April 21, 2019

It was 2001 and a group of Native American farmers and ranchers were locked in litigation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture claiming they’d been denied equal access to government loans because of their race.

A farming attorney at a small firm was handling the matter, but it was overwhelming. Enter plaintiffs’ powerhouse Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, which would spend the better part of the next two decades bringing its class action expertise to bear on the case.

Over the next 10 years, the firm would participate almost 100 depositions and spend about $10 million in attorneys fees, none of which would be paid until the settlement came in, according to Joseph Sellers, who chairs Cohen’s civil rights and employment practice group.

. . .

“This was a large piece of complex litigation,” he said. “We were able to draw on the resources of the firm and lawyers in other areas of practice to take depositions and advise on the law.”

When it comes to combating civil rights violations, dedicated practice groups like the one at Cohen Milstein can be especially effective, according to some practitioners, who say attorneys backed by a firm can do some things that solo attorneys and even government civil rights divisions can’t accomplish. But such groups are rare.

“Civil rights cases ... often involve significant outlays of expenses,” Sellers said. “Those are sometimes, for many firms, impediments to developing these types of practices.”

The full article can be accessed here.