In pursuit of equal justice for individuals who cannot afford a lawyer, the Center trains volunteer lawyers and law students to aid impoverished individuals to represent themselves in court. Working in partnership with Center staff, volunteers assist clients with critical life problems regarding custody and visitation, domestic violence, paternity establishment, family support and divorce. This pioneering approach has served as a model for self-help programs in Los Angeles County and been at the forefront of similar efforts throughout the U.S. With the assistance of dedicated volunteers, the Center provides free legal aid to over 1,000 individuals each year.
Pro Bono Panel
Using volunteer lawyers from the local community, the Center provides several thousand hours of free legal representation to clients who are unable to present their own cases in court. The panel acts as a lifeline to very low-income clients who are scared, overwhelmed and cannot fairly represent themselves due to severe abuse, physical or mental disability or other circumstances. Professionals such as pension lawyers, real estate appraisers, psychologists and accountants, who provide specialized advice and assistance in certain cases, are also utilized.
Over seventy percent (70%) of the Center’s clients report a history of domestic violence, most of them women. The Center provides intensive, ongoing legal assistance to victims, some of who are undocumented and others living at shelters. In addition to helping them secure orders for protection, the Center helps shield their children from harm and provides the foundation for a stable and successful future by obtaining appropriate orders for custody, visitation and support for victims.
Community colleges play an important role helping low-income students and their families become self-sufficient. Providing the support they need to stay in school is important not only to the individual students but to the community as a whole. The Center fills the needed gap of legal assistance for low-income community college students who are experiencing domestic violence and other family problems with on-site day long sessions on area campuses. Partnering with various schools, the Center provides individual legal counseling and group educational presentations.
The incarceration of large numbers of low-income women in California, the majority of who are mothers, has profound negative consequences on their children and their families. In response to pressing community need, the Center has enacted two cutting-edge programs designed to improve outcomes for the women and their children and reduce recidivism. The Center accomplishes this mission through legal education taught weekly at the women’s jail in Los Angeles on child welfare, domestic violence and other family law topics, and by direct legal assistance to mothers released from jail or prison seeking reunification under the “best interests” of children standard.
The Center maintains an active program of recruiting, training, and educating volunteers to help its low-income clients while providing a vehicle for community professionals and students to give back. Dedicated professionals, paraprofessionals and students aid in preparing pleadings, providing counsel and advice, and representing individuals in court. They generate over 10,000 hours of donated time each year. The Center places a special focus on recruiting and training law students, who are public interest lawyers of the future.