My role at OneJustice is first to lead OneJustice’s efforts with the Pro Bono Training Institute (PBTI) which is an on demand online training library for pro bono attorneys. Additionally, I work with OneJustice’s new Inland County Small Business Transactional Clinic project. This project will create new transactional clinics in the Inland Empire with two partners, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino and Riverside County and Inland Counties Legal Services.
Can you tell us more about the Pro Bono Training Institute, and what work you do as the Training Institute Manager?
My role at PBTI is two fold. The first is to collaborate with our PBTI partner the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles as PBTI, at its core, is a collaboration between OneJustice and LAFLA. Together we listen to the legal services community and come up with timelines and goals that will address the training needs of pro bono attorneys. LAFLA has been an excellent partner from the start and has really helped PBTI gain a better understanding of the legal services community and the training needs of the pro bono community. Additionally, I serve as the primary tech person for PBTI. This means that I’m the point person for training modules edits and any website edits. However, I do not do this all alone. I work with staff at both OneJustice and LAFLA to ensure that the training modules are edited, uploaded, and updated over a period of time. We treat each training module as a living breathing training that can easily be edited as case law and other factors change.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the work of the Pro Bono Training Institute?
PBTI’s work has always been driven by the needs of the California legal services community, and the start of the pandemic was no different. Before the pandemic, the PBTI team was already in the midst of a total website overhaul. This overhaul involved recreating all 100+ training modules in order to move them to a more accessible platform. The initial plan was to have this website overhaul done sometime in the middle of 2020, but once the pandemic hit staff realized that the need for remote training would be needed now more than ever. Therefore, PBTI staff updated the timeline to sometime in mid-April about a month after the initial shutdown and several months before the initial goal. It was tough work but the website was overhauled and now more people than ever can easily access our on-demand training library. Additionally, staff developed a whole resource page dedicated to COVID-19 resources which can be found here. PBTI continues to listen to the legal services community and welcomes any and all training needs specifically related to COVID-19. Staff are currently in the process of developing a robust housing training module program that will cover housing rights under COVID-19. We hope that this will be launched by the end of 2020.
Can you tell us about any upcoming trainings/ projects that you are excited about?
We are particularly excited about our revamped housing training modules that will be available in the fall of 2020. Housing has always been a training course that PBTI staff have wanted on our website. Due to the vast and complex nature of housing law it was hard to determine what should be included and when. PBTI staff have reached out to several trainers and will be launching our new revamped housing series later on this year.
As a recent graduate of the 2020 Executive Fellowship cohort, did the program help to prepare you for the challenges and changes the legal aid community is facing now? If so, how?
The Executive Fellowship has greatly helped me prepare for the challenges of the legal aid community. It gave me a great background regarding nonprofit management so I, along with the PBTI staff, were able to pivot during the start of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that the legal services community was met. It also gave me an excellent opportunity to learn about program management and execution that helped us move our new website development up several months to ensure the community would be able to training its pro bono attorneys.
What made you interested in becoming an Advisory Board member for OneJustice?
I was first introduced to OneJustice through a JusticeBus clinic over five years ago. Since then I have worked with OneJustice on a number of clinics, and I have consistently been impressed with OneJustice’s commitment and reach in serving the legal needs of the underserved communities throughout California. I firmly believe in OneJustice’s vision that everyone should have access to high quality legal services, and I’d like to join the Advisory Board to play a more impactful role in helping OneJustice achieve its very important mission.
What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective?
I lead the Corporate legal team at LinkedIn Corporation and am a member of our legal team’s pro bono committee. I hope to leverage my experience on our pro bono committee to help OneJustice deepen its relationships with law firms and other in-house legal departments.
What would you like to accomplish as an Advisory Board member?
During my tenure as Advisory Board member, I hope to increase in-house counsel participation in pro bono clinics and to use my network to help increase support for OneJustice.
Tell us about yourself – interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy reading, traveling (in a pre-COVID world) and experiencing the world through the eyes of my two young children.
Lydia Sinkus, Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and PayPal
Can you tell us about your role at OneJustice?
I am an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and PayPal. I work to increase access to legal services for immigrants impacted by the criminal legal system.
For a noncitizen of any legal status, contact with the criminal legal system – a system with profound racial disparities – can result in not only barriers to jobs, education, and housing, but also deportation and permanent family separation. Many noncitizens enter criminal pleas without being advised of these devastating results or available options to avoid them.
I work with people after this has happened. Through a legal clinic, consulting, and pro bono and organizational partnerships, I help provide access to legal services to help people find out if a conviction impacts their immigration status, explore post-conviction relief options, and connect with services to mitigate immigration consequences and protect their legal rights.
Can you share some highlights of your fellowship?
One recent highlight was a post-conviction relief victory for Orrick pro bono attorney Amanda Maya and her client, winning vacature of a 1989 conviction that put the client at risk of deportation despite having spent the last 35 years working and raising a family as a lawful permanent resident in the United States. Due to the client’s proactive perseverance to resolve this decades-old issue, she will finally be able to obtain her goal of becoming a US citizen.
What is some of the work you are doing outside of OneJustice?
Outside of OneJustice, I volunteer with Al Otro Lado (AOL)1, an organization supporting asylum seekers at the Southern Border subject to the “Migrant Protection Protocols”2 and other discriminatory and illegal policies this administration has implemented to restrict access to asylum. Just like many immigration laws, closing off legal pathways to immigration is yet another tactic that criminalizes immigrants and endangers lives.
With the onset of COVID-19, AOL has been working to free asylum seekers from immigrantion detention, where the virus has run rampant due to the inability to social distance and ICE’s disregard for the health of people in their custody3. I recently helped prepare a declaration for an asylum seeker who contracted COVID-19 in ICE detention, but was refused medical attention or testing for weeks while she had severe symptoms. Due to her self-advocacy and a habeas petition from AOL, she was finally released to shelter in place and fight her case with family in Southern California.
Can you discuss the effects of COVID-19 on the clients you work with, and others currently in immigration detention centers?
For many of my clients, as for many Americans, the priority has become day-to-day health and economic survival ,4 as some people lose jobs or work “essential” roles. An estimated 15 million5 people in families of mixed immigration statuses have been left out of federal relief packages, and clients face the additional hurdles and insecurities that come with having a prior record.
Immigrants with convictions make up 70% 7 of those in immigration detention. Individuals who have been incarcerated, and been deemed eligible for release from jails and state facilities are often transferred directly to ICE custody to face deportation. Currently, over 20 percent of ICE detainees are testing positive 7 for COVID-19, and by mid-August, five people 8have died from the virus in ICE custody. At the same time, a federal court 9recently found that ICE has been purposefully under-testing to avoid having to make accommodations, and ICE facilities have refused medical care 10to COVID-positive immigrants detained by ICE.
Even as ICE has released some medically vulnerable people, the prison-to-ICE pipeline continues to refill beds, and people labeled as “criminal” are denied release from detention. The false narrative that a conviction makes a person “dangerous” to the community fails to take into account the systems or individuals involved, and is itself dangerous to the people subject to inhumane conditions in immigrant detention centers and to the larger community by allowing the continued spread of COVID-19.
What advocacy work is OneJustice doing to address the treatment of immigrants in detention during the COVID-19 pandemic?
To take action yourself, I encourage you to call or email Gov. Newsom15and demand he take measures within his power to save lives and fight the spread of COVID-19. Ask him to:
Use mass clemency & emergency release to free people in state prisons;
Stop transfers from CA custody to ICE & between CA prisons;
Stop the expansion of immigration detention; and
Hold the detention industry accountable.
Now that your fellowship is coming to an end, what is next for you?
I’ll be joining Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay as an Immigration Removal Defense Attorney, where I will continue to work with people impacted by the immigration and criminal legal systems and to fight to keep people with their families and communities where they belong.
Emily Abraham, Legal Director, Social Justice Collaborative
This month we are spotlighting the Social Justice Collaborative, and their Legal Director, Emily Abraham as she discusses the challenges facing her clients, and their pivot towards remote clinics during COVID-19 pandemic. Follow along to read how Emily and Meryl Friedman, OneJustice’s Senior Program Manager discuss their partnership.
Please tell us about the mission of the Social Justice Collaborative, and your work at the organization.
Emily Abraham (EA): Social Justice Collaborative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees being targeted by the US government. We provide vital legal services to nearly 1,500 families each year. Our mission is to continue providing full-scope deportation defense to both detained and non-detained immigrants at little to no cost. I am the founder and legal director of Social Justice Collaborative, and I supervise all types of complex removal defense cases, especially asylum, as well as appeals before the BIA and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
SJC provides removal defense legal services to about 1,500 immigrant families each year, and represents hundreds of individuals in removal proceedings each year, including complex federal litigation that I direct and oversee. I also coordinate the SJC pro bono program that provides free legal services for several hundred non-citizens each year.
What are the key challenges facing your clients, and the work you are doing to address them?
EA: The challenges are constantly changing regulations that are mostly illegal, as well as new barriers to asylum relief, changes in employment authorization, and the demonization of immigrant populations and asylum seekers.
Meryl Friedman (MF): During COVID19, a key challenge has been client preparation so that they know how to use the technology to get the most out of the clinic. SJC created client-facing videos in Spanish and Mam to let them know what to expect from a remote clinic.
Can you describe your partnership with OneJustice and the Justice Bus Network?
MF: Social Justice Collaborative is the first member of the Justice Bus Network, OneJustice’s new redesign of the Justice Bus. OneJustice provides SJC with templates, consulting support, pro bono management to execute legal clinics. SJC manages the planning, client preparation, legal training and application filing.
Due to COVID, the Justice Bus Network pivoted to a remote clinic model. SJC and OneJustice have run 5 clinics, serving 70 clients with the support of 86 pro bono volunteers. We have worked with 5 firms in California, but had a new opportunity to access lawyers and summer associates through their offices in other states.
Can you tell us about any recent clinics or any upcoming clinics with the Justice Bus Network?
MF: After running two Adjustment of Status clinics, we decided to try to run a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) clinic through the Justice Bus Network. SIJS applications are really important, but also very tricky. SJC wanted to expand their reach with SIJS cases, so we thought it would be worth a try. After we conducted a test run, we decided we could run a day-long SIJS workshop using Lawyaw and RingCentral.
The key was to train the pro bonos well. SIJS is not only a long legal process, it is also particularly difficult due to the age and experiences of the young clients. SJC honed in on the training in cross-cultural lawyering – making sure to use examples from past cases to demonstrate how the pro bonos could talk to their clients and escape the temptation of legalese. We were really excited to see the success of the clinic because the opportunities for scale are enormous. If we can continue holding SIJS clinics with law firms, SJC can help so many clients who typically wait a long time. Post-COVID19, it might be the most impactful way to do these clinics!
What drew you to partner with OneJustice and or participate in OneJustice programming, such as the Organizational Change Accelerators (OCA) Pro Bono Track?
EA:SJC has a long history of partnering with OneJustice, our Executive Director has done the Executive Fellowship Program and I did the pro bono accelerator. Even before that, we partnered doing the Justice Bus and Rural Immigrant Connect. We were interested in the Justice Bus Network because it gave us the opportunity to improve our pro bono clinics while earning revenue. We were excited to establish relationships with Bay Area firms and companies.
Can you describe how your work in OCA will influence your work at the Social Justice Collaborative?
EA: This has inspired me to open up new programs within SJC for pro bono, enrich and expand existing pro bono programs. In fact, we are now launching the new pro bono litigation program (https://www.socialjusticecollaborative.org/probono-litigation) which I conceived during the accelerator although it was not my capstone.
For Firms and Companies: OneJustice and SJC are finalizing the fall calendar for remote clinics. If you are interested in scheduling a clinic for 16-10 pro bonos, please email Meryl Friedman (email@example.com). Learn more here.
For LSOs: If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Justice Bus Network member, please contact Meryl. We can provide consulting, training, and strategic program planning to boost your remote and in-person clinics.
This summer, OneJustice’s staff has identified various action items, education tools, and commitments as an organization to continue to grow and participate in the movement for racial justice. Some of the standout recommendations that we’d like to share include…
This month we are spotlighting Tania Millan, the Director of Finance & Administration at the Wage Justice Center in Los Angeles, and a recent graduate of the Executive Fellowship Program.
Please tell us about the mission of the Wage Justice Center, and your work at the organization.
Wage Justice Center is fighting to reduce poverty for low-income Californian’s experiencing wage theft. Our clients often live paycheck to paycheck, and by using the law as an equilibrium, we help them assert their basic rights. My work at the organization has evolved over the last seven years. Starting as a case manager, I learned first-hand the detrimental impact of wage theft to workers and their families; stress, anxiety, hunger, abuse, and sometimes homelessness to name a few. Currently, as the Director of Finance and Administration, I’m driven to do the work needed for the sustainability of the organization to ensure continued services to low-income workers. The most rewarding part of my work is delivering the wages we recover. It is my duty to help and work for those who for unjust and illegal reasons are denied their basic right to receive compensation for their labor.
What are the key challenges facing your clients, and the work you are doing to address them?
Wage theft is the biggest challenge our clients are facing. Our fight for wage justice goes beyond the monetary value, we want to restore the dignity of workers who are left in the shadows in the underground economy. The Wage Justice Center was founded to address the lack of post judgment collection efforts for low-income California’s. We have developed innovative legal theories to hold exploitative employers accountable for illegal business practices. We also pioneered specialized legal services for day laborer who are experiencing wage theft, using a tool referred to as a “mechanics lien, which allows a laborer to place a lien on the property on which they labored and were not paid for. Our clients are directly impacted by COVID-19 and based on trends from the last recession, we anticipate an unprecedented increase in wage theft and violations from unscrupulous employers.
What drew you to want to participate in the OneJustice Executive Fellowship Program?
Initially I felt enthusiasm to learn about the work of One Justice, via their website. I was fortunate to participate in their capacity building academy, where I learned about the Executive Fellowship Program. I was captivated by the impact of the program on leaders of Legal Aid organizations. I was excited to join an innovative program, focused on sustainability of healthy non-profits.
What was the topic/question you covered in your Executive Fellowship Capstone Project?
My capstone project question was: How might Wage Justice Center address the cost of staff turnover in its five-year budget to accurately reflect the cost and better prepare its financial standing? The capstone project research taught me that the legal aid sector is experiencing an ongoing trend with reoccurring staff turnover. The program taught me that healthy non-profits learn to manage turnover by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and making changes to build sustainability. My organization will use the tools and resources from my project to plan and address the inevitable staff turnover cycle. This project helped me connect the dots and taught me that challenges are inevitable, but in order for nonprofits to thrive business and management skills need to be developed.
Can you describe how your work in the Executive Fellowship Program will influence your work at the Wage Justice Center?
I look forward to incorporate the tools and skills learned during the 10 month program. The knowledge acquired will transcend to my organizations leadership, staff, programs, and the clients we serve.
Would you recommend the program to other legal aid leaders in California? If so, why?
Definitely, it connected me with a group of extraordinary legal aid leaders. The investment of time was rewarding. I am grateful to the entire One Justice team. The program energized me and taught me skills and tools to share with my organizations to continue empowering our work and clients. The program challenged my personal limiting leadership beliefs, and rewarded me with a new mindset that I can be the next generation of diverse leaders in legal services.
The Board of Directors of OneJustice is pleased to announce that PhilHwang will join OneJustice as CEO beginning September 14, 2020.
For the past eight years, Phil has served as Executive Director of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA). During his tenure, CLSEPA increased its revenue six-fold and became a leader in providing transformative legal services to low-income communities and communities of color in the areas of immigration, housing, and economic advancement. Phil’s talents will amplify OneJustice’s work in advancing the impact of California’s civil justice system, building the capacity of individual legal aid leaders and nonprofits, and creating innovative strategies to increase civil legal services for Californians who face legal barriers to basic necessities.
Phil strengthened his leadership and organizational management skills with the support of OneJustice’s Executive Fellowship program. “OneJustice helped me find my voice as an organizational leader, and I am thrilled to be OneJustice’s next CEO,” he says.
Before becoming an executive director, Phil worked for 15 years as a legal aid and civil rights attorney. He served as the Director of Policy and Programs at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he oversaw its pro bono programs, policy advocacy, and impact litigation in the areas of racial, economic, and immigrant justice. Phil began his legal career as a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, where he represented low-income clients in the areas of housing, disability, and benefits law.
Phil received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1993 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1996. He served as a law clerk for Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
“OneJustice is focused on being the backbone of civil legal aid and pro bono services throughout California,” says Kyuli Oh, Chair of the OneJustice Board. “We are excited to welcome Phil to our team and to work with him to build further growth and success for the organization.”
Please join us in welcoming Phil to OneJustice! We look forward to introducing him to you when he is officially on board this fall.
OneJustice is thrilled with the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We want to recognize our Immigration Pro Bono Network and two of our Board members who played an integral part in the outcome of the case:
Maureen Alger is a partner at Cooley and is responsible for the management of the firm’s pro bono practice. Cooley is representing OneJustice and 46 other legal services nonprofits in an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief filed in the DACA case before the Supreme Court.
In the weeks after the federal government attempted to terminate the DACA program in 2017, OneJustice’s statewide Immigration Pro Bono Network recruited hundreds of pro bono lawyers and law students in California to respond. Our Rural Justice Initiative, including the Justice Bus and the Justice Plane, has brought pro bono immigration clinics to non-urban areas of the state, and now continues its work virtually. Your incredible support made this outcome a reality – THANK YOU!
If you are interested in joining our fight for justice for all, we invite you to become a member of our Immigration Pro Bono Network. Visit this page for more information.
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. OneJustice recognizes that the horrors of the most recent loss of Black lives due to police violence are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a disturbing pattern – a systemic problem that we must disrupt and transform. OneJustice was founded on the principle that everyone should have equal access to justice — and tragically, this has not been the case for Black communities since our country’s inception. Today, and every day, we stand with the individuals and institutions demanding justice, and who will not rest until justice is realized.
Black communities are being ravaged by two pandemics, with anti-Black violence that results in repeated murders and higher incarceration rates, and COVID-19 death rates that are disproportionately higher than other communities. We must join together in solidarity with those who face oppression and systemic injustices. We must step outside our comfort zones and speak up for everyone who needs our voices to demand what’s right.
We must act and together do the work to dismantle systemic racism, doing whatever it takes to address these injustices, and support the organizations and communities that are spearheading transformational change. OneJustice still has work to do, both internally and with our partners, and we are fully committed to doing that as an organization. We recognize that we need to do more, to learn, to grow, and to adapt in ways that allow us to respond with impact and intent.
While our action plan is in development, among the concrete steps that we plan to take include:
Conducting an equity, diversity and inclusion audit of our organization and operations;
Developing and sharing resources to help our partners reach their equity, diversity and inclusion goals;
Supporting our staff by providing time to learn and act in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
Change is long overdue. We cannot rest until equal justice under law is a reality. Join us in our fight for justice for all. Our very humanity depends on it.