News and Information
September 10, 2019

Consumer Litigation Associates and Kelly Guzzo Honored for Pro Bono Work

The Virginia State Bar’s Committee on Access to Legal Services has tapped Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C. and Fairfax firm Kelly Guzzo, PLC as 2019 co-recipients of the Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award.  

The two firms were nominated by the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and three other nonprofits wrote in support of the firms’ joint efforts to protect and defend consumers from mistreatment by businesses engaged in unfair and abusive conduct. 

“These firms have created a culture of fighting for consumer rights, giving to the community, and pro-bono work that has provided immense value to the Legal Aid Justice Center, many other Virginian legal aid firms, and countless low-income Virginians,” writes Tim Wallace of LAJC.

Wallace estimates that about 20 percent of attorney time at Consumer Litigation Associates (CLA) and Kelly Guzzo goes toward pro bono work, allowing them to represent untold individuals while partnering with legal aid organizations, voluntary bars, and nonprofits in their communities. 

“[The firms] have been instrumental in the fight against predatory lending in Virginia,” writes Jay Speer of the Virginia Poverty Law Center in his nomination. “They have filed numerous class action lawsuits against internet lenders that are evading Virginia law, which has resulted in millions of dollars in awards and cancelled debt for financially-struggling Virginians.”

Gifts of cy pres awards and attorney fees are common themes in nominators’ letters. Speer and Wallace cite a case where, after months of litigation, CLA and Kelly Guzzo forewent attorneys’ fees in order to settle a lawsuit with a predatory lender charging a 960 percent APR for their loans. “The difference in the lives of those who had been affected by this predatory lender, and the relief they felt, cannot be overstated,” writes Speer.

Wallace also highlights last-minute discovery, trial prep, and mediation work the two firms did on a civil rights case seeking adequate medical care for 1,200 incarcerated women. He also commends CLA and Kelly Guzzo for work on a case challenging eviction in Richmond’s public housing authority. 

“When we think of pro bono partnership at LAJC, … we think of all the ways that multiple members of both Consumer Litigation Associates and Kelly Guzzo, PLC work to help us fulfill our mission to keep people out of poverty,” says Wallace. “More importantly, they make it their own mission in the work they do each and every day.”

Nominators note that CLA and Kelly Guzzo’s pro bono help comes in many forms. Their attorneys often present and lend their expertise at legal aid events. They draft consumer law treatises for the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center. They write amicus briefs. They fund legal aid attorneys’ attendance at the annual Consumer Rights Litigation conference. And they mentor and train new attorneys.

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving … to receive the Frankie Muse Freeman Award,” says Speer.

The chairman of the board of Hampton Roads Refugee Relief also wrote in support of CLA and its founding partner, Leonard Bennett. Under Bennett’s leadership, CLA has worked tirelessly on a pro bono basis to assist the refugee community’s legal needs.

Consumer Litigation Associates has offices in Alexandria and Newport News. Kelly Guzzo is based in Fairfax and has offices in D.C., Baltimore, and Honolulu. 

The Freeman Award was established by the Standing Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar to honor firms and attorney groups that have made outstanding pro bono contributions. The award is named for the famed civil rights leader and first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. This year’s award will be presented October 16 during the Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference in Harrisonburg.

Updated: Sep 10, 2019