLC appreciates all of Holley’s work with our veteran clients and her dedication and compassion to our cause.


December 2015

Trevor StutzTrevor Stutz, associate at Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC.

Trevor spent much of 2015 representing a client in ICLC’s HIV/AIDS Project who was facing eviction. Trevor may not have known the long-term commitment he was signing up for when he agreed to take on an eviction case pro bono, but he certainly rose to the challenge.

Trevor represented Mr. Nuñez (name has been changed), an HIV positive man who until this case, lived quietly and peacefully in his apartment with his beloved emotional support animal. Mr. Nuñez was referred to the HIV/AIDS team at ICLC when his landlord told him that she wanted him to leave his rent-controlled apartment. When Mr. Nuñez asserted his right to stay, his landlord filed an unlawful detainer against him. Trevor agreed to represent Mr. Nuñez in this unlawful detainer, filed in February 2015.

Over the next eight months, Trevor tirelessly defended Mr. Nuñez’s right to stay in his unit over the course of two separate unlawful detainers. After the Plaintiff included a long series of untrue, harassing, and irrelevant allegations in her Complaint, Trevor drafted and argued a motion to strike that was granted in its entirety. Later, when the Plaintiff attempted to subpoena Mr. Nuñez’s private medical records from his medical provider, Trevor won a motion to quash that quashed the subpoena and awarded $3,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Trevor developed a strong relationship with Mr. Nuñez and was constantly in contact with him throughout this saga. Trevor understood that Mr. Nuñez, who has severe anxiety, needed regular updates and reassurances about his case in order to help control his anxiety. We are happy to report that the second unlawful detainer was finally dismissed in October 2015. Thanks to Trevor, Mr. Nuñez has been able to return to a peaceful life in his apartment.


April 2016

Colin McGrathMolly WynerColin McGrath and Molly Wyler, associates at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP’s Los Angeles office.

Maria Flores (not her real name) had lived in a rent-controlled apartment for more than five years when a new landlord purchased the building. The new owner wanted the existing tenants to move out so that he could raise the rents. But the building was governed by the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which requires a landlord to have just cause to evict a tenant. Despite these legal protections, the landlord succeeded in removing Ms. Flores’ neighbors from the building. Their units were remodeled and rented for twice the amount that Ms. Flores was paying.

The landlord then set his sights on Ms. Flores’ unit. After Ms. Flores refused to leave voluntarily, the landlord served her with a notice to cure or quit. He alleged that she had breached the lease by having a dog in the apartment, installing an air conditioning unit in the window, and changing the locks to the apartment without giving him a key. Ms. Flores had permission from the previous landlord to have a dog in her apartment since 2013, and her current landlord was well aware of this fact. The locks had been changed because of a previous break-in; again, it was done with permission from the previous landlord. Nevertheless, within three days of receiving notice from her landlord, Ms. Flores had removed the air conditioning unit from her window and given the landlord a key to her apartment.

This did not dissuade the landlord, who moved forward with an eviction action. Ms. Flores came to ICLC because she was concerned that if she was evicted, she would be unable to find affordable housing and might end up homeless.

Colin, Molly, and their colleagues from Manatt, including John Libby and Rolando Lopez, stepped up to take on Ms. Flores’ case pro bono. The Manatt team quickly jumped into the case and began fighting the eviction. They served discovery requests, set depositions, and conducted interviews. Manatt’s persistence and hard work paid off. The landlord agreed to pay Ms. Flores $20,000 in relocation costs, enough to ensure that she could afford housing elsewhere. ICLC thanks team Manatt for helping individuals like Ms. Flores avoid homelessness and obtain affordable housing.

Pro bono assistance is critical to serving ICLC’s clients and fulfilling its mission.  If you are interested in learning more about ICLC’s pro bono opportunities, please contact Vidhya Ragunathan, ICLC’s Pro Bono Coordinator, at vraganathan@innercitylaw.org.