The White House has once again proposed to eliminate the federal government’s primary mechanism for providing low-income people with access to our country’s legal system: its funding for legal aid. The Administration included this proposal in its “Major Savings and Reforms” for Fiscal Year 2020.
For the third time in as many years, the Trump administration has suggested the abolition of the Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”). LSC ensures that people in every county from coast to coast can–through grants to legal aid nonprofits–understand their rights and access our courts when they have a basic need at stake. While the FY19 budget appropriated $415 million dollars to LSC, this budget plan provides only $18 million, a $397 million cut, to essentially facilitate the closing of LSC’s doors.
In 2017, LSC Grantee organizations in California closed 75,000 cases and served 185,000 people, including 4,000 veterans and 18,500 seniors. This closure would take away almost 40% of California LSC Grantees funding and have a profound impact on the services provided to low-income Californians.
OneJustice firmly opposes these cuts and is gearing up to send six members of our team to Washington D.C. to meet with California legislators to ensure that LSC funding is protected. We trust the strong bipartisan support for civil justice in both the House and the Senate will ensure–as in FY18 and FY19–that congress acts to protect civil justice for all Americans.
To stay informed about the fight to protect legal justice for low-income Americans, please sign up for our grassroots network, Californians for Legal Aid, and keep a look out for our upcoming blog posts in preparation of OneJustice being in Washington, DC. Thank you!
OneJustice has welcomed plenty of new faces to our offices in the last year, but those aren’t all of the new team members around here! In addition to all our amazing new teammates, we are excited to announce we have recently added a new member to our Board of Directors: Tamika Butler, Director of Planning, California & Director of Equity and Inclusion at Toole Design! Tamika joined the Board early this year and we’re as excited for you to get to know her, as we have been!
What made you interested in becoming a OneJustice Board member?
Ever since I was in law school, I’ve known about One Justice and the great work they do. For one reason or another, I was never able to be involved. That never stopped me from following the organization, having friends who worked there, and mentors who were part of the board. When this opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no. Given the current political climate and landscape, the work of OneJustice is more important than ever. At a time when so many people want to be doing something meaningful, it’s a privilege to be part of an organization that does that each and every day.
What is your role at Toole Design and how do you hope to use your perspective as a Board member?
At Toole Design, I’m the CA Planning Director and the Director of Equity and Inclusion. I see a lot of overlap with with Equity and Inclusion role in helping OneJustice think through and work on equity and inclusion issues within the organization and present in the work. I also have several years of experience being a lawyer and running a nonprofit and hope to bring those skills and knowledge to be supportive to staff as they do impactful legal work.
What are your hopes for your time as a Board member?
I hope to stay out of the way of staff, while still being helpful. I hope to see the impact of the organization continue to grow. I hope that we all understand our little piece in doing work that supports those the most in need who are often also the most neglected.
Tell us about yourself – something you love to do, a hobby, recreational activity, or something quirky about yourself.
My wife, Kelly, our son, Atei, and our dog Stewart Little are all the most important things to me. I’m also a Midwesterner at heart and love getting back to Omaha as much as possible to visit my extended family.
With the start of a new year, comes new faces around the OneJustice offices! OneJustice is excited for you to meet our newest team-member – Dana Marquez, Californians for Legal Aid Fellow! As we do with all new folks, 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.
I was drawn to OneJustice because I have always wanted to help people and make a difference for others. Growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, I witnessed first hand the struggle children and their families faced for access to respect and justice in all aspects of their lives. With advocates and influential leaders on the side of civil justice, the futures of many people can be positively altered. I came to civil justice to help protect and bolster the civil justice system so that all people have equal access to the law and an equal fight at life in a free and just society.
The Californians for Legal Aid Fellowship position was created to help combat a need in the state of California for structural and innovative development tailored to the needs of children and youth. Approximately 9 million children under the age of 17 were reported to be living in California in 2018 and it is estimated that 21.3%, or 1.9 million, of them are living in poverty. Serving as the Californians for Legal Aid Fellow, I hope to develop and implement an effective plan for legal services providers across California that are serving at-need children and youth in all aspects of their lives and development.
Before OneJustice I attended the University of San Francisco Law School and San Francisco State University. In law school, I was involved in a variety of extra-curriculars and groups including the University of San Francisco Law Review, the Women’s Law Association, and the Student Bar Association. Law school provided me with the opportunity to work for a number of influential offices including the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Little Rock, Arkansas, the USF Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic, the Oakland City Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
I grew up on a small farm in the California San Joaquin Valley with a variety of animals including a flock of about 30 emus!
On Monday, the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020, A Budget for a Better America. Although this release did not include the individual break down for certain budget items, including the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), it is easy to predict the administration’s proposal in regards to legal aid federal funding: complete elimination. This prediction follows the administration’s budget suggestions for LSC funding over the last two years.
The Office of Management and Budget is scheduled to release their supplemental budget documents, including an itemized listing for LSC funding, in its Major Savings and Reforms, Fiscal Year 2020, arriving on or after next Monday, March 18th, at 11:30 AM (EST). OneJustice is closely monitoring the release of these budget documents and already working on lobbying efforts to ensure the protection of our country’s legal aid system!
2019 California Pro Bono Conference Recap February 6, 2019
The air buzzed with excitement as advocates, pro bono managers, and legal aid leaders from not just the state – but around the country – took their seats. With 264 feet placed firmly on the ground, 132 heads bowed in a mindfulness moment to become grounded and fully present. The 2019 California Pro Bono Conference had begun.
From addressing power and privilege in legal aid and pro bono, to how to best serve children & youth, conversations around innovative pro bono practices and emerging needs were the themes of the day. The morning began with thought-provoking conversations around using technology to increase efficiency in the recruitment of volunteers to regional and statewide coordination. The conference ended fittingly with conversations about the impact and evaluative practices of pro bono programs, and self-care in this trying political climate.
Just as quickly as the conference came, it was over. As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, the OneJustice network moved into a fun-filled reception to celebrate the 11th successful California Pro Bono Conference and kick off what will be a year-long celebration of OneJustice’s 40th birthday in 2019.
Over the next few weeks, OneJustice is excited to report back with key takeaways and notes from conference breakout session. Be sure to keep an eye out for new blog posts, or check below to see what’s been published thus far!
Morning Session: Addressing Power and Privilege in Legal Aid and Pro Bono
Leveraging Tech to Recruit Pro Bono Volunteers
Envisioning Next Steps in Statewide & Regional Pro Bono Coordination
Afternoon Session #1: How Pro Bono is Used to Serve Children & Youth
Next Steps in Pro Bono Response to Natural Disasters Pro Bono Immigration and Border Response
Afternoon Session #2: Mindfulness and Self-Care Strategies in Pro Bono
Your Future Justice Bus Project
Using Evaluation Methods to Reimagine Pro Bono Programs
We all know access to justice is a civil justice issue, but did you know it is also a human rights issue?
Independent experts at the United Nations working on issues of racial discrimination, immigration, and violence against women have emphasized the need for access to justice in civil legal aid. In fact, experts agree that access, including the right to counsel in civil legal matters, is essential to meet basic human needs.
Legal aid can be seen as a gateway to the enjoyment of other human rights important to creating a fair justice system. These rights include the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to equality before the law, the right to non-discrimination, the right to a fair trial, and the right to an effective remedy.
Though there is a great potential for the civil legal aid system to protect human rights, there are barriers to accessing justice through this system. Barriers to access to justice disproportionately harm racial minorities, women, and immigrants – thereby undermining the promise of “justice for all,” in the United States.
In the civil legal system, one way to demonstrate barriers to access is to explore outcomes in immigration proceedings. Unlike the criminal justice system, there is no right to counsel in the civil justice system. This is despite the fact that immigration proceedings often risk the same deprivations of liberty you might anticipate in a criminal proceeding, like the loss of life.
The risks associated with being a migrant in the United States have gained visibility as a result of the United States’ recent immigration policies. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) published a news post analyzing the international human rights standards implicated by these policies, which include automatic criminal prosecution of adult migrants, family separation, indefinite detention, and restrictions to claims for asylum, among others. IJRC identified ten human rights principles that are implicated by these policies, including, the right to life, noting excessive force used at the border; the right to seek asylum; the prohibition of torture; and rights associated with due process in immigration proceedings.
So what do barriers in immigration proceedings actually look like? Folks at the American Immigration Council analyzed over 1.2 million deportation cases decided between 2007 and 2012 to shed some light on barriers to access to justice in United States immigration courts.
A very low percentage of immigrants are able to secure legal representation for their cases (37% if they were not detained, and only 14% if they were detained)
Immigrants with hearings in small cities were four times less likely to obtain counsel compared to those with hearings in large cities
Represented immigrants were more likely to be released from detention, to seek relief from deportation, and to experience successful immigration outcomes.
These findings provide a daunting, data-driven illustration of unequal access to justice, with devastating consequences for those experiencing barriers.
Thinking about legal aid services more broadly, the Legal Services Corporation recently estimated that about 86% of civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate, or no legal help at all. Access to justice issues are often amplified for vulnerable groups, and it takes strategic plans, programs, and delivery to strengthen access to justice.
So…should we be doing better?
I believe the answer is an emphatic yes. In addition to constitutional and legislative guarantees, the United States federal and state governments are internationally obligated to comply with human rights standards, including, those set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United States must respect and protect the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to equality before the law, the right to non-discrimination, the right to a fair trial, and the right to an effective remedy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has further elaborated that the right to equality before the law includes meaningful access to justice procedurally, and practically, which may mean ensuring the availability of legal assistance. The decision by the United States to withdraw from the Human Rights Committee, while undermining the United States’ position as an advocate of human rights, does not negate the obligation to provide meaningful access to justice for all.
So what do we do about barriers to access to justice in the context of our work?
Global perspectives on effective ways to strengthen access to the civil legal aid system include evaluating access, for example, by gathering information about who accesses the civil legal aid system, how they access the system, how easily they access it, and what the outcomes are for them; identifying barriers to access; raising awareness of legal services that can address problems (whether those problems feel “legal” or not); funding legal aid; and ensuring the implementation of equal access to justice.
Here at OneJustice, I eagerly apply this human rights lens to the work that I do with our mobile legal clinics. I think critically about how we can collect data about barriers folks face accessing OneJustice’s legal aid services in Northern California. Through OneJustice’s varied programs and layered service provision, we are working to identify where service delivery gaps exist. I work to raise awareness of access to justice issues, and to protect the promise of justice for all.
Jess Temple, Staff Attorney – Jess works on the Northern California Justice Bus project, an innovative mobile legal clinic designed to reach California’s most underserved communities.
OneJustice is excited to launch a new learning program, Research & Evaluation in Legal Aid, starting in January 2019!
We have created this program to meet the growing interest among legal aid organizations in using data to improve services and communicate impact. As a participant in the program, you will receive an accessible and practical introduction to research & evaluation and benefit from one-to-one coaching on a priority project.
To learn more about this course from the instructor, Peter James, take a minute to watch this video.
The deadline for applications is December 14, 2018. To find our more and apply, visit onejustice.org/oca/
This season of giving thanks offers a lovely moment for reflection. As the OneJustice staff, board and network looks back over the past year – one thing is crystal clear: we are so grateful for you. You raised your voice to protect justice for all. You traveled for hours to reach Californians in need. Your generosity with your time, talents, and financial support truly made all the difference.
You made sure that:
From all of us at OneJustice, thank you so much! We wish you all the best in this holiday season and in the coming New Year.
[Update on 11/19/18: the final results are in, and there are six new members of the California delegation. They are all Democrats, and two of them are attorneys. OneJustice looks forward to working with these new members and their staff in early 2019 to introduce them to the California civil justice system and the importance services it provides to their constituents.]
Like many of you, the OneJustice team has been anxiously watching the 2018 midterm election results roll in – particularly the California races for the House of Representatives. We are laser focused on gauging the impact of the election on our work to protect justice for all.
More specifically, we’re working to assess the impact of the elections on two core components that make up the bright promise of justice for all:
At OneJustice, we believe deeply that these issues are entirely bi-partisan. Everyone – including our elected officials – can agree on the fact that our justice system doesn’t work unless we treat everyone equally, regardless of what you look like or where you come from.
So what do we know in terms of California as of today, November 15th?
While two of the 53 congressional races in California are still too close to call, we know that at least five of the representatives for our state will be brand-new to Congress. The OneJustice network will hit the ground running in January to educate these new members and their staff in both DC and the district about the importance of civil legal aid assistance to their constituents and how reasonable immigration policies and comprehensive immigration reform will benefit the communities that elected them and our entire state.
Let’s face it – the 2018 mid-terms were a brutal experience. And now OneJustice is calling on the 116th Congress to set aside knee-jerk partisanship and scapegoating and to find common ground. Congress must get to work on the policy issues for which they were elected. In terms of civil justice and immigration, we expect every member of the California delegation, regardless of party affiliation, to do what is best for all Californians.
Will you join us in calling on Congress to do its job and protect justice for all? Here’s how you can get involved in 2019:
Want to support OneJustice’s work on the ground in Washington DC? It’s easy to donate online to get our staff walking the halls of Congress.
Congress should get to work and increase federal funding for civil justice.
Ensuring fairness in the justice system is a fundamental American value. Americans believe in justice for all, not just for those who can afford it. Federal funding for legal aid through the Legal Services Corporation assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have. It provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.
But the administration’s budget continues to call for the complete elimination of the program. Congress passed a continuing resolution that only continues funding for legal aid services through December 7, 2018.
When we say the Pledge of Allegiance we close with “justice for all.” So the OneJustice network calls on Congress to protect funding for civil legal aid in the federal budget cycle to ensure that the very principle our country’s founders envisioned remains alive: justice for all, not the few who can afford it.
Congress should get to work and create fair immigration policies that reflect America’s values
America is a compassionate country that has a commitment to honoring our humanitarian responsibilities – including an orderly system for considering asylum claims that has served us well. We understand that the right to due process under the law is a cornerstone of our commitment to freedom and fairness. Every person in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, is guaranteed equal treatment and due process under law. Our immigration policies should reflect our core values: equality, fairness, accountability, and opportunity.
Partisan fighting in Congress and fear-mongering as a campaign tactic has polarized candidates and created barriers to working together to pass reasonable legislation. That hurts all of us, regardless of political affiliation. Human migration itself is not the problem, but rather flawed immigration policies – and non-strategic enforcement – are the problem. We, as a democracy, have the power and responsibility to change those to make sure they are reasonable and fair. We can build bridges and demonstrate that our differing identities are assets in making our communities and nation stronger. Congress – as our elected representatives – should create immigration policies that make it possible for those seeking opportunity to join our workforce and society.
OneJustice calls on the 116th Congress to set aside polarized fighting. We demand that our elected officials get to work to reject the administration’s cruel and callous shifts in immigration policies and to pass comprehensive immigration reform that reflects American values of honoring our humanitarian responsibilities and ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law. Congress must pass laws that promote public safety and uphold due process and equal justice and that integrate new Americans into our economic engine and social fabric.
With everything that has been coming out of the White House this past week, OneJustice refuses to amplify the vitriolic and xenophobic rhetoric coming from this administration. OneJustice’s position can be summed up in 3 simple statements:
Regardless of your political affiliation, we implore you to vote. The most important thing that you can do right now is to fully participate in the democratic process, and that starts with voting.