VLSP's Community Advocate
October 2003
VLSP Volunteers Win Awards
SSI for Children with Disabilities Project
Making a Difference: The Power of Legal Representation
Helpful Hints for VLSP Volunteers
Calendar of Training Events
Cases Placed This Month
Volunteer Spotlight
 VLSP Volunteers Win Awards

VLSP volunteers Kathryn Kirkland, Eric Lifschitz, and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP recently received awards on behalf of their work with VLSP.

Eric Lifschitz was chosen as the recipient of the 2003 Jack Berman Award presented by the State Bar of California and the California Young Lawyers Association. Eric has contributed over 175 hours to pro bono eviction defense cases where the clients' habitability defense included toxic mold. Presenting him with the award at the annual State Bar Conference was California Supreme Court Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, who said, "Eric represents the best of what the legal profession has to offer." The award is presented each year by the California Young Lawyers Association in memory of Jack Berman, a young pro bono attorney killed in a 1993 shooting at 101 California Street in San Francisco.

Kathryn Kirkland received the 2003 Tribute to Excellence in Service Award from the Legal Aid Association of California. The award honors Kathryn’s dedication and commitment to expanding legal services for low-income family law clients. Kathryn, a certified family law specialist, has volunteered with VLSP for over 13 years. During this time, Kathryn has provided full representation to 30 family law clients. In addition, Kathryn has volunteered numerous Saturdays at VLSP’s Legal Advice and Referral Clinic and regularly trains and mentors new VLSP family law volunteers.

Latham & Watkins LLP was presented with the 2003 President’s Pro Bono Service Award at the annual California State Bar Conference. Latham & Watkins collaborated with Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP and VLSP to create a statewide pro bono project for families affected by the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Forty attorneys in Latham & Watkins' Los Angeles and San Francisco offices contributed more than 2,300 pro bono hours towards this project.

 SSI for Children with Disabilities Project

When *Allen Briggs was only a few months old, his mother often left him home alone in the care of his twin brothers who were only two and a half years old. All three boys were exposed to crack cocaine in-utero and their mother was still addicted and unable to care for them. Their home in Lafayette, Louisiana, did not have electricity and there was hardly any food and no diapers.

In the winter of 1995, Child Protective Services placed a call to *Anastasia Briggs, the boys’ grandmother. CPS explained to Anastasia that if she did not adopt the children, they would be placed in foster care. Upon hearing this, Anastasia spent most of her life savings to formally adopt her grandchildren and move them back to California where she lives.

The decision has not been without sacrifice. Anastasia's husband left shortly after she returned from Louisiana because he could not handle the stress of caring for the children. For the next several years Anastasia struggled on her own to provide for the children’s basic needs, which were numerous since all three of the children were developmentally disabled.

To help pay for the children’s care, Anastasia was able to apply for and receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the twins. However, when she applied for Allen on the basis of his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) he was denied the assistance. She appealed the decision all the way to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) level.

After having gone through the entire process without representation, Anastasia was frustrated and did not know what to do next. The Edgewood Center for Children and Families referred her to VLSP's Homeless Advocacy Project and its SSI for Children with Disabilities Project. The supervising attorney of the project, Rose Molloy, immediately placed the case with volunteer attorney Jill Kristensen.

*Real names changed to protect identity

To continue reading about the SSI for Children with Disabilities Project, click here.

 Making a Difference: The Power of Legal Representation

Volunteer Attorney Jeff Hoffman

*Angela, a mother of one, has lived in the same section eight housing for over six years. She works part-time as an in-home care provider and is only able to make ends meet because she also receives limited welfare benefits.

Angela came to VLSP in September because she received a summons and complaint for late payment of rent and was in danger of losing her housing. After reviewing her file, VLSP recognized it was crucial for Angela stay in her current housing, particularly given that she has small children. Angela was paying less than $100 per month in rent and if she lost her housing it was highly unlikely she would ever be able to find another place she could afford. She and her children were faced with the possibly of becoming homeless.

Enter volunteer attorney Jeff Hoffman. A recent California Bar admittee, Jeff had just taken VLSP’s introductory landlord tenant training and was looking to gain experience. After speaking with Angela and reviewing all the legal documents, Jeff felt that he could negotiate on her behalf.

*Real name changed to protect identity

To continue reading Making a Difference, click here.

 Helpful Hints for VLSP Volunteers

Scheduling a Meeting Room With VLSP

Whenever possible, VLSP makes its offices available to volunteers who need to meet with clients. If you would like to book at VLSP for a meeting, we ask that you make these arrangements ahead of time. To reserve a room, please contact one of VLSP's client advocates at (415) 982-1600. Please let one of these staff members know whether you will require the use of a computer or specific software.

Questions About Your Case?

VLSP has a great mentoring system in place designed to provide support and guidance for attorneys doing pro bono. These mentors are most often expert attorneys who have volunteered to be a part of this support system. If you don't have contact information for your mentor and would like to utilize this support, please contact the supervising attorney of your specific pro bono project.

Making Client Referrals

If you know of someone who could benefit from our services, please refer them to the Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (415) 989-1616 to be screened for income and issue eligibility. Click here to see the areas of law we provide assistance in.

If you know of an individual or family who is homeless or may have a mental disability and needs legal assistance, please click here.


 Calendar of Training Events

Declaratory Relief Training
October 15, 2003
6:00-7:30 pm
MCLE Credit: 1.5 hours
Learn how to answer and cross complain in landlord/tenant declaratory relief cases. A number of San Francisco landlord attorneys are now using these lawsuits instead of traditional unlawful detainers to evict tenants. Steve Collier and Robert Devries will offer a live training on answering and cross complaining in these cases. A commitment to take one declaratory relief eviction case in the next twelve months is required. Some experience in eviction defense is also required.
Email VLSP Trainings or call (415) 782-8956 for more information.

SSI for Children with Disabilities
October 21, 2003
5:00-7:00 pm
MCLE Credit: 2 hours
This program assists low-income children and families throughout the Bay Area with SSI applications, appeals and post-entitlement issues. SSI is a federal disability program for low-income individuals who have severe disabilities. Individuals will receive training in how to represent children with disabilities in the SSI process. This trainings is open to law students, paralegals, and attorneys. A commitment to take one pro bono case in the next twelve months is required.
Email Mairi McKeever or call her at (415) 865-9215 for more information.

Introduction to Family Law
October 23, 2003
5:30-8:30 pm
MCLE Credit: 2.5 hours
Live training for attorneys on simple dissolutions, custody and child support disputes taught by expert attorneys. This program provides a great way to learn family law. A commitment to take two pro bono cases in the next 12 months is required. Immediately following the training participants will select their first case. Attendees must be licensed to practice law in California to attend.
Email VLSP Trainings or call (415) 782-8956 for more information.

October 28, 2003
6:00-8:30 pm
MCLE Credit: 2.5 hours
This live training is designed to give practitioners practical information on discovering and joining retirement benefit plans, valuing pension interests and effecting pension distribution through buyouts or Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. Special topics addressed will include use of temporary ODROs, Gilmore elections, and survivorship interests. This training is open only to VLSP volunteers who currently have a case open on the family law panel.
Email VLSP Trainings or call (415) 782-8956 for more information.

Introduction to Landlord/Tenant Law
October 29, 2003
4:00-6:30 pm
MCLE Credit: 2.5 hours
Learn the basics of representing low-income tenants who are facing eviction. This program is a great way to gain courtroom and litigation experience. A commitment to take 2 to 3 pro bono cases in the next twelve months is required. Immediately following the training participants will select their first case. Attendees must be licensed to practice law in California to attend.
Email VLSP Trainings or call (415) 782-8956 for more information.

 Cases Placed This Month

We'd like to say Thank You! to the following volunteers who have taken on new cases during the month of September:

Family Law Project
Christina Angell-Atchison, Martin Brandfon, Dona Cheung, Randall Philip "Randy" Choy, Robin Crawford, Brenda Jackson Drake, David Dae Young Kim, Roger Meredith, Tom Merson, Kathryn Ringgold, Charles P. Stone, Regan Yamasaki, and Debbie L. Yee.

Eviction Prevention Project
Joel Belway, Dan Berko, Dave Crow, Robert Douglas, Mark Epstein, Jeff Hoffman, *Nancy Lawlor, Matthew Mallet, *Yosef Peretz, Ora Prochovnick, and Rachel Ellyn Shapiro.

Community Organization Representation Project
Bob Brigham, Gregory Conklin, Liza Cozad, Bob Gates, Bernard Gutow, Walter Hansell, Jeff Iverson, Jon Janes, Lubna Jahangiri, Sheila Khan-Variba, Dan McBride, Gary Mugg, Nicolai Nielsen, Mark Schickman, and Jeff Tanenbaum.

Homeless Advocacy Project
Nevdeep Bisla, David Bolls, *Kevin Chang, John Domantay, *Cathy Mosbrucker, Bill Shapiro, Kelly Tracy, and *Richard Zitrin.

SSI for Children with Disabilities Project
Georgia Burke and Lynne Hirata.

Consumer/Low-Income Tax/Wills Projects
*Hilary Achterkirchen, Anthony L. Critchlow, David Gibson, *Yosef Peretz, Ed Perry, and Tony Rothschild.

Social Services
Judi Iranyi.

*Indicates a volunteer who has accepted more than one case during the past month

Double Your Impact-Donate!

In 2002, VLSP continued to provide free legal and social assistance to over 21,000 San Franciscans at a value of over $13 million. Every contribution helps to change the lives our of clients in lasting ways. Please consider supporting VLSP by making a donation today.

 Volunteer Spotlight

Some people find their calling early in life and never look back. That’s how it was for Tom Hagan, Director of the Treatment Access Program for the Department of Public Health. Beginning in college, Tom’s interests gravitated toward the public sector. He has now been working in public health for more than twenty-five years, with over ten of those years at the Treatment Access Program. So, what did Tom decide to do with his free time? Volunteer at VLSP’s Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, of course!

The Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (LARC) takes place on the second Saturday of every month at the San Francisco Public Library. Each month, between seventy and one hundred low-income people flock to LARC seeking help with their legal problems. Volunteer attorneys assist clients with a wide range of legal issues, from family law to consumer law and immigration law. Every LARC client has the opportunity to meet with a volunteer attorney for a free, ten-minute consultation about his or her case. Many clients also receive referrals to the San Francisco Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service, or other local legal services providers where they can obtain further assistance.

As a social service volunteer at LARC, Tom’s role is to ensure that clients’ non-legal problems are also addressed.

To continue reading Volunteer Spotlight, click here.