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Michael Collins is a victim of civil rights abuse who could not obtain a lawyer to represent him because of the City of Los Angeles' ability to obliterate statutory attorney's fees with a "lump sum, including all attorney's fee" settlement. On Sept. 16, 2003, Collins filed a class action lawsuit seeking to stop these settlements so he (and other victims of civil rights abuse) could get a lawyer. On December 5, 2003, the court dismissed his lawsuit for lack of standing. You can review the pleadings at Collins v. City of Los Angeles .
Angela Bernhardt was a victim of civil rights abuse who could not obtain a lawyer to represent her. She couldn't get a lawyer because of Los Angeles County's "lump sum, including all attorney's fees" settlement policy.
She filed suit, representing herself, but the district court threw her out of court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in Bernhardt v. County of Los Angeles, 279 F.3d 862 (9th Cir., 2002)
She then tried in pro per to obtain an injunction stopping the policy, claiming that it effectively repealed a federal statute: 42 USC Section 1983. That statute provides that a "prevailing party" in a civil rights action is entitled to attorney's fees. The district court denied Bernhardt an injunction. She appealed that denial to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which granted an limited injunction stopping the County from offering to settle on a "lump sum" basis. Bernhardt v. County of Los Angeles, 339 F.3d 920(9th Cir., Aug. 5, 2003)
That did not enable her to get a lawyer because it left her free to offer a "lump sum" settlement.
You can review Bernhardt's and the County's Ninth Circuit Briefs at Bernhardt v. Co. of Los Angeles Record on Appeal
Subsequently, the Ninth Circuit has held that a victim of civil rights abuse cannot transfer her statutory fee rights to a lawyer in order to obtain representation. Pony v. Mitchell, 433 F.3d 1138 (9th Cir., 2006) A petition for writ of certiorari was filed seeking Supreme Court review of this decision, but the petition was denied on June 12, 2006, 547 U.S. ___.
Naturally, this makes it even more unlikely that Bernhardt will get a
lawyer. On April 10, 2006, she filed motions and new evidence of the County's "lump sum" settlement policy.
Why It is Almost Impossible to Retain a Civil Rights Lawyer
How One Victim of Civil Rights Abuse Sought to Obtain a Lawyer
Listen to a United States Supreme Court argument (You will need RealPlayer10 or better - available free on numerous Websites) On November 2, 1982, Mitchell argued to limit use of Los Angeles Police Department chokeholds. His opponent, who you hear first, was LA Assistant City Attorney Fred Merkin (Email Fred). You will hear Justices Marshall, Rehnquist, O'Conner, etc. et al.
See also Los Angeles Police Department Chokehold Deaths & Cases
Access To Justice: Executive Summary
Modest Tribute to Professor Paul Freund
Mitchell v. Co. of Los Angeles, et al. Appellate Record
LaLonde v. Riverside Ninth Circuit Appellate Record
Police Use of OC Pepper Spray
Complaint of Unlawful Entry and Excessive Force
of a Federal Prisoner For Improper Transfer, Failure to Protect, and Deliberate
Indifference to Medical Needs
Michael R. Mitchell is not certified by any Board of Legal Specialization,
and is admitted to practice law only in the District of Columbia and the
State of California.
Copyright © 1998-2006, Michael R. Mitchell -Last Revised - (4-19-2006)