Justice Matters – The OneJustice Blog

Justice Matters: the OneJustice blog

Happy Valentine’s Day from OneJustice

 

On this day of love and friendship, we wanted to say thank you. At a time when love can seem to be in short supply, you have opened your heart to those in need. THANK YOU for spreading the love and bringing life-changing legal aid to Californians!

Love, the OneJustice Team

OneJustice Responds to President Trump’s Federal Budget Proposal

 

 

February 13, 2018

San Francisco, CA — On Monday, February 12, the Trump Administration officially unveiled their proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Once again, OneJustice is deeply disappointed and angered that the budget calls for the complete elimination of the Legal Services Corporation.

The Legal Services Corporation is a government-run nonprofit organization that administers funding for over 100 legal services nonprofits that bring legal aid to every state and county in the country. Federal funding of the Legal Services Corporation (or LSC) provides over $40 million to eleven California nonprofits. These nonprofits assist over 200,000 Californians each year – including low-income seniors, veterans, children, and survivors of domestic violence – who face problems needing a legal solution.

The Administration claims that “elimination [of LSC funding] will encourage nonprofit organizations, businesses, law firms, and religious institutions to develop new models for providing legal aid, such as pro bono work, law school clinics, and innovative technologies.” While exploring alternative delivery models is certainly important, the notion that these models could fill the gap caused by the elimination of LSC funding is not grounded in reality. LSC reports that, even with federal funding, existing legal services are only able to help about half of those who seek help, due to a lack of available resources. This makes the case for more funding – not less.

The Administration also claims that elimination “puts more control in the hands of State and local governments that better understand the needs of their communities.” This, too, is misguided. The organizations that receive LSC funding are already deeply embedded in their communities and work tirelessly to respond to and understand the needs of their clients.

Legal services are vital to ensuring the promise of equal justice under law, and a 2017 study from Voices for Civil Justice shows that a majority of Americans support civil legal aid. Not only does the elimination of LSC funding run counter to popular opinion, it would have a devastating impact on our most vulnerable communities. OneJustice CEO Julia R. Wilson stated, “Eliminating federal funding for legal aid would mean that our country’s bright promise of equal justice for all will ring false for far too many Californians in need.

But despite this proposal from the Trump Administration – the most recent in a series of actions which have demonstrated their disturbing opposition to civil legal aid – OneJustice remains confident that, like in 2017, bipartisan support in Congress will protect funding for civil legal aid. We strongly support LSC’s request for increased funding – approval of which would help continue the progress that legal aid nonprofits have made towards ensuring equal justice for all.

You can take action now to make your voice heard to protect civil legal aid in California. Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!

On Innovation, On Cheese Puffs

February 8, 2018

by Roel Mangiliman, Manager of Innovation and Learning

As “Manager of Innovation and Learning,” I am often asked what I do exactly? What is innovation? What does innovation mean in the context of legal aid? I suspect these questions stem from the possibility that my job title sounds novel, maybe vague. In response to this, I love to talk about cheetos. Specifically Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Hear me out.

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by a man named Richard Montanez. Born in Mexico, raised outside of Ontario, CA, Richard Montanez worked as a janitor at the Rancho Cucamonga plant of Frito Lay Company. One day Montanez heard a video message from the Frito Lay’s President telling all staff to “act like owners,” to take active investment and dream big in their roles. This left an impression on him. “I looked around and didn’t see a lot of reaction from my co-workers, but for me it was the opportunity to do something different.”

As fate would have it, one of the assembly lines later broke, leaving some of the Cheetos without their iconic bright orange coating. Montanez took some home. Montanez was intrigued by the possibility of adding chili powder to the cheese puffs, inspired from the Mexican food elote. “I see the corn man adding butter, cheese and chili to the corn and thought, what if I add chili to a Cheeto?” He went to his mom’s kitchen and added chili powder.

His family loved it, and told him to share with his plant supervisors. His supervisors loved it, and encouraged him to pitch to higher ups. After speaking with the president’s secretary, Montanez secured an executive meeting two weeks later. In preparation for the pitch, Montanez read a book on business strategies that he borrowed from the public library, and bought his first-ever tie for $3. Montanez even designed his own sample bags for the meeting, and put the spicy Cheetos in them.

The pitch was a hit. Company executives loved the idea and decided to go into production. “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” was born, and the rest is history: the spicy cheese puff snack went on to become Frito-Lay’s highest selling product. In addition, Montanez is now an executive vice president of Pepsi Co.

The story of how Hot Cheetos were invented is interesting for many reasons.

On a personal level, I am always inspired when people who come from modest means exude creativity and determination when they do not have to; Montanez took a role of relatively low-positional authority and felt determined in the potential of his ideas.

On a professional level, there is a lesson here for my work. There were mechanisms at Frito Lay allowing innovation to emerge. There was encouragement from leadership via the all-staff video. There were co-workers who put creativity in a positive light. There was also a clear way (albeit formalistic) for ideas to bubble up to the top.

According to the nonprofit consulting group, Bridgespan Group, innovation is driven most commonly by such features: diverse, high-functioning staff, empowering leadership, a pathway for new ideas, and resources to execute. Similarly, management guru, Peter Drucker, describes innovation as a disciplined and systematic process of looking for market-shifting opportunities, one that appreciates people’s unique strengths and ideas. Frito Lay deployed these conditions in its own way, and is millions of dollars richer for it.

Roel Mangiliman

My job is to help legal aid groups strengthen their own drivers of innovation at a time when innovation — or the ability to adapt to change — is most needed. The legal field has entered an era of transition, clearly. From changing client demographics; reduced government funding for legal aid; fluctuating numbers of law school applications; to the influence of technology on day-to-day life. Legal groups can see these transitions either as organizational threats or opportunities. My job is to help them see the latter.

Having shared the Hot Cheetos story, hopefully my work makes more sense to people. Feel free to contact me if you want to know what this all means in detail, or suggestions on how we might work together.

I am eager to hear what innovation means to you, what it means to fellow OneJustice staff (look out for a related post by Peter James, Senior Manager of Impact Evaluation), and in general in what innovative or ‘out of the box’ ways might OneJustice bring legal help to places where it is most needed.

OneJustice Responds to the Closing of the Office for Access to Justice

February 2, 2018

San Francisco, CA – Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice has quietly moved to shut down the Office for Access to Justice. We are deeply disappointed, though not surprised, by this decision, the most recent in a series of actions that has revealed this administration’s contempt for civil legal aid and dedication to maintaining an unequal and unjust status quo.

The Office for Access to Justice was created in 2010, under Attorney General Eric Holder in response to “the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system.” The office’s goals included promoting access and eliminating barriers to justice, ensuring fairness for all participants in the legal and judicial process, and increasing efficiency in the justice system. In addition to its substantive accomplishments, which included launching a “federal interagency roundtable” to demonstrate the benefits of legal aid in various areas of federal policy, the office represented a commitment from the federal government to realizing our shared value of equal justice for all, not just for those who can afford it.

Approximately five million low-income Californians will face legal problems over the next year. Of course, only lawyers call these “legal problems.” For the people involved, they are life problems – which happen to have legal solutions. There’s the grandmother who complains about the broken toilet spewing sewage into her apartment – and the landlord serves her with eviction papers rather than fix it. Or the young woman who has left an abusive relationship and lives in fear of the idea that her abuser might be able to find her at her job. Or the Vietnam veteran living on the street because he cannot access the benefits or medical care he needs.

Unfortunately, most of these people cannot afford to hire an attorney to get the legal help they need. They are shut out of the civil justice system – one of the jewels of American democracy – simply because they cannot afford it.

Legal aid offers hope for filling this gap, and helps ensure a more level playing field in our civil justice system, by providing advice and representation to those who could otherwise not afford it. Legal aid attorneys provide life-changing help to those who need it most – helping the grandmother stay in her home, the young woman live without fear, the veteran safe and secure.

Over the last twelve months, the Trump administration has repeatedly moved to undermine this core American value of civil justice by threatening legal aid programs. The Administration called for the complete elimination of federal funding for civil justice services for low-income Americans. The shuttering of the Office for Access to Justice is further abandonment of our shared value and the constitutional promise of equality under law.

But we know that access to justice is a concept revered by many – on both sides of the aisle and across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Americans understand that having a level playing field in court is not a partisan issue. With this in mind, we promise that the OneJustice Network will never stop working to defend the civil justice system.

You can take action now to make your voice heard to protect civil legal aid in California.
Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!

A year of systematic cruelty

January 25, 2018

Today at noon our offices will hold a moment of silence.

We will take this moment to remember that one year ago today, the Trump Administration released an executive order titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements that put into place the first pieces of the immigration machine that is now clawing its way from Washington D.C. toward California.

That executive order added thousands of new ICE agents.  It threatened repercussions for cities that created “sanctuary” by refusing to deputize local law enforcement systems for ICE’s purposes.  And it created a set of so-called deportation “priorities” that fundamentally threaten our treasured values of due process and the rule of law by allowing each individual ICE agent to make subjective and unregulated determinations about who is a “priority” for deportation.

And of course, just two days later, the Trump Administration released the first Muslim travel ban executive order, thrusting the global community into chaos, stranding passengers traveling to the US from around the world, and ripping apart families throughout California and the country.

So today we will mark this moment in silence.  In contemplation of the past year.  And we will hold in our hearts the many families and communities who now live under the threats implicit in this immigration policy, and those whose lives have already been up-ended.

The administration’s actions on immigration policy over the last year make their position clear. The January 2017 executive orders that were signed (as well as others that were leaked), the termination of the DACA program in September, three iterations of the Muslim travel ban, the legal arguments that the President’s actions in this area are unreviewable by the federal courts – they all make it very clear.  This administration’s immigration policy can only be described as a framework of systematic cruelty.

The human species is by its very nature migratory.  We have moved all over the face of the earth throughout human history.  We move for joyful reasons – because we fall in love, seek new skills and education, because we get amazing job opportunities.  We also move for horrific reasons – to escape persecution, warfare, and devastating natural disasters.  Of course all of this human movement is regulated in some way by each country’s laws.  But at the heart of it all are just the purely human reasons for migration, which we share as a species.

But the Trump Administration views this organic human movement with suspicion and disdain. Rather than seeing human migration as normal, natural, and even as a potential source of new talents, skills, and energy for the United States, the administration’s derogatory and racist language degrades both the reasons for human migration – and the people and families involved.

It is critically important that we – as a nation – understand this core fact: the brunt of the unbearable impact of the administration’s immigration policy falls on families.  It is the young Syrian refugee seeking to reunite with his wife and US citizen son in Long Beach during the chaos of the first travel ban.  It is the grandmother stranded in Germany as she is trying to travel to the Bay Area to hold her daughter’s hand during the birth of her first grandchild.  It is a sobbing mother and teenagers as their father is deported at an airport in Michigan.

So it is those families that we hold in our hearts today at noon – and every day moving forward. Their persistence and courage are inspiring. Their stories fuel our fight.

Want to stand up to protect immigrant families? Sign up for the statewide Immigration Pro Bono Network for alerts, updates and volunteer opportunities!

Mall Massage Lover + Meal Prepper + Karaoke Queen + Outdoor Enthusiast + Passion for Justice = ?

January 17, 2018

The answer: an amazing new group of social justice advocates here at OneJustice!

OneJustice is starting off 2018 with a staff of 27 people – the largest we’ve ever been! Our newest team members all come to us with amazing skill sets and serve in vital roles for OneJustice. And what’s more – they’re all amazing people. As we do with all our new staff members, we asked them to answer these four questions:

  • What drew you to OneJustice’s vision, mission, and strategies?
  • Tell us a bit about your position at OneJustice and what you hope to achieve?
  • What was your path in coming to OneJustice?
  • And please tell us something about yourself that not everyone might know.

We think you’ll enjoy hearing their responses below.  And we know that  you’ll enjoy working with them as they get up and running in their work!  Join us in welcoming Blossom Cole, Lusik Gasparyan, Roel Mangiliman, and Patrick Kelleher-Calnan.

 

Blossom Cole – Executive & Grants Coordinator

Since I grew up in California in a low-income community, many of my experiences were extremely traumatic, and were systematically shaped by politics and divisive agendas. Much like today, our government during the Reagan administration in the 80s, pushed racist policies. Social services were defunded throughout the country, and particularly in California, where mental hospitals were closed. The patients undergoing treatment got released to their own devices. My mother was one of those people, suffering from schizophrenia, and had been involuntarily committed, yet they let her out anyway.

OneJustice’s program participants are now facing their own trauma at the hands of our government, which I can identify with personally. My people are losing government benefits, facing legal problems, fighting to stay in the only country they know, and they need help now.

As the Executive and Grants Coordinator, I am responsible for managing the CEO’s schedule, and responding to internal and external requests for her time. I also assist Program Leads at OneJustice in completing grant reporting to our funders in a timely manner. I hope to completely overhaul our physical and digital grants filing system so that is it more accessible and easier to obtain the information required for reporting.

After earning my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from San Francisco State University, I went on to earn my Paralegal Certificate with a focus on immigration. After an internship in family based immigration, I transitioned to a career in business immigration. Understanding and processing/drafting petitions for both prongs of immigration left me with a serious passion for immigration law. OneJustice gives me an opportunity to still be involved with immigration and allows me to go back to my social justice roots and offer an authentic perspective about what it means to be low-income in California and how support and access can change lives.

Analyzing our politics and governmental processes allows me to learn from my colleagues, who have a winning formula that reaches and communicates to those who are in the business of offering help to people who are disenfranchised. I get to have “a seat at the table” in order to shape OneJustice’s program reach and assist in obtaining funds to sustain our services, which help families and people like me. I give thanks to a great support system that helped me to succeed so that I could give back to my community. Touching one life is all I can ask for, and changing the perspective of one person can effect change, which will be my legacy.

I really love to sing, and I am a karaoke queen. I love learning new things and going to theme parks, especially with my family, which includes my four-year-old son.

Lusik Gasparyan – Project Manager, Pro Bono Justice

In my first year of law school, I realized that I wanted to work for an organization that is not only a problem solver, but is passionate about what they do and wants to improve the lives of those who face many obstacles in the legal system. OneJustice aims to increase everyone’s access to justice, regardless of income, citizenship status, or location of residency. OneJustice approaches the law from an innovative point of view, believing that everything can be improved and new ideas are always welcomed–a belief that I personally share myself.

I am the Project Manager for the Rural Justice Collaborative clinic. The Clinic organizes immigration, criminal record expungement, and housing clinics for those living in the rural parts of the Bay Area, where the access to legal services is limited. Through my work, I hope to increase access to justice for those living in the rural parts and be able to update and advance our clinics based on the needs of the community. My aim is to expand the impact of Rural Justice Collaborative project.

I have a background in dependency, immigration, and family law. Prior to joining the OneJustice team, I was a law clerk at the Children’s Law Center of CA (CLC), where I interviewed minor clients in the dependency system about their living situation and explained to them the dependency court process. In addition, I helped my supervising attorney make recommendations regarding the minor’s care and housing. I also interned at Kids in Need of Defense, helping unaccompanied minors receive asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status by interviewing them and working on their immigration court paperwork. While at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law and Pepperdine’s Restoration and Justice Clinic, I assisted survivors of domestic violence with their Family Law and Restraining Order paperwork and representation. In addition, at the Restoration and Justice clinic, I helped a survivor of human trafficking apply for a criminal record expungement so she could obtain a job. At the Coalition for the Advocacy of the Persecuted and the Enslaved, I assisted survivors of human trafficking with gaining legal status and worked with clients who were applying for U-Visa and renewal of DACA.
While in law school, I organized workshops that educated youth from transitional homes on their constitutional rights during police encounters. I created the materials that provided instructions on how to avoid self-incrimination and reduce the chances of being charged with obstruction of justice.

All of those experiences have prepared me for my current role by providing me with an understanding of the different legal issues people face. In addition, those experiences gave me an ability to empathize and connect with different clients and give value and validation to their stories. Those experiences have also made me want to improve the system.

I enjoy going grocery shopping and meal prep for the week. I love cooking and preparing a feast for my friends or family. I believe lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic are essentials for almost any savory dish.

Roel Mangiliman – Manager of Innovation and Learning

Everyone at OneJustice works on a constant everyday basis to answer the question, “In what ways can we increase access to justice for those who need it?” I decided to work here because not only do we answer the question, we take action.

As Manager of Innovation and Learning, I promote the theories and practices around topics of innovation, human-centered design, and organizational change as approaches to transform California’s civil legal aid system. Success in this work looks like growing acknowledgement among the legal community that “innovation” is not just brand speak, or referring to iPhones – but rather an organizational development process that resonates as urgent, actionable, and exciting to entities of all kinds looking to increase impact.

Prior to joining OneJustice, I spent five years studying organizational change initiatives in a range of charitable contexts including legal aid, academia, philanthropy, and mental health. At Seneca Family of Agencies, I led training initiatives and innovation efforts to meet the changing organizational needs of a mental health agency expanding rapidly across different states, service type, and compliance entities. At Bay Area Justice Funders Network, as a research fellow I studied philanthropic best practices for social change, and created training content for foundation staff looking to influence their foundations. Earlier, at the SF Superior Court Self-Help Center, I held a management fellowship where I studied the impacts of sudden budget cuts on staffing and service areas, ran strategic planning retreats, and consulted executives on staff and resource development. I completed my JD at UC Davis Law School, and received my BA in political science from UC San Diego. I am licensed to practice law in California, and regularly complete continuing education in nonprofit law, change leadership, and organizational development.

A hobby of mine is getting mall massages – those stations in the mall where people faceplant into a chair and get 45 mins of deep tissue massage (more like body work) at an affordable rate, with no talking. Paradise.

Patrick Kelleher-Calnan – Operations Manager

I was attracted to the mission of OneJustice because I believe lack of access to legal aid is a serious source of harm for many Californians, and I appreciate that OneJustice deals with the legal aid system as a whole. OneJustice appealed to me as an organization because it has a track record of success and displays a willingness to evolve as an organization.

At OneJustice I am responsible for the day-to-day and long term operations of the offices, everything from bookkeeping to IT support. I’m excited to be joining such a high-caliber operation, and looking forward to finding ways to keep our processes effective and efficient as OneJustice continues to grow.

My professional background includes a diverse mix of operational and data-related roles. For five years I was the Admission Technical Specialist for graduate business programs at Northeastern University where I managed several admissions and marketing systems, performed a lot of data analysis and reporting, and making sure operations ran smoothly. Before that I ran the day-to-day operations of a growing bicycle tour, rental, and repair business. Since moving to San Francisco I’ve worked in an accounting office and as a Finance Administrator for a New Zealand based winery.

My work and volunteer experience also includes conducting geospatial research for a Human Right to Water campaign, wrangling data for the Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco, and starting and running a neighborhood bicycle nonprofit in Boston. 

I earned my BA from Wesleyan University and my MS in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern University.

Since moving to the Bay Area I’ve made it my mission to take advantage of every outdoor recreation opportunity in the area. So far my favorite has to be encountering elephant seals on the beaches of Point Reyes.

Happy Holidays from OneJustice!

December 22, 2017

This holiday season, we are so grateful for your support. During a year of unimaginable challenges and attacks on the communities we serve, you have proven that when people open their hearts and put their hands to work, anything is possible.

We wish you the best this holiday season, and look forward to another year of working together for 
justice for all.

We Have So Much To Be Thankful For

November 28, 2017

We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving last week, surrounded by those you love and hopefully still not drowsy from all that turkey! In this time of giving thanks, it’s hard to overstate how many things we at OneJustice have to be grateful for. Our work is supported by so many different people and organizations – from our Board members, who help give OneJustice a sense of direction; to our generous donors, whose financial contributions ensure services for those in need; to our community partner organizations, who invite us into their fight for equality and justice.

We are so thankful – and we wanted to extend our deepest gratitude to you!

As a result, today OneJustice is celebrating #ThanksGivingTuesday (rather than #GivingTuesday). Because our work involves so many others, we thought it would be a good idea to ask some of our staff members here at OneJustice what part of the OneJustice network they are most thankful for. Their responses are below – we hope you’ll enjoy them for #ThanksGivingTuesday!

Dania Herrera

Dania is one of the Program Associates with the Pro Bono Justice team, and she works with our Staff Attorneys to help organize and plan clinics. As a result, Dania has had the opportunity to interact with many of the clients directly served in our clinics. She writes: “The legal system can be a large maze for anyone. Without the help of a legal expert or a couple, like in the case of a client we saw in September, it can be quite a daunting process to fill out paperwork that falls within two areas of law. We hold free legal clinics in Stockton regularly and we saw a client who told us that his past drug abuse problem affected access to a better quality of life. He hoped to file a naturalization application at that clinic in September but was advised to attend our record change clinic in October to pursue record change remedies to have a more successful naturalization application. When sharing his life story with the volunteer attorneys and me, he told us what it took to turn his life around, the consequences of his actions, and in that moment I realized how stories like these need to be told in order to fix our broken legal and healthcare system.”

Gillian Sonnad

As a Staff Attorney with the Healthy Nonprofits Program, Gillian works directly with our Executive Fellows. The Fellows Program, which helps to train legal services nonprofit leaders, has generated a strong legacy of alumni. Gillian describes:“I’m grateful for the network of Executive Fellows alumni that OneJustice has created. Knowing that many of our nonprofit leaders have thought critically about the stability and longevity of their organizations gives me hope for the future of our sector and our ability to continue bringing high quality legal services to low income Californians.


Fabiola Danielle Quiroz

Fabiola also works as a Program Associate with the Pro Bono Justice team. Having worked directly with clients, she is grateful for their willingness to share their stories with her and members of the OneJustice team. Fabiola shares her experience from a recent clinic: “I listened as the client recounted their story – from juvenile hall to prison to the lack of opportunities for reintegration. And, in that powerful moment of openness, I shared my brother’s story too –  a story of incarceration from age seventeen. Street Sheet’s November edition on mass incarceration states that over the past 30 years there has been a 500 percent increase in incarceration, amounting to 2.4 million humans with no freedom in the U.S. Now, as we enter the season of giving thanks, I am thankful for narratives having the power to build bridges between different walks of life, and in my ability to serve as a bridge. In finding common ground, my struggle and their struggle becomes one struggle – our struggle, unified towards equality and justice.”

Mai Nguyen

Mai, one of our awesome Staff Attorneys on the Pro Bono Justice team, organizes Justice Bus trips in Southern California. It takes a lot to make these clinics happen, and Mai notes that, among other, she is grateful for the Justice Bus volunteers. She describes, “I am grateful for our Justice Bus volunteers who take time out of their busy schedules to come together to bring much needed legal assistance to low-income Californians. They are able to combine their skills, resources and enthusiasm to make a positive impact on many clinic participant’s lives. Their dedication is apparent in the quality and depth of services we are able to provide through the Justice Bus and from the gracious feedback we get from clinic participants. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of volunteers, from pro bono attorneys, law students, and legal services attorneys to librarians, teachers, social service providers, and caring community members — all of whom make it possible for OneJustice to carry out our mission to increase access to justice to low-income Californians as far north as Eureka and far south as El Centro.”

Thank you, everyone, for helping bring legal help to those in need.