Morrison & Foerster – A Leader in the Right to Civil Counsel Movement

rtcc-buttonOne year ago, San Francisco became the nation’s first “Right to Civil Counsel” city by passing the Right to Civil Counsel ordinance stating the city’s intent to create a local judicial system that provides  counsel in cases involving fundamental human needs, such as shelter, child custody, safety, health, and sustenance.  Jim Brosnahan, Morrison & Foerster partner and legendary champion of pro bono service, was instrumental in the passage of the historic legislation.

The Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program (RTCC), launched in October 2012 and coordinated by the Justice &  Diversity Center (JDC), puts San Francisco’s law firms in the spotlight, as they are asked to focus their pro bono efforts on meeting the burgeoning demand for counsel in cases involving basic human needs. Morrison & Foerster has been a true partner with JDC’s recruitment efforts, by hosting a reception and pledging to take 12 full scope cases within the course of a year.

In answering the RTCC call to service,  Morrison & Foerster attorneys have not tentatively dipped their toes in the water, instead during the first six months of the pilot program, attorneys, ranging from first year associates to partners, have taken 33 eviction defense related matters. The attorneys  have handled limited scope “Motions to Vacate” for clients facing an imminent Sheriff’s eviction; taken and defended depositions; structured favorable settlements for tenants through JDC’s  Housing Negotiation Project; and obtained solid outcomes through full scope representation.

According to Rachel Williams, Morrison & Foerster’s Pro Bono Counsel, the RTCC program has been met internally with enthusiasm and widespread partici-pation. Williams notes the firm’s use of the RTCC cases as a means for first year associates to gain valuable practical training and experience. In a recent case, involving the eviction of a young father and his family from their apartment in the Mission District, first years, Bill Goodwin and Julie Nicholson, rose to the occasion.  They litigated strenuously on behalf of their client and through their efforts, were able to save this family’s affordable housing. Goodwin, pleased with the experience, his firm’s commitment and encouragement and the result he obtained for his client, described his RTCC case as “an excellent training vehicle.”

As JDC reaches the halfway point in the RTCC pilot program year, we thank Morrison & Foerster for being nothing less than a major force in JDC’s effort to afford greater access to justice to low-income clients and their families.

Email probono@sfbar.org for more information about RTCC.