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The SFWA Legal Fund makes loans available to authors who must take a writing-related dispute to court. Loans are made on a case-by-case basis, after review by the Grievance Committee and the SFWA attorney.
SFWA Legal Fund Guidelines
The SFWA legal fund does not seek to promote or prolong litigation, but rather seeks to assure that the outcome of cases involving major principles or practices is fair and favorable to writers. The fund is not intended to be used in cases where there are many decisions which support the writers’ position, but the fund may be used to help individual members who do not have the wherewithal to afford to take action even where the law is clearly on their side.
- The legal fund may be used for the following purposes:
- To fund loans to members who have a publishing-related dispute.
- To fund legal action in the name of SFWA which will benefit a group of members or the organization as a whole.
- To fund or contribute to the funding of court actions brought by others in issues which are of importance to SFWA’s members and the business of writing and which may help to raise SFWA’s profile as a pro-active writers’ organization.
- To contribute to lobbying efforts which will improve the position of writers and other members of the creative community.
- Only active general members in good standing with SFWA are eligible to request assistance from the legal fund.
- Funding for outside activities such as amicus briefs and lobbying should be limited to 10% of the existing fund in any given year, unless an exception is voted by the Board of Directors. The decision to fund any of these activities will be made by a vote of the Board after an evaluation of the merits of the action has been made by SFWA’s attorney and presented to the board with a recommendation for proceeding. The decision to fund such activities will be based on:
- The nature of the grievance;
- The precedent setting possibility of the action;
- The potential benefit to SFWA’s members or the potential damage to SFWA’s members should an action go unchallenged;
- The potential short and long-term effects of involvement; and/or
- The financial state of the legal fund.
- The decision to use the legal fund to provide a loan to an individual member will be made with regard to the following:
- The understanding that the fund may not be used by one active general member to sue or defend a suit filed by another active general member.
- Unless time is of the essence to avoid a statute of limitations problem, verification that the member has attempted to settle the dispute without success and at least sixty (60) days have passed since the filing of a grievance with the Grievance Committee of SFWA and the dispute remains unresolved to the satisfaction of party involved.
- The contents of formal written request for the aid, including an outline of the claim, a proposed course of action to resolve the matter, what kind of aid is requested, and a budget for possible litigation.
- An agreement to provide SFWA with copies of all paperwork related to the dispute, including copies of all pleadings and settlement correspondence, and the granting of a waiver of the attorney-client confidentiality privilege so that SFWA’s attorney can consult with the outside attorney and provide an accurate evaluation of the dispute to the board.
- An agreement that SFWA will be permitted to assist in the choice of an attorney if the member has not previously hired one and that SFWA may make a final attempt at settling the matter before litigation proceeds.
- The understanding that the Board of Directors is the final arbiter of whether a loan will be granted.
- In the event that SFWA agrees to fund a loan, the member will sign a contract which outlines specific procedures which will be followed in pursuing the dispute gives SFWA a lien on any recovery in the action (by settlement or court order)—and a schedule of payments in the event the member loses the action—for repayment to the legal fund of the loan plus interest.
- Loans to active members in good standing will be limited to a maximum aggregate amount of 20% of the fund, which may only be used to pay for legal fees and costs (i.e., a member may not use the loan to pay damages in a case which s/he loses).
- The decision to use the legal fund to support legal action in the name of SFWA or for a class action or representative action for the benefit of SFWA’s members is solely at the discretion of the Board of Directors by a majority vote taken after consulting SFWA’s attorney and any other individual or committee which the Board of Directs feels is prudent to consult. The amount to be expended in any single action will be limited to 30% percent of the fund in given year.