Justice Matters – The OneJustice Blog

Justice Matters: the OneJustice blog

One year later . . . OneJustice is ready.

November 7, 2017
Post by Julia R. Wilson, CEO

One year ago, I was pathetically naïve.

Photo of Julia Wilson in a brown suit with a white scarf tied over her shoulder.

My selfie on Election Day 2016, trying to echo the colors worn by suffragists in their fight for women’s right to vote.

I picked out a brown, pinstriped pantsuit that felt classic and maybe even (if I squinted at myself in the mirror) a bit timeless. I looked at photographs of my dearest grandmother, Daryl Henson, a fiercely independent woman who was born just two years after women secured the right to vote in this country. I found a white scarf in my drawer and thought about my older daughter, who would turn 18 on November 8th and would get to vote in her first election on her birthday. I felt electric with the possibilities.

Now one year later, I can hardly stand to look at the photo I posted that morning on my personal social media accounts before heading out the door. I think I actually somehow feel ashamed of that photo. It communicates something a bit too personal, or too raw, about what I thought was possible.

So on Election Day 2016, I put on my pantsuit and tied my white scarf over my shoulder. I felt buoyant as I went through my commute, smiling at first shyly – and then conspiratorially – with the other women in pantsuits in the parking lot and on the BART train. By the time I reached the streets of downtown San Francisco, I was brazenly high- fiving other pantsuited women as we walked by each other on the sidewalk – strangers and yet sisters.

Twelve hours later, I was perched on a stool, watching the TV shows on my computer alone in my darkened house, with my younger daughter asleep in bed.  The pantsuit was crumpled in my hamper. I haven’t worn it since. I don’t know if I will wear it again.

Photo of OneJustice staff around a laptop at a desk at SFO airport.

OneJustice staff at the SFO “pop-up” airport clinic in response to the first round of the Muslim Travel Ban, January & February 2017.

I didn’t sleep that night. Around 5am, I sent an email to the entire OneJustice staff. I contemplated closing the offices for the day, but that didn’t feel right. I thought that our  team needed to be together. So I invited everyone to take some time and then gather in our conference rooms in the late morning so that we could start to process what had happened and parse through what it might mean for OneJustice’s work.

We went through boxes of tissues that day. We cried and raged. We talked about power, privilege, and systemic racism and sexism in our country. We talked about the potential impact of the election on the communities that invite OneJustice into their fierce struggle for equality and justice. Staff members shared their fears, and we pledged to keep each other safe, no matter what the future might hold.

A photo of two attorneys working on laptops at a folding table at the LAX airport clinic, with signs that say "travel ban questions?" and "volunteer immigration attorney here to help"

The LAX airport legal clinic in response to the travel ban (February 2017).

That day is seared in my memory forever.  The election’s impact on our work could not have been more stark.  In one set of candidates, we had a possible President who had served on the Board of Directors of the federal Legal Services Corporation, and a Vice Presidential candidate who was a civil rights lawyer married to a former legal aid lawyer. On the other side, we had a Presidential candidate who had called for the end of the DACA program and ruthlessly vilified our communities, and a Vice Presidential candidate who had called for the complete elimination of Legal Services Corporation on three separate occasions during his time in the House.  We feared what our community was likely to face under the new administration.

On November 8, 2016, we actually thought we had a good sense of what was likely to come.  It turns out that we accurately predicted some of the components, but we were off in terms of the timing.  We did start planning that day and in the following weeks, including how to use the two California Pro Bono Regional Meetings that took place on either side on the inauguration date.  We tried to forecast different scenarios – the end of DACA, risk of mass deportations, a Muslim registry, the elimination of federal funding for legal aid – and sketch out high-level responses.

Looking back over the past year, I realize now that we could never have truly been ready for what came next.  How could we have imagined the waves of aggressive, discriminatory, and unconstitutional policies from the new administration? A proposed budget from the White House with no funding at all for legal services?  The attacks on the core democratic values we hold so dear: the rule of law, equality and justice for all?

Two attorneys shown on a large computer screen with the supervision immigration attorney at a table in the OneJustice conference room.

The OneJustice virtual DACA renewal clinic to bring legal assistance to young adults in Humboldt County in Sept. 2017.

I am so proud of what the OneJustice network has accomplished – and withstood – over the last year.  The LAX and SFO airport clinics in response to the multiple version of the Muslim travel ban.  The expansion of our Immigration Pro Bono Network to stand with immigrant communities as they face rapidly shifting immigration policies, craven deportation reprioritization, and increased ICE raids in Los Angeles.  The renewal of our grassroots network – Californians for Legal Aid – to raise awareness about the importance of legal services for Californians in need.  The statewide DACA response sprint to assist young adults in the terrible 4 weeks before the end of the DACA program.  The communities with whom we work – and our staff and volunteers – have undertaken amazing work in heart-breaking circumstances.

The past year has honed the OneJustice team to the sharpest edge. We have been buffeted and thrown about, but we also grew deeper roots that are now intimately intertwined with the roots of our partner organizations. Frontline collaborations forged in crisis have become lifetime relationships filled with trust and mutuality.  We have highly organized rapid response checklists and planning systems that we continue to hone with each new disaster – whether natural like the recent Northern California fires or a man-made disaster, manufactured by the federal administration.

I would never choose to live through the past year again – not for anything in the world.  I wish very much that our country and communities had never been forced through these experiences.  But as we work to make sense of the past 12 months and to look forward at what we might face over the next year, there is one thing that I know in my bones.

We are no longer naïve. We have learned our lessons.
This year, we are ready.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And we need YOU more than ever before!  Please take a stand with us and fight for justice for all!

A high-fiver, a pancake maker, a saxophone player, a baker, and a swimmer all walk into an office…

November 2, 2017

…and now they all help expand access to legal assistance for all Californians!

OneJustice has been growing a lot in these past few months, and our newest team members bring a huge swath of new skills to the organization – in addition to their wonderful and unique personalities, of course. We sat down with them and asked them to share a little something about themselves, including:

  • 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 Xiomara Castro, Semhal Gessesse, Alex Ramsey, Gillian Sonnad, and Jess Temple!

 

Xiomara Castro – Program Associate, Pro Bono Justice

I was drawn to OneJustice because of the organization’s commitment to bringing legal services to underserved communities and expanding the legal aid landscape through a multi-faceted approach. The Justice Bus is an incredible and unique project in its mission to close the legal services gap in rural communities, where poverty is increasing and access to legal services are few. I was also drawn to OneJustice because it’s an organization that prioritizes diversity and equity among its staff and brings that dynamic to the public in the form of clinics, consulting and policy work.

I hit the ground running in support of the Justice Bus Project in Southern California. My first day at OneJustice was an overnight trip to San Diego for a DACA and Naturalization clinic in Escondido. I look forward to growing my skills to serve clients with a range of issues including naturalization and general immigration, record expungement, and veteran’s issues. As someone with social services experience, I know that many underserved communities face basic legal barriers that prevent them from accessing life-changing services. I am proud of the Justice Bus and its work to remove those barriers and create equity for marginalized people.

I am coming into the legal field with a background in social services, education and community organizing. I have experience organizing with LGBTQ youth of color around various issues, including disability and access, housing, educational equity, and state and interpersonal violence. I also have experience providing direct services and counseling to low-income and undocumented youth and families in the Los Angeles area. I am excited to use my skills to continue serving these and adjacent communities with the Justice Bus Project.

I really love high fives, karaoke and foodie hunts for the best of LA. So far I have found some of the best pizza, takoyaki, fish tacos, and sushi in LA. Next up, ramen.

Semhal Gessesse – Program Associate, Pro Bono Consulting

I was drawn to OneJustice by its mission to bring legal services to those most in need and its multifaceted clinic and consulting work to achieve it. I was drawn to my role, specifically, for its emphasis on both building the capacity of California’s pro bono work and improving the way it is delivered.

My core responsibilities here at OneJustice include working closely with the Pro Bono Justice Consulting Team to help both implement new pro bono networks around the Bay Area and strengthen existing mechanisms that have the potential to create long-lasting pro bono relationships. Through my work, I hope to increase access to justice by fostering better community relations between those with legal needs and those who have the resources and expertise to help.

Prior to joining the OneJustice team, I most recently worked on a range of city initiatives at the New York City-based policy and advocacy organization FPWA. The bulk of my work related to equitable workforce development for immigrant populations and it is here that I developed an interest in advocacy and public policy, a background I am excited to bring to OneJustice.

My passion for public interest law and social justice developed intensely during my time at New York University and while working at the Legal Aid Society and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Working in both spaces within the span of two years allowed me to get a better, more nuanced understanding of justice and sentencing disparities in a large, urban legal system such as New York. Additionally, working directly with clients highlighted to me how external factors such as poverty, education attainment, and national origin can impact the outcome of a case.

I really love pancakes and enjoy eating them as a weekend breakfast or late night snack. I like to think I have the best recipe and technique out so I always welcome some friendly competition!!

Alex Ramsey – Communications Associate

This is my first job out of college, and I was really hoping I could get involved in an organization that’s making a difference. I’m interested in helping to create a more just and equitable justice system, and OneJustice serves a vital role in helping fulfill that dream. After I spoke with Julia, our CEO, I was confident that this would be a place where my work would have an impact.

As the Communications Associate, I’m in charge of managing OneJustice’s social media accounts, helping edit the website, creating graphics for physical mailings and digital campaigns, drafting blog posts and newsletters, and a bunch of other tasks. I’m hoping that I can help to improve our digital presence and expand our following – I want to spread the word about the awesome stuff that’s going on here.

In June I graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in African and African American Studies, with Honors. In the summer of 2016, I was an intern with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in the Communications and Policy Department, where I did some work similar to what I do at OneJustice: I helped with social media campaigns, conducted legal research, and worked on the office’s annual report. While at Stanford, I had a number of pretty different jobs and positions. I was a research assistant with the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, where I helped put together scripts for a digital course; the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, where I created a website to map all 9/11 memorials outside of the United States; and a student leader in the Stanford Marching Band, where I helped write field shows for football performances and create social media content.

I play the tenor saxophone, and I can recite multiple episodes of Spongebob Squarepants from memory. I know, it’s weird.

Gillian Sonnad – Staff Attorney, Healthy Nonprofits

I’ve worked primarily in local legal services programs, and I know how fundamental their work is to providing access to justice for underserved and underrepresented communities. So OneJustice’s work to strengthen and support the legal services organizations through training, technical support, and advocating for additional funding really drew me in.

I will be running the Executive Fellows program and starting up a new area of consulting for the Healthy Nonprofits (HNP) team. I’m looking forward to providing support and training for the legal services organizations and hope to enable them to do their very important work more efficiently, effectively, and in an inclusive manner.

Prior to my work with OneJustice, I was a Senior Consultant with the Race Equity Project and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. I was an inaugural fellow for the Shriver Center Racial Justice Training Institute and after completing my fellowship I have served as faculty and coach for the Institute. I also co-authored the Clearinghouse Review article, “Putting Race Back on the Table: Racial Impact Statements.” In addition to my race equity work, I was a supervising attorney with Central California Legal Services and a staff attorney with Legal Services of Northern California where I advised, assisted, and represented hundreds of clients with issues related to public benefits, housing, healthcare, education, consumer rights, estates, and immigration. I earned my J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2008 with a concentration in Public Interest Law. During my time at Hastings I clerked for Bay Area Legal Aid and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, represented clients in both the Individual Rights and the Refugee and Human Rights clinics, and was a Senior Articles Editor for the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal. I earned my B.A. from the University of California, San Diego with a double major in Political Science and Law and Society.

My husband and I are on a mission to bake everything from our favorite season of The Great British Bake Off!

Jess Temple – Staff Attorney, Pro Bono Clinics

I was drawn to the work of OneJustice because I emphatically agree with a core tenet of OneJustice’s work – that access to justice must not be limited to those that can readily access it. OneJustice is a thoughtful and evolving organization, which skillfully combines intentionality and creativity.

As the Staff Attorney for Pro Bono Clinics, I am predominantly responsible for leading OneJustice’s Northern California Justice Bus. The Justice Bus provides mobile legal services to rural and isolated areas in Northern California by providing one- or two-day legal clinics. I hope to partner with community organizations and legal service providers to identify legal needs in these communities, and to use the Justice Bus as a mechanism by which pieces of these legal needs can be addressed.  In preparation for these trips, I am responsible for facilitating all necessary training. To a lesser extent, I am also responsible for contributing to the Rural Justice Collaborative at OneJustice.

In implementing strategic responses to pressing legal needs, I aim to build positive and productive partnerships with pro bono attorneys, law students, legal services nonprofits, and community organizations.

Prior to joining OneJustice, I completed a fellowship with the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC), where my work centered on increasing victims’, and their advocates’, effective use of international human rights law to strengthen individuals’ access to justice. Previously, I worked as a law clerk with a civil rights and human rights law firm in Venice, California and contributed to cases before the Ninth Circuit addressing police misconduct, selective and discriminatory enforcement of the law, human trafficking, child slave labor, and corporate accountability. I also worked in the Justice, Protection, and Social Rights Unit of the Special Procedures branch of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights located in Geneva, Switzerland. Before attending law school, I participated in comprehensive eviction defense work at San Francisco Bar Association’s Homeless Advocacy Project, which sought to connect Bay Area community members to pro bono legal services, social services, and rehabilitative services necessary to address intersecting experiences of poverty, discrimination, mental illness, disability, and substance abuse.

I have always been very drawn to the water, and I’ve been swimming on recreational swim teams since I was 4 years old. There were high hopes that I would be one of the great swimmers of my generation, but sadly, my performance peaked by the time I was 6 years old. Though never the best swimmer, I have enjoyed recreational and outdoor swimming ever since!

A Hauntingly Good Time

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween from OneJustice!

At OneJustice, transforming the civic legal aid system isn’t the only thing we get serious about. Halloween is a preeeetty big deal here. Everyone comes in costume (bonus points if you wear your costume on public transportation), and every year we host an organization-wide celebration and costume contest. Our staff brought their A-games in terms of costumes: Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes), V (from V for Vendetta), and Super Mario just to name a few. Picking just two winners from each office proved to be a really difficult task – but the results are in!

The winners from the San Francisco office were:

…and the winners from the Los Angeles office were – everybody! The LA Team did a group costume of the Seven Dwarves (plus a tiny Snow White!)

We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures below, and we hope you’ll have an awesome Halloween of your own!

From left to right: Butterfly (aka Maria), Calvin + Hobbes (aka Jess), Big Pun (aka Ellie), Jyn Erso from Rogue One (aka Dania), and a Pumpkin! (aka Eleni)

 

The San Francisco Staff!

 

Left to right: a Hipster Blue Ox (aka Chris), Cruella de Vil (aka Gillian), and V (aka Lea)

Left to right: Chris and Lea again, plus Danny Zuko (aka Alex) and Mario (aka Pete)

The Legal Aid Response to the Northern California Fires

 

 

October 24, 2017

Amidst the ashes, legal aid providers and pro bono volunteers are mobilizing

The devastation caused by the Northern California wildfires has been simply unprecedented. So far, over 8,000 buildings have been destroyed across over 200,000 acres. While firefighters work to contain the infernos and we can only now begin to assess the scale of the damage, survivors looking to rebuild face a series of daunting obstacles and questions. After the most pressing issues are confronted – where to find food, shelter, and medical care – an even more enormous list of tasks begins to form: replacing identification, filing insurance claims, applying for unemployment benefits, and, of course, rebuilding.

The outpouring of support for the North Bay and Northern California residents affected has been heartening, and many organizations have stepped in to play their part in the response and recovery – including, notably, the legal services community. Alongside pro bono volunteers from across Northern California, legal services organizations are springing into action to provide free legal assistance to survivors of the fire and help navigate the maze of legal issues that have resulted. The role of legal services in the aftermath of disasters has been well-documented, including most recently in response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. Vann Newkirk II writes in The Atlantic:

“People who flee can lose track of their mortgage payments and face foreclosure when they return. Evacuees from rental properties and apartments can face evictions, rising rents, and other challenges from unscrupulous landlords. In addition, people often lose vital documents…and without them might not be able to enroll their children in school or receive medical care. Those with few resources can face personal bankruptcies or even unlawful job terminations if they can’t make it back into work.”

Legal services organizations play an even more important role for the economically disadvantaged, many of whom already struggle with a variety of legal issues. In the wake of the fires, these needs have only increased.

How You Can Help

In the last two weeks, we have been in contact with the direct legal services organizations responding to the crisis, including Bay Area Legal Aid, Legal Aid of Sonoma County, Legal Services of Northern California, and California Rural Legal Assistance. We encourage you to donate to these organizations to expand their capacity to provide legal assistance to fire survivors.

We also encourage you to donate to Undocufund, which has been set up to provide relief for undocumented immigrants in Sonoma County affected by the fires. This fund is vital, because most undocumented immigrants are ineligible for FEMA disaster benefits and otherwise disadvantaged in accessing other disaster relief.

The California State Bar has also set up a legal hotline (415-575-3120) for affected residents. They also have provided information about finding an attorney, avoiding legal fraud, applying for federal aid, and more on their website.

Finally, OneJustice is maintaining a resource page for anyone interested in donating to the legal aid providers on the ground and for attorneys interested in providing pro bono assistance. This page will be updated as more information becomes available, so we encourage you to check this page for more information and updates as they become available!

What do a coffee drinker, cliff diver, peek-a-boo player, angsty punk, and improv performer have in common?

September 26, 2017

They all work at OneJustice now!

Yep, in addition to their expertise in fundraising, impact evaluation, pro bono design, and nonprofit management, our staff have some pretty quirky skill sets!  We recently added new folks to the team, and we’re excited to introduce them to you.

We sat down with them and asked them to share a little something about themselves, including:

  1. What drew you to OneJustice’s vision, mission, and strategies?
  2. Tell us a bit about your position at OneJustice and what you hope to achieve?
  3. What was your path in coming to OneJustice?
  4. 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 Aaron Chandler, Omar Corona, Pete James, Lea Volk, and Alexis Payne.

(The drum roll please………)

Aaron Chandler, Senior Manager of Donor Relations (San Francisco)

My mother is a public interest attorney, and I’Photo of Aaron Chandlerve been involved with volunteering, organizing, fundraising and leadership for racial, economic, environmental and social justice for 15 years.  In this time, I’ve seen the profoundly positive impact that access to justice can have in the lives of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive legal assistance.

Here at OneJustice, I’m engaging our committed supporters–without which we couldn’t have gotten to where we are now–as well as prospective supporters, by working with our staff, Board, Advisory Board and Strategy Council members to tell the story of OneJustice’s impact on individuals and the legal aid sector as a whole, and to build a culture of philanthropy at OneJustice.  In addition, I plan our annual gala, Opening Doors to Justice, and assist with refining the communications strategies that allow us to reach our stakeholders in the most meaningful ways.

My background has primarily been in fundraising — I really enjoy making connections between potential supporters, and impactful organizations doing meaningful grassroots and systems-change work.  Prior to OneJustice, I was managing the fundraising at a human services organization in the East Bay, as well as at a national economic justice organization.  I’m from Seattle originally, and went to college in Massachusetts.  Eventually I moved to San Francisco three-and-a-half years ago, when I took on the role of Executive Director at a community-based HIV/AIDS organization, turned it around and guided its merger with another local HIV/AIDS agency.

I enjoy traveling, (good) coffee, baking sweet desserts, (sometimes) running, and enjoying the fact that the East Bay — where I live — is consistently warmer and sunnier than San Francisco.

Omar Corona, Pro Bono Justice Program Associate (Los Angeles)

Photo of Omar Corona at a clinic I value OneJustice’s commitment to transforming the civic legal aid system in California by leveraging the resources of the private and non-profit sectors in order to better serve the most vulnerable. I also appreciate that working at OneJustice allows me to apply my skills in a way that positively impacts those most disenfranchised by our legal system.

I am especially interested in the exposure to the legal aid landscape in California that working at OneJustice affords me since I hope to pursue a career in public interest law.

Since joining OneJustice, I have been able to work on a variety of projects. First, I am part of the team behind the Pro Bono Training Institute which allows me to develop the training modules that we use to train volunteers for IMPACT LA and JusticeBus clinics. I’m also involved with IMPACT LA and the Southern California Immigration Capacity-Building project, which is in its early stages of development. Some of my overarching goals in working at OneJustice are to gain a better understanding of what can be done to narrow the legal aid gap in our state both through pro bono work as well as policy changes. Some more project-specific goals of mine are to: increase the number of volunteers that access the resources available through the Pro Bono Training Institute as well as contribute to the growth and expansion of IMPACT LA clinics. 

Prior to joining the OneJustice team, I served as a Fellow with the City and County of San Francisco where I was able to exercise my passion for public service and gain tremendous insight into the mechanisms of local government. My interest in legal aid stems from my experience with assisting self-represented litigants in the Superior Court of Los Angeles as an undergrad, primarily with eviction defense and family law.

In addition to legal aid work, I have also been involved in policy advocacy and research around environmental protection and sustainability. I have found many parallels between my work in legal aid and environmental protection. These parallels have made me realize the importance of promoting equity and ensuring fair access to resources. I earned my B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies from UCLA.

As a SoCal native, I really enjoy swimming in the outdoors and after a recent trip to the island of Barbados, I’ve come to enjoy cliff diving (although my parents aren’t too fond of it yet)! I also really love to eat spicy food and as a Vegan, I especially enjoy cooking my own and learning new recipes. However, I also very much enjoy visiting and trying different vegan-friendly restaurants!

Peter James, Senior Manager of Impact Evaluation (San Francisco)

When I first moved to California, I wPhoto of Pete James at a deskas talking to someone at a legal aid organization and they said, “You should check out OneJustice”. Since then, OneJustice has always been on my radar as a well-respected and innovative organization. So when the opportunity came to start a new strand of work at an organization with such deep roots in the legal services community, I jumped at the chance.

My core responsibility at One Justice is to build impact evaluation capacity at OneJustice. This means helping my colleagues to understand impact evaluation as a discipline and implement evaluations across the wide range of programs that they manage. We will then use what we have learned from our own work to support legal services organizations to evaluate their own services. Over time, we want to support the legal aid community to develop a high-quality evidence-base for planning and designing services as well as demonstrating the impact and value of programs.

I’m originally from the U.K. and started my career as a research consultant. I then joined the Impact Evaluation team at Citizens Advice, a nationwide network of community advice services. This experience first sparked my passion for legal services and my interest in using research methods to study how services can best be planned, designed and delivered. After moving to the U.S., I worked in the research office at the Judicial Council of California, which provided an insight into the operation of the legal system at the state level. Working at OneJustice means I can bring together these different threads to focus on the legal aid community in California.

I like to make up games, and now that we have a 15-month-old son, my repertoire of peek-a-boo-inspired routines has become wider than I would have ever imagined. 

Lea Volk, Healthy Nonprofits Program Associate (San Francisco)

Photo of Lea Volk at her deskI was drawn to OneJustice because of its cohesive and comprehensive approach to transforming the legal aid system and aiding social change in California. The multifaceted work of OneJustice resonates with my multitude of passions I often struggle to juggle, including social justice advocacy, community empowerment, civil rights law, and the ongoing fight for justice and equality. Through this innovative organization, I feel capable of being a part of both the micro and macro components required to efficiently and successfully create progressive change and bring healing to disenfranchised communities.

As the Healthy Nonprofit Program Associate, I handle the logistics for our Executive Fellowship Program and for our annual Public Interest/ Public Service Day while assisting with consulting and technical assistance for legal services organizations. I aim to provide smooth and detailed production to these two programs as well as look for ways to improve outreach and program evaluations. As someone who loves video production and editing, I would like to also create and/or increase our video media for documentation of our wonderful work, overall outreach purposes, and to spruce up our webinar trainings.

Before joining OneJustice, I worked as a Student Activist Coordinator for Amnesty International USA where I had the opportunity of educating, training, and organizing high school and college Amnesty student groups. While working with Amnesty International, I graduated from San Francisco State University in 2015 where I received a Bachelor of Arts in both Sociology and Latina/Latino Studies with a minor in Race and Resistance Studies. While a student of SFSU, I spent my time out of the classroom fully involved in student and community activism. I co-founded a successful student organization that worked to create a statewide network of students and educators fighting the privatization and commodification of public higher education, called the Student Union of San Francisco, which operated as a local under the California Student Union (CASU). It was through these years of grassroots organizing that I found my love for direct action planning, coalition building, and creating a network of politicized activists and advocates.

While in transit to and from work I may appear rather composed and calm yet, I have angsty punk and 90’s Riot Grrrl music blaring in my head phones. I also have an inability to refuse rhythm which often leads to me dancing to terrible music, dancing while I eat, and awkwardly trying to air drum as I walk.

Alexis Payne, Law Clerk (San Francisco)

I met attorneys from OneJustice while respoPhoto of Alexis Payne at a desknding to the travel ban at SFO Airport in late January. I was impressed with their innovative techniques as well as their dedication to the organization’s mission of making legal aid accessible to all. As someone who has a passion for social justice and hopes to work in corporate law,  I appreciate that they mobilize corporate attorneys to bring life-changing legal help to low-income Californians. 

My time at OneJustice is spent tracking important cases, helping to build networks of pro bono and legal aid attorneys, and developing a cultural humility training for pro bono volunteers. During my externship, I hope to further explore the role that BigLaw plays in bringing legal help to those in need. I am also excited to learn more about how using innovative techniques rooted in cultural humility can improve client outcomes.

I am currently a 2L at Berkeley Law. I worked at OneJustice this summer as a Law Clerk. Prior to starting law school, I worked to help meet the basic needs of houseless individuals in my community. I have also mentored young adults, started programs at local libraries, and raised awareness about racial and economic justice.

I love doing improv – I helped start the Boalt Improv Group at Berkeley Law last year. I also enjoy throwing dinner parties, spontaneous dancing, and camping.

An experience of mutual welcome

During national Welcoming Week each year, communities bring together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone.  OneJustice is proud to be one of many nonprofits participating in Welcoming Week around the country.  This national network of nonprofits is working in a variety of ways to support locally-driven efforts to create more welcoming, immigrant-friendly environments.  The goal is to create more welcoming communities that improve the quality of life and economic potential for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.  During Welcoming Week 2017 (September 15 to September 23), the Justice Bus project is working with local communities from San Joaquin to San Diego counties to bring groups of urban volunteers to staff “pop-up” immigration clinics, including DACA renewals in light of the Trump administration’s recent termination of that program.**

One of the beautiful things about our Rural Justice work is the deep relationships we have forged with rural communities – including the on-the-ground networks of social services nonprofits, grassroots organizing groups, and local leaders in these communities.  These leaders and organizations are already building justice and empowerment in their own communities.  In fact, their daily work is exactly what activates the goals and concepts that Welcoming Week exists to promote.

And it just so happens, that sometimes these local movements need lawyers to help out with components of their work and to help local residents address the individual legal problems they are facing.  It has been an incredible honor that OneJustice gets to partner with these local networks to bring in groups of urban attorney and law student volunteers to help meet that need, in partnership with the community.  What an amazing invitation – and truly a privilege – to be able to be play a supporting role to their leadership, their fight for justice on their own terms, and the power they are building in their communities.

So yes, Welcoming Week’s vision of inclusive communities – for all of us, regardless of citizenship status – is a vision that OneJustice supports.  And yet, we believe it is also vitally important to recognize that these rural communities are also welcoming OneJustice into their lives, their fight for justice, and their work.  They invite groups of urban volunteers – who are often learning about the rural experience and rural California for the first time – into their movement.  They welcome our volunteers into their community centers, houses of worship, schools, senior housing complexes, and even community gardens – to jointly create these “pop-up” mobile legal clinics.  That mutual expression of welcome is at the very heart of the Rural Justice Initiative – in fact, it is what makes the work possible in the first place – and that is what OneJustice is celebrating this week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

** Attorneys and law students interested in volunteering at DACA clinics around the state should check out OneJustice’s website at www.OneJustice.org/DACA/Volunteer and watch the 3 free trainings on helping with DACA renewals in the Pro Bono Training Institute website.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

I am a radical welcomer

DACA Response

By Julia Wilson, OneJustice CEO

This peculiar blend of rage and sorrow has become familiar.

OneJustice is celebrating national Welcoming Week, Sept. 15 to 24

And yet even the past 8 months didn’t prepare me for the emotional reality of the Trump Administration’s decision, just 11 days ago, to terminate the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

OneJustice has been fiercely committed to working side-by-side with the young adults eligible for the DACA program since its inception, just over 5 years ago.  OneJustice volunteers have traveled all over the state, doing “pop-up” mobile legal DACA clinics in rural and isolated communities.  Our organization has had a great honor of hosting four outstanding young leaders through the DreamSF Fellowship program of the City and County of San Francisco.

The administration’s decision to end the DACA program doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t make economic sense, because we know that these young Americans add to the economy.  It doesn’t make business sense, because we know that these young adults add talent and skill to our country’s human capital.  That’s why hundreds of business leaders support the DACA program.  It doesn’t make legal sense, as some of our country’s top legal scholars assert that the program is well within the bounds of executive function. And it doesn’t make moral sense.  So I can only draw – for myself – the personal conclusion that there must be a deeply foul – and in my personal opinion profoundly unAmerican – underpinning to this decision.  You can hear that underpinning in the Attorney General’s announcement ending the DACA program – when he insinuates that these young Americans are some hoOneJustice staff hold up signs saying "I'm a welcomer"w stealing jobs, when he references the need to keep communities safe, and when he implicitly ties DACA to “violent gangs.”

Rage.  And sorrow.

And so what can we do?

We can welcome.  We can be a loud, fierce, won’t-back-down community of welcomers.   We can bring into reality our vision of a beloved, welcoming community.

What does that mean?

OneJustice is a proud participant in national Welcoming Week, which starts today and runs through September 24th.  Welcoming Week is an annual celebration that brings together thousands of people and hundreds of local events that celebrate the contributions of immigrants and refugees and the role communities play to foster greater welcome for everyone. There has never been a more important time for communities to show that they are welcoming to everyone, including immigrants and refugees.

Welcoming Week Activities in the OneJustice Network

During Welcoming Week, groups of dedicated OneJustice volunteers will show up at mobile legal clinics around the state – providing free legal help to immigrants, including DACA participants who are eligible to renew before the October 5th deadline.  Starting at today’s IMPACT LA clinic in South Los Angeles in collaboration with the Jenesse Center and then in San Diego, Monterey and San Joaquin counties, volunteer attorneys and law students will show up to work side-by-side with immigrants in need of legal advice.OneJustice staff hold up signs that say "OneJustice welcomes you" and "Eres bienvenido"

And everywhere they go, these volunteers will spread a radical counter-message of welcome.  “I am a welcomer.”  “Eres bienvenido.”  “OneJustice welcomes you.” Because now, more than ever and even despite this now all-too-familiar mix of sorrow and rage, we can choose.  We can choose to be in community.  We can choose to show up.  We can choose to welcome, with open hearts and open minds, all of our neighbors and fellow Californians, regardless of immigration status – in this moment, more than ever.

One way to welcome – volunteer to help with DACA renewals

If you are attorney looking for volunteer opportunities to help with DACA renewals, check out the listing of clinics in need of volunteers on OneJustice website at: www.OneJustice.org/DACA.  And it’s easy to get trained to help out with on-demand access to online trainings specifically designed for pro bono volunteers at the California Pro Bono Training Institute here: pbtraining.org/all-courses/deferred-action-for-childhood-arrivals/ Watch the first 3 trainings to prepare to volunteer.

Thank you.

 

Why I am donating to legal services in Houston

Legal aid after a disaster – essential services, in need of funding

Photo of an office building with fire shooting out of the windows and black smoke in the air.

Lone Star Legal Aid’s Houston office was destroyed by an explosion and fire.

Like so many of you, the OneJustice team has been watching the painful news from Houston and other areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  The devastation is heart-stopping, and we are holding everyone in the region in our hearts and thoughts.

We are also taking action to support our colleagues in the legal aid and access to justice community there – and to fund their work, which will be needed now more than ever.

As you know, legal aid nonprofits provide vital services aimed at removing barriers to basic necessities – including access to safe and stable housing, medical care, food, and even clean water.  After a natural disaster, these services become even more essential.  In addition, these nonprofits often provide assistance with the FEMA benefits process for victims.  And they do this work during periods when their own staff, buildings, and volunteers are also in crisis.

The  legal aid and access to justice networks in Texas and now Louisiana is rallying to meet the needs of their neighbors and communities.  And they need our support.  That’s why we wanted to provide the OneJustice network with the updates and donation options.  You already bring justice where it is needed more throughout California – and now we can all do the same for Texas and Louisiana.  Thank you.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation has created a special fund to receive donations to fund Disaster Legal Aid to survivors of Hurricane Harvey.  Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund here online.

  • There are also additional resources in the online National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center (a collaboration of Lone Star Legal Aid, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, Pro Bono Net, Legal Services Corporation and American Bar Association)

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sundae eater, band fan girl, Rocky 2.0, political news junky, trivia buff, and food forager?

What do all of these talents have in common? 

Well, all of these (somewhat quirky) folks recently joined the OneJustice team!

We sat down with them and asked them to share a little something about themselves, including:

  1. What drew you to OneJustice’s vision, mission, and strategies?
  2. Tell us a bit about your position at OneJustice and what you hope to achieve?
  3. What was your path in coming to OneJustice?
  4. 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 Ellie Dehghan, Maria Gavaldon, Dania Herrera, Stuart Johnson, Michael Palzes, and Fabiola Quiroz!

Ellie Dehghan, Staff Attorney, Pro Bono Justice

OneJustice’s mission is urgent, pivotal, and deeply personal. In 1975 rural West Texas, a legal aid attorney helped a teenage Mexican immigrant gain access to the education to which she was entitled. That teenager was my mother, and she went on to become the first in her family to graduate from college. Access to legal services produces generational impact, to which my story is a testament.

How attorneys engage in pro bono work is as critical as the number of hours they spend engaged in that work. Through the Pro Bono Justice Consulting program at OneJustice, my hope is to address and enrich the “how” portion of the equation. I will be facilitating the launch of pro bono networks, supporting stronger partnerships across the sector, and creating a space for innovation and creativity as we work to increase access to justice for Californians.

I am adamant about utilizing an equity and inclusion lens no matter what our role may be and no matter the section of the legal space in which we operate. Prior to spending three years building and implementing projects in legal aid, I spent two years as a litigator in BigLaw with a strong commitment to pro bono. Most recently, I expanded Bay Area Legal Aid’s Youth Justice project to San Mateo County, serving youth at risk of homelessness as their holistic civil legal aid attorney. I am particularly fortunate to have helped launch BayLegal’s inaugural Racial Justice Committee, spearheading racial justice and inclusion efforts not only in client advocacy, but within the organization as well.

My sense of humor is most akin to that of my eight-year-old nephew. I enjoy writing creative nonfiction but do not do it nearly enough. I used to be able to finish an entire Black and Tan Sundae at Fenton’s in Oakland – it is huge and delicious.

Maria Gavaldon, DreamSF Fellow, Pro Bono Justice

  I was assigned to be at One Justice through my DreamSF Fellowship with OCEIA. I was interested in this fellowship because as a DACA student, I wanted to do more hands on work with the immigrant community. Something I often notice is that we don’t have many minority groups or people with stories like ours giving us legal representation. I hope to be the person with whom our clients feel comfortable when talking about their experiences and to be able to let them know that we are here for each other.

At One Justice, I am mostly in charge of doing outreach and scheduling appointments for Justice Bus Clinics. I also do research on future locations we are going to visit so we can know what organizations to partner up with. During the Justice Bus clinics, I interpret for attorneys and translate our paperwork for clients.  What I want to gain from One Justice is knowledge about criminal and immigration law, as well as getting better at translating English legal terminology into Spanish. I hope to one day be one of the few undocumented lawyers the Latino community can relate to and confide their personal stories with.

I am currently enrolled at San Francisco State University starting my third year as a Political Science major. Previously, I was an ASI Project Connect intern at SF State where I did outreach to current and future students from underrepresented communities. I was also involved on campus with our new Food Pantry where we gave groceries exclusively to SFSU students. During the Spring 2017 semester, I received recognition for my community service hours and I hope to eventually have a position in the student board to bring more awareness to the undocumented students on campus.

I am a hardcore fan girl and my friends always make fun of me. When I graduated high school, they would tell me it was time to grow up and get rid of my posters and stop tweeting about bands all the time. I haven’t stopped because there’s so many college girls who are just as obsessed as me so I don’t mind. I’m still waiting for One Direction to come back from hiatus.

Dania Herrera, Program Associate, Pro Bono Justice

OneJustice works to make legal representation accessible to all Californians. In college, I studied Sociology with a special focus on the problems within the legal system that could affect access to legal representation. After learning about OneJustice’s mission and their body of work, I knew OneJustice would be a good fit for me because they do legal accessibility work every day.

I am in charge of legal clinic planning and logistics along with other members of the Pro Bono Legal Clinics Team; my main responsibilities are to make sure our legal clinics run smoothly from beginning to end by helping to recruit volunteer attorneys, interpreter volunteers, and conduct outreach to clients. I hope to identify and fill legal accessibility gaps in California by working with the rest of the OneJustice team.

I previously worked as a legal assistant at different immigration law firms in the city. I also interned for the Kamala Harris for Senate campaign because her campaign platform focused on repairing different accessibility issues in California. I was also able to bridge my love of the law and books by working as a law library clerk at the UC Davis Law School.

I can’t find people like Liam Neeson can, but I sure know how to guess the endings of movies and TV shows. I am also accidentally good at playing soccer. When I exercise, I workout by doing a weird hybrid of running and jumping rope. Rocky can eat his heart out! I am also weirdly good at staying upright on a runaway crowded Muni bus in heels.

Stuart Johnson, Executive & Operations Coordinator

I am passionate about public service and serving the common good. OneJustice’s mission to expand access to the civil legal aid system for all Californians is inspirational to me and motivates me to do my very best every day.

At OneJustice I provide executive support to the CEO and Board of Directors. I am also a member of the Development and Communications team and provide office management support. Most recently I have started building our media relations plan for the year. While at OneJustice, I hope to learn more about nonprofit management and pro bono law.

Most recently, I worked in former California Senator Barbara Boxer’s communications office. I have also worked as a grassroots organizer on a few political campaigns and as an immigration services coordinator at Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Communication with a minor in Economics from The George Washington University.

I really love (unfortunately) consuming an excessive amount of political news, playing adult league baseball, and visiting the Lost Coast!

Michael Palzes, Staff Attorney, Pro Bono Justice

I am concerned that civil legal aid is currently facing unprecedented challenges, and want to do more to help protect access to justice. I think OneJustice’s commitment to building capacity and expanding access to indigent legal services is both exciting and critically necessary. By joining OneJustice I hope I can make the kind of broader systemic impact that is not always possible in direct services legal aid work.

I am taking over primary responsibility for the IMPACT LA project, and spearheading a new immigration pro bono capacity building project with my Pro Bono Justice Team colleagues. In both projects a substantial portion of my focus will be on delivering legal services to low-income survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of severe trauma. I hope to continue the good work of IMPACT LA and build on the successes I have inherited with that project. I further hope to build a long-term sustainable network for providing legal services to immigrant communities that can help people overcome the fear and uncertainty of our current immigration climate.

Before joining OneJustice, I was a staff attorney at Nevada Legal Services in Reno. I coordinated the state’s legal aid program for low-income HIV positive individuals, and before that served as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in criminal justice re-entry and record sealing. In both positions with Nevada Legal Services I focused substantially on providing services to survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse. Prior to that, I worked at the Montana Department of Justice where my duties included service on that state’s Access to Justice Commission and its Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

I am a huge trivia buff, and generally love odd facts and useless information. For the last two years in Reno I co-hosted and wrote the questions for a local pub trivia night. Growing up I played on competitive school-sponsored trivia teams in the National Academic Quiz Tournaments league, and did multiple screen tests for Jeopardy! (though have yet make it on the show). I also love National Parks and historic sites, where I usually spend way too much time reading plaques and collecting new bits of trivia. I’m looking forward to finding a new trivia night as I get more settled into Los Angeles.

Fabiola Quiroz, Program Associate, Pro Bono Justice

As a mentor for the Latino Peer Program at Humboldt State University, I advocated for DACA legal assistance for students and people in our community. Our organizing efforts painted a picture of how limited resources are in rural communities, and the partnership that developed with OneJustice truly made our vision of a DACA legal clinic a reality in Humboldt County. This community organizing effort has led me to be a part of a team that seeks to innovate our current legal aid system.

As one of the Pro Bono Justice Program Associates, I am responsible for managing the Justice Bus Project and Rural Justice Collaborative legal clinics. As an “outsider” organization hoping to help rural communities, I strive to forge strong relationships with organizations in the communities we hope to serve to ensure a better understanding and accessibility to the legal help we provide.

I volunteered at the student-initiated and student-led Youth Educational Services (Y.E.S.) whose mission is to serve local community needs. Within Y.E.S. House, I volunteered with the Homelessness Network which offers assistance to homeless families. Our focus is on educational exposure for the children to nurture their creativity and love of learning. I also volunteered my time to help facilitate the 3rd Annual Resource Fair at the San Francisco County Jail #5. Our hope was to engage participation of organizations that cater to the needs of re-integration and provide the incarcerated men resources upon release. One of the most impacting moments was during a group session inside the jail and hearing incarcerated men give advice to an incarcerated man who was being released in just two days.

I enjoy foraging for food, especially nutritious chicken of the woods mushrooms in Humboldt County!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

29 Legal Services Leaders are Heading Back to School


Ah, September. Just saying the word brings to mind crisp fall weather, shorter days, and students heading back to school. In California’s legal aid community, September also means the start of OneJustice’s Executive Fellowship program! And we are so excited to introduce to you the 29 new Fellows who have been selected for the 2017-2018 cohort.

Now that they made it through the competitive application process, the Fellows will gather monthly from September 2017 through June 2018 – dipping their toes into a different nonprofit management topics each time.  Fellows will explore personal leadership styles, communications, working effectively with a board of directors, innovation and change management, human resources, budgeting, revenue models, and more. Faculty for the Executive Fellowship Program is drawn from the business, broader nonprofit, and philanthropic communities with a focus on bringing new learning and best practices from other sectors into the legal aid sector.

As you can tell from the short video above, the Executive Fellowship program works to achieve transformative change on many levels – for the individual leaders participating, for their organizations, and for the whole of California’s civil legal aid system. Armed with the training they receive through the program, Fellows return to their organizations ready to take on challenges related to supervising staff, designing effective programs, and raising money. Alumni of the program – now numbering over 140 – tell us they gain confidence and a peer network of support they continue to rely on for years to come.

We are thrilled to introduce the 2017-2018 Executive Fellows!  (Drum roll please……….) They are:

  • Vanessa Barrington, Justice in Aging
  • Denny Chan, Justice in Aging
  • Laura Chiera, Legal Assistance to the Elderly
  • Martina Cucullu Lim, Centro Legal de la Raza
  • Shuray Ghorishi, Family Violence Appellate Project
  • Lauren Giardina, Disability Rights California
  • Shirley Gibson, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
  • Jennifer Haffner, Legal Services of Northern California
  • Sara Hedgpeth-Harris, Central California Legal Services
  • Angelica Jongco, Public Advocates
  • Aarti Kohli, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
  • Gladys La Torre, Los Angeles Center for Law & Justice
  • Elissa Lasserre, New Beginnings Law Center
  • Victor Leung, ACLU of Southern California
  • Katrina Logan, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
  • Michael Magnaye, Legal Services for Children
  • Neha Marathe, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
  • Kate Marr, Legal Aid Society of Orange County
  • Araceli Martínez-Olguín, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
  • Chris McConkey, OneJustice
  • Patience Milrod, Central California Legal Services
  • Stephanie Penrod, Family Violence Law Center
  • Ann Rubinstein, Homeless Action Center
  • Renée Schomp, OneJustice
  • Naomi Schuldheisz, Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino
  • Barbara Schultz, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • Caron Smith, Neighborhood Legal Services – Los Angeles County
  • Alysson Snow, Legal Aid Society of San Diego
  • Michael White, Riverside Legal Aid

Questions about the Executive Fellowship program?  Kim Irish, the Healthy Nonprofits Program Director would be delighted to chat!  Please email her at kirish@one-justice.org.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save