CLEVELAND, OH - March 16, 2009 - Cleveland Cavaliers’ Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (#11) along with his wife, Jennifer, talked about making aggressive, effective moves on a different kind of court: the American legal system. Joining Dworken & Bernstein Co. L.P.A., a Northeast Ohio-based law firm that has already secured nearly $19 million for nonprofits, Ilgauskas asked lawyers, judges and corporations in class-action law suits to direct millions of dollars in unclaimed class action settlement money to deserving charities.
llgauskas said, “In these tough economic times, few have been harder hit than nonprofit organizations and the people they serve. This is true not only in Cleveland, but throughout the country and around the world.” He added, “Now is the time that lawyers can use their skills to give back and make a positive impact on the poor, sick and struggling in our communities.”
Irving Rosner and Patrick Perotti, partners at Dworken & Bernstein, announced that they are establishing a national nonprofit to encourage the use of cy pres, a legal doctrine that turns unclaimed class action settlement money into creative philanthropy benefitting charities and people in need. Cy pres (pronounced sigh pray) is an ancient legal doctrine that means “as near as possible.”
Perotti explained, “When class action suits are settled millions of dollars are left behind because class members cannot be found for various reasons. Giving that money back to a corporation which has agreed to pay-it-out is not fair. The money can bring justice to some of our society’s most deserving,” Perotti said. It can be designated for good through cy pres, rather than returned to a corporation who should not be entitled to receive it. To date, Dworken & Bernstein has secured nearly $19 million dollars in cy pres funds for more than 50 charities, including almost $14 million in the largest cy pres distribution of its kind in U.S. history in 2008. The firm has established Ohio Lawyers Give Back (www.OhioLawyersGiveBack.org) as a springboard for a national nonprofit that will educate judges, attorneys, corporations and the general public about cy pres and encourage its use to help our country’s charities.
“There are billions of dollars in unclaimed class-action funds in the country today,” explained Perotti. “We are just one Ohio law firm. Imagine what lawyers across the country can do if they join our mission and make cy pres a priority. It takes some complicated legal negotiations among judges and attorneys to use the doctrine, but the efforts are worth it. Cy pres will secure hundreds of millions of dollars to keep charities from failing. Cy pres money will give hope to at-risk youth, save lives by funding medical research and initiatives, feed the poor, provide shelter, and make our community a better place.” Perotti said.
The good that Dworken & Bernstein and Ohio Lawyers Give Back have done with cy pres will be demonstrated by some guests who will join Ilgauskas:
- Carla Lukins is a teacher hired by Akron Children’s Hospital because of cy pres funds. She now tutors children who are missing school while undergoing cancer treatment.
- Deon Smith is an at-risk and disadvantaged youth who thanks Dworken & Bernstein for a major donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. Deon tells how the club has given him hope and a safe place to avoid the gangs and drugs which pollute his neighborhood.
- Patrick Coyne Jr. is a 9-year old who lost his mom. Patrick and his dad tell about the progress which a major cy pres donation has made in helping to beat this disease.
Perotti announced, “Ohio Lawyers Give Back will work for no charge with any attorney or firm to provide methods which have been successful in reaching settlements which include a cy pres provision. It’s just that important to us to get everyone involved.”
About Dworken & Bernstein Co., L.PA.
With twenty-three attorneys and offices in Cleveland and Painesville, for over 50 years Dworken & Bernstein has offered a full range of legal services to support business interests across the United States and to help individuals in need of assistance. Dworken & Bernstein is the largest law firm in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Through its cy pres work and its history, Dworken & Bernstein is a firm known for making a difference for individuals, its business clients and in the community. For more information go to
About Ohio Lawyers Give Back
Dworken & Bernstein launched the Ohio Lawyers Give Back website after an extraordinary event in July ‘08. At this event over thirty charities were the recipients of nearly $14 Million dollars of unclaimed funds in a class action settlement. When a class action is settled, plaintiffs and defendants agree to a fund amount to pay all class members. However, since many class members have moved, passed-away, or can't be found, millions of settlement dollars go unclaimed. That settlement money is intended to benefit the class—rather than going back to the company. Most lawyers don’t take the extra time to find a better way, so the money goes back to a company which had no right to the money in the first place. www.ohiolawyersgiveback.org works to send that money instead to charity. Charities and non-profits can visit the website and fill out a form for possible selection in future class action settlements. In the past two years, nearly $19 Million Dollars has been directed to Ohio and national charities and nonprofits.