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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

JDC's Legal Services Program's Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program Off to a Strong Start

 

Seven days after Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass joined the Justice & Diversity Center's (formely the Volunteer Legal Services Program) Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program by committing to taking six cases over the course of the year, Mandy Hu, a fifth year associate jumped in and accepted a pro bono case.

JDC's Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program pairs pro bono counsel with low-income individuals in cases involving basic human needs, such as housing, child custody, sustenance, safety, and health. San Francisco is the nation’s first Right to Civil Counsel City.

Mandy Hu, Coblentz Patch Duffy & BassThe unlawful detainer case of Hu’s client, Julio,* was more complicated than most. It involved trust issues - both in the sense of property management and emotional conflict. Julio, the defendant, was the plaintiff/trustee’s brother, and the residence he was being evicted from had once been the family home. Unlawful detainer (eviction) cases proceed on a shortened calendar, and within days, Hu was serving discovery requests and responses, defending the defendant’s deposition and preparing to take the plaintiff’s, and meeting and conferring with opposing counsel.

Perhaps the greatest challenge, however, was counseling a distraught client who was about to lose both his home and his relationship with his family member. “We met and talked on the phone half a dozen times in the first week,” said Hu. “More than anything else, Julio needed reassurance that he wasn’t alone in his fight. [JDC] empowered him to feel that his rights would not be taken away from him just because he wasn’t able to afford legal assistance.”

Because of the time Hu took to discuss with Julio his likely and desired outcomes, Julio felt confident with his bargaining position. The parties reached a settlement days before trial.

Julio was thrilled with the outcome. “I’m not that religious a person but I feel blessed,” he said. “Mandy came into my life and helped me sort through something I could not have gotten through alone.”
Along the way, Hu sought advice from JDC pro bono supervising attorney Carolyn Gold, who has over 20 years of experience litigating unlawful detainer cases. According to Fred Fields, the partner at Coblentz who supervised Hu and who chairs the firm’s pro bono committee, “[JDC] gives associates a way to get valuable on-the-ground litigation experience while affirming Coblentz’s commitment to providing much-needed legal services to disempowered individuals. We are all pleased with the outcome Mandy was able to secure.”

Attorneys interested in being part of JDC's Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program, which has a focus on housing work, please contact us at probono@sfbar.org, or visit www.sfbar.org/rtcc.

 

*Client’s name changed to preserve privacy.

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