When Bill Brewer struts through his 48th floor downtown office, he looks like just another high-powered Dallas attorney in an impeccable pinstriped suit and brightly colored tie. He just might be working for free, however.
When he's not handling disputes for multi-million dollar companies at the firm he co-founded more than two decades ago, he and other attorneys at Bickel & Brewer take on civil rights and commercial cases for clients who might not be able to pay at all.
Since opening the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, the law firm's pro-bono satellite office in predominantly black south Dallas, he has guided lawsuits that, among others, won wheelchair athletes the right to compete in the New York City Marathon and helped a small Hispanic evangelical church nearly swindled out of its building.
The Long Island native also represents Farmers Branch landlords and residents fighting the Dallas suburb's efforts to prevent illegal immigrants from renting apartments and houses. Brewer has filed numerous state and federal lawsuits contending that the city's all-white leadership is trying to drive out the city's growing Latino population.
"Generating an antagonism between Anglos and Hispanics is not the way to go," said Brewer, 57. "This is a state, if it's not already, will soon be, a state where the majority of the people in our community ... are of Hispanic origin."
Calls and e-mails from The Associated Press to Farmers Branch officials for comment were not returned. Mayor Tim O'Hare has previously said illegal immigrants are a drain on the city's schools and neighborhoods.
Brewer's friend, longtime Dallas activist Adelfa Callejo, asked him to get involved after the city council unanimously passed a November 2006 ordinance requiring landlords to check the immigration status of renters. The rule was revised later to include some exemptions.