OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

You did something very special…

Last week, the OneJustice Network came together and brought help, hope, and justice to Californians in need — and we couldn’t be more grateful!

Through the generosity of donors like you, along with law firms, corporations, and our nonprofit partners, we raised over $286,000 to bring mobile legal clinics to four high priority counties: Butte, Solano, Tulare, and San Joaquin.

On behalf of the OneJustice staff, Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and most importantly, the individuals who will receive vital legal help because of your support, thank you!

In case you weren’t able to attend, below are some photos from the inspiring evening, and be sure to visit our Facebook page for the full album!

You can also click here to watch the videos we made for Honorees Suk and Chris and the Fund-A-Need Challenge.

Thank you again for bringing help, hope, and justice to vulnerable communities. We look forward to keeping you informed about the impact your generosity will make!

With appreciation,

The OneJustice Team

P.S. Didn’t get a chance to bid on any items at the event? There are still a few items up for grabs during our fire sale, which will run through July 6 at midnight! Click here to bid now!

IMAGE: Photos from Opening Doors to Justice event.

Are you ready to open doors to justice this Thursday?

2016 ODJ Can't Attend Image

We can’t wait to see you this Thursday! Can’t attend? We’ll miss you, but you can still bid on auction items and donate! Take a sneak peek at some of this year’s auction items. Bidding opens on June 22 at noon.

IMAGE: Giants vs. Mets Tickets
IMAGE: Boyz II Men Concert
IMAGE: Arts & Fine Dining in the City
IMAGE: Schramsberg Vineyards of Calistoga
IMAGE: Escape to St. Lucia
IMAGE: Raiders VS. Colts Tickets

 

Check out these items and more at bidpal.net/OneJustice.

For any event queries, please contact Stephanie Hernandez at shernandez@one-justice.org

Bridging the justice gap with technology

Rural Immigrant Connect launches its first pilot case.

Over the past few years, the number of human beings fleeing horrifying violence in parts of Central America and Mexico for the U.S. has escalated dramatically. In 2014, the number of women crossing the U.S. border multiplied by more than three times compared to 2013, while the number of separated or unaccompanied children reached over 66,000 in 2014, up from an average of 6,775 children in the years 2003-2011. This stream of refugees fleeing Central America and Mexico has not ceased, and many arrive in California on a daily basis.

IMAGE: Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Unfortunately, arriving in the U.S. is only half the battle — not only do immigrants face constant worries about family left behind, but many are placed into deportation proceedings in immigration court, where even very young children are not guaranteed a lawyer. It’s even worse for immigrants who reside in California’s Central Valley, a region with few legal organizations offering services within its vast geographic expanse.

The need for innovative models to connect pro bono attorneys with immigrant clients in rural California has never been greater. Through a generous Equal Justice Works fellowship sponsored by the law firm Fenwick & West LLP, OneJustice recently launched the project Rural Immigrant Connect, putting technology to creative use by connecting pro bono attorneys in the Bay Area with immigrant clients in need in the Central Valley.

Rural Immigrant Connect addresses the dearth of legal representation for low-income immigrants in the Central Valley by tapping the resources of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, home to law firms and corporations that can provide an incredible amount of resources to serve Central Valley clients. To bridge the geographic gap, the project uses videoconferencing for the majority of communication between pro bono attorneys and clients, following an initial in-person meeting. In addition, OneJustice places laptops at community organizations in the Central Valley to provide clients with easy access and in-person technology support.

Thanks to the wonderful work of Fenwick & West LLP attorneys Vikram Iyengar and Rajendra Panwar with support from Partner Lynn Pasahow and the mentorship of Director and Immigration Attorney Emily Abraham of Social Justice Collaborative, Rural Immigrant Connect took on its first pilot case this spring — leading the way for the marriage of pro bono and technology to bridge the justice gap for immigrant communities throughout the Central Valley.

UPDATED_Rural Immigrant Connect Pro Bono Attorneys_061316_SMH

Rural Immigrant Connect is more than simply a means through which we can connect more Central American and Mexican refugees in the Central Valley with vital pro bono legal representation. This innovative project also provides us with a means of gathering data regarding the efficacy of videoconferencing to demonstrate a model that can be replicable throughout the U.S. A project like this can bridge the often daunting urban-rural divide separating many rural low-income communities from access to affordable legal services.

Rural Immigrant Connect is at its core a collaborative project that has only been made possible through incredible partnerships with legal services organizations Social Justice Collaborative and Centro Legal de la Raza; community organizations El Concilio and Centro La Familia; the law firm Fenwick & West LLP; and national organization Equal Justice Works. Thanks to the dedication of pro bono volunteers like Vikram and Rajendra, partnerships like those mentioned above, and the collaboration of the OneJustice network, we can work together to bring help, hope, and justice to individuals escaping the violence that continues to plague our neighbors in parts of Mexico and in regions of Central America.

IMAGE: Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

To view the full infographic presented above, please click here.


Renee_Grid PicRenée Schomp is an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP and Staff Attorney at OneJustice. She currently spearheads the Rural Immigrant Connect project in California’s Central Valley.

Meet our summer law clerks! Part 2

OneJustice welcomes four new summer law clerks in its San Francisco office.

Welcome back! This week, we are welcoming four law clerks to the OneJustice network. Each year, summer law clerks join the team to assist with current projects and apply the skills they’ve learned in law school. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to the other two summer law clerks, Kyle and Chris! Please join us in welcoming them!


IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Welcome, Kyle! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will you be responsible for at the organization? 

One assumption underlying our adversarial legal system is that both parties make it through the courthouse doors. However, millions of people in California and beyond are prevented from vindicating their rights because of systemic barriers unrelated to the merits of their claims. The challenges of “access to justice” are diverse and dynamic, but OneJustice’s work with a large coalition of legal aid programs positions it to confront those challenges in innovative ways, to develop and workshop solutions, and to disseminate its models so all communities can thrive.

I know the unparalleled satisfaction – and hair-pulling frustration – of direct-service work. Partnering with OneJustice exposes me to a new dimension of legal aid and challenges me to reinvent myself as an agent of social change operating at a different layer of the problem.

I will be part of a team continuing to test and iterate OneJustice’s new Rural Immigrant Connect project, which uses virtual technology to bridge the gap between urban-based pro bono attorneys and the Central Valley youth who need immigration representation. The project is off to an exciting start, and we are working to expand its reach and improve its function.

Thinking big-picture, I want to work with all segments of the legal profession to create – and fulfill – opportunities for pro bono service. A disturbingly small share of California attorneys are currently pitching in to shoulder the heavy burden of legal aid needs, and I want to learn more about the barriers and bottlenecks that create this shortfall so I can help to remove them.

Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice? 

I just finished my first year at UC Davis School of Law (King Hall). Before starting law school, I was the Director of the Immigration Assistance Program at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada for almost five years; That work was engaging, meaningful, and provided a great mix of direct service and some systemic work and advocacy. My journey toward becoming an attorney grew out of my growing recognition of how great the scope of unmet legal need is, and I am excited to mark OneJustice as a waypoint along that path.

We’re excited to be working with you too! And finally, tell us something quirky about you. 

My son, Asher, will turn 2 in September 2016. I think I’ll lose major Dad Points if I don’t list him as my number-one hobby. Other recent hobbies include homebrewing, a weekly short story club, and trying to build up a bicycle from scratch. In college, I took the Flag Football course for eight semesters in a row. (Seriously.)

IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

And now, let’s welcome our last law clerk, Chris! Tell us, what drew you to OneJustice and what will you be doing here during the summer?

I was drawn to OneJustice’s focus on helping Californians in need by connecting rural communities with legal resources. Programs like the Justice Bus Project‘s expungement and housing clinics allow clients and their families to substantially improve their lives. Additionally, OneJustice’s commitment to forming lasting relationships with local organizations and communities is a major reason why I am excited to join this organization.

This summer, I will be working with Pro Bono Justice and the Justice Bus team to provide free legal services to underserved Californians; Groups such as California’s rural Asian Pacific Islander communities who are often not aware of beneficial legal programs or legal steps they may take. I hope to increase the availability of free legal resources within these communities.

Thank you for working on the Justice Bus Project — we look forward to hearing about your work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I finished my first year of law school at the University of Michigan in May. Before attending law school, I volunteered as a teacher for homeless youth in Manila and worked as an educational consultant with students in Beijing.

Sounds like a great abroad experience! Last question: what is something quirky about you?

I attended a Cantonese elementary school here in San Francisco.

Thank you for joining us, Kyle & Chris — and welcome to the OneJustice network! We’re excited to have you all here this summer! 

P.S. Missed our other two law clerks, Grant and Erika? Click here to meet them!

Meet our summer law clerks! Part 1

Join us in welcoming Grant, Erika, Kyle, and Chris to the OneJustice team!

Each summer, we’re excited to have summer law clerks join the OneJustice team. These law clerks will be responsible for assisting with a variety of our Pro Bono Justice projects and will use their skills at mobile legal clinics. Please join us in welcoming the first two summer law clerks, Grant and Erika!


IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Grant Lehner will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Grant Lehner will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Welcome, Grant! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will be you be working on?

I was initially drawn to OneJustice because of our desire to bring access to high-quality legal aid to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Justice doesn’t work if it’s only accessible to some. In order for a society to actually work, everyone has to be playing by the same rules, on the same field, and OneJustice’s desire to bring life-changing legal help to those individuals who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise helps balance out the scales of justice. This is something I absolutely love.

I’ll be working on the Justice Bus Project, assisting in the organization and implementation of clinics in rural parts of California. These are places where people almost never get to access lawyers, and I am extremely excited to help bring a little assistance into their lives.

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

I currently go to school at Georgetown University Law Center (GULC), and have worked for a few environmental nonprofits during my gap. At GULC, I’ve helped with the International Migrant’s Bill of Rights, a submission to the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees. I have also helped folks with Special Immigrant Visas pass through the immigration process as part of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Wow — both sound like very rewarding experiences! Finally, what’s something quirky about you?

In my spare time, I really enjoy sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags, and walking very long distances with a heavy backpack for no particular reason. I also love to slather rocks with white powder and fall off of them in dramatic fashion. Back in DC, I volunteer at Catalyst Climbing clinics, helping folks with various disabilities get up on the rock and kick some major boulder booty.

IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Erika Villaseñor will be helping with Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Erika Villaseñor will be helping with Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project.

Thank you, Grant! And welcome, Erika! Why did you choose OneJustice for your summer clerkship? What will you be responsible for at the organization?

I was immediately drawn by OneJustice’s mission to increase access to high-quality legal services for individuals living in rural parts of California. As someone who grew up in the Central Valley, I understand the needs and share experiences with some of the underserved populations OneJustice serves. I am passionate about reforming both our immigration and criminal justice systems, so I look forward to being part of an organization that serves as an innovation lab and is currently working to transform the civil legal aid system.

As a Summer Law Clerk, I will be supporting the Pro Bono Justice Program in Northern California. I will have the opportunity to provide various types of legal assistance to Californians living in rural parts of the state through OneJustice’s Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project. I will be using the skills I learned during my first year of law school and my experiences to help make legal aid services more accessible to underserved and unserved populations.

Great to have you on the team! Tell us, what did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I am currently a rising 2L at University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). As a first year student, I was involved in the La Raza Workers’ and Tenants’ Rights Clinic at Centro Legal de La Raza in Oakland and the Immigrants’ Rights Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects. Prior to law school, I worked alongside community organizations, a state government representative, and grassroots organizations in Bakersfield.

And, final question: what is something quirky about you?

I love gummies! Sprouts Farmers Market has the best ones — 12 Flavor Gummi Bears.

Thank you so much for joining us this summer — we’re excited to have you aboard! 

Paving a path for a just life

OneJustice’s newly appointed Board Chair Jennifer Chaloemtiarana tells us about her work in providing a helping hand to fellow Californians. 

This week, we’re honored to introduce you to our recently appointed Chair of our Board of Directors, Jennifer Chaloemtiarana! She currently leads the legal function of Castlight Health as its General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, and has served on our Board of Directors for over 5 years. Thanks to our Board’s guidance, the OneJustice network is able to continue bringing help, hope, and justice to Californians in need.

We asked Jennifer to share with us a little bit about her new role and why equal access to justice is so important to her. Please join us in welcoming Jennifer!


IMAGE:Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us about how you became involved with OneJustice? What is your role as the new Board Chair?

I have always been involved in social service in some manner, including full time summer jobs in nonprofits serving low-income individuals all throughout college and then significant levels of volunteering as I entered the workforce. As a lawyer, I kept this connection through active pro bono work supported by the law firm I worked for. When I went in-house, pro bono work became harder to incorporate into my work life. I had become familiar with the work that OneJustice does through colleagues and friends, and the approach and business model of the organization really appealed to me. I attended several Opening Doors to Justice events before engaging with Julia Wilson, the CEO, about coming onto the Board. It was just the right fit at just the right time.

I have been so pleased to be on the Board with so many smart, motivated people. I just completed a term as a member of the Governance & Nominating Committee and then moved into the Board Chair role. At a high level, my role as chair is two-fold. One function is to lead the Board in making sure that the organization’s actions are in line with its mission and that the organization is appropriately managing the assets to which it is entrusted. Secondly, my role is to provide resources and assistance to management. Are there tools, skills, or knowledge that they might need that the Board can provide? How can the Board be an extension of staff in promoting the goals of the organization? There are a lot of sub-parts to each of those primary functions, and fortunately, OneJustice has a very engaged Board and skilled staff that make the work seem easy.

Thank you for all of your hard work and support, Jennifer! We look forward to working with you as our Board Chair! Can you now tell us why you support OneJustice? 

The level of unmet need for legal resources and access to justice in the state of California is overwhelming. There is only 1 lawyer for every 351 low-income persons in the state, and only 100 legal aid organizations in California. There is just no way for all of the needed legal services to be provided. OneJustice does so many things to fill in those gaps, including linking law firms and law students to legal aid organizations which expands their reach without stretching their limited resources, providing training and tools so that the organizations can do more with less, and serving as a center for innovation and ideas to move the entire legal aid industry forward to do more, better, and faster. The unique set of strategic services that OneJustice provides really appeals to me as a business lawyer. And the “prize” is really worth going for: if we could level out the playing field for the 8 million low-income individuals in California, think about how the quality of life for our entire state would be lifted!

We couldn’t agree more! Every individual should have access to legal help. Finally, what does justice mean to you? Why is equal access to justice so important? 

One of my favorite quotes comes from Cornel West: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” We have all experienced it, that moment where we put aside our own troubles, challenges, and prejudices and reached out to another person, whether friend or stranger, offering our hand for no other reason than simply being available when help was needed. To me, justice is what happens in that moment, when we recognize that we are all equally worthy of a chance to simply live a satisfied life. Legal barriers can be especially daunting and can compound other challenges that low-income individuals may be facing. Lawyers are uniquely equipped to help remove those barriers; we can pave that path to a satisfied life. It is our honor, opportunity, and responsibility to provide a helping hand to fellow Californians.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us, Jennifer! We can’t wait to see how you lead our Board and organization!

Taking pro bono trainings to a national level

Pro Bono Training Institute receives national attention at the White House Forum!

IMAGE: M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina of Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Mark O'Brien of Pro Bono Net, James Sandman of Legal Services Corporation, Phong Wong of Legal Aid of Foundation of Los Angeles, and Julia R. Wilson of OneJustice at the White House Forum on April 19, 2016

M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina of Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Mark O’Brien of Pro Bono Net, James Sandman of Legal Services Corporation, Phong Wong of Legal Aid of Foundation of Los Angeles, and Julia R. Wilson of OneJustice at the White House Forum on April 19, 2016

How would you evaluate your most recent experience at a training? Was it interactive, engaging, high energy — and dare we even ask…FUN? Well, believe it or not — the need for interactive and innovative training for pro bono volunteers got national attention last month!

The White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice included a panel on innovation that featured the California Pro Bono Training Institute, a joint project of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), and OneJustice. The Training Institute offers online, on-demand bite-sized training videos on areas of law commonly used in pro bono clinics and cases.

“Trainings are a crucial element to pro bono work, and the Pro Bono Training Institute provides legal services organizations with the tools to effectively train volunteers — for legal clinics and to take cases — in a short period of time. We’re excited to continue developing and expanding this training platform with our partners, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and OneJustice,” said Sharon Bashan, Director of Pro Bono and Operations at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

IMAGE: M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Mark O'Brien, Phong Wong, and Julia R. Wilson after the White House Forum on April 19, 2016.

M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Mark O’Brien, Phong Wong, and Julia R. Wilson after the White House Forum on April 19, 2016.

Thanks to the amazing efforts and collaboration of California’s legal community, trainings are helping increase pro bono and meet the needs of pro bono stakeholders. Over the last three months, two different legal services nonprofits, including another Legal Services Corporation grantee, have used these trainings to prepare volunteers to staff five mobile legal clinics for low-income veterans throughout Central and Southern California.

LAFLA’s Pro Bono Director Phong Wong said, “PBTI is such a wonderful project that will help support pro bono efforts statewide. This project would not happen without partners, OneJustice and NLSLA.”

To ensure that the training format and content truly meet the needs of our audience and are effective in preparing them for their volunteer experience, volunteers are being asked to evaluate the trainings immediately following their volunteer experience. Already, 91% of volunteers using the trainings reported they felt better prepared to do pro bono after watching them!

Our most heartfelt thanks to Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, as well as all the legal services organizations, for participating in the Training Institute and all the volunteers who are using the trainings and providing feedback! We know it takes a village to provide life-changing legal help to those in need, and we look forward to continuing to work with you all to create engaging, effective online trainings.

Watch the presentation on the Pro Bono Training Institute at the White House Forum:

LSC 2016 White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice – Panel: Pro Bono & Technology Innovations from Legal Services Corporation on Vimeo.

Helping others who cannot help themselves

Join us as we honor Suk Lee at this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event!

We’re about a month away from this year’s annual event! Each year, the OneJustice network meets to honor extraordinary individuals who are committed to advancing access to justice and have brought help, hope, and justice to individuals in need. Last week, we introduced you to Chris Schneider, now we’d love you to meet Suk Lee — Senior Counsel at Electronic Arts Inc., who is also one of our honorees this year!

We asked Suk to tell us more about himself and what justice means to him. Please join us in welcoming our second honoree, Suk!


Suk Lee_Honoree ImageThank you for joining us, Suk! Tell us, what does “justice” mean to you?

I think “justice” means helping others who cannot help themselves. As lawyers, we are especially qualified to provide that help. I believe that we have an inherent duty to use our skill set for pro bono service. As an in-house lawyer for almost 10 years, I’ve always had an interest in pro bono work, but wasn’t sure how or where to start. I’ve served as co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee for ACC-SFBA (San Francisco Bay Area’s Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel) for the past three years, helping to coordinate (and participating in) pro bono opportunities for Bay Area in-house attorneys. It has been a professionally and personally fulfilling experience helping those with limited means and working with wonderful organizations, like OneJustice.

Folks like you really make pro bono opportunities possible — we can’t thank you enough! What is one particularly rewarding experience you have been involved with?

In 2015, I participated in two Justice Bus events, the first to Greenfield in Monterey County and the second to Modesto. For both trips, we assisted applicants with their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and citizenship papers. Getting on a bus and visiting a rural community was a new experience for me. I grew up in urban areas, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a farming community. I was amazed at how something as simple as helping someone complete an application form could have a significant impact on people’s lives. This was an important part of their ability to work and support their families. It was particularly meaningful to me, because I vividly recall my parents going through the citizenship process when I was 11 years old.

We couldn’t agree more! Just one document has the ability to transform someone’s life. Now, tell us more about how you became involved with OneJustice?

In 2014, I attended the Opening Doors to Justice event, and Julia Wilson’s words about the disparity in legal services in rural communities stuck with me. Later that year, my colleague Pamela Ostroff and I started an initiative to make pro bono an integral part of Electronic Arts culture and identity, and a Justice Bus trip was an ideal pro bono opportunity to kick off our initiative. Because volunteers were not required to be attorneys, all members of the Electronic Arts legal department were able to participate and contribute. The great first pro bono experience inspired participants to volunteer again. We had our third Justice Bus trip in May 2016, with many repeat volunteers. I expect that Justice Bus trips will become a regular part of Electronic Arts’ pro bono activities.

IMAGE: Suk Lee and Justin Aragon, with their client at the Greenfield Immigration Justice Bus clinic.

Suk Lee and Justin Aragon, with their client at the Greenfield Immigration Justice Bus clinic.

That’s wonderful to hear — and we’re very excited about EA’s upcoming Justice Bus trip to Tracy! Last but not least, who is your favorite social justice hero and why?

My heroes are all the volunteers who take the plunge for the first time to do pro bono work. There is a certain amount of anxiety and apprehension you have to overcome to go outside of your comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. Often, you are helping in a substantive area of law that is outside of your field of expertise or training. I admire and appreciate those that make the commitment to pro bono, and in doing so, inspire others to get involved.

Thank you, Suk, for your commitment to bringing justice to those who need it most!

Folks, remember to mark your calendars for this year’s event!

IMAGE: 2016 Opening Doors to Justice event on June 23, 2016 at The Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown San Francisco.

My heroes are the unsung participants of social justice movements

Join us as we celebrate Chris Schneider at this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event!

We can’t believe it’s already May! This month, we’re excited to introduce you to both of this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event honorees, Chris Schneider and Suk Lee! Each year, the OneJustice network comes together to honor individuals who have brought help, hope, and justice to Californians in need, and who are committed to advancing access to justice.

We asked Chris to tell us more about himself and his work over the past few years. We’re honored to recognize Chris for his efforts to increase legal services in the Central Valley. Please join us in welcoming our first honoree, Chris!


IMAGE: 2016 Opening Doors to Justice Honoree: Chris Schneider, Fresno Attorney & former Executive Director at Central California Legal Services, Inc.

Thank you for joining us today, Chris! Tell us, what does “justice” mean to you?

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of justice as love in action. I view the social justice movements that I have been privileged to work with, both inside and outside of legal services, to be just that.

We couldn’t agree more, and that’s also one of our favorite quotes! Why have you committed your time increasing access to civil legal services?

On my parents’ 19th wedding anniversary, they lost their home to the bank. At age ten, I learned how the law too often works against hard working, low-income families, especially if they don’t have access to an attorney to help them. My eight brothers and sisters and I were taken in by friends and relatives while my parents struggled mightily over the next few months to find a new home and eventually reunite the family. By pure coincidence, 20 years to the day after our family became homeless, I was sworn in as an attorney. In my comments at the swearing in ceremony, I told my parents that obviously I could not do anything about what happened to them twenty years earlier, but I promised to them, and all my colleagues there from the United Farm Workers, that I would fight like hell when I saw injustices heaped upon my clients.

Before coming to work in a legal services program, I was generally aware of the insufficiency of resources for legal aid programs. My work at California Rural Legal Assistance and Central California Legal Services (CCLS) made me woefully cognizant of how great that insufficiency is, especially in rural areas.  As a result, injustice runs rampant as employers, slumlords, and others take advantage of people knowing that the likelihood of them being able to find an attorney is minimal. Undocumented individuals are especially vulnerable in areas where the only legal aid programs have federal funding restrictions which prevent them from assisting.

Access to civil legal services is an important, and often, essential tool for disenfranchised individuals and communities. But due to the lack of resources, increasingly more and more families facing homelessness, women and children seeking to escape family violence, elders enduring abuse, people wrongfully denied health coverage by their insurers, children improperly expelled from school and at risk of being swallowed up into the prison pipeline, communities seeking basic services like safe drinking water, workers who have been robbed of their wages, in short, the most vulnerable in our society, are denied their day in court or go to court unrepresented, because legal services programs are overwhelmed.

Your journey is truly inspiring! Can you tell us about one particularly rewarding experience you’ve encountered over the years?

Choosing just one is extremely difficult. Over the decades, I have had the good fortune to witness numerous important victories for our client communities. In March of 2000, CCLS issued a study entitled “Suffering in the Pastures of Plenty: Experiences of H-2A Sheepherders in California’s Central Valley.” The report exposed how sheepherders were exempt from federal and state protective labor laws, thereby making this treatment legal.

Worse, the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), through improperly implemented regulations, sanctioned many of the deplorable conditions and set the wages. Media reporting on the study caught the attention of many. Within a year, even with tremendous opposition from powerful agribusiness organizations, California passed the first protective labor law legislation for sheepherders anywhere in the United States and significantly increased their wages. Other legal aid organizations across the country began to take on the issue. Late last year, the improperly implemented DoL regulations were finally replaced and sheepherders nationwide gained wage increases and some minimal protections. There is still far to go, however.

IMAGE: Chris with fellow Executive Fellows at one of their sessions in 2012.

Chris with fellow Executive Fellows at one of their sessions in 2012.

Wow, sounds like a significant win! Can you now tell us how you became involved with OneJustice?

Shortly after I began at CCLS, I had the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC). At that time, LAAC was staffed by the then Executive Director of the Public Interest Clearinghouse (PIC), Nancy Strohl. PIC was the predecessor organization to OneJustice. I worked with PIC and OneJustice on numerous projects over the years and was lucky enough to be selected to participate in the Executive Fellowship Program in 2012.

And finally, who is your favorite social justice hero, and why?

While I am inspired by the strategies, tactics, commitment, and vision of well-known leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez, my favorite social justice heroes are those who, for the most part, are not named in the history books or not known much beyond their own families and friends. My heroes are the unsung participants of social justice movements who overcame fear and took great personal risks: the Indian Salt March participants beaten by the police; the men and women of Montgomery who walked to and from work, no matter how tired they were; students hosed down when they marched; farm workers who left their jobs and traveled across the country to urge consumers to boycott grapes and lettuce. Without tens of thousands of people who have been willing to take such risks, Gandhi, King and Chavez and so many others hailed for their leadership would be unknown.

Thank you so much for your time, Chris! We can’t wait to celebrate you on June 23rd!

Folks, if you haven’t already done so, mark your calendars today:

2016 Opening Doors to Justice Newsletter Image2

DACA has helped me in ways I’ll never forget

DreamSF Fellow tells us about his time at OneJustice and his experience as a DACA recipient.

We’re excited to have Miguel, our DreamSF Fellow and Communications Intern, give us an inside view on his current work and his goals for the future before he leaves OneJustice. We have been so fortunate to have had Miguel on the OneJustice Team, and he will be sorely missed! So before he leaves, we wanted to pick his brain one last time!

Join us in bidding Miguel a heartfelt farewell!


Thank you so much, Miguel, for joining us for this quick Q&A! Tell us about your work at OneJustice, why did you choose OneJustice as your host site?

IMAGE: Miguel Castillo, DreamSF Fellow and Communications Intern at OneJustice.

Miguel Castillo, DreamSF Fellow and Communications Intern at OneJustice.

For my DreamSF Fellowship, I chose to work for OneJustice, because I believe in the work and the change OneJustice is so bold to take on. Since September of 2015, I have helped out the Pro Bono Justice Program (PBJ) and the Development and Communications team. For the PBJ program, I helped with outreach for upcoming Justice Bus Project and Rural Justice Collaborative clinics and clinic logistics like, signing up clients, making sure they have the right paperwork for the clinic, and translating legal documents into Spanish. During clinics, I would help greet and sit clients down with a pro bono volunteer as well as interpret in Spanish for clients.

In my role with the Development and Communications team, I used my graphic design skills to help with the creation of the upcoming new website and interactive clinic map, plus I designed flyers and a brochure for OneJustice. In addition, I would take professional pictures at clinics for communication purposes and would help with social media.

We’re so grateful to have had a Fellow like you — you’ve been a crucial part of our team over the past months! Can you explain to folks what the DreamSF Fellowship is? How has it helped you with your career goals?

The DreamSF Fellowship is a paid internship exclusively for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. Fellows get placed at a nonprofit organization in San Francisco serving the immigrant community. By training and preparing DACA recipients, the DreamSF Fellowship serves as a gateway to the professional workforce. It has provided me with professional work experience and skills that will help me with my career goals. It has also given me a wide network of people that I can reach out to and count on. The Fellowship has given me hope that I can succeed in a world that is not always welcoming. It is important that programs like the DreamSF Fellowship continue to serve and empower underprivileged communities and provide opportunities to youth.

It definitely sounds like Fellowships such as the DreamSF Fellowship are opening doors for individuals! Tell us how DACA has helped you on your journey towards achieving your goals.

I immigrated to the United States when I was three years old and grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. My family decided to come to the US due to economic hardship and lack of opportunity in their home country. Before DACA, I was limited and barred from most opportunities that people would not think twice about. For example, DACA allowed me to get an Identification Card, a Driver’s License, and allowed me to obtain a job — all things that most people my age have access to. If I could summarize DACA with one word, it would be opportunity. It has allowed me to travel, go to college, and feel somewhat normal in society. I now have more control over my life and where I would like to go and who I would like to become.

IMAGE: Miguel presenting a proposal for the creation of an Undocumented/AB540 Student Resource Center to the Board of Associated Students at San Francisco State University.

Miguel presenting a proposal for the creation of an Undocumented/AB540 Student Resource Center to the Board of Associated Students at San Francisco State University.

Although DACA is an amazing opportunity and achievement, it is not enough. Families are still getting torn apart and getting abused and taken advantage of in the workforce. Due to my immigration status, I have become a big activist in my community for Immigrant rights. As a result of my activism and advocacy for immigrants, I have been at the forefront of establishing an Undocumented/AB540 Student Resource Center at San Francisco State University. The Resource Center will provide resources to over 650 students at the University who identify as Undocumented or AB540. Currently, there is a resource gap that undocumented students face while at school. This population of students do not have access to Federal Student Aid, loans, and most scholarships, and do not have access to a central location where they can receive help with resources they do qualify for. The creation of this resource at San Francisco State University is one of my biggest dreams and goals.

Sounds like great work ahead — we can’t wait to hear about what you do in the near future! How would you say free legal services have helped DACA applicants?

Legal forms and the English language can be obstacles for DACA-eligible people, but free legal services help this specific population with their applications, giving them access to new opportunities. With this new eligibility, DACA recipients can join the workforce and contribute to society, proving how the country can benefit from immigrants. I believe DACA will play in important role in immigration, because it is the start of something bigger, like immigration reform. 

We couldn’t agree more on the importance of programs like DACA and DAPA, and we are grateful for our partners, supporters, and volunteers for bringing justice to those who need it most.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Miguel! We will miss you! We know you will achieve everything you’ve set your mind to! 


To keep updated on Miguel’s current endeavors and projects, follow him on Behance, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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