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AIDS Legal Services Project


Pro Bono Attorney Tracy Jessner talks about her experiences with the ALSP

Volunteering with LACBA's AIDS Legal Services Project
My pro bono work has been immensely helpful in my private practice. I was able to obtain more direct and hands-on experience early on in my career. It is also nice to work with individual patients and beneficiaries. Since my private practice focuses on healthcare providers, which can range from individual physicians to large hospital chains, it is a good reminder that we are all working toward the goal of improving the lives of individual people.

To view the county bar update article, click here.

Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project (LA HLPP)—New HIV Law and Policy Collaborative Launches October 2, 2013

The AIDS Legal Services Project (ALSP) has directed its resources to assisting low-income people living with HIV disease almost from the very beginning of the HIV epidemic. Since it was founded in 1986 by the LACBA Barristers, the Project has provided direct one-on-one pro bono legal representation to thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS who have an HIV related legal problem.

With the help of highly motivated pro bono attorneys who have been with the project since its inception, ALSP has established a reputation for handling some of the most sophisticated legal issues including asylum based on HIV status, employment discrimination, COBRA and ERISA and housing foreclosures.

The ALSP focuses on core HIV related legal services:

  1. Estate planning (wills, powers of attorney and healthcare directives);
  2. Debt relief (including creditor harassment and student loan defaults but generally NOT response to summons if the person is being sued in court);
  3. Insurance (health, life and disability terminations and overpayments)
  4. Employment (HIV discrimination, FMLA leave, ADA accommodations)
  5. HIV Discrimination in healthcare and public access; and
  6. Breaches of HIV confidentiality.

If you have questions, please call Laurie Aronoff, ALSP Project Director at (213) 833-6776.

For people in need of assistance, please call our new collaborative partner, the Los Angeles HIV Law & Policy Project (LA HLPP) at (855-259-4364) where bilingual, trained advocates will provide a confidential intake. Matters that are appropriate for the ALSP will be referred to the project Director for follow up assistance.

To volunteer, please complete this online form.

Thank you for your interest in volunteering for the AIDS Legal Servicesone or more of LACBA's Projects Project! But in order to volunteer, you also need to be a LACBA member. Our programs rely completely on your support — both financially and in pro bono hours — to provide vital legal services. Your LACBA Dues and LACBA Counsel for Justice Contribution enable us to continue to provide these critical, and in some cases, lifesaving services. So if you aren't already a member, apply online at www.lacba.org/join or contact LACBA's members services at msd@lacba.org or (213) 896-6560.

Law students please send a resume and cover letter to laronoff@lacba.org.
Or for more information, please contact Laurie Aronoff, AIDS Legal Services Project Director, at (213) 833-6776 or laronoff@lacba.org.

Manatt Secures Pro Bono Victory in Highly-Publicized Immigration Matter

Manatt partners Brad Seiling, Joanna McCallum and Ben Shatz scored an important win for a pro bono client referred from the AIDS Legal Services Project, when a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed federal immigration authorities in a recent opinion. The unanimous, published opinion clears the way for the client, a gay, HIV+ immigrant, to stay in the country based on the grounds that he would be persecuted for his sexual orientation and HIV+ status if sent back to the Philippines. The decision has received national attention, with coverage from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and The Daily Journal.

Manatt's client, Dennis, a gay man originally from the Philippines, had known since childhood that he was "different." Because of these differences, Dennis had been teased and harassed throughout his school years. He was sexually abused as a child and, at age 17, was drugged and sexually assaulted by a man he met in a bar. He was threatened and harassed by police officers, and was beaten and robbed multiple times, with the attackers calling him derogatory homophobic names. Dennis was unable to find a job in the Philippines because of his sexual orientation. He fled to the US in his early 20's overstaying a visitor's visa.

Detained by the immigration authorities in 2006, in 2007 Dennis represented himself in immigration court, where an immigration judge found that his testimony on persecution in the Philippines was credible and determined that the facts entitled Dennis to withholding of removal so that he could stay in the United States.

The government appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Dennis who was being wrongfully detained at the San Pedro Detention Center, reached out to ALSP Project Director, Laurie Aronoff, for help. It was a particularly difficult time for HIV+ detainees as Dennis's plea arrived just after the death of a young, HIV+ transgender woman who died after just three months of custody in San Pedro. In fact, Dennis became the first of four HIV+ detainees that the ALSP placed with teams of volunteer attorneys to fight for their right to legally stay in the US, fearing for their lives if returned to their home countries. All four cases were successfully adjudicated by attorneys at Morrison & Foerster, Greenberg Glusker and the former Howrey firm. But only Dennis's case was appealed to the BIA.

Manatt, through Seiling, stepped in to represent Dennis on his appeal. The Board of Immigration Appeals essentially rejected the immigration judge's factual findings, drawing its own conclusions about the facts and deciding they did not establish persecution. The Board directed that Dennis be removed to the Philippines.

Although Dennis had been awarded Withholding, the government continued to improperly detain him and wound up sending him to Pearsall Texas (a rural border town) when the San Pedro Detention Center was shut down. Dennis was now thousands of miles away from his attorneys and support system, where there was a dubious medical knowledge of HIV care. He languished at Pearsall while Manatt attorneys did everything they could to get him released. In addition, HIV+, gay and transgender detainees are routinely segregated and put in isolation. Dennis was alone and despondent. During months of isolation, he frequently called Seiling and Aronoff and repeatedly discussed giving up and being sent back to the Philippines.

Fortunately, when the BIA decision came down, Manatt stayed with the client and agreed to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The briefing was handled by Seiling, McCallum and Shatz, along with former firm associates Rafa Gutierrez and Zoey Kohn. The briefing was completed in July 2009 and the case was finally argued by McCallum in February 2013.

The Ninth Circuit accepted Manatt's arguments in their entirety and issued a unanimous published opinion, reversing the Board's order of removal. The court held that the Board applied an incorrect standard of review to the immigration judge's factual findings and instead engaged in its own impermissible fact finding. The court noted that ordinarily it would remand to the Board for it to apply the correct standard of review, but because the facts so clearly established that Dennis was persecuted in the Philippines, the court held that he was eligible for removal of withholding.

Benjamin Aranda III Outstanding Public Service Awards Recipients

Recipients of the Honorable Benjamin Aranda III Outstanding Public Service Awards for their contributions to LACBA's legal services projects - AIDS Legal Services, Domestic Violence, Immigration Legal Assistance and Center for Civic Mediation. From left to right: Bill Klein; Brian Condon; Rick Cohen on behalf of Buchalter Nemer; and Rebecca Weiker.

Brian K. Condon — ALSP Aranda Nomination 2012

Since Brian Condon first approached the ALSP Project Director in 2003 to volunteer, he has shown exceptional skill, compassion and tenacity on numerous complex matters filing complaints in both state and federal court, from San Francisco to Ventura, on behalf of low-income HIV+ people who had no other way to access justice.

Never shying away from what may be an unpopular issue, Brian has led teams of attorneys that together have provided a staggering 4,280 pro bono hours, on an array of complex litigation matters:

Successfully settled an ADA matter for a prisoner in San Quentin when the inmate had been denied access to a desirable work program because of his HIV+ status;

Quashed an unlawful eviction for a very ill client, and then turned around and filed a successful affirmative habitability lawsuit, personally waiting in line at the City's Housing Department to gather evidence against the landlord. When Brian found out the client had been arrested on a petty theft charge, he intervened to make sure the client received his life saving medication while in jail and volunteered to serve as a character witness when the client's matter was referred to the Mental Health court;

Litigated a complex Medi-Cal prescription coverage case over three years, against the State of California for a client diagnosed with AIDS wasting syndrome, a chronic and progressive loss of weight and muscle mass that is life-threatening if it is not treated. The client had been denied an expensive hormone treatment regardless of his doctor's prescription and the fact that it was the only effective treatment. Appealing the case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, Brian received a favorable interpretation of the statute for Medi-Cal patients when the court held in a published opinion that the state must get input from medical providers before changing its drug criteria;

From 2010 to the present, Brian and Arnold & Porter have been litigating an HIV healthcare discrimination matter against an anesthesiologist who refused to treat an HIV+ woman, who had already been prepped for a hernia operation, when he found out she was HIV+. After 1,750 pro bono hours and an unsuccessful seven day jury trial in Ventura County, the case is now up on appeal.

Brian Condon is a litigator at Arnold & Porter with 20 years of experience in federal and state courts, private arbitration, and advocacy before local government agencies. He focuses on commercial and business litigation of all types, and has specific experience litigating arbitration issues, private equity transactions, Internet-related litigation, project development disputes, prejudgment remedies, and appeals. He is very active in community service and has served on the firm's pro bono committee for over 15 years, has held every office for the Los Angeles County Bar Association Foundation Board, has provided substantial pro bono environmental work for the Pacoima CARE Foundation and was the 2006 recipient of the California Lawyer "Angel Award" in recognition of his outstanding pro bono contributions.

Brian A. Procel

Brian A. Procel Brian A. Procel, partner at Miller Barondess, was recently recognized as one of the top 20 young attorneys in California by the Daily Journal. He has also been a "Rising Star" every year since 2008, a distinction given to less than 2.5 percent of attorneys in California.

Brian has extensive experience prosecuting and defending actions in both state and federal court. He has litigated and prevailed in cases involving a wide variety of issues, including investor and consumer fraud, intellectual property, entertainment, bankruptcy, real estate, labor and employment, government contracts, and civil rights.

ALSP truly hit the pro bono jackpot with Brian. He isn't interested in doing limited scope or brief services. He wants something big and complicated and that's exactly what he got.

Brian was sent a list of the most complicated cases, and he picked the Big Insurance Company one. This matter involved potential bad faith against not one, but two major carriers AND the federal government's Medicare program.

Brian Schield

Brian Schield was presented with the Honorable Benjamin Aranda III Outstanding Public Service Award at the LACBA Installation Dinner in June, 2011. Schield is a partner at Square Sanders, whose practice focuses on business-related immigration matters. Schield has volunteered with the AIDS Legal Services Project for 17 years, and has helped his pro bono clients obtain asylum, family petitions, and disability waivers. He has helped people from all over the world including: Iceland, Cuba, Japan, El Salvador, Italy, and Mexico.