In California or Federal court, when some or all of the funds recovered in a class action cannot feasibly be distributed to class members, cy pres awards can be made to organizations like Public Advocates. A nonprofit organization is deemed an appropriate recipient of cy pres funding if distribution to the organization would “benefit the class or similarly situated persons.” (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 384(b)). In non-class action suits, or prior to class certification, settling defendants may also direct all or part of the settlement payments to a non-profit organization.
Public Advocates laid the groundwork for court awards, including cy pres distributions (see below), which play a critical role in allowing nonprofit law firms like ours to continue providing free legal representation to low-income Californians. These awards directly support Public Advocates’ mission to advance systemic solutions to the crisis of rising inequality — through effective court cases and public policy campaigns — focusing on the building blocks of opportunity.
What you can do: nominate Public Advocates to be included in your firm’s Cy Pres distribution list. By doing so, you’ll help ensure that disadvantaged communities throughout California continue to receive high-quality legal representation for decades to come.
If you have any questions or would like more information about our work or the Cy Pres process, please send an email to our President and CEO, using the icon under his name here, Guillermo Mayer.
As the first public interest legal organization on the west coast, we were involved in two cases that continue to provide vital means for vindicating legal rights and offering financial support for litigation brought in the public interest.
Our intervening role in Kerner v. Levi Strauss in 1986 helped establish the fundamental cy pres principles followed by courts in consumer class actions.