May 18, 2020
Orange County Litigation & Trial Department Chair Andrew Gray, Global Litigation & Trial Department Chair Michele Johnson and Bay Area associate Grant Strother have been awarded the California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year Award (CLAY) by the Daily Journal, California’s legal newspaper of record. The awards recognize lawyers who use their talents to achieve fairness and social impact. The trio were celebrated in the “Civil Rights – Americans with Disabilities Act” category for a significant victory on behalf of the Orange County homeless community.
The matter began in January of 2018, when Orange County began the process of removing hundreds of people living at the Santa Ana Riverbed including individuals experiencing mental, physical disabilities, or both. Latham & Watkins along with co-counsel Community Legal Aid SoCal and Disability Rights California filed suit to force the county to use already appropriated government funds to provide treatment and develop necessary programs and facilities. A class action settlement was achieved, unlocking more than $70 million of additional support for Orange County’s homeless population and enforcing important changes that will allow individuals with disabilities to manage their conditions while living in shelters or accessing other County services.
The settlement is an important step toward remedying, as plaintiffs alleged, the County’s previously deficient efforts to connect homeless individuals with the appropriate services, as well as the significant challenges disabled individuals faced in accessing those services.
The Latham team worked pro bono on the case and has donated its share of fees to its non-profit co-counsel and included partners Andrew Gray and Michele Johnson with associates Grant Strother, Allie O’Hara, Miri Gold, Shannon Cheng, Chris Martinez, and Gabrielle Masse.