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Oklahoma Lawyers Making Equal Justice for all a Reality

Moore Attorney Kathi Rawls Presents Legal Aid Cy Pres Award in Predatory Lending Case

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

One of Oklahoma’s leading consumer rights attorneys recently presented Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma with a court-ordered award stemming from an automobile repossession case involving predatory lending accusations.

Image: Attorney Kathi Rawls and Michael Figgins, Executive DirectorM. Kathi Rawls, of the Rawls Law Office in Moore, delivered Legal Aid a check for $18,000 resulting from the settlement of Kelley v. Bank of Oklahoma, which charged the bank with using predatory lending methods against Oklahoma consumers.
 
“Legal Aid was the logical recipient of this cy pres award because Legal Aid’s clients represent consumers of banks and financial institutions, who can easily be harmed by unethical or illegal practices,” said Rawls. Moreover, she said, the underlying mission of legal aid programs for the poor is consistent with the courts’ overall mission.

Rawls, whose legal practice represents only consumers, has played a key role in persuading judges and opposing attorneys to direct three cy pres awards, totaling nearly $30,000, to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in the past 18 months.

She said many of the cy pres decisions come as a result of attorneys for both parties recognizing the unsurpassed value of the work of Legal Aid of Oklahoma. She said every county in Oklahoma “benefits from the hard work of this important institution” and judges agree.

In her work with the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA), Rawls has observed cy pres awards provide an optimal solution to many legal disputes, including class actions, especially if the practices in question relate to banking, predatory lending, U.C.C. violations and abusive consumer practices. Courts across the U.S.—both federal and state—have found legal aid programs to be appropriate recipients of cy pres awards, which can range from a couple thousand dollars to $2.6 million in Texas in 2009. While cy pres awards began occurring around the U.S. in the 90s, in Oklahoma they date back to 2007.

The doctrine of cy pres is a derivation of the French term “cy pres comme possible” meaning “as near as possible.” Cy pres was first used as a method of distributing trust funds when the trust’s original purpose could not be achieved. Under cy pres, the funds are distributed to the “next best” use.
 
“Rawls said she and associate attorney, Lendsey Thomson,  fight for consumer rights every day by prosecuting auto sales fraud, defending alleged debtors and reducing predatory lending. 

“We provide a lot of free information on our web site, www.consumerprotectionoklahoma.com, which helps consumers empower themselves.  However, when that doesn’t work we often find ourselves taking on cases that other attorneys just wouldn’t consider.  As corporate America grows bigger it is more important than ever to ensure those of us on main street are not trampled in the process,” she said. “Utilizing unclaimed class action awards paid by predatory lenders ensures that the lenders still have to pay for their wrongs, but it goes one step further and helps ensure that lower income Americans are able to access a path to justice through Legal Aid.  Consumer protection is what we have proudly made the sole focus of our practice at Rawls Law Office.”

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is a not-for-profit law firm which provides free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income individuals and their families and to elderly persons in the areas of family, consumer, housing, health and employment.  Legal Aid attorneys and staff work through a network of fully-staffed law offices and satellite offices, serving eligible clients in all 77 counties of Oklahoma.    The statewide toll-free number to call for legal assistance is 888-534-5243.

Funding for Legal Aid is from the Legal Services Corporation, the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, 15 United Way or United Fund organizations and generous attorneys, law firms, foundations, businesses and individuals throughout the state contributing to the Campaign for Justice.

For more information on Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and how cy pres and other court awards can be utilized in serving low-income and elderly Oklahomans, contact Michael Figgins, Executive Director, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma at 405.488.6769 or michael.figgins@laok.org.
 

 

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