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SANTA CLARA WILL REQUIRE PRO BONO Under a resolution adopted by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, firms that want to continue doing legal work for the county will need to prove that every attorney at the firm is completing 30 hours of pro bono work each year. Santa Clara is the first county in the state to require minimum levels of pro bono activity as a condition of receiving county contracts. The resolution affects all firms and solos with contracts exceeding $50,000 in annual billing, except for lawyers and agencies appointed or hired by the county to represent indigent and other litigants. The resolution recommends lawyers provide the pro bono services within the county, but doesn’t require it. Firms with county contracts are required to submit a report of their pro bono activities at the end of each contract year, as well as when submitting final invoices. Under the resolution, a firm’s failure to comply or make a good faith effort can be considered by the county when renewing or awarding contracts. The resolution was pushed by County Counsel Ann Ravel after the state passed similar legislation last winter covering legal services contracted by state government. Santa Clara County spends $1 million each year on outside legal counsel and has contracts with more than 20 law firms and solo practitioners including Cooley Godward; Bingham McCutchen; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein; and Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach. Large firms with multiple offices would be required to detail pro bono efforts firmwide, said Deputy County Counsel Jared Goldman. “It would apply to folks in other countries be it London, Bombay or wherever they may be.” — Shannon Lafferty CITY, STATE SUE OVER TOWED VEHICLE FEES San Francisco and the state jointly filed suit Tuesday against City Tow, alleging the firm rigged auctions of towed vehicles and defrauded public coffers of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suit, People v. Pick Your Part Auto Wrecking, 322841, alleges that the towing company would buy unclaimed vehicles for itself and employees without reporting the sale to the city and state. Under state law City Tow can deduct its towing and storage costs from the sale, but then must remit the remainder to the city and state. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement that the city had been “victimized by a company that has repeatedly violated its duty to the citizens of San Francisco” by rigging the sales and denying it revenue. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer joined in the suit, since the state was also denied money due to the alleged illegal practices. Attorney Mark Epstein, who represents City Tow, had not read the complaint, but said Tuesday the firm had been cooperating in the investigation and also paid some money owed by previous management to the city and state. City Tow is owned by Anaheim-based Pick Your Part Auto Wrecking, whose managers became owners of “dozens of expensive and desirable vehicles,” the suit alleges. City Tow also allegedly inflated its costs by over-charging for storage and deducting costs above the amount allowed by law, the complaint said. Meanwhile, less desirable vehicles were shipped to Pick Your Part locations in Milpitas, Hayward and elsewhere to be “parted out” for a lucrative markup, city officials said. “As a result of our investigation, changes have already been made to ensure that no city contractor has the ability to repeat this kind of fraud in the future,” Herrera said. He added that the company auctions about 200 cars a week. The suit seeks $10,000 for each false transaction plus punitive damages, which could push the amount owed San Francisco and the state into the millions of dollars, Herrera said. — Dennis J. Opatrny

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