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.
The answer: an amazing new group of social justice advocates here at OneJustice!
OneJustice is starting off 2018 with a staff of 27 people – the largest we’ve ever been! Our newest team members all come to us with amazing skill sets and serve in vital roles for OneJustice. And what’s more – they’re all amazing people. As we do with all our new staff members, we asked them to answer these four questions:
What drew you to OneJustice’s vision, mission, and strategies?
Tell us a bit about your position at OneJustice and what you hope to achieve?
What was your path in coming to OneJustice?
And please tell us something about yourself that not everyone might know.
We think you’ll enjoy hearing their responses below. And we know that you’ll enjoy working with them as they get up and running in their work! Join us in welcoming Blossom Cole, Lusik Gasparyan, Roel Mangiliman, and Patrick Kelleher-Calnan.
Since I grew up in California in a low-income community, many of my experiences were extremely traumatic, and were systematically shaped by politics and divisive agendas. Much like today, our government during the Reagan administration in the 80s, pushed racist policies. Social services were defunded throughout the country, and particularly in California, where mental hospitals were closed. The patients undergoing treatment got released to their own devices. My mother was one of those people, suffering from schizophrenia, and had been involuntarily committed, yet they let her out anyway.
OneJustice’s program participants are now facing their own trauma at the hands of our government, which I can identify with personally. My people are losing government benefits, facing legal problems, fighting to stay in the only country they know, and they need help now.
As the Executive and Grants Coordinator, I am responsible for managing the CEO’s schedule, and responding to internal and external requests for her time. I also assist Program Leads at OneJustice in completing grant reporting to our funders in a timely manner. I hope to completely overhaul our physical and digital grants filing system so that is it more accessible and easier to obtain the information required for reporting.
After earning my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from San Francisco State University, I went on to earn my Paralegal Certificate with a focus on immigration. After an internship in family based immigration, I transitioned to a career in business immigration. Understanding and processing/drafting petitions for both prongs of immigration left me with a serious passion for immigration law. OneJustice gives me an opportunity to still be involved with immigration and allows me to go back to my social justice roots and offer an authentic perspective about what it means to be low-income in California and how support and access can change lives.
Analyzing our politics and governmental processes allows me to learn from my colleagues, who have a winning formula that reaches and communicates to those who are in the business of offering help to people who are disenfranchised. I get to have “a seat at the table” in order to shape OneJustice’s program reach and assist in obtaining funds to sustain our services, which help families and people like me. I give thanks to a great support system that helped me to succeed so that I could give back to my community. Touching one life is all I can ask for, and changing the perspective of one person can effect change, which will be my legacy.
I really love to sing, and I am a karaoke queen. I love learning new things and going to theme parks, especially with my family, which includes my four-year-old son.
In my first year of law school, I realized that I wanted to work for an organization that is not only a problem solver, but is passionate about what they do and wants to improve the lives of those who face many obstacles in the legal system. OneJustice aims to increase everyone’s access to justice, regardless of income, citizenship status, or location of residency. OneJustice approaches the law from an innovative point of view, believing that everything can be improved and new ideas are always welcomed–a belief that I personally share myself.
I am the Project Manager for the Rural Justice Collaborative clinic. The Clinic organizes immigration, criminal record expungement, and housing clinics for those living in the rural parts of the Bay Area, where the access to legal services is limited. Through my work, I hope to increase access to justice for those living in the rural parts and be able to update and advance our clinics based on the needs of the community. My aim is to expand the impact of Rural Justice Collaborative project.
I have a background in dependency, immigration, and family law. Prior to joining the OneJustice team, I was a law clerk at the Children’s Law Center of CA (CLC), where I interviewed minor clients in the dependency system about their living situation and explained to them the dependency court process. In addition, I helped my supervising attorney make recommendations regarding the minor’s care and housing. I also interned at Kids in Need of Defense, helping unaccompanied minors receive asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status by interviewing them and working on their immigration court paperwork. While at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law and Pepperdine’s Restoration and Justice Clinic, I assisted survivors of domestic violence with their Family Law and Restraining Order paperwork and representation. In addition, at the Restoration and Justice clinic, I helped a survivor of human trafficking apply for a criminal record expungement so she could obtain a job. At the Coalition for the Advocacy of the Persecuted and the Enslaved, I assisted survivors of human trafficking with gaining legal status and worked with clients who were applying for U-Visa and renewal of DACA.
While in law school, I organized workshops that educated youth from transitional homes on their constitutional rights during police encounters. I created the materials that provided instructions on how to avoid self-incrimination and reduce the chances of being charged with obstruction of justice.
All of those experiences have prepared me for my current role by providing me with an understanding of the different legal issues people face. In addition, those experiences gave me an ability to empathize and connect with different clients and give value and validation to their stories. Those experiences have also made me want to improve the system.
I enjoy going grocery shopping and meal prep for the week. I love cooking and preparing a feast for my friends or family. I believe lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic are essentials for almost any savory dish.
Everyone at OneJustice works on a constant everyday basis to answer the question, “In what ways can we increase access to justice for those who need it?” I decided to work here because not only do we answer the question, we take action.
As Manager of Innovation and Learning, I promote the theories and practices around topics of innovation, human-centered design, and organizational change as approaches to transform California’s civil legal aid system. Success in this work looks like growing acknowledgement among the legal community that “innovation” is not just brand speak, or referring to iPhones – but rather an organizational development process that resonates as urgent, actionable, and exciting to entities of all kinds looking to increase impact.
Prior to joining OneJustice, I spent five years studying organizational change initiatives in a range of charitable contexts including legal aid, academia, philanthropy, and mental health. At Seneca Family of Agencies, I led training initiatives and innovation efforts to meet the changing organizational needs of a mental health agency expanding rapidly across different states, service type, and compliance entities. At Bay Area Justice Funders Network, as a research fellow I studied philanthropic best practices for social change, and created training content for foundation staff looking to influence their foundations. Earlier, at the SF Superior Court Self-Help Center, I held a management fellowship where I studied the impacts of sudden budget cuts on staffing and service areas, ran strategic planning retreats, and consulted executives on staff and resource development. I completed my JD at UC Davis Law School, and received my BA in political science from UC San Diego. I am licensed to practice law in California, and regularly complete continuing education in nonprofit law, change leadership, and organizational development.
A hobby of mine is getting mall massages – those stations in the mall where people faceplant into a chair and get 45 mins of deep tissue massage (more like body work) at an affordable rate, with no talking. Paradise.
I was attracted to the mission of OneJustice because I believe lack of access to legal aid is a serious source of harm for many Californians, and I appreciate that OneJustice deals with the legal aid system as a whole. OneJustice appealed to me as an organization because it has a track record of success and displays a willingness to evolve as an organization.
At OneJustice I am responsible for the day-to-day and long term operations of the offices, everything from bookkeeping to IT support. I’m excited to be joining such a high-caliber operation, and looking forward to finding ways to keep our processes effective and efficient as OneJustice continues to grow.
My professional background includes a diverse mix of operational and data-related roles. For five years I was the Admission Technical Specialist for graduate business programs at Northeastern University where I managed several admissions and marketing systems, performed a lot of data analysis and reporting, and making sure operations ran smoothly. Before that I ran the day-to-day operations of a growing bicycle tour, rental, and repair business. Since moving to San Francisco I’ve worked in an accounting office and as a Finance Administrator for a New Zealand based winery.
My work and volunteer experience also includes conducting geospatial research for a Human Right to Water campaign, wrangling data for the Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco, and starting and running a neighborhood bicycle nonprofit in Boston.
I earned my BA from Wesleyan University and my MS in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern University.
Since moving to the Bay Area I’ve made it my mission to take advantage of every outdoor recreation opportunity in the area. So far my favorite has to be encountering elephant seals on the beaches of Point Reyes.
This holiday season, we are so grateful for your support. During a year of unimaginable challenges and attacks on the communities we serve, you have proven that when people open their hearts and put their hands to work, anything is possible.
We wish you the best this holiday season, and look forward to another year of working together for justice for all.
We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving last week, surrounded by those you love and hopefully still not drowsy from all that turkey! In this time of giving thanks, it’s hard to overstate how many things we at OneJustice have to be grateful for. Our work is supported by so many different people and organizations – from our Board members, who help give OneJustice a sense of direction; to our generous donors, whose financial contributions ensure services for those in need; to our community partner organizations, who invite us into their fight for equality and justice.
We are so thankful – and we wanted to extend our deepest gratitude to you!
As a result, today OneJustice is celebrating #ThanksGivingTuesday (rather than #GivingTuesday). Because our work involves so many others, we thought it would be a good idea to ask some of our staff members here at OneJustice what part of the OneJustice network they are most thankful for. Their responses are below – we hope you’ll enjoy them for #ThanksGivingTuesday!
Dania is one of the Program Associates with the Pro Bono Justice team, and she works with our Staff Attorneys to help organize and plan clinics. As a result, Dania has had the opportunity to interact with many of the clients directly served in our clinics. She writes: “The legal system can be a large maze for anyone. Without the help of a legal expert or a couple, like in the case of a client we saw in September, it can be quite a daunting process to fill out paperwork that falls within two areas of law. We hold free legal clinics in Stockton regularly and we saw a client who told us that his past drug abuse problem affected access to a better quality of life. He hoped to file a naturalization application at that clinic in September but was advised to attend our record change clinic in October to pursue record change remedies to have a more successful naturalization application. When sharing his life story with the volunteer attorneys and me, he told us what it took to turn his life around, the consequences of his actions, and in that moment I realized how stories like these need to be told in order to fix our broken legal and healthcare system.”
As a Staff Attorney with the Healthy Nonprofits Program, Gillian works directly with our Executive Fellows. The Fellows Program, which helps to train legal services nonprofit leaders, has generated a strong legacy of alumni. Gillian describes:“I’m grateful for the network of Executive Fellows alumni that OneJustice has created. Knowing that many of our nonprofit leaders have thought critically about the stability and longevity of their organizations gives me hope for the future of our sector and our ability to continue bringing high quality legal services to low income Californians.“
Fabiola also works as a Program Associate with the Pro Bono Justice team. Having worked directly with clients, she is grateful for their willingness to share their stories with her and members of the OneJustice team. Fabiola shares her experience from a recent clinic: “I listened as the client recounted their story – from juvenile hall to prison to the lack of opportunities for reintegration. And, in that powerful moment of openness, I shared my brother’s story too – a story of incarceration from age seventeen. Street Sheet’s November edition on mass incarceration states that over the past 30 years there has been a 500 percent increase in incarceration, amounting to 2.4 million humans with no freedom in the U.S. Now, as we enter the season of giving thanks, I am thankful for narratives having the power to build bridges between different walks of life, and in my ability to serve as a bridge. In finding common ground, my struggle and their struggle becomes one struggle – our struggle, unified towards equality and justice.”
Mai, one of our awesome Staff Attorneys on the Pro Bono Justice team, organizes Justice Bus trips in Southern California. It takes a lot to make these clinics happen, and Mai notes that, among other, she is grateful for the Justice Bus volunteers. She describes, “I am grateful for our Justice Bus volunteers who take time out of their busy schedules to come together to bring much needed legal assistance to low-income Californians. They are able to combine their skills, resources and enthusiasm to make a positive impact on many clinic participant’s lives. Their dedication is apparent in the quality and depth of services we are able to provide through the Justice Bus and from the gracious feedback we get from clinic participants. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of volunteers, from pro bono attorneys, law students, and legal services attorneys to librarians, teachers, social service providers, and caring community members — all of whom make it possible for OneJustice to carry out our mission to increase access to justice to low-income Californians as far north as Eureka and far south as El Centro.”
Thank you, everyone, for helping bring legal help to those in need.
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.
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.
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?
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 clinicsin 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 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 newpro 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!