Think Legal, Act Local: How One Attorney Gave Back to the Community In Which He Lives and Works

by JD Supra Perspectives
Contact

I was taught and believe that my law license is a privilege and that with that privilege comes a responsibility to give back to the community. As long as my firm is in practice we will always have one or two pro bono cases active...

We spoke recently with attorney Jeffrey Lewis of Broedlow Lewis to learn more about his firm's pro bono work on a hot-button case focusing on land use restrictions and the preservation of open space. Broedlow Lewis represents more than 100 southern California homeowners who challenged their city's sale of a public park to a private party for private use.

Jeff described the firm's extensive pro bono commitment to the case; a recent turning point in the case; and the firm's philosophy toward pro bono work:

Q: Can you give some background to the Palos Verdes Estates case and describe the nature of the dispute and how it began?

Palos Verdes Estates (“PVE”) is a semi-rural community in Southern California. When the city was founded in the 1920s, 850 acres, or one third of the total city, was set aside as open space parkland. The parkland had deed restrictions requiring that the land be used as public parklands forever.

In 2012, PVE entered into a multi-party transaction whereby one resident of PVE paid $1.5 million and received 1.7 acres of parkland. The transaction was not well publicized and was approved without much effort to notify residents. When residents complained about the sale violating the deed restrictions, their complaints went unheeded. In May 2013, the residents formed a group, Citizens for Enforcement of Parkland Covenants (“CEPC”) to challenge the legality of the transaction in court.

Q: How did the firm's involvement with the case come about? What is the process for vetting and approving pro bono cases at your Broedlow Lewis?

I live in the Palos Verdes Peninsula and my firm’s office is here. Many people are proud of our local land conservancy and our local leaders’ commitment to open space. When I found out about this transaction, I was concerned that all other parkland in the Palos Verdes Peninsula could be sold. I met with the local residents, formed their association and filed the papers necessary to challenge the transaction.

Many people are proud of our local land conservancy and our local leaders’ commitment to open space...

My firm accepts two or three cases pro bono per year in the areas of first amendment and land use. We meet with proposed clients, investigate their claims and decide as a firm whether the firm can accomplish the result the clients want.

Q: Where does the case stand now?

In May 2015, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of CEPC. It is very unusual for a plaintiff to file a motion for summary judgment and even rarer for a court to grant one granting all relief pled in a complaint. Judgment was entered in September and one of the three defendants have appealed. The other two defendants are deciding whether to appeal or accept the court’s ruling.  

It is very unusual for a plaintiff to file a motion for summary judgment and even rarer for a court to grant one granting all relief pled in a complaint...

Q: What is the significance of this case, whether for people locally or for other disputes elsewhere involving open space, public land, private property, development, government actions, transparency, etc.?

There is a long line of California cases holding that a municipality need not accept a gift of real property with land use restrictions for public purposes. Those same cases hold that if a city chooses to accept such a grant, the city holds those lands in trust for the public. The city may not simply disregard the land use restrictions that come along with that gift. This case against PVE upheld that principle: that once a city accepts property for public purposes the city cannot disregard the land use restrictions for that property.  

Q: Can you describe your own role in the Palos Verdes Estates case, in terms of types of work, length and extent of the commitment? Also, are others at your firm involved in this particular case, and if so, can you say more about the overall headcount, functions, and extent of the firm's role in the case?

I spent 226 hours over two-and-a-half years working on this case along with my trusted paralegal Jason Ebbens. We fought off multiple motions to dismiss brought by three separate law firms representing the three defendants. We sent Public Records Act requests on the city and spent hours studying the documents supplied by city staff. Ultimately, it was real property deeds and city resolutions from the 1940s that we obtained via Public Records Act requests that allowed us to win the case. We filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the real property deed restrictions from the 1940s should be enforced and the court agreed with us.

Q: How would you describe the firm's philosophy regarding pro bono, and what advice would you give to other firms that may want to enhance their pro bono programs and bolster attorneys' commitment to pro bono efforts?

I attended Loyola Law School, which was an early proponent of a pro bono requirement for law students. I was taught and believe that my law license is a privilege and that with that privilege comes a responsibility to give back to the community. As long as my firm is in practice we will always have one or two pro bono cases active. Some lawyers mistake “pro bono” for unpaid. In fact, there are many instances where a lawyer can take a case on initially pro bono and later recover attorney’s fees under California’s Private Attorney General Act, California’s anti-SLAPP law and other statutes. There are no shortage of people out there who need help and where recovery of attorney’s fees may be an option at the conclusion of the case.

 

 

comments powered by Disqus

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives
Contact
more
less

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.