OneJustice is headed to DC!

April 9, 2019

“For poor people, the legal issues they are confronting are existential issues happening in the every day. Civil justice is not a metaphysical thing. It is a real life issue for people.” – Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, speaking at the 45th Anniversary Celebration of the Legal Services Corporation, April 8, 2019

Every spring, OneJustice prepares to remind Congress about its fundamental duty to keep our country’s legal system–to keep justice–within everyone’s reach.  The sad reality is that for far too many Americans, they do not have equal access to justice because they face legal barriers to basic needs, they cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them, and unlike in the criminal justice system, they have no right for an attorney to be provided to them at no cost. Instead, they have to rely on their local civil legal aid nonprofit to get the legal help they need. And those nonprofits rely on critically important federal funding through the Legal Services Corporation.

This is why OneJustice visits with California’s Members of Congress every spring. Partnering with the American Bar Association (“ABA”), we travel to Washington D.C. to try to meet with all 55 of our state’s representatives and senators. Last year, in 2018, OneJustice met with thirty-two congressional offices and the ABA was able to meet with six others.

Our message to Congress is simple: Keep funding the federal Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”).

And make no mistake – this federal funding is under attack. Just this month, for the third year in a row, White House proposed to eliminate federal funding for legal aid (see page 99). So today we have six staff members en route to Capitol Hill. For the next three days, we will be unrelenting in our message as we walk the corridors of the U.S. House and Senate. We will remind Congress about why it created LSC in the first place and what is at stake for our society. We will bring stories about the many Californians who have received they legal help they needed from legal services nonprofits in California. We also plan to live blog, post, and tweet to you as we meet with your representatives. Please join us online and help us carry the message!

For updates about federal legal aid policy, and opportunities to contact your Members of Congress, sign up for our Californians for Legal Aid alerts, here.

A Day in the Life of OneJustice

March 26, 2019

One of the things that makes OneJustice truly unique is the number of ways that we support and strengthen California’s legal aid system. Today may have seemed like a normal day in the office. Staff trickling in from all across the Bay Area in the morning before running off to meetings. Flurries of conversations in the new Los Angeles office space.  Staff fielding calls and emails from other organizations.  In other words, a day just like any other!

OneJustice’s Lusik Gasparyan, Program Manager and Ana Urgiles, Program Associate, started off their morning in Rohnert Park training a group of attorneys from across the Bay Area––some traveling from as far as 2.5 hours away–– to staff a free immigration clinic.  More than a dozen clients––mothers and fathers, neighbors, friends––eagerly awaited their arrival so they can get the crucial legal support they need to take the next steps to renew their DACA status or file for citizenship.  In the state of California, there are about 800 full-time legal aid attorneys, or roughly one for every 16,250 Californians in need.  In Sonoma County there are 11 legal aid staff attorneys. Today, these volunteers brought that number to 21.

The same time the OneJustice clinic in Rohnert Park was starting, Roel Mangiliman, Director of Innovation and Learning, is training 11 legal aid leaders from six Bay Area Legal Aid Nonprofits on how to build and lead innovation at their organizations.  Red boardroom chairs are pushed to the far walls of a boardroom in Berkeley as hundreds of post-it notes are flung onto a glass wall in a flurry.  Roel is spending the day running and teaching high-engagement innovation exercises focused on human-centered design.  The goal: to consistently iterate ideas, question everything, and create a final product that brings meaningful and accessible solutions to the real life legal problems of so many Californians.

Over 2,800 miles away, Renée Schomp, Senior Staff Attorney, is at the 2019 Pro Bono Institute Conference in Washington DC, the biggest national pro bono conference of the year.  Renée is facilitating a session on the changing pro bono landscape. Leaders from across the sector, and across the country, are sharing their experiences from working with pro bono attorneys and volunteers, their expertise in the field, and the best practices they have developed.

Back in OneJustice’s San Francisco Office, Chris McConkey, Dana Marquez, and Fredrick Ghai, with Bruno Huziar calling in from our Los Angeles office, are in our 8th floor conference room. They are putting together the final strategy points for their upcoming trip to DC.  The 4 of them –– along with Renée, and OneJustice CEO, Julia Wilson –– are less than two weeks away from walking the halls of congress lobbying to protect federal funding for vital legal services from the draconian cuts proposed by the Trump administration in their latest budget.

At OneJustice, we don’t just claim to transform California’s legal aid system. We actually do it – every day. From working on the ground in underserved communities across the state, to training more than 75% of California’s legal aid organizations, to amplifying the work of these nonprofits in Congress, we work at every level to improve and expand the reach of California’s civil legal aid system.  We fight for a California where access to justice is not a privilege — it’s a right.

OneJustice firmly opposes any federal budget cuts to legal aid

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2019

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!

Welcome, Tamika L. Butler!

March 18, 2019

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.

From Emu Farm to San Francisco!

March 14, 2019

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.

Please welcome Dana Marquez!

Dana Marquez, Californians for Legal Aid Fellow:

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!

President Trump Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Budget

March 13, 2019

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!

To get involved and stay informed, please sign up for our grassroots network, Californians for Legal Aid. Thank you!

2019 California Pro Bono Conference Recap

 

 

 

 

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!

Agenda:

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

Access to Justice, A Human Right

January 30, 2019

By Jess Temple

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.

In this 2016 report, we learned that nationwide:

  • 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.

 

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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.

Exciting new learning program!

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/

If you have any questions, please reach out to Peter, pjames@one-justice.org.

Thank you, and we hope you can join us on this exciting new venture!

We’re thankful for you!

November 21, 2018

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.