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Advocacy: Outside the Beltway

By Megan Kinneyn | Mar. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Mar. 2, 2007

Advocacy: Outside the Beltway

In defense of the aging. By Bill Blum

By Bill Blum
      Barbara Anne Jones may be the lone AARP Foundation Litigation lawyer stationed outside Washington, D.C., but she never feels isolated. A veteran public-interest attorney, Jones left her job with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles in 2004 to join the 17-attorney AARP team, which she says includes "some of the nation's best experts on legal issues affecting older Americans."
      From her office in downtown Pasadena, Jones stays busy?speaking at conferences, filing amicus briefs in the California and U.S. Supreme Courts, and teaming with other lawyers in high-profile cases. In her latest she's co-counsel for the "TV writers' case," a suit involving 23 separate class actions brought by older (age 40-plus) screenwriters alleging age discrimination by a host of TV networks, studios, and talent agencies. The case involves at least 20 other attorneys.
      Setting up a California office "was a natural outgrowth of our work," says Stuart Cohen, director of Legal Advocacy at AARP Foundation Litigation. Many of AARP's D.C. lawyers already appear regularly pro hac vice in California matters. One case filed in federal district court in San Jose, for example, has nationwide implications: An AARP lawyer is representing a retired math teacher who claims that a Palo Alto retirement community violated fair housing and disability laws when it threatened to remove her involuntarily from her apartment and put her into a two-person hospital-like room, separated from the other occupant only by a sliding curtain.
      And in another ongoing class action from the northern federal district, AARP attorneys have partnered with Protection & Advocacy Inc. and other groups on behalf of disabled San Franciscans. The plaintiffs contend the city and county have failed to provide community-based services as an alternative to institutionalization at the 140-year-old Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.
      "Practically speaking," says Cohen of the work performed by Jones and AARP's pro hac vice contingent, "there's just a lot of important law being developed in California, and such a great body of attorneys bringing challenging and novel cases, we want to be a part of it."

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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