Cy Pres

About Cy Pres and Other Court Awards
Courts across the country have directed cy pres and court awards to programs that provide legal services to people experiencing poverty, like the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, recognizing that these programs serve an important societal purpose and are well-managed, non-partisan, nonprofit organizations that provide effective services to the community, the courts, and their clients.

Founded in 1989, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C., is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to end and prevent homelessness.  Partnering with pro bono attorneys, we bring high impact litigation, lead and support federal, state and local advocacy campaigns, and educate providers, advocates and the public. Our work creates homes and communities for families, children, veterans, elderly and disabled people experiencing homelessness using surplus government property, improves access to housing for domestic violence survivors and their children, secures education rights for children experiencing homelessness, and protects human rights and dignity by striking down laws that prevent people experiencing homelessness from voting and that punish them for their homelessness. Our work affects millions of Americans each year.

Some of the ways the courts have helped groups like the Law Center fulfill their mission:
  • Cy Pres Awards: These are made from unclaimed class action funds. Courts have broad discretion in this area and have found a nexus between the similar purposes of class action lawsuits and organizations like the Law Center that offer access to the justice system for those who might otherwise not have it. A case does not have to be about homelessness in order for the Law Center to qualify. In Moira Gilley v. Ernie Haire Ford, Inc, Circuit Court (13th Judicial District, FL), those among the awardees were two national legal aid entities.
  • Court-Approved Settlements: Most court awards to groups that provide legal services for disadvantaged persons are resulting from settlement discussions between the parties, where there is an agreement between them that a charitable donation to a group like the Law Center is in order. Such contributions are often offered by defense counsel.
  • Sanction Awards: In a few cases judges have sanctioned attorneys in a case and awarded the sanction funds to legal aid programs, pursuant to their broad discretionary power.
  • Criminal Disgorgement: Under federal and state sentencing guidelines, if after payment of all fines and restitution to victims of the crime, there remain funds gained as a result of the crime, those funds must be disgorged. Disgorgement may be required in a plea agreement, or by the court at sentencing, through contribution of the funds to a non-profit organization or the government. As part of a plea agreement, payment of an agreed disgorgement amount to a non-profit may result in a more limited time of incarceration, or other advantages in the case of a corporate defendant.
Past Cy Pres Awards
Thanks to Law Center Board Member Jeffrey Simes and his partners at Goodwin Procter LLP, the Law Center received $11,633 in Dowd v. Alliance Mortgage Company (2011).