Every once in a while, the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case with one-sided briefing. One-sided, that is, until the court finds counsel who will volunteer to argue that the Court of Appeal got it right. Uncommonly, the court has made two such pro bono appointments in less than four weeks time. Horvitz & Levy is involved in both cases.

Last month, after having granted the petition for review filed by Horvitz & Levy in Guardianship of S.H.R., the court appointed Jeffrey Raskin and Stefan Love of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland “to brief and argue th[e] case, on a pro bono basis, in support of [three specific] Court of Appeal[ ] holdings.” The case raises issues concerning undocumented children seeking state court findings of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment, findings that allow application to the federal government for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. No party has opposed S.H.R.’s request for findings; thus the need for other counsel. What makes the Greines firm’s acceptance of the assignment particularly commendable is that the court has expedited briefing in the case, with extensions to “be granted based only on a showing of extraordinary circumstances.”

Similarly, the court today appointed Horvitz & Levy’s Christopher Hu “to brief and argue . . ., on a pro bono basis, in support of the Court of Appeal’s holding” in People ex rel. Garcia-Brower v. Kolla’s Inc. The court granted review in September of a divided, unpublished opinion. As stated in today’s Supreme Court order, the majority opinion concluded that “Labor Code section 1102.5, subdivision (b) does not protect an employee from retaliation for disclosing unlawful activity to a person or agency that already knows about the unlawful activity.” The employers defaulted in the underlying enforcement action filed by the Labor Commissioner and they did not appear in the Court of Appeal.

In both S.H.R. and Garcia-Brower, the court’s orders state that counsel is representing only the assigned “positions, and not any party,” but that counsel “will be treated as the opposing party and the brief will be treated as the answer brief.”

We believe the last time that the court recruited pro bono counsel in an otherwise one-sided case was five years ago in Bianka M. v. Superior Court (2018) 5 Cal.5th 1004.