Introducing Our Newest Board Member – Ellen LaPointe

April 3, 2018

You might know that OneJustice has welcomed plenty of new staff members in the last year. But those aren’t all the new faces around here. In addition to all our awesome new teammates, we recently added a new member of the Board of Directors: Ellen LaPointe, President and CEO of Northern California Grantmakers! Ellen joined the Board last fall, and we finally had time to sit down with her to ask a few questions. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!

Ellen LaPointe

Ellen LaPointe

What made you interested in becoming a OneJustice Board member?

Like many people, I am alarmed by the threats we are confronting in the current political environment. In the wake of the 2016 elections I was urgently motivated to become involved in an organization that is focused on those who are most at-risk. OneJustice fit the bill perfectly.

I am so inspired by the dedication, passion, skill, and creativity of the leadership and team at OneJustice. The organization is providing vital, life-changing services to people and nonprofit organizations in communities that are overlooked and excluded throughout California. I believe that without OneJustice, thousands of people would suffer needless, avoidable harm. Board service is one way I can contribute to the success of the organization, and I am proud to be a part of it.

 

What is your role at Northern California Grantmakers (NCG), and how do you hope to use your perspective as a Board member?

NCG helps funders do their work better, collaborate more effectively to amplify philanthropic impact, and wield their collective influence to inform and shape policies that affect the communities and people we all care about.

As the President and CEO, my job is to ensure we have a compelling vision, actionable goals, and effective strategies for our work. I create the conditions within the organization to enable the staff to deliver great results and thrive, and engage members, partners, and stakeholders along the way to amplify our visibility and leverage our efforts. I am also an attorney. I look forward to contributing my perspective, knowledge, and skills in any way that will be helpful to OneJustice.

 

What are your hopes for your time as a Board member?

This is a critical moment in our country.  So many of the gains we have painstakingly achieved over decades to support and strengthen our communities and create opportunities for people to prosper and thrive are in peril. How we respond now will have an impact on these communities and the people who live in them for years, if not generations. Moreover, there are still many unmet needs, and we have aspirations and hopes regarding how to make things better. We must continue to stand for our values and push for more progress, even as we resist efforts to undermine us. I can’t imagine a better time to be involved with OneJustice.

 

What’s something you really love?

I love my family. I love laughter. I love kindness. I love to sing. I love creating community. I love the ocean. I love this question, because answering it made me happy!

Welcome to the OneJustice family, Ellen!

Thank CA Representatives For Supporting Legal Aid

March 29, 2018

What a wild ride this has been. Last week, Congress and the President approved a spending bill that, miraculously, included a $25 million increase in funding for legal aid. We’re thrilled that members of Congress have recognized the value of legal services for families in need across the country (especially after President Trump proposed eliminating funding for the Legal Services Corporation entirely).

But now we need your help to keep the momentum going!

In March, twenty-eight members of the California House delegation signed onto a letter to voice their support for legal aid. Now it’s important that they hear from you, their constituents, to remind them how important this issue is.

Please take two minutes to call your representative to thank them for signing onto the Dear Colleague letter both this year and last year. We’ve provided the following script for you to use:

“Hi, my name is [your name], and I live at [your address]. I wanted to thank Representative _____ for signing the Dear Colleague letter in support of funding for the Legal Services Corporation. It is vital that the government continue to fund legal services for those who need it most.”

Below you can find a list of all the California representatives who signed the letters. (Not sure who your representative is? Click here to see!)

Adam B. Schiff (D-28th): (202) 225-4176

Alan Lowenthal (D-47th): (202) 225-7924

Ami Bera (D-7th): (202) 225-5716

Anna G. Eshoo (D-18th): (202) 225-8104

Barbara Lee (D-13th): (202) 225-2661

Doris Matsui (D-6th): (202) 225-7163

Jackie Speier (D-14th): (202) 225-3531

Jerry McNerney (D-9th): (202) 225-1947

Jim Costa (D-16th): (202) 225-3341

Jimmy Gomez (D-34th): (202) 225-6235

Jimmy Panetta (D-20th): (202) 225-2861

Juan Vargas (D-51st): (202) 225-8045

Judy Chu (D-27th): (202) 225-5464

Julia Brownley (D-26th): (202) 225-5811

Karen Bass (D-37th): (202) 225-7084

Linda T. Sánchez (D-38th): (202) 225-6676

Mark DeSaulnier (D-11th): (202) 225-2095

Mark Takano (D-41st): (202) 225-2305

Maxine Waters (D-43rd): (202) 225-2201

Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-44th): (202) 225-8220

Norma J. Torres (D-35th): (202) 225-6161

Ro Khanna (D-17th): (202) 225-2631

Salud Carbajal (D-24th): (202) 225-3601

Steve Knight (R-25th): (202) 225-1956

Susan A. Davis (D-53rd): (202) 225-1956

Ted W. Lieu (D-33rd): (202) 225-3976

Tony Cardenas (D-29th): (202) 225-6131

Zoe Lofgren (D-19th): (202) 225-3072

As you know, LSC funding ensures that low-income members of our community can overcome systemic legal barriers to necessities such as housing, food, healthcare, and safety from violence. Furthermore, it helps fulfill our society’s commitment to providing justice to all.

OneJustice staff will be on the ground in Washington D.C. on April 11th and 12th to lobby members of Congress to keep up support for legal services. We need Congress to know that this is an important issue, and that next year’s budget should increase funding for LSC to $528 million – so that every low-income home in our country that needs legal help can get it.

Please call today to make sure our representatives know how important it is that they keep supporting legal aid!

Stay informed and stand up 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!

Omnibus Spending Bill Increases Federal Funding for Legal Services Corporation

UPDATE on Omnibus Budget Bill, Friday March 23, 2018, 9:45 a.m.

The Senate approved their motion to concur with the House bill H.R. 1625 on Thursday night, voting 65 to 32. Roll call vote is here. Senators Feinstein and Harris both voted Nay, in part because of the bill’s failure to address immigration relief for Dreamers. Senator Harris shared her thoughts on the bill on Twitter yesterday in this tweet thread. Senator Feinstein tweeted yesterday that she opposed the bill because of its failure to do anything about DACA.

President Trump tweeted at 5 a.m. PST on Friday morning that he is considering vetoing the bill – that message is here. Without a budget bill, the federal government will shutdown at midnight on Friday night.

OneJustice will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.

Our original blog post, and more details on the bill and its impact on legal aid funding, follow below.

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March 22, 2018

After months of Congressional jockeying, the House of Representatives today passed a $1.3 trillion compromise spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018. In an encouraging sign for the legal aid community, the bill approves a $25 million funding increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the federally-controlled nonprofit which provides funding for legal aid organizations across the country.

Additionally, the bill does not weaken or dismantle the Johnson Amendment, as some had feared. This ensures that nonprofit organizations can continue to fulfill their missions to provide social good without being subject to political pressure.

Today’s bill is a far cry from recent budget proposals. President Trump called for the complete elimination of funding for the Legal Services Corporation in the White House budget proposal, released in February. Similarly, the House itself proposed to cut field grants for LSC nearly 25% last fall.

In a change of course, the House bill increases overall funding for the Legal Services Corporation by $25 million (from $385 million to $410 million). Specifically, the bill would increase basic field grants by $24 million, to $376 million – meaning that 96% of the increase would go directly to legal services.

Julia R. Wilson, OneJustice CEO, stated: “We are encouraged by the House’s spending bill. Any cuts to the Legal Services Corporation would have a devastating impact on millions of Americans, including the nearly 200,000 Californians who rely on legal services. The increase in the bill, instead, recognizes the incredibly positive impact that legal aid organizations have on communities all around the country.”

Moreover, this change in the House appropriation demonstrates that Congressional education efforts, a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter signed by over 180 members of Congress, and the negotiations to increase overall domestic spending have been successful in demonstrating the value of legal services.

While the signs from the House are encouraging, the process is not over. The bill passed the House 256-167, according to CNN, and now proceeds to the Senate. If passed there, the legislation would then need to be signed by President Trump by midnight on Friday, March 23, in order to avoid another government shutdown.

And while the increases seen in this bill are certainly necessary, more is needed to secure access to civil justice for people in need. The Legal Services Corporation’s own FY 2018 budget request provides a roadmap to achieving this – and, at the end of the day, this is the goal we must aim for.

The full text of the bill is available here. News outlets began publishing their analyses of the bill last night. OneJustice will continue to monitor the legislative process and provide update and alerts.

Stay informed and stand up 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!

The Big Picture (and All The Little Details)

March 15, 2018

By Peter James, Senior Manager of Impact Evaluation

I’ve got to admit, “impact evaluation” probably isn’t the most tangible job in the world. What is someone like me doing all day, beyond squinting at spreadsheets (although, yes, there’s a bit of that)? The answer is surprisingly simple: my job is to figure out what impact our programs are trying to achieve, and to then gather evidence to evaluate whether or not we’re meeting those goals.

Let me give an example.

OneJustice runs pro bono legal clinics to help people with criminal record clearance. So let’s say we run 10 clinics and serve 180 clients. Ok, that’s great! But is it enough to know that those clients have simply met with a lawyer – or could we learn more by delving deeper? We might start asking: do clients typically leave the clinic with a completed petition, and how many successfully file the petition in court? What happens to clients that we refer to other organizations for more in-depth assistance? What is this whole experience like for our clients, and does it meet their needs and goals?

As you can imagine, these discussions about a program’s goals quickly become complex – and that’s before you start devising methods to assess whether these goals are being achieved.

So why go to all this effort? Again, my answer is fairly simple: because our clients’ legal problems matter deeply and often have high stakes. We owe it to them to critically assess what we are doing and make adjustments where necessary. In the example above, studying our criminal record clearance clinics may help us to identify ways that we can improve our service – for example, by changing the kind of information provided to clients before they attend the clinic, or by adjusting the training offered to pro bono attorneys who volunteer their time.

It’s an exciting time to be doing this work. Scholars in universities and law schools are pushing forward a reinvigorated research agenda on civil justice that seeks to answer difficult questions. How often do people experience civil justice problems? Do factors such as race and class influence how people respond in these situations? What is the nature of our civil justice infrastructure? How do we measure the effectiveness of legal interventions and services? Part of the job of us data folks is ensuring that the learning from these academic studies actually contributes to thinking within legal services organizations.

In addition to this type of academic research, some recent major investments in legal aid programs have included funding to evaluate impacts, such as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. Other organizations in the civil justice area, notably the Self-Represented Litigation Network, are using GIS mapping to provide a spatial lens to planning and analysis.

Impact evaluation is just one of many ways in which programs can assess (and reassess) their strategies. While managers and program staff are always observing what’s going on and making improvements to their work, the advantage of impact evaluation is being able to step back and take a more systematic perspective. This can bring into focus patterns that are difficult to spot on a day-to-day basis and incorporate feedback from a wider range of voices, including clients and partner organizations.

Peter James

Peter James

OneJustice is at the very beginning of our work in this area. We will be learning from the academics and other legal services organizations who have been pushing this research forward. As we move ahead with our own research and impact evaluation initiatives, we plan on sharing our learning widely with the legal services community. I’m excited to have recently launched the OneJustice Research Newsletter, for example, and we’re looking forward to creating more spaces for others to share their experiences and ideas. So look out for news from us, and we can’t wait to hear from you!

Questions? Want to sign up for the Research Newsletter? You can reach out to Peter with questions and ideas at research@one-justice.org.

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!