Aug 31 (Reuters) – There are plenty of reasons to criticize big law firms, but providing free effective representation to vulnerable populations should not be one of them.
Under the headline “No good deed goes unpunished,” Elon Musk last week attacked Latham & Watkins for its work on behalf of the homeless in San Francisco. the world the richest person On August 25, he posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, “Let’s ask our companies to cease all of their business” with the company incorporated in Los Angeles.
Latham attorneys are representing Musk’s X in at least three lawsuits, according to a Reuters review of federal court records. At the time of writing, these attorneys had not sought judges’ permission to leave cases, nor had X asked to be replaced by another law firm.
Latham declined to comment, and Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
The call to pull work from the 3,300-lawyer firm came as part of a thread on X about drug addiction and homelessness in San Francisco, where X is headquartered. Before Musk got involved, other commenters blamed Latham for contributing to San Francisco’s so-called “death loop” , pointing to the company’s pro bono representation for the Coalition for Homelessness.
Late last year, Latham’s lawyers won emergency order Which prevents the city from clearing homeless camps. Doing so is unconstitutional, tough lawyers ArguesIt only exacerbates the crisis by depriving people who have nowhere else to go of survival equipment such as tents.
The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 23 heard arguments appealing the injunction, which city attorneys contended impeded San Francisco’s ability to promote public health and safety.
Latham also won a 2018 pro bono historical case. Martin v. Boise Citywhen the Ninth Circuit held that cities could not cite people to sleep outdoors if shelter beds were not available.
in New release At the time, Latham said more than 70 pro bono attorneys and employees contributed 7,000 hours to the lawsuit.
Musk X’s Aug. 26 post, after calling for the companies to drop Latham the day before, was, among other things, ill-informed. “They want war? Let’s give it to them. We can’t let these Snakes win or San Francisco will end up like Detroit.” .
Dear Elon, According to the Internal Revenue ServiceFree labor is not tax deductible. Some related expenses might be, but lawyers’ time or labor — the real value of a shareholding, especially in a firm like Latham, where earnings per partner last year exceeded $5 million, according to The American Lawyer — are not.
Musk did not provide any other basis for his assertion.
Of course, companies can be awarded legal fees for pro bono work under fee transfer provisions. In the Boise case, Latham and co-counsel from the National Homelessness and Poverty Law Center and Legal Aid Services of Idaho received a total of $435,000 in fees, according to settlement agreementwhich did not break the division.
Given that Latham’s revenues last year were $5.3 billion, I think it’s safe to say that the company does not compensate the homeless for money.
Latham isn’t the first company Musk on X has targeted, as he has nearly 155 million followers. Heck, it’s practically a badge of honor.
In May 2022, he tweeted that Cooley and Perkins Coy were made up of “white-shoes lawyers” who “thriving on corruption”.
The Tesla CEO at the time didn’t say why he was being antagonized by the companies — which previously considered Musk or his companies as clients. However, the Wall Street Journal previously reported that Cooley refused a request from Tesla to fire a former SEC aide who interviewed Musk there in connection with the agency’s investigation.
As for Perkins Coie, Musk called out his former partner Michael Sussman, tweeting on December 8, 2022, saying, “Twitter is not using Perkins Coie. No company should use it until it amends Sussman’s attempt (sic) to spoil the presidential election.”
Sussman was acquitted last year from allegations that he lied to the FBI during a meeting about alleged ties between former President Donald Trump and Russia.
Both companies declined to comment, as did Sussman, now a partner at Fenwick & West.
In some ways, I understand why Musk is frustrated by Latham’s victories in favor of the uninhabited population. Because San Francisco is my city. I’ve lived in or near it for decades – and now, it’s a mess.
In certain neighborhoods, including those near the federal courthouse and X headquarters, some sidewalks are filled with tents and tarps (not to mention the occasional pile of human excrement). People are spread out in different states of consciousness.
San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month mentioned That federal officials have told hundreds of employees at the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building, located downtown at Seventh and Mission Streets, to work remotely for the foreseeable future due to public safety concerns in the surrounding neighborhood.
San Francisco has big problems, but blaming Latham makes no sense.
There is no doubt that established attorneys through their courtroom victories have influenced how local officials deal with people experiencing homelessness.
But the underlying causes — including the lack of affordable housing, wide wealth disparity, and unfunded social service programs — belong at the feet of policymakers, not pro bono lawyers.
Reuters correspondent David Thomas contributed to this report.
Reporting by Jenna Green. Edited by Lee Jones
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under its Principles of Trust, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.