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MAY 21, 2017


Hour 1 "Has Fake News Spread to the Judiciary"

with Lawrence W. Schonbrun

Hour 2  Poor No More

with Peter Cove

"Has Fake News Spread to the Judiciary?"
Lawrence W. Schonbrun

Lawrence is a nationally recognized authority on the issue of the reasonableness of attorneys' fee awards in class actions. He has appeared on behalf of unnamed class members in approximately 200 class actions throughout the United States. A New York City native now living in Northern California, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont in 1966 and his law degree from Boston College Law School in 1969.

Mr. Schonbrun has been featured on John Stossel's ABC special, "The Trouble With Lawyers," as well as Morley Safer's 60 Minutes report, "The Disaster That Wasn't." He has also testified before the United States Congress on the issue of attorney contingency fees and before the California Senate Judiciary Committee on class action reform legislation. His work in the field of class actions has been chronicled in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, The Washington Post, Barron's, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Business News Service, and American Thinker.

Has "Fake News" Spread to the Judiciary?
By Lawrence W. Schonbrun
The confirmation debate surrounding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch highlighted the perennial dispute between adherents of “Originalism” and supporters of a “Living Constitution” over how judges should interpret the U.S. Constitution. Despite this disagreement, however, there has been no dispute that judicial decisions must rest on a strong foundation: the facts of the case, the judicial precedents that make up the relevant case law, and a rational analysis linking the two. In an alarming turn, however, even this basic premise is being challenged by imperious and unaccountable judges that are even getting the facts wrong.

The California Supreme Court—a national trendsetter—has granted review to a case of mine, Hernandez v. Restoration Hardware, Inc. (RHI). It is a court of appeal opinion so full of errors, both factual and legal, as to make one wonder if our legal system is losing its commitment to the rule of law itself. If rulings like this can be issued by the second-highest court in California—a highly influential legal arena—then we could be witnessing a phenomenon that will soon sweep the nation.

The legal question the Restoration Hardware case seeks to resolve is a procedural one—but significant to all Americans nonetheless. Under what circumstances can a class member in a class action appeal a $9 million attorneys' fee? Was there a violation of due process for the lawyers to fail to advise class members of the fee that they had privately negotiated (with the defendant) and of their request to the court to approve it?

In reading the court's opinion, it is astounding to observe the number of errors it contained. It is apparent that the facts of the case I had appealed were not the facts in the opinion. Moreover, the case law I had cited was so distorted as to be unrecognizable. It seems impossible that in a properly functioning appellate judicial system, a court could get so many facts and case law rulings wrong in one opinion. This amounts to judicial incompetence by a court that seems to have started with its decision and then clumsily searched for justifications with little regard for the facts or law. For instance, the appellate court opinion:

  • Found that the attorneys' fee award was made by the court as part of adversarial proceedings, despite the fact that class members were not informed of the fee negotiations nor of the submission of a fee request to the court. In truth, class members were not allowed to object to the amount of the fee.
  • Claimed there was a conflict between two decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the High Court's finding that there was no conflict.
  • Cited a California decision regarding a rule, while ignoring the very next sentence that carved out an exception from the rule that precisely applied to the case.
  • Asserted that its decision was on "all fours" with a 1942 California Supreme Court case, ignoring that the central issue of my appeal is that notice was not provided to the class. Notice however was provided in the 1942 case. On "all fours," really?
  • Rejected a California federal case as inapplicable by asserting that it concerned appeals of only class action settlements, despite the case clearly stating that it concerned an appeal of an attorneys' fee award, just like RHI.
  • Asserted that class members were "privy" (aware of) to private negotiations between class counsel and the defendant, even though all parties in the litigation agreed that no notice of the attorneys' fee matter had been provided to the class.


When the second-highest court in influential California issues such a flawed decision, something very wrong has happened to our judicial system. With three judges unanimously signing off on the opinion, this is not simply the malfeasance of one rogue judge. Tragically, it reflects a repudiation of the rule of law by the very judges who are supposed to enforce the law. The RHI decision suggests that the bedrock principles of judicial decision-making that we've been taught are sacrosanct—the importance of the facts of the case and case law precedents—have become a vestige of a bygone legal era.

This case is frightening in that it may be a harbinger of an unapologetically imperious judicial bureaucracy. Judges unrestrained by case facts and legal precedents could become so powerful that they can openly defy the law and rule as they wish. The Restoration Hardware court, by ordering the publication of its decision, showed that it is supremely confident there will be no consequences. For the nation’s sake, let's hope the California Supreme Court rules otherwise.

—Lawrence W. Schonbrun is the Executive Director of Berkeley, California-based Class Action Watch.



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Hour 2 "Poor No More"

Peter Cove is a nationally-acclaimed advocate for private solutions to welfare dependency, and author of the new book, POOR NO MORE: Rethinking Dependency and the War on Poverty. Peter Cove is founder of America Works, the first for-profit, welfare-to-work company. He has created more than 1 million jobs for welfare recipients through America Works and other private sector endeavors. For 50 years, he has been at the forefront of mitigating poverty by promoting jobs as a solution to welfare dependency. He previously served in key posts in New York City municipal government, charitable foundations, and private companies.

Peter Cove is a frequent media guest who has appeared on major radio and television programs nationwide. He has contributed to such publications as the New York Post, New York Daily News, The Hill, City Journal, and the Huffington Post. Peter Cove has testified before the United States Congress. He graduated from Northeastern University and resides in New York City. Check out America Works

Poor No More   purchase

Rethinking Dependency and the War on Poverty

By Peter Cove

Washington, DC—In the 1960s, America set out to end poverty. Policy-makers put forth an unprecedented package of legislation, funding anti-poverty programs and empowering the poor through ineffective employment-related education and training. However, these handouts produced little change, and efforts to provide education and job-training proved inconsequential, boasting only a 2.5 percent decrease in the poverty rate since 1965. Decades after the War on Poverty began, many of its programs had failed. Only one thing really worked to help end poverty—and that was work itself, the centerpiece of welfare reform in 1996.

In POOR NO MORE: Rethinking Dependency and the War on Poverty (Transaction Publishers, February 2017), Peter Cove—acclaimed advocate for private solutions to welfare dependency—proposes a radical solution to abolish all welfare and poverty programs and replace them with jobs for all able Americans. As Peter Cove argues, “Simply, I propose that we eliminate all welfare programs except those geared toward people who truly cannot work due to physical or mental problems. Second, we scuttle all poverty programs, including everything from Head Start to Food Stamps. From 1964 until today we have spent over $19 trillion on such programs and have hardly moved the poverty rate down from 17 percent in 1965 to 14.5 percent in 2014. We should wipe the slate clean, take all the money saved, and create jobs—first, in the private sector and then, as a last resort, in the public one. In so doing we will return our country to a work ethic and steer it away from dependency. We will solve poverty with work—a job for all who
are able.”

POOR NO MORE is a pioneering plan to restructure poverty programs by prioritizing jobs above all else. Traditionally, job placement programs stemmed from non-profit organizations or government agencies. However, America Works, the first for-profit job placement venture founded by Peter Cove, has the highest employee retention rate in the greater New York City area, even above these traditional agencies—and almost always beats the competition in markets nationwide. In the 1990s, when the federal government embraced the work-first ideal, inspired by the success of America Works, welfare rolls plummeted from 12.6 million to 4.7 million nationally within one decade.

For 50 years, Peter Cove has been at the forefront of mitigating poverty, starting out as a true believer in income transfers, social services, and a reliance on improving human capital through training and education programs. He gradually came to the realization that these programs were failing individuals by stressing education and training over work itself—leaving those in need without real world work experience and utterly dependent on government largess. Despite these failures, liberal politicians and policy-makers—avowed defenders of the downtrodden—continued to advocate for these failed programs. Why? Peter Cove contends that “making real change threatens the foundations of their own electoral support. Because defending the vulnerable is ultimately less important than kowtowing to labor unions, social workers, community groups, and the welfare-industrial complex. They have thrown the poor under the special interest bus.”

Armed with this new understanding, Peter Cove put these theories into action by founding America Works, the first for-profit welfare-to-work company. America Works offers employment services to state and local welfare agencies with the aim of placing welfare recipients in jobs quickly, with a minimal amount of time spent on training. Instead, America Works weeklong training sessions are narrowly focused on the attributes and skills needed to land an entry-level job. Trainers work with clients on the basics, such as maintaining a businesslike personal appearance, speaking properly, preparing a resume, and showing up on time. Clients quickly learn that success depends on self-discipline and their own motivation and effort. Peter Cove has created more than 1 million jobs for welfare recipients through his for-profit company America Works and other private endeavors.

On the march today are social policies based on progressivism that reject the welfare bill of 1996’s mandate for work and reciprocal responsibility. As practiced by President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, we are returning to the failed programs and approaches of the past that now threaten the gains made in reducing poverty, dependency, and welfare rolls when a work-first method was adopted. POOR NO MORE is a paradigm-shifting work that guides the reader through the evolution of America’s War on Poverty and urges policy-makers to eliminate training and education programs that waste time and money, and to adopt a work-first model.

To arrange an interview with Poor No More author Peter Cove, please contact Stephen Manfredi at 202.222.8028 or .