Director, Debtors' Prison Project & Senior Attorney
Leslie A. Bailey is a senior attorney in Public Justice’s Oakland, California office, and Director of the organization’s Debtors’ Prison Project. Leslie litigates complex public interest cases and appeals involving civil rights and liberties, consumer protection, and court secrecy. She has briefed, argued, and won cases in state and federal appellate courts across the country and has testified in both houses of Congress. Leslie has spoken on court secrecy, private probation, class actions, ethics, and forced arbitration at over three dozen national and state conferences and CLEs.
Civil Rights & Criminal Justice: Leslie is dedicated to fighting the criminalization of poverty and the jailing and financial exploitation of low-income criminal defendants. Leslie is the head of Public Justice’s Debtors’ Prison Project, and she is currently counsel in Ray v. Judicial Correction Services and several related class actions in federal court in Alabama challenging the unconstitutional practices of a for-profit probation company that collects court debt. She was proud to be a member of the trial team in Hankin v. City of Seattle, in which a jury found Seattle liable for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of 200 peaceful protesters.
Court Secrecy: As one of the lead attorneys in Public Justice’s Court Secrecy Project, Leslie has testified before subcommittees of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives about how secret settlements and sealed court records threaten public health and safety. She was recently interviewed by Andrea Cambron on the radio show EnlightenMe, about how NDAs and arbitration agreements have been used to silence survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and how the #MeToo Movement and pending legislation can change that.
Leslie has represented public interest groups in successfully blocking corporate efforts to hide evidence of wrongdoing through secrecy orders, including Remington Rifle Co. and Cooper Tires. Leslie was co-counsel with Jennifer Bennett in Chrysler Group v. The Center for Auto Safety, in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that documents containing information bearing on the safety of millions of Chrysler vehicles must be unsealed unless the company can demonstrate that compelling reasons for secrecy outweigh the public’s presumptive right of access to court records. Chrysler’s petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, but the district court refused to unseal almost all the documents, and unfortunately that decision was recently affirmed in an unpublished decision by a panel of the Ninth Circuit.
Leslie recently participated in an invitation-only meeting at Yale Law School’s Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency about best practices to ensure public access to health and safety information in medical product litigation.
Consumer Rights & Payday Lending: Leslie is currently co-lead counsel in Rosas v. AMG Services, Inc., a putative class action against an internet payday lender in California state court. The defendant—a payday lender that charged over 700% interest on short-term loans and which was controlled by notorious kingpin Scott Tucker when the loans were made—claims that its nominal affiliation with a Native American tribe entitles it to share in the tribe’s immunity from state law. The “tribal immunity” defense is an increasingly popular defense strategy among payday lenders seeking ways to continue charging exorbitant interest on short-term consumer loans while evading state consumer protection laws. Leslie conceived and directed the creation of a first-of-its kind report on tribal lending, “Stretching the Envelope of Tribal Sovereign Immunity?: An Investigation of the Relationships Between Online Payday Lenders and Native American Tribes.” This 200-page report, which was funded by a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, features the most comprehensive research and analysis done to date on the relationships between payday lenders and tribes. Leslie served as co-chair of the Board of Directors of NACA, the National Association for Consumer Advocates, from 2016-2018, and as a board member from 2012-2016.
Forced Arbitration: Leslie also has extensive experience opposing the enforcement of unfair arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, and most recently argued and won Sgouros v. TransUnion Corp., in which the Seventh Circuit struck down the arbitration agreement of one of the largest corporations in the country on contract formation grounds. She also argued and won FIA Card Services v. Weaver, a in which the Louisiana Supreme Court held that a debt collector cannot enforce an arbitration award against a consumer without proving the consumer agreed to arbitration. On December 13, 2018, Leslie argued before the South Carolina Supreme Court on behalf of victims of insurance scams that the insurance companies should not be permitted to force their claims into arbitration based on a clause in a contract between those companies and another defendant, where the plaintiffs were not parties and had never agreed to arbitrate.
Leslie has also successfully opposed certiorari in several cases, most recently TAMKO v. Hobbs, in which the Missouri Court of Appeals held that consumers did not agree to arbitration merely by keeping a product, where the corporation failed to provide any evidence that it had given the consumers reasonable notice that they’d lose their right to go to court if they kept the product; and Beverly Enterprises v. Cyr, in which the Eleventh Circuit held that where an arbitration clause provides for arbitration “exclusively” before a forum that has been barred from conducting consumer arbitrations, the Federal Arbitration Act does not require a court to override the parties’ intent and designate a substitute forum.
Leslie authored Public Justice’s comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on why the Trump Administration should not cave to the nursing home industry’s demand to be able to force wrongful death claims out of court and into secret arbitration.
Personal: In her spare time, Leslie is the lead singer of Oakland band Lucy & The Long Haul. She received her J.D. cum laude from New York University School of Law and her B.A. in Philosophy cum laude from Claremont McKenna College.
U.S. Supreme Court
California Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California