OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Category Archives: Help for Workers

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.

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!

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/.

I could see happiness in their eyes

Healthy Nonprofits Program’s Christopher McConkey tells us about the civil justice shortfall and the need for free legal assistance.

We asked our Staff Attorney Christopher McConkey to give us his insight on why it’s necessary for organizations and programs in the legal sector to transform the civil legal aid delivery system.


Guest Blogger: Christopher McConkey, OneJustice Staff Attorney for the Healthy Nonprofits Program

[Photo: Huffington Post]

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

There is a phenomenon in our society where people who are less able to afford legal help are often the people who need it the most. These low-income individuals struggle every day to find the legal assistance they need to preserve basic life necessities like housing, health care, economic security, and child custody.

This is not a minor phenomenon. Over 60 million people in the United States might qualify for free civil legal services because they live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. However, people are less likely to access these services due to limited resources, mental health issues, and inexperience with our legal system.

Worsening this crisis, insufficient funding prevents many legal aid programs from serving 50% or more of the people who actively seek their help, leaving attorneys to address less than 20% of lower-income people’s legal needs.1 All of these shortfalls ultimately leave low-income individuals without critical legal assistance.

The Civil Justice Shortfall

The civil justice shortage is especially acute in California. As a legal aid attorney right after law school, I encountered hundreds of people slowly moving from one legal services project to another with the same issues. The recurring problem was program capacity. Staff attorneys reached full caseloads, projects offered fewer services to help more people, and funders carved programs to reflect their priorities. Even waves of talented and eager volunteers could expand an organization’s capacity only superficially, and only to a point.

I recall a monthly legal clinic I helped coordinate in Los Angeles. This clinic aimed to reduce an overwhelming and countywide need for immigration legal aid. The immigration attorneys who volunteered–I was not one of them–helped numerous lower-income Angelenos to understand and pursue their legal options. Limited capacity, however, left some clients on the waitlist for months. Those who persevered accessed expert immigration services for free. Those who dropped off the waitlist continued the long search for assistance or, worse, gave up.

For the clients who received assistance, legal help gave them their safety, jobs, family cohesion, dignity, and peace of mind; I could see happiness in their eyes. To me, this clinic exemplifies why finally eliminating the justice gap is worth our collective effort, resources, and ingenuity.

Transforming the Legal Services Sector through Innovation

As with all solvable problems, we should be optimistic! Our resourceful and morally ambitious society can overcome this justice shortfall. More funding is necessary, but for now, we can and should innovate additional ways to expand legal services for people who are lower-income.

[Photo: Legal Services Nonprofit leaders discussing trainings.]

Legal Services Nonprofit leaders discussing trainings.

OneJustice is already strengthening California’s legal services infrastructure to provide greater access to the legal system. In the Healthy Nonprofits Program (“HNP”), we are supplying nonprofit management consulting, legal technical support, and public policy advocacy to legal services organizations throughout the state.

Additionally, we help connect hundreds of public-interest-minded law students to nonprofit and government employers every year. We are invigorating legal nonprofits while enhancing the environment in which they operate—all so we can transform the legal services sector.

Individual attorneys will close the justice gap one client at a time. Several factors can coalesce to make that possible: additional funding, robust nonprofit management, public policies that value legal services organizations, and the gumption to innovate strategies that will solve one of the most stubborn justice crises of our time.

1 For more information about this civil justice gap, please see the Legal Services Corporation’s report titled Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans


Chris_CROPPED

As a Staff Attorney in the Healthy Nonprofits Program, Chris helps guide legal services organizations on matters of nonprofit law and management. He also advocates for public policies that foster the growth of legal nonprofits and–through them–meaningful access to justice for all Californians. In this way, his work bolsters California’s infrastructure for civil legal assistance at the organizational and systemic levels. As part of his role, Chris provides legal support for OneJustice’s consulting and policy work. Additionally, he provides policy briefings and advocacy for OneJustice’s statewide community of legal services organizations.

 

Meet Ana de Alba: She broke our hearts in 3 minutes flat

Ana de Alba receiving the Opening Doors to Justice Award

And today’s guest blog from this award-winning champion for justice will break yours, too.

Introduction by Julia Wilson, Executive Director:  Just about one year ago, the OneJustice network gathered at our annual Opening Doors to Justice event to celebrate the accomplishments of our community.  A young woman took to the stage – and broke the hearts of the audience in just about 3 minutes flat.

That woman was Ana de Alba, and later this week she will receive the prestigious Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public from the California Young Lawyer’s Association.  And boy, does she deserve it.  We are so proud that she is part of the OneJustice network, and I will be in the audience next Friday night, cheering with all my heart and soul as she again takes the stage. Ana graciously agreed to provide a guest blog this week, revisiting her remarks from our stage one year ago.  I know they will inspire you as they have inspired us!

Guest Blog: Ana de Alba, Lang Richert & Patch, Fresno

Ana de Alba resolved she would return to the Central Valley as an attorney and to make the legal system accessible to all.

I am honored to stand before you tonight as a recipient of an “Opening Doors to Justice” award. What this award means to me can be best explained by sharing a story about a field worker from the Central Valley who was in desperate need of legal services.

This particular individual lived in one of the small communities that dot highway 99. She and a crew of about 5 other women spent an entire summer working on a cucumber farm without getting paid. Although this woman, who was a bit braver and more outgoing than the others, demanded payment on their behalf, she was always told that they would get paid “next week.” “Next week” never came.

They were upset, and rightfully so, each of them had young children to support and not only had they provided free labor for an entire summer, they had also paid for childcare, paid for a ride to and from the farm which was located 45 miles from their home, and in the end, they came home with nothing. They were ashamed and felt that they had let their families down.

Ana, shown here at 3 years old, grew up in a small town in the Central Valley.

Encouraged by her children to “fight this,” this woman called an attorney she randomly selected from the yellow pages who was kind enough to tell her that to seek redress she need only go to the Labor Commissioner. When she discovered, however, that the Labor Commissioner was located in Fresno, she was absolutely devastated. Fresno was over 60 miles from her home and filled with freeways and highways that she felt unable to drive on. Worse still, there was no way to get there using public transportation. In the end, none of these women sought out justice because it was simply too inaccessible to them.

This woman was my mother and events like these were all too common in my life. On the day I left Dos Palos to attend UC Berkeley I promised that little girl who heard her mother crying inconsolably in the bathroom that I would return to the Valley as an attorney. I would find a way to make the legal system more accessible so that justice would really be “a right for all.”

Thank you OneJustice for recognizing my efforts and for the great work you do throughout the state, thank you to my firm Lang, Richert & Patch for supporting me and allowing me to use their goodwill in our local legal community to promote pro bono, thank you Central California Legal Services and California Rural Legal Assistance for being at the front lines of these struggles, and thank you to my husband, daughter, parents, and siblings for giving me strength and always reminding me that the law really is a powerful tool for social change.

To all who labor to provide legal services to the poor – thank you!

Labor Day was created to recognize Americans workers and their many contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.   It is particularly poignant in this economy, as hundreds of thousands of Americans seek work, and the jobless rate continues to climb.  In addition, the majority (63.4%) of low-income Californians are working and still cannot pull their families above the poverty line.  In 38.3% of poor families, a family member is working full-time, and in another 25.1% someone is working part-time. Workforce participation among the poor is higher in California than in the rest of the nation.

New York Labor Day Parade image

Labor Day Parade, New York (1882)

On this day when our country celebrates the American labor movement and a wide variety of workers, here at OneJustice we honor the work of a particular sector – the staff and volunteers at the almost 100 legal nonprofit organizations in California that seek to bring a little more justice into the world.

OneJustice supports a network of just under 100 nonprofit legal organizations which employ around 1,700 workers and under 800 attorneys.  This network takes on the Herculean task of trying to meet the legal needs of the over 8 million low-income Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities.  Clean water.  Food.  Health care.  Employment.  Education.  The simple math adds up to 10,000 eligible clients facing pressing legal issues for every staff attorney.  Clearly, the task is too big to be taken on alone.

That is why OneJustice also celebrates the hard work and compassion of the hundreds of volunteer attorneys who – in addition to their busy practices in the private sector – volunteer with these nonprofits to help expand the legal services for the poor.  These dedicated volunteers show up at night and on the weekends – they staff free legal clinics and represent low-income individuals in court – they make grandparents into legal guardians, combat identify theft, make sure seniors get their medicines, and empower survivors of domestic violence to move forward.  Sometimes they even board buses and travel for hours to provide free legal help to those in isolated and rural areas.

OneJustice Volunteers Help Low-Income Californians

Like the poet Marge Piercy, at OneJustice we love “people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart / who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience / who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward / who do what has to be done, again and again.”

So – to everyone who strains to bring justice into the world, who does what has to be done to expand legal help for the poor, who labors to make the world just a little fairer – we thank you!

Now that you know who OneJustice celebrated today – who do YOU honor on Labor Day?

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