Removing barriers to justice takes a network. . . the OneJustice network.
OneJustice supports a network of 100+ nonprofit legal organizations, law firms, law schools and businesses. Each year this network provides life-saving legal help to over 275,000 Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities and core civil rights. You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of the solution to the fact that millions of our neighbors suffer needlessly from solvable legal problems.
In honor of the work that our network does, each month we’ll feature an interview with a different participant in the network. This month we interviewed Diego Cartagena, Pro Bono Director at Bet Tzedek Legal Services and a member of the OneJustice Board of Directors.
Diego, you have many years of experience managing pro bono delivery systems at various legal services programs in the OneJustice network. How has that experience informed your work with OneJustice?
I started my career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice. In launching the Teen LA project, I focused on helping to give low-income teen mothers and fathers a voice in court by providing them with legal advocacy and outreach in the areas of family and immigration law. I then went on to serve as Pro Bono Director for the Alliance for Children’s Rights, while simultaneously serving as the agency’s Probate Legal Guardianship Program Director. Now I serve as the Pro Bono Director at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, where I continue to leverage the power of the private sector to provide much-needed legal assistance to our clients.
I have worked closely with OneJustice on a variety on pro bono projects during my time at Bet Tzedek and also the Alliance for Children’s Rights. OneJustice supports a network of legal services nonprofits in the Southern California region, with a special focus on strengthening and expanding the pro bono delivery system. With OneJustice’s staffing and support, we are able to come together and work jointly on collaborative pro bono programs – including the www.SoCalProBono.org website, joint MCLE trainings and events for pro bono volunteers, and strategic planning meetings for the Southern California region. In my role as Pro Bono Director, I also work directly with OneJustice staff on all of these important efforts.
Tell us about your most recent collaboration with OneJustice?
Recently I had the pleasure of working with OneJustice’s Los Angeles office – Senior Staff Attorney Monica Mar and Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow Cynthia Luna – to plan and deliver a Justice Bus Trip to serve seniors in Lancaster. There is a substantial need for legal help for low-income seniors living in the Lancaster area, and it can be quite challenging to deliver services to them.
Through our Justice Bus collaborative, we traveled with six Southwestern law student volunteers to set up a free legal clinic at the Lancaster Senior Center. Thanks to OneJustice, in one single afternoon we were able to conduct intake interviews and even some on-the-spot advice and counsel for 22 seniors who had been on an extensive waitlist. They are now on the path to having their legal issues addressed. We hope to do more Justice Bus Trips with OneJustice in 2013!
What do you enjoy about working with OneJustice?
OneJustice is an innovative and forward-looking organization that always keeps its eye on the ultimate goal – expanding the legal help available to Californians who are facing legal barriers to basic life necessities. I enjoy the truly generative work of the OneJustice Board to frame the service gaps in the state and identify ways to bridge those gaps, and then I appreciate being able to work together with OneJustice staff to make those creative ideas into on-the-ground projects that make a real difference in people’s lives.
Which of OneJustice’s initiatives for 2013 most excites you?
Of course as someone who started my career at agencies serving youth and children, I am proud of OneJustice’s initiative to expand services for families – particularly in the areas of immigration and special education. Given my current work at Bet Tzedek – and the profound challenges of bringing much-needed legal help to seniors living in rural and isolated areas of the state – I have to say that I am most excited about the Seniors Legal Aid Fund that will ensure increased nonprofit management support for legal services organizations serving seniors and more Justice Bus Trips to bring teams of pro bono volunteers to help seniors in places like Lancaster and others. I definitely will be involved in those efforts in 2013!