The city of Philadelphia will not be entering into a contract right away to create an Office of Conflict Counsel after all.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter's press secretary, Mark McDonald, said in an email that the winning bidder did not have the same name in place at the start of the process as at the end of the process, so the contract can't be issued legally.
The City Code requires that the name of the entity initiating the bid process in the eContract Philly system have the same name as the entity with whom the city contracts.
Philadelphia attorney Daniel-Paul Alva's bid appeared to be the winner to start a new Office of Conflict Counsel in Philadelphia.
However, Alva and his former partner on the project, Scott DiClaudio, bid for the conflict-counsel work as Alva & Associates LLC. DiClaudio stepped back from the project in the wake of social-media postings he made. The city said in a statement that Alva is actually "not associated with Alva & Associates," and that his actual firm name is the Law Offices of Daniel P. Alva. The name change means the city cannot contract with Alva at this point.
"In no way does this reflect on the proposal to establish a Conflict Counsel office," McDonald wrote. "The administration is committed to carrying this out. Nor does it reflect on the quality of the proposal from Mr. Alva. But the rules are clear."
The city has to begin the bidding process again from scratch.
Alva wrote in an email that he will resubmit his bid in the new contract process and "hopefully will be chosen again."
The city announced its intention on Dec. 31 to contract with Alva & Associates, which would create a for-profit law firm to represent criminal defendants and family-court defendants when the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Community Legal Services or the Support Center for Child Advocates is already representing another person in the case.
The plan was for the firm to handle the first appointments in criminal cases and juvenile-delinquent cases in which the Defender Association has a conflict, and for the firm to represent the primary caregiver in every dependency case, Alva said in an interview earlier this month. The firm would have taken all new appointments starting March 1. The firm's bid was $9.5 million.
The plan has generated opposition from many quarters, including from Councilman Dennis O'Brien. O'Brien's director of legislation and policy, Miriam E. Enriquez, said in an interview Monday that her office is pleased the process is starting over and that it hoped the next iteration of conflict-counsel representation makes "sure the Constitiontal rights of the indigent are preserved and protected."
Alva said in an interview earlier this month that he was looking forward to proving any "detractors" wrong.
While the firm will be for-profit, "I did not expect to make one cent of profit" from city funds, Alva said. "No one is going to accuse myself or my firm of pocketing profit" at the expense of quality legal representation.
The new office didn't plan to make a profit from city tax dollars, Alva said, but from fees earned by referring clients' cases in other types of matters.
Through those referrals, the firm could help achieve the goal of "Civil Gideon," a movement in recent years to expand legal representation for civil legal matters involving fundamental needs like custody of children or housing, Alva argued.
There were four other bidders for the contract: Ahmad & Zaffarese & Smyler, AskPhillyLawyer.com, Montoya Shaffer and Sokolow & Associates, according to the city's notice.
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