back to Screen-Friendly page

Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

LRIS Panel Attorney Does His Part in Representing San Francisco’s Most Vulnerable


Cases referred through the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) may not be the easiest and clients frequently have difficulty expressing exactly what their legal needs are, but as two LRIS panel attorneys recently found, these cases can be extremely rewarding, both emotionally and monetarily.

In August 2011, LRIS received a call from a young woman in Florida concerned that her mentally and physically challenged uncle in San Francisco was in danger of being evicted from the property where he lived under the provisions of a revocable trust. The trust was established by the uncle’s partner who had passed away from AIDS in 1992. Due to the physiological and psychological effects of prolonged HIV drug treatment, the uncle was unable to maintain a job and renting out an apartment in the same property was his sole means of income.

The loss of this income and the home he had known for decades would be devastating, leaving him possibly homeless and without the one stable presence in his life.

Jay O'Neil and John RueppelActing as an advocate for her uncle, the young woman was referred to LRIS panel attorney James O’Neil. O’Neil, and his law partner John Rueppel, began the work of investigating the best legal avenue to follow in order to either keep the client in his home or secure a settlement large enough to ensure that the client’s physical, mental, and emotional needs would be taken care of.

Maintaining the revocable trust, which provided housing and income, proved unfeasible, so O’Neil and Rueppel argued that the client was a tenant protected by the San Francisco rent ordinance. With some digging, they found a twenty year old letter from opposing counsel stating that the client had the right to live in the property as long as certain lease conditions were maintained. This proved to be the evidence needed to reach a six-figure, move-out settlement and avoid the strain of a trial.

The client, with the help of his niece and the six-figure settlement obtained by O’Neil and Rueppel, has now relocated to Europe where he is better able to attend to his ongoing medical needs and receives the social support he needs to live the life he desires

O’Neil works hard to educate his clients about their rights so they can feel empowered to act as their own advocates and effect the change they wish to see in their lives. He worries that the “severe impact of the budget cuts on the court system are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people who desperately need the court’s help.” By providing education to and dogged representation of his clients,

James O’Neil is doing his part to represent the the most vulnerable, no matter the difficulty of their circumstances or their legal matter.

LRIS receives nearly 50,000 calls annually from the public in need of legal representation. LRIS is a State Bar Certified Referral Program and an ABA model referral service, well-known nationally for its outstanding legal assistance to the public. Refer with confidence those clients outside your practice area: 415-989-1616 or www.sfbar org/lawyerreferral.

Our partners at BASFAhern Insurance Brokerage