OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Wouldn’t you want a second chance?

This National Reentry Week, Prop 47 and expungement clinics allow individuals to move past their offenses and rejoin our communities.

By Maureen Slack, OneJustice Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow

Almost one in three Americans has a criminal record. In fact, roughly the same number of Americans have criminal records as do four-year college diplomas. Before I started working on criminal record clearance clinics with the Justice Bus Project and our amazing partners, I didn’t realize the depth of the damage.

IMAGE: OneJustice Board member and Justice Bus Volunteer at a clinic in Napa County.

OneJustice Board member and Justice Bus Volunteer at a clinic in Napa County.

In many ways, a criminal record punishes someone long after she’s completed her sentence. And convictions from 20 or 30 years ago, minor offenses, or just arrests, carry criminal records and serious turmoil. The Proposition 47 and expungement clinics that the Justice Bus holds along with legal and community organizations provide at least some form of relief. However, as the law stands, there is no complete remedy for someone to move on.

Much of a record’s harm is economic. Most housing and employment sources require background checks and providers can make harsh snap judgments based on little information. This was our client from Napa’s experience: “I was in a volatile marriage and received a DUI in my own driveway as I got in my car for safety from my abusive husband. I lost my nursing license due to this.” And she’s not alone. Depending on the survey, up to 90% of prospective employers perform criminal background checks, as do 80% of landlords. Some research indicates that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by almost 50%. And this negative impact is more pronounced for African-American men than white men. Many clients come to clinics hoping for meaningful, full-time employment.

Beyond these economic barriers, a criminal record can also do serious emotional damage. A major part of this emotional strain comes from the economic and housing instability. Many clients also feel hurt by the stigma of being forever labeled as criminals. As one of our clients put it, “When I was young I made a mistake and got a felony conviction. That was about 15 years ago. I am now mature, a father, and hardworking… [by getting this expunged] I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” Even when someone feels they’ve moved forward from past mistakes, a record is a constant reminder of how society labels them.

While these economic and emotional barriers are severe and often unyielding, the law currently makes it really difficult to remove them. Criminal expungements and Proposition 47 offer at least some relief. Through expungement, someone can get their old conviction case re-opened and dismissed. It won’t completely erase their record, and the case will still show up on state background checks — but it won’t show up on private criminal background checks. The person can now accurately answer on most applications that they’ve never been convicted of a crime. Additionally, Prop 47 is a piece of legislation that reclassifies certain non-violent felonies as misdemeanors. Through Prop 47 relief, individuals may be able to restore their ability to get certain professional licenses and public benefits. It may also make DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) available to immigrants previously ineligible because of felony convictions.

IMAGE: Stanford Law School students helping a client at a mobile legal clinic in Shasta County.

Stanford Law School students helping a client at a mobile legal clinic in Shasta County.

The Justice Bus has been working with dedicated and enthusiastic Public Defender’s offices, community organizations, private attorneys, and criminal defense firms throughout the state for one-day, limited-scope expungement and Prop 47 clinics. The clients we see are overwhelmingly relieved to confront their criminal pasts and move forward. Since April 2015, our Northern California office has held 15 criminal record clinics in San Joaquin, Napa, Fresno, Butte, and Shasta Counties. This weekend, we’ll head to Santa Cruz.

While expungements and Prop 47 provide some relief, barriers still remain, and at this point, there’s no way for a client to have a truly clean slate. We need more research on the impact of expungements and Prop 47 on people’s lives, but, anecdotally, the people who come to our clinics are hopeful for a fresh start. With the right legislation, there is hope for stronger programs to help those individuals successfully start their lives again.


Maureen_Blog Post photoMaureen Slack is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow and a proud participant in Equal Justice Work’s national Veterans Legal Corps. At OneJustice, she is responsible for leading Justice Bus trips throughout Northern California, working to bring attorney and law student volunteers from urban areas to serve isolated communities.

She hears their calls…

Welcome to our new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, Lyla Bugara!

We’re super excited to introduce you to the newest member of our team! Lyla will be working with the Pro Bono Justice Program, which fosters volunteerism in the legal profession and builds innovative, private/nonprofit collaborations that deliver free legal services to vulnerable communities. So to get to know her better, we sat down with Lyla this week and asked her a few questions!

Please join us in welcoming her to the OneJustice network!


Photo: Lyla Bugara, the new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the San Francisco office.

Meet Lyla Bugara, the new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the San Francisco office.

Thank you for joining us today, Lyla! Tell us what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

I was extremely excited by the opportunity to work at OneJustice because of the organization’s commitment to systemic and transformative change. OneJustice is a unique nonprofit in that it takes a bird’s-eye view of the legal aid system in California and works to develop innovative solutions to the many problems that plague our state’s justice system. Millions of people live their lives every day without access to legal resources just because of where they live, how much money they make, where they were born, what language they speak, the color of their skin, and their gender identity. It’s wildly unjust, and the time for change was yesterday! The good news is that we are living in historic times. Thousands of Black and brown people across the country are rising up to say “enough!” to systemic racism and oppression. I hear their calls. And OneJustice’s work plays such an important part in the fight for equal justice, economic justice, and racial justice. I am honored to work here.

We’re honored to have you on the team! What will you be doing in your role at OneJustice?

As the Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, I will be responsible for managing the Justice Bus Project in Northern California and clinic coordination for the Rural Justice Collaborative. Both of these programs provide essential legal services to people living in rural areas who might otherwise never be served. I hope to ensure these projects best serve the needs of oppressed and marginalized Californians, while transforming the legal aid system in California.

We look forward to hearing about this work in the near future! What were you up to before coming to OneJustice? 

In 2011, I worked at the Correctional Association of New York advocating for an end to the incarceration of domestic violence survivors. From 2012-2016, I worked at ColorOfChange, the country’s largest online civil rights organization, as Criminal Justice Campaign Manager where I managed campaigns relating to ending for-profit prisons and anti-Black police violence.

It sounds like really rewarding work! And final question, tell us something about you that is not work-related!

I was born and raised Macrobiotic — a Japanese diet based on the power of whole foods to heal and nourish the body. From ages 10-13, I went to “Macro Camp” every summer.:)

Thank you so much for your time, Lyla! We’re happy to welcome you to the OneJustice team!

The best way to find yourself…

Is to lose yourself in the service of others…Happy National Volunteer Week!

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” and we couldn’t agree more! Over the past year, 766 volunteers have brought help, hope, and justice to over 1,200 Californians around the state. These volunteers traveled all over California, and with just a few hours, they changed many lives.

This National Volunteer Week, we express our deepest gratitude with a slideshow of your photos! A million thanks to all of the outstanding volunteers who made this work possible this past year! You will always be a part of the OneJustice network!

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Without volunteers like you, hundreds of Californians would not have access to legal help. You make all the difference to them and to OneJustice! Thank you for making justice accessible!

They deserve an equal opportunity to life…

University of San Francisco School of Law students tell us what pro bono means to them. 

Last month, six law students traveled on a two-day Justice Bus trip to Fresno to provide free legal help with the expungement process, which helps individuals clean their criminal records and opens doors to opportunities that their records previously prevented. Thanks to the hard work of these law students and the advice of expert attorney volunteers, 31 individuals received legal assistance. A big shout out to our partners, Ciummo and Associates, the Fresno Vet Center, and University of San Francisco School of Law for bringing help, hope, and justice to the Fresno area!

Check out what these amazing students had to say about pro bono!

University of San Francisco School of Law students give their own personal quotes on why pro bono matters to them.

Thank you all for taking the time to talk with us! You make all the difference!

Meet our newest team member!

New Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, Dulce Sanchez, joins the OneJustice team.

We’re excited to introduce you to Dulce, our newest team member in the Los Angeles office! She is currently working on pro bono naturalization work in Los Angeles and on the IMPACT LA and SoCal Justice Bus projects. Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Dulce!

We’re pretty nosy here, so we forced her to sit down and answer a series of questions before she leaves for the next clinic!


IMAGE: Dulce Sanchez, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the Los Angeles office.

Dulce Sanchez, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the Los Angeles office.

Welcome, Dulce! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

As a person interested in applying to law school and in working with underserved groups and populations, I was most drawn to OneJustice’s mission. OneJustice’s push for expanding legal access in rural communities via the Justice Bus and legal clinics, aligned perfectly with my own personal and professional interests. Working with OneJustice simply seemed like (and continues to be) a perfect fit!

We’re happy to hear that we’re a match! What will you be responsible for at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?

At OneJustice, I will work closely with my colleagues to implement and expand pro bono naturalization and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)/DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) work through community outreach, through the Justice Bus, and in a collaborative effort with other community partners. Ultimately our goal is to reach out to hard-to-reach populations in Los Angeles County and neighboring counties to expand immigrant integration efforts and to provide the hard-to-reach populations education on the citizenship process.

Sounds like great work ahead! What were you up to before coming to OneJustice? 

Before joining OneJustice, I studied sociology and government at Smith College. Though Smith College is located in Western Massachusetts, I interned and volunteered at different nonprofits in Los Angeles during my summer breaks. Among those organizations are the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Town Hall Los Angeles. Upon graduating, I moved back to LA and worked with Town Hall Los Angeles as Program Coordinator.

I am very fortunate to join such a supportive, driven, and energetic staff…I am looking forward to working with everyone at OneJustice and with the vast communities OneJustice serves!

We’re excited to have you on the team! Last question, what is something quirky about you? 

I LOVE Hello Kitty! Perhaps a little too much… I also like buying Hello Kitty items from the countries I’ve visited. I’m considering learning Japanese and flying to Japan on the Hello Kitty airplane!

Thank you so much, Dulce, for answering all of our questions! Welcome to the OneJustice team!

It’s never too late for a fresh start…

Over 100 individuals receive free legal help in Los Angeles!

IMAGE: Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

On Saturday, March 19, 2016, OneJustice, in partnership with Jenesse Center Legal Advisory CommitteeAlternate Public Defender, Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Californians for Safety and JusticeICE out of LAIMPACT LA, the John M. Langston Bar Association, Legal Aid Foundation of Los AngelesLos Angeles Public DefenderNeighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, A New Way of Life Reentry ProjectOne LA I.A.F., and other Los Angeles-based community organizations helped give Angelenos a Fresh Start.

At the newly created Fresh Start Legal Clinic, South LA residents completed applications for the Traffic Ticket Amnesty program, which allows individuals with unpaid fines on traffic and non-traffic infraction tickets to get a reduction of up to 80% of the amount owed to the court or collections agency. Clients also filled out applications for Proposition 47, a program that changes low-level crimes from potential felonies to misdemeanors.

Having a suspended driver’s license or felony criminal record can be a barrier to employment that keeps individuals and families trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. Without the ability to work and earn a living, families are forced to make difficult decisions about housing, transportation, and other life necessities. Traffic Ticket Amnesty and Proposition 47 programs can help end this cycle. Both programs are crucial to bettering individuals’ lives. Participants in these time-limited programs are able to improve their employment prospects, regain driver’s licenses, remove immigration barriers, and reduce old debts all through a brief application and short post-clinic process.

IMAGE: Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys hard at work at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys hard at work at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

At the clinic, about 70 volunteers helped over 100 South Los Angeles community members with Proposition 47 reclassification and Traffic Ticket Amnesty. Volunteer attorneys helped clients with the support of community organizations. Thanks to the Fresh Start Legal Clinic, South LA residents face fewer barriers to success in their futures.

“[The clinic was] extremely helpful and it helps people to achieve what they always wanted to do,” said one client.

Thank you to our wonderful partners, supporters, and volunteers for making this clinic a reality!

For more information about Proposition 47, please visit http://myprop47.org/.

To learn more about Traffic Ticket Amnesty, please visit http://www.backontheroadca.org/.

Do you know where to find the best Vermont cheddar sliders in town?

At our 2016 Opening Doors to Justice awards ceremony, of course!

Mark your calendars today for June 23, 2016, from 6-9 pm, at the lovely Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown SF.  Stay tuned for more information and see you this summer!

IMAGE: Save the Date: Opening Doors to Justice event is on June 23, 2016. Join us in honoring two champions of justice: Suk Lee, Senior Counsel at Electronic Arts Inc. and Chris Schneider, Fresno Attorney and former Executive Director at Central California Legal Services, Inc.

 For sponsorship opportunities and all other event inquiries, please contact

Arbour Decker, Director of External Relations, at adecker@one-justice.org

Happy International Women’s Day!

Transforming the civil legal aid system…

Through pro bono innovation

Here, at OneJustice, we believe that pro bono work brings help, hope, and justice to thousands of Californians each year. Pro bono work holds the power to transform the civil legal aid system and create equal access to legal help across the state. It inspires smiles and makes all the difference for an individual in need – heck tons of individuals! So today, we’d like to take a moment to update you on the tremendous pro bono innovations the network made last year plus give you a sneak peek at what’s in store for this year!

IMAGE: Volunteer attorney holding sign that says, "Working with DAPA applicants pursuing higher education brings help, hope, and justice."2015 Pro Bono Innovations with Impact:

Developed a Replicable, Highly-Efficient Model for Pro Bono Engagement in Immigration Assistance: OneJustice developed a toolkit that empowers organizations throughout the state to develop their own pro bono-driven clinics to help immigrants apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The toolkit was created based on data collected by OneJustice at clinics around the state and features workshop models that OneJustice itself vetted through its Justice Bus and Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative projects.

Transformed the Way Nonprofits Train Pro Bono Attorneys: OneJustice helped initiate the Pro Bono Training Institute, a project that develops highly-interactive online trainings that empower attorneys around the state to help low-income communities. By using a collaborative model in which multiple legal aid organizations around the state help create each training, OneJustice, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County reduced the burden on individual organizations to create pro bono trainings and created a more efficient community response to the training needs of pro bono attorneys. In just the second half of 2015, the Training Institute created trainings in more than 18 subject areas!

Innovated Assistance to Rural Veterans with Criminal Records: Working with local partners around the state, OneJustice identified a particular need among rural veterans for assistance with criminal record expungements. Responding to that need, OneJustice organized 9 veterans-focused Justice Bus trips to rural communities and helped 23 individuals petition for record clearances, paving the way to expanded access to employment opportunities and other benefits.

2016 Goals for Innovating Pro Bono:IMAGE: Volunteer attorney holding sign that says, "TIME makes all the difference."

Make Bay Area Pro Bono Attorneys Available to Rural Immigrants Using Technology: OneJustice will commence a new project that connects immigrants in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Merced counties with pro bono attorneys in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Using technology, the project aims to expand the level of assistance provided to rural immigrants beyond the limited-scope assistance they are most typically offered. The project, named Rural Immigrant Connect, will provide 15 rural immigrants with ongoing representation from Bay Area-based pro bono attorneys.

Implement a Highly-Effective Pro Bono “Hub” System for LA County’s Nationalization Efforts: OneJustice will serve as the pro bono coordinating entity for an ambitious, collaborative effort in Los Angeles County to assist immigrants in applying for U.S. citizenship. To ensure efficient and effective utilization of pro bono attorneys, OneJustice will develop an innovative, uniform pro bono training and will train and assist partners organize pro bono-staffed clinics.

CROPPED Edited_VeteransDevelop and Test a Sustainable Model to Bring Consistent Legal Help to Rural Veterans: In an effort to move beyond the model of providing ad hoc clinical assistance to veterans in rural counties, OneJustice will test a multi-clinic response to the needs of veterans in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in partnership with Pepperdine University School of Law. Drawing from legal needs assessments, OneJustice will fashion and execute at least five clinics staffed by Pepperdine Law students that assist more than 75 veterans in need of legal assistance.

Tons of great work ahead! Keep tuned for more awesome updates!

Pro bono makes the world a better place

Morrison & Foerster LLP and Yahoo! Inc. attorneys tell us why pro bono matters!

To start the year, volunteer attorneys from Morrison & Foerster LLP and Yahoo! Inc. traveled to Modesto on the Justice Bus to provide legal assistance with Naturalization and DACA applications. These amazing volunteers served 30 clients at the clinic! A big thank you to our volunteers and community partners, El Concilio and the Social Justice Collaborative, for bringing justice where it’s needed most!

Check out why these attorneys believe pro bono matters:

Image: Morrison & Foerster LLP and Yahoo! Inc. attorneys' quotes on why pro bono matters to them.

Thank you all for taking time to talk with us! Your time brings help, hope, and justice to Californians in need!

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