The Indiana Pro Bono Commission has received an award for the benefit of its districts that comes from a class-action lawsuit.
The cy pres award is a result of the Indiana Supreme Court modifying Rule 23(F) of Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure to allow groups assisting low-income Indiana residents with legal needs to access residual class-action funds. The pro bono commission announced June 8 that it received $1,560 from a class-action suit in Marion County. Indiana Legal Services received $4,680.
Under Rule 23, “residual funds” are funds that remain after the payment of all class-member claims, expenses, litigation costs, attorneys’ fees, and other court-approved disbursements. Under the doctrine of cy pres, judges and counsel can recommend that residual funds be put to their “next best” use for the aggregate, indirect, or prospective benefit of the class members.
The underlying mission of pro bono programs is consistent with the purpose of Rule 23, which recognizes the need to protect the legal rights of those who, because of their economic position, would otherwise be unrepresented.
A 2009 Indiana study of the legal needs of the poor, “Unequal Access to Justice: A Comprehensive Study of the Civil Legal Needs of the Poor in Indiana,” found that the greatest needs were in the area of consumer finance, family law, housing, public entitlements, and health.