What does a law firm that wins a pro bono voting rights lawsuit do with the legal fees it earns?

Interesting details in this Reuters story:

Latham got its $3.9 million pro bono fee award for work on a Voting Rights Act lawsuit that challenged the at-large method for electing board members of the East Ramapo Central School District in the Hudson Valley area of New York.

A central allegation in the case was that the board members slashed funding for public schools, where the students are 92% Black or Latino, firing hundreds of teachers, ending full-day kindergarten and shrinking programs in foreign languages, arts, music, athletics and extracurricular activities.

At the same time, the board members allegedly increased funding for services benefiting private school students, who are almost all white.

After a 17-day bench trial in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a trip to the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Latham lawyers and co-counsel from the New York Civil Liberties Union prevailed last year. They were awarded legal fees to boot.

But the money comes from the school district’s purse. If the East Ramapo public schools were already starved for money, wouldn’t paying out nearly $4 million to a mega-firm leave the students even worse off?

That’s where the charitable fund comes in.

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