LOS ANGELES, February 18, 2015: Morgan Lewis partner and West Coast Litigation Leader Dan Grunfeld has been named a 2015 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year. The publication’s prestigious CLAY Awards recognize those whose achievements in the last year had a significant impact on the state of California, including attorneys from regional and international law firms, prosecutors, and public-interest lawyers.
The 19th annual CLAY Awards recognize Mr. Grunfeld for his work as Lead Counsel on an extensive, multi-organizational class action effort to reform Los Angeles County’s General Relief program and secure payment to thousands of individuals who were improperly denied the critical benefits afforded by the program. Alongside Mr. Grunfeld, three other leaders of the effort will be honored with a CLAY Award: Gary Blasi, Professor Emeritus, UCLA School of Law and Special Counsel, Opportunity Under Law Initiative, Public Counsel; Erin Darling, Staff Attorney, Public Counsel and now with the Federal Public Defender; and Amos Hartston, Chief Counsel and Director of Legal Services, Inner City Law Center.
The larger team, which included nearly 25 attorneys, devoted more than two and a half years working to reform General Relief – the largest welfare program of its kind in the country – which provides bare, subsistence-level aid of up to $221 per month to the most desperately needy. Most recipients of the program’s benefits are homeless.
In September 2014, the Los Angeles County Superior Court gave final approval of the class settlement in Guillory, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, marking the culmination of prolonged negotiations and legal proceedings between a coalition of community advocates and the County of Los Angeles. As a result of the settlement, long overdue structural reforms to General Relief are being instituted that are expected to benefit the approximately 100,000 individuals who receive benefits in any given year. In addition, a $7.9 million settlement fund has been established to compensate individuals whose General Relief benefits were improperly limited or cut off.
Mr. Grunfeld shares this honor with the extended members of the team, including Morgan Lewis of counsel David Cox and associates Esther Ro and Lisa Veasman, whose outstanding contributions were integral to the settlement’s success. Significant credit is also due to early contributors Yolanda Arias of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Kate Meiss of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles, who played a vital role in identifying key aspects of the General Relief program that required reform.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye will provide opening remarks at a ceremony honoring CLAY Award recipients in San Francisco on March 16, 2015.