Our litigation and policy work in this area focuses on food stamps, CalWORKs, subsistence benefits such as general assistance, disability rights, protection of foster youth, health care, and disaster relief for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For More Information on the Orange County General Relief Class Settlement, Click Here



Crespin v. Shewry, 22 Cal.Rptr. 696 (2004).  Appeal determined that time limits for fee applications do not apply to post-judgment fees which were awarded as a result of work in Crespin v. Kizer, 226 Cal.App.3d 498 (1990) [suit mandating Medi-Cal coverage for long term care and dialysis for undocumented aliens].  (Co-counsel with Western Center on Law & Poverty.)

Blue v. Dept. of Health Services, San Francisco Superior Court (2002); Blue v. Bonta, 99 Cal.App.4th 980 (2002).  Action challenging regulation of Department of Health Services that prohibited Medi-Cal coverage of stair lifts for all Medi-Cal recipients.  Trial court denied summary judgment, and plaintiffs appealed.  Appellate court reversed mandating Medi-Cal coverage for stairway chairlifts as durable medical equipment. (Co-counsel with Protection & Advocacy.)

Brain Injury Policy Institute v. Shewry, San Francisco Superior Court.  State-wide suit challenging statutory exclusion of young adults, ages 18-22 years, from federally mandated Medicaid coverage of intermediate care services for persons with developmental disabilities.

Calder v. Shewry, San Francisco Superior Court.  Suit to compel the California Department of Health Services to comply with Medi-Cal hearing decision and reimbursement procedures for insurance premium costs. (Co-counsel with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.)

Gonzalez v. Shewry, San Francisco Superior Court.  Suit to compel the California Department of Health Services to reimburse Medi-Cal applicants their costs of insurance premiums incurred for alternative health care coverage pending unlawful delays in Medi-Cal application procedure.  Plaintiff had to have health care coverage during a high risk pregnancy and her payment of the insurance premiums pending the Medi-Cal application procedure saved the State considerable funds.  (Co-counsel with Bay Area Legal Aid and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.)

Pennington v. Lenox Healthcare, N.D. Cal.2003.  $600,000 settlement for class action damages to compensate for illegal discharges and resulting transfer trauma to elderly patients in skilled nursing facility.

United States of America ex rel., California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform v. Lenox  Healthcare, Inc., CRB (2002).  $4.5 million judgment against skilled nursing facility chain for false claims due to systemically deficient patient care.

Foulk v. Lenox Healthcare of Mill Valley, Marin Superior Court, 1998.  Enjoined nursing home discharges of Medi-Cal and Medicare patients in violation of relocation requirements to minimize transfer trauma.

Mental Health Consumer Concerns v. City of Pittsburg, Contra Costa County Superior Court (2000).  Settlement of case challenging the City’s disapproval of a use permit for a mental health counseling center; stipulated judgment compelling the City to provide the center with alternative space, at a reduced rent and at a location convenient for the center’s clients for at least four years.  (Co-counsel with Disability Rights, Inc.)

General Assistance

Mankinen et al. v. Orange County, Orange County Superior Court (2012).  Class action settlement transforming almost every aspect of Orange County’s General Relief Program. The final settlement provides significant retroactive and prospective benefits, including: increased overall program access; increase in the maximum GR grant; streamlined application procedures and verification requirements; removal of an illegal period of ineligibility as a sanction for program non-compliance; and increased County obligations to identify and provide reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals.

Cleary v. Alameda County, 196 Cal.App.4th 826 (2011).  Appeals Court decision striking down the County policy requiring GA recipients to provide a signed tax form from their landlord as a condition of receiving the shelter portion of their grant.  The Court decision broadly reaffirms that benefits must be provided in a prompt and humane manner.  Requiring persons to become homeless to get the shelter portion of their grant violates the Welfare and Institutions Code because it: 1) denies program recipients a minimally acceptable level of care; 2) is arbitrary and inhumane; and 3) constitutes an improper sanction.

Kearney v. Alameda County, Alameda Superior Court (2010).  Settlement requires the County to stop denying the shelter portion of the grant to persons whose rent exceeds their grant, and to provide restitution to GA recipients whose benefits were unlawfully terminated or reduced; subsequent court order enforcing settlement terms by ordering reinstatement and retroactive benefits.

Lugo v. Contra Costa County, Contra Costa Superior Court (2009-2010).  Stipulated judgment obligating the County to shorten application processing times, eliminate unlawful application requirements, pay retroactive aid to the application date, and make lump sum compensatory payments to about 500 previous recipients.

Watkins v Alameda County, 177 Cal.App.4th 320 (2009).  This case of first impression challenged how the County defined “employable.” Petitioners won in the trial court but reversed by the Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision. Following the appellate decision, productive dialogue between stakeholders and the BOS resulted in significant improvement of the County’s employability assessments, and many new time limit exemptions.

Santos v. Alameda County, U.S. Northern District Court (2005-2009).  Federal court settlement requiring the County to greatly improve and simplify its application process, identify and provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and recipients with mental disabilities, limit termination and discontinuance standards and procedures to those authorized by statute, adopt a quarterly rather than monthly income reporting system, and exempt certain individuals with disabilities from those requirements. (Co-counsel with Disability Rights Advocates and Western Center on Law & Poverty.)

Brou v. Alameda County, U.S. Northern District Court (2005).  Class-wide settlement requiring the County to identify and provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and recipients with disabilities, limiting termination and discontinuance standards and procedures, and leading to a more comprehensive and subsequent settlement in Santos (above).  (Co-counsel with Protection & Advocacy.)


Hartley et al. v. Will Lightbourne, Dir. of CDSS, Alameda County Superior Court (2011).  Successful challenge to the California Department of Social Services policy of collecting CalWORKs overpayments against former and current minors living in new households.

Parent Voices Oakland v. Jack O’Connell, CDE Superintendent and the California Department of Education, (2010).  Trial court decision temporarily stopping the California Department of Education’s termination of Stage 3 subsidized childcare for approximately 50,000 low-income children until the agency provided families with adequate notice and an opportunity to be screened for eligibility for other subsidized childcare.  The parties then entered into Stipulated Orders for the transition to other childcare, or back to Stage 3 once the Legislature restored funding.

Leonard v. Wagner, U.S. Northern District Court (2007).  This case follows up on the lawsuit, Fry v. Saenz, brought in 2001 challenging the “completion rule” in the CalWORKs program as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act (the completion rule resulted in a child becoming ineligible for CalWORKs at age 18 unless they were in school full-time and reasonably expected to graduate by the age of 19).  (Co-counsel with the Youth Law Center and the Western Center on Law & Poverty.)

Community Action Programs

Selvidge v. Department of Community Services and Development, Sacramento County Superior Court.  Petition for writ of mandate challenging Department’s historic failure to provide increased funding for community action agencies to ensure their continued operation of community action programs for low-income clients.  (Co-counsel with California Indian Legal Services.)

Foster Care

Serrano v. Allenby, Los Angeles County Superior Court; Second District Court of Appeal.  Litigation challenging Los Angeles’ failure to either formally remove a child from his home, release the child for adoption, or return the child to his home within the statutorily mandated time period for youth voluntarily placed in their care, resulting in a loss of foster care funding.  LA County’s practice was a way for it to save considerable funds at the expense of its foster care dependents.  Petitioners prevailed under CCP 1094.5 on this issue for their individual client, but the Judge refused to grant the writ under CCP 1085 for all persons similarly situated despite the judge’s statement at the hearing that Los Angeles had a ministerial duty to act within the 180-day period. (Co-counsel with Alliance for Children’s Rights.)


NPH v. Micciche, San Francisco Superior Court, 1998.  State-wide consent decree enjoining State’s immigrant verification requirement in lead abatement, community services, and energy services programs.