Fenwick & West LLP, along with the Office of the County Counsel, is representing the County of Santa Clara on a pro bono basis in a petition for administrative mandamus filed in Sacramento Superior Court earlier this month. The writ petition challenges the State Controller’s denial of approximately $8.6 million in reimbursements to the County for state-mandated mental health rehabilitation services. The recipients of such services are school-aged children with disabilities, many of whom rely on these rehabilitative counseling services to avoid placement in more traumatic and costly institutions, group homes, or other similarly restrictive settings.
While the immediate effect of the Controller’s decision would be to take away $8.6 million in reimbursements owed to the County for costs it incurred in providing these services in fiscal years 2004, 2005, and 2006, the reasoning underlying that decision creates a substantial likelihood that the Controller will deny reimbursement for mental health rehabilitation services provided in subsequent years—thereby putting into jeopardy many millions more.
With the Controller’s planned deductions looming, the County filed suit seeking a court order reaffirming the County’s right to reimbursement for costs incurred in providing mental health rehabilitation services on the grounds that the State delegated its obligation to provide such services (which it is required to do as a recipient of IDEA funds) onto county mental health departments, and the County is therefore constitutionally entitled to reimbursement for the cost of providing these state-mandated services.
For more than 30 years, Fenwick & West has served its community by offering legal services to persons and organizations that could not otherwise afford effective legal counsel. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community. As a result of programs like these, our firm has broadened the number of attorneys participating in our pro bono program. In the last fiscal year, Fenwick & West has donated nearly 8,000 hours of pro bono work, or more than $3.2 million in legal services, and have been recognized for both the volume and the quality of their work. To encourage pro bono legal services, Fenwick & West recognizes all approved pro bono work as "billable" hours for all purposes for non-partner attorneys.