Legal Services of Northern California: History
The history of LSNC begins in 1956 with the creation of Sacramento Legal Aid Society through the efforts of the following prominent members of the Sacramento bar: Jack Downey of Downey Brand; Bruce Allen of McDonough Holland and Allen; Nat Colley; and Archie Mull. (Efforts to sponsor a legal aid program earlier, in 1953, had been defeated by a vote of 22 to 19 by the Sacramento Bar Association.)
1956 – Articles of Incorporation filed with Secretary of State for the creation of the Legal Aid Society of Sacramento County. Received $9,000 from the United Way of Sacramento and $3,000 from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association to staff a non-attorney social worker named Dorothy Littlefield (Director), and a part-time attorney (later President) named John Carson. Dorothy Littlefield remained the Director until 1965, when she retired, and Clarence Brown became the first attorney-director.
1957 – First program office opens in two rooms in the Ochsner building at 719 K Street. A drive is begun to recruit a pro bono panel of lawyers to be operated along with the Lawyers Referral Service. Fifty applications are received for the Lawyer Referral Service. Applicants are required to contribute pro bono time in lieu of a $15 yearly fee for Lawyer Referral membership. The Sacramento County Bar Association makes its first donation to the program in the amount of $300. The Legal Aid Society of Sacramento County closes the year having provided assistance to 2,856 low- income clients.
1958 - With the agreement of the Sacramento County Bar Association, the minimum Lawyer Referral Service consultation fee is raised to $7.50, of which $1 supports the program. In addition, 10 percent of any lawyer’s fee over $25 is returned to the program. Sacramento County Bar Association donates $700 to the program to help defray the cost of the Lawyer Referral Service.
1959 – The first list of Case Acceptance Priorities is adopted.
1961 – A Law Student clinical program is begun in conjunction with McGeorge School of Law.
1964 – A total budget of $24,925 for the Legal Aid Society is adopted. The amount includes $20,925 from United Way of Sacramento and $4,000 in fees from the Lawyer Referral Service program. Lawyer Referral Service fees increase from $7.50 to $10 for first consultation.
1965 – As part of the War on Poverty, the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington provides an annual grant to Sacramento of $100,000, the first financial support from the federal government. This allows for the first major expansion of services. Robert K. Puglia (later a Justice of the Third District Court of Appeal) is appointed to the board and serves as Board President. Dorothy Littlefield resigns her position as Executive Director after 10 years. Clarence Brown is named as the first attorney Executive Director of the program. The Society opens offices in Oak Park at 3220 ½ Fifth Avenue, and Del Paso Heights at 3806 Fig Street.
1967 – The downtown office in Sacramento is moved for the first time from the Ochsner Building to 901 F Street. The first office in Woodland opens after great controversy with the Yolo County Bar. District Attorney (later Superior Court Judge) Harry Ackley successfully defends the program at Yolo County Bar debate over free legal services to poor people.
1968 – David M. Blicker is hired as Executive Director. The Oak Park office is moved to 3258 Fifth Avenue and the Del Paso office is relocated to 1542 Grand Avenue. Total program budget grows to $164,202, including $137,822 from the Office of Economic Opportunity, and $26,380 from United Way of Sacramento.
1969 – At the request of the Sacramento County Bar Association, the Lawyer Referral Services program is transferred to the bar offices.
1971 – The downtown Sacramento office is relocated to 920 9th Street. Loren Mitchell is hired as Executive Director. Randone v. Appellate Department, the first program case brought to the California Supreme Court, is won. Randone struck down a statute which authorized prejudgment attachment.
1973 – The Woodland office is relocated to 517 2nd Avenue (St. Luke’s Parish). Allen Fields, a board member, is appointed to the Sacramento Municipal Court. The budget for the program is approximately $400,000.
1974 – Roger Warren is named Executive Director. A summer student intern program is begun for the first time. A bill establishing the Legal Services Corporation, an independent body to provide federal funding to local civil legal services programs nation wide, is passed by Congress and signed by Richard Nixon.
1975 – In Re Lisa R. is decided by the California Supreme Court. It successfully establishes jurisdiction in juvenile court to determine paternity and gives natural fathers standing to offer evidence of paternity. Gee v Brown is decided by the California Supreme Court, establishing that prison inmates have a right to appointment of counsel at parole revocation hearings. Downtown Sacramento office is relocated to 1235 H Street. The Del Paso Office is closed. First priority setting session involving client input is held. The program receives Older Americans Act funding to provide services to elderly citizens in Placer County, the first expansion of services outside Yolo and Sacramento counties.
1976 – Roger Warren resigns to accept a judicial appointment. Donald Griesmann is named Executive Director.
1977 – Board decides to merge with Butte County Legal Services, which had been providing legal services in Butte County since 1973, and purchases a Chico residence at 541 Normal Street for its first permanent location.
1979 – The Placer County office begins the Lawyers Referral Service for that county. The program changes its name from Legal Aid Society of Sacramento to Legal Services of Northern California, to reflect its broader geographical reach.
1980 – Board decides to merge with Shasta County Legal Aid Society to provide services in Shasta County. In addition, services are expanded to Trinity, Modoc, Siskiyou, Lassen, Amador, Calaveras, Sierra, Nevada, El Dorado, Plumas, Glenn, and Tehama counties with money from the Legal Services Corporation.
1981 – Woods v. Superior Court is decided by the California Supreme Court, allowing people to challenge welfare regulations in a fair hearing and by administrative mandamus. The Woodland office is relocated to 933 Court Street. The downtown Sacramento office is relocated to 712 12th Street. President Reagan slashes LSC budget 25%, Oak Park office is closed, but LSNC manages to avoid layoffs through voluntary reductions in staff time.
1982 – With the support of the Sacramento County Bar, the program takes over the Volunteer Legal Services Program in Sacramento County and successfully implements similar programs in its other four offices. People v. Sims (amicus) is decided by the California Supreme Court, successfully establishing that a favorable welfare hearing decision may collaterally estop a subsequent criminal prosecution for welfare fraud. Folsom v. Butte County Assn. of Govts. is decided by the California Supreme Court, holding that non-profit law firms may be awarded attorneys’ fees under the state’s private attorney general statute.
1983 – Roberta Ranstrom is appointed Acting Executive Director. Welfare Rights Organization v. Crisan is decided by the state Supreme Court, successfully establishing that the communications between a non-attorney representative and a client in preparation for a fair hearing are privileged. Federal district court approves decree after six years of litigation in Hedrick v. Marchand, a Title VII class action filed against Yolo County, providing for the county’s adoption of an affirmative action program to remedy discriminatory employment practices.
1984 – First program all-staff retreat held at Lake Shasta. Victor Geminiani named as Executive Director. Settlement reached in Parsons v. Nunes, providing for improved conditions for female prisoners and detainees in Placer County jail. Staff votes to become a unionized program.
1985 – The program receives State Bar Client Trust Fund revenues for the first time for services to its 17 counties. Four Regional Counsel positions are created. Robbins v. County of Sacramento is decided by the California Supreme Court, successfully challenging the provision of General Assistance through the establishment of a poor house in Sacramento County. Fandrich v. Amador County is settled in federal court, bringing county’s General Assistance program into compliance with California law. A more extensive summer intern program is begun to aid in minority recruitment. Older Americans Act funding is received to provide services to senior citizens in Butte, Plumas, Glenn, Tehama, and Colusa counties (Colusa County served only by these “senior” funds).
1986 – LSNC’s Voluntary Legal Services Program is separately incorporated in order to enhance funding opportunities. The program budget is approximately $2.4 million. Program receives first IOLTA funds. The Auburn office is relocated to its permanent site at 190 Reamer Street in a newly purchased office. Renovation is completed at newly purchased Sacramento County office at 515-12th Street, reducing space costs by two-thirds. The program celebrates its 30th anniversary as a legal services program providing free legal services to low-income clients.
1987 – LSNC is successful in several General Assistance cases: Moore v. County of Yolo I (residency requirement); Moore v. County of Yolo II (durational residency requirement); Shafer v. County of Nevada (grant level); Harrison v. County of Butte (sanctions); Hart v. County of Plumas (grant level and counting food stamps as General Assistance); Steward v. County of Butte (less than minimum wage for work project.) Gillanders v. Smith is settled in federal court, precluding owners of a federally subsidized apartment project from eliminating low-income units by pre-payment of FMHA mortgage loan. Case becomes catalyst for congressional restrictions on loan prepayment efforts.
1988 – LSNC attorney Carole Grossman argues Brown v. Yuckert in the U.S. Supreme Court. This case forces the Social Security Administration to apply the “severity” impairment rulings and regulations as a de minimis test. Paralegal Anne Gayles receives Legal Aid Association of California award for Outstanding Legal Services Staff Person in California. HUD withdraws “alien rule” as a result of Yolano-Donnelly Tenant Assn. v. Pierce, a nationwide class action suit. Families no longer must choose between subsidized housing and keeping families intact. Noble v. Placer County consent decree is approved in Superior Court, requiring county to provide dental services for poor persons consistent with Medi-Cal services until lawful study of indigent population’s dental needs is conducted. Mills v. Employment Development Department is settled in Shasta County Superior Court establishing due process rights for recipients of State Disability Insurance. LSNC prevents elimination of county pre-natal services for low-income women through injunction and settlement in Jackson v. County of Yolo. Voluntary Legal Services Program creates two specialty panels, an Elder Law Panel, and in conjunction with the Sacramento AIDS Legal Referral Panel, a panel to serve AIDS and HIV positive clients. Staff chooses “Education” as program goal for 1989. Gary Smith hired as Managing Attorney in the Yolo County office.
1989 – Lentz v. McMahon is decided by the state Supreme Court requiring the Department of Social Services to apply principles of equitable estoppel. Briggs v. Sullivan is decided by the Ninth Circuit enjoining the Secretary of Health and Human Services from suspending benefits to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients who are unable to obtain representative payees. In Cervantez v. Sullivan the federal district court issues a circuit-wide injunction against the counting of garnished income for SSI eligibility purposes. California Court of Appeal publishes Cooke v. Butte County Board of Supervisors, requiring county to provide a “humane” level of dental services for indigent county residents, and establishing that important provisions of the Welfare and Institutions Code apply to adult dental services. U.S. District Court issues preliminary injunction in Hunt v. Kizer, requiring state to count pre-application medical debts to meet Medi-Cal share of cost.
1990 – The California Supreme Court dismisses its review of Poverty Resistance Center v. Hart and Guidotti v. Yolo County and orders the publishing of the court of appeal decisions. These decisions state that General Assistance grant level must be based on realistic surveys of subsistence costs and recipients’ actual circumstances. Staff chooses “Improving the Delivery of Services to Clients” as the program goal for 1991. VLSP in conjunction with the Asian Bar Association of Sacramento (ABAS) initiates an Asian/Pacific Island Pro Bono Panel. State Court of Appeal upholds injunction in Crespin v. Kizer, prohibiting counties from inquiring into immigration status of applicants for emergency or pregnancy related Medi-Cal services. U.S. District Court publishes summary judgement decision in Clark v. Coye, which is first opinion in history of Medicaid program to find a state in violation of “equal access” duty to enlist sufficient providers for Medi-Cal recipients. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals publishes Albalos v. Sullivan, establishing important principles governing evaluation of claimants’ testimony in Social Security cases. In the en banc proceedings of Boyes v. Sullivan, Chief Judge of Ninth Circuit appoints LSNC attorney Gary Smith to brief and argue important issues of medical evidence evaluation in disability cases; in response to LSNC briefs, Secretary confesses error and awards benefits to claimant. Brian Paddock, LSNC Regional Counsel, receives the prestigious National Legal Aid & Defender Association Reginald Heber Smith Award.
1991 – VLSP in conjunction with the Legal Assistance for Women (LAW) initiates a Family Law Advisory Committee to develop and staff clinics on family law issues and take individual cases as appropriate. LSNC introduces California’s first legal aid hotline for seniors with funding from Area 4 Agency on Aging for Sacramento County. Total program budget is now $3 million. Celebration of LSNC’s 35th anniversary and VLSP’s 10th anniversary. VLSP in conjunction with Vietnam Veterans of California initiates the first Veterans Pro Bono Panel in the country to provide service to veterans from all U.S. conflicts. Federal court issues injunction requiring state compliance with federal nursing home reform law in Valdivia v. Kizer. LSNC plays crucial role as coordinating amicus counsel to win published decision from en banc Ninth Circuit in Bunnell v. Sullivan, establishing important favorable standards governing evaluation of pain testimony in disability cases. In the first of what will be a decade of pioneering litigation in the areas of affordable housing preservation and development, Dave Jones and the Yolo office obtain a judgment for 88 replacement housing units in Wolfington v. Redevelopment Agency of West Sacramento.
1992 - LSNC buys and rehabilitates building at 517 12th Street to house the Executive Office, VLSP and other projects. LSNC receives long-term care ombudsman grant from A4AA and launches Ombudsman Services of Northern California. Consent decree finalized in Windley v. McMahon, establishing statewide due process rights in hearings in workfare program. Roe v. Richter settled ensuring access to General Assistance for mentally ill homeless persons in Sacramento and providing mental health workers to help them through the system. Ninth Circuit publishes Barnes v. Healy, affirming due process rights for custodial parents in state’s child support enforcement activities.
1993 – LSNC receives grant from California Department of Rehabilitation and begins the Client Assistance Project. Auburn Office opens satellite offices in Grass Valley and South Lake Tahoe. Shasta Superior Court issues judgement in Goodrich v. Board of Supervisors, requiring county study prior to reductions in indigent health care services. California Court of Appeal publishes Garcia v. County of Yolo, prohibiting “imputing” of earned income to AFDC parents in child support cases. U.S. Supreme Court decides Shalala v. Schaefer in favor of disabled plaintiff, interpreting Social Security and Equal Access to Justice Acts; LSNC serves as lead counsel for numerous amici. On remand from Ninth Circuit, federal district court again strikes down policy counting “garnished income” toward SSI eligibility in Cervantez v. Sullivan. In response to LSNC advocacy, U.S. Congress enacts exemption for state and local relocation assistance benefits from SSI income consideration. Ninth Circuit publishes decision in Jones v. Shalala, preventing the “triple-counting” of SSI applicants’ income in determining eligibility.
1994 – Executive Director Victor Geminiani leaves to become director of legal services in Hawaii. Roberta Ranstrom named interim executive director. LSNC receives an Administration on Aging grant for a Senior Hotline covering 39 counties in Northern California. Federal court approves nationwide relief in Taylor v. Shalala, making it easier for SSI recipients with unmarketable real property to obtain benefits. State Department of Education upholds order requiring Esparto School District to comply with federal and state bilingual education requirements. Ground-breaking inclusionary housing policies, requiring that a percentage of all new development be set aside for low-income housing, are negotiated in Davis, Woodland, and Yolo County. Yolo staff also settle Michel v. City of Winters, providing for inclusionary policy in that city as well.
1995 – Legal Services of Solano County merges with LSNC and becomes the Solano County Office of Legal Services of Northern California. Sawyer v. Anderson is settled in federal district court, requiring temporary disability benefits to be treated more favorably for AFDC households. Matzen v. Lincoln, Coleman v. Sacramento County, and Winterhawk v. City of Benecia are settled, providing for vastly increased affordable housing opportunities, and the eventual construction of thousands of new affordable units, in three LSNC service areas. Gary Smith of LSNC named Outstanding Attorney of 1995 by Legal Aid Association of California. Consent decree approved in Hewes v. Shasta County, providing for increased GA benefits for recipients in shared housing.
1996 – Congress imposes new restrictions on types of cases and decreases funding for Legal Services Corporation. LSC cuts funds 30% and imposes severe substantive restrictions including prohibition of attorneys’ fees, lobbying, class actions, service to undocumented persons, and actions against “welfare reform.” LSNC Board approves start-up funds for new, non-LSC non-profit law firm (Northern California Lawyers for Civil Justice); six LSNC staff leave to join NCLCJ. Board approves Director of Development position. Board of Directors hires Roberta Ranstrom as Executive Director. Consent decree approved in Feller v. Lassen County, bringing GA grants into conformity with state law. Ninth Circuit publishes Lopez v. Espy, enforcing Food Stamp recipients’ rights to prompt restoration of all underpaid benefits. Yolo Superior Court approves settlement in Cline v. City of West Sacramento, providing for 140 new units of affordable housing and relocation benefits for 95 persons displaced by redevelopment. LSNC launches new initiative with its “Welfare to Work” Employment Issues Conference. Solano County Office moves to more accessible and habitable quarters. With the Center for Health Care Rights, LSNC begins a pilot ombudsman program for managed care recipients, the Health Rights Hotline, to do advocacy and policy work on managed care issues.
1997 – LSNC, four other legal services programs, and one individual plaintiff, Gary Smith, sue the Legal Services Corporation over the extension of the restrictions to non-LSC funds. Federal district court invalidates the restrictions as unconstitutional, and enjoins their application for nearly half a year. LSNC serves on the team of counsel which successfully defends Loaves and Fishes, Sacramento’s premier non-profit organization for the homeless and hungry, against the city’s efforts to close its feeding programs. Brian Lawlor, LSNC Regional Counsel and Webmaster, creates the LSNC website (www.lsnc.net) which quickly becomes the premier poverty law website in the country.
1998 – In Poladyan v. Davis, Sacramento Superior Court enjoins county “home visit” policy for all welfare applicants as violative of the Fourth Amendment. Continuing a collaboration that began in 1994, Bill Kennedy, Managing Attorney of the Sacramento office, solidifies a partnership with the Sacramento Valley Organizing Community, a grass-roots community organization, and receives substantial funding from the California Endowment for a variety of economic development projects. Over the next two years, with LSNC as counsel, SVOC in three counties creates affordable multi-family and home ownership housing; establishes Individual Development Accounts for tenants; creates job cooperatives, child care centers, and welfare-to-work “one stop” centers; microlending/microenterprise businesses; and citizenship programs for immigrants. Community development work becomes a significant new priority for LSNC. At year’s end, Mike Bush retires from LSNC after more than two decades of service to the clients of the Butte Regional Office.
1999 – Redwood Legal Assistance merges with LSNC and becomes Redwood Regional office of LSNC, serving Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, and Lake counties, with offices in Eureka and Ukiah. Roberta Ranstrom retires after 26 years of service with LSNC and the Board of Directors hires Gary Smith as Executive Director. Settlement of Lopez v. Espy food stamp case provides $2.3 million to California food banks. Court of Appeal affirms the affordable housing victories and attorneys’ fee awards in Winterhawk v. City of Benicia. Solano office also settles Buchongo v. Redevelopment Agency of Vallejo, providing for 425 replacement housing units in Vallejo. The Senior Legal Hotline expands after receiving increased AOA funding, and now serves 41 counties. State of California establishes Equal Access Fund of $10 million; LSNC uses Equal Access funds to hire a second Regional Counsel, Mona Tawatao, and LSNC receives two Equal Access court-based “partnership” grants. LSNC hosts a Community Economic Development conference with other legal services programs engaged in significant CED work. Mark Sawyer is hired as LSNC’s first Manager of Information and Technology. 1999 All Staff Meeting launches themes of regionalism and collaboration with community-based organizations.
2000 – The current program budget totals over $6 million. With expanded state and federal funding, Ombudsman Services of Northern California increases staff and moves to new offices in West Sacramento. Court victory and subsequent settlement in Lomeli v. Saenz results in substantial statewide relief for innocent recipients of Food Stamp overpayments. The Health Rights Hotline receives renewed funding, and establishes itself as a significant statewide influence on managed care policy. LSNC advocates, led by Chico staff, prevent foreclosure and preserve a 94-unit affordable housing development in Red Bluff. In Redding, LSNC wins jury trial and obtains broad injunctive relief against fraudulent “legal aid” entity. In Sacramento, LSNC advocacy helps persuade the City Council to adopt an inclusionary housing ordinance which will mandate that 15% of all new housing be affordable to low and very low income households.
2001 – In one of the first successful suits of its kind in the country, LSNC wins federal court injunction preventing owners of hundreds of low-income apartment units from “opting out” of federal subsidy programs. VLSP celebrates its 20th anniversary, and Vicki Jacobs, long-time pro bono supporter, is hired as Managing Attorney of VLSP. In the Hallfeldt case, LSNC wins writ of mandate prohibiting City of Folsom from further development until it complies with state housing element requirements. Successful, innovative court-based clinics continue in Sacramento (through VLSP), Butte, and the Mother Lode. The Health Rights Hotline wins a national award for its efforts to bring accountability to the managed care system. As a result of LSNC advocacy, homeless assistance centers are approved in Chico and Eureka. Significant improvements in CalWORKs policies result from victories in Kehrer, Joyce, and Skeyko cases. Tenants move into eighty-eight new Yolo County housing units built as a result of the Lighthouse Marina litigation. OSNC’s long-term care advocacy expands to Solano County. The Senior Legal Hotline leads efforts to begin statewide coordination of senior legal services. In Dixon, LSNC facilitates the first home purchase in the nation accomplished under the Section 8 Home Ownership program. Under a five year grant from the Social Security Administration, LSNC launches its 19 county Work Incentive Education Project. LSNC’s Redding office is named Shasta County’s “Outstanding Non-Profit Agency of the Year.” In May, LSNC is honored (by State Treasurer Phil Angelides, among others), at the celebration of its forty-fifth anniversary.
2002 – LSNC receives national media attention after taking the lead in preventing the sudden, mass evictions of hundreds of families in Sacramento and Placer Counties by a single developer/ landlord; the Kawamoto advocacy also provides impetus for new state law providing renters with 60 (rather than 30) days notice in”no cause” evictions. Under a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, LSNC creates a model “Fair Housing Hotline,” operated out of the Yolo office. OSNC receives the Performance Excellence Award from the California Council for Excellence. Court of Appeal publishes decision in Fry v. Saenz, preventing termination of welfare benefits to certain categories of disabled children. After week-long on-site review, Legal Services Corporation issues report praising LSNC for its excellent delivery systems and strong regulatory compliance. Bill Kennedy and John Davis conclude years of advocacy on behalf of Cottage Housing, Inc., winning approval for over 100 transitional housing units and supportive services on site of former Air Force base in Sacramento. The County of Sacramento awards LSNC a grant to advocate for disabled children in foster care system. LSNC hires two managers with national legal services reputations, Bob Stalker (Managing Attorney in Solano) and Jodie Berger (Regional Counsel for Welfare and Public Benefits).
2003 – The Health Rights Hotline receives a new three year grant from the California Endowment to continue its client services and policy work. Court of Appeal publishes favorable decision in Brockey v. Moore, upholding trial victory obtained by LSNC in Redding against “phony legal aid” agency. The Mother Lode office thwarts efforts to close a non-profit agency serving persons with disabilities in Auburn. In yet another litigation victory for the “preservation” of affordable housing, LSNC advocates prevent the conversion to market rate of 100 units in the College Gardens case; Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao receives national recognition for her work in this field. LSNC’s Eureka office intervenes in effort to prevent draconian changes to General Relief in Humboldt County. Long-time staff attorney Evanne O’Donnell is hired as Managing Attorney of the Butte Regional Office, which convenes a series of successful community legal education events on both seniors and welfare issues. Senior Legal Hotline receives new three-year federal funding to expand its services throughout California. The WIEP, CAP, and SSI-Foster Care programs are brought together as LSNC’s revitalized Disability and Employment Rights Advocacy project. A program-wide “Education Summit” provides training on a wide variety of issues affecting students and parents. Attorney General Bill Lockyer congratulates LSNC for its on-going work and mission, and for several successful collaborations with the Department of Justice. VLSP Managing Attorney Vicki Jacobs receives the Community Service Award from Women Lawyers of Sacramento (WLS). Regional Counsel Brian Lawlor is recognized for his state-wide advocacy in connection with the new Electronic Benefits Transfer system for welfare and Food Stamps. Executive Director Gary Smith is elected President of the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Association of California, the state-wide membership organization representing more than 50 public interest and legal services agencies on state “justice community” issues. At the All Staff Conference in October, LSNC Board President Kevin Johnson, Professor of Civil Rights and Immigration Law at UC Davis King Hall School of Law, delivers keynote address challenging LSNC to consider issues of “race and place” in its approach to client service and policy advocacy. And it was a banner year for LSNC contributions to the Clearinghouse Review, the principal national journal of poverty law published by the National Center on Poverty Law, with articles authored by four LSNC staffers and two Board members.
2004 – LSNC launches a new initiative to improve its outreach to underserved clients, and to sharpen its advocacy focus on race-based inequities, with the use of new Geographic Information System mapping technology. The Shasta Regional Office is awarded a Partnership Grant from the Equal Access Fund to assist pro per litigants in Shasta County, and also is awarded the county’s Small Claims Advisor contract. LSNC’s first “Run Valentine Run” fundraising event is a huge success with more than l,l00 participants. The Health Rights Hotline receives additional funding to increase its outreach to underserved communities, and the Senior Legal Hotline continues its ambitious efforts to create a state-wide hotline for seniors. Mother Lode advocates help win a published victory in the Court of Appeal, supporting a city’s efforts to encourage affordable housing development. The Butte Regional Office begins community-building with the growing Hmong population in Chico, and staff paralegal Laurel Blankinship was honored as a “Local Hero” for her advocacy. VLSP receives a large cy pres award to fund a bankruptcy clinic. The Fair Housing Project, based in the Yolo office, receives renewed funding to expand its services in multiple counties. Successful federal litigation brought by Redwood attorney Andy Rossoff, and assisted by co-counsel AARP Foundation, challenging an unlawful model lease used in the federally subsidized Rural Development housing program, results in a settlement benefitting 3,500 low-income seniors and tenants with disabilities throughout the state. After years of multi-forum advocacy by LSNC, including two rounds of litigation which successfully challenged the county’s housing element, Sacramento County adopts one of the most progressive land use policies in the nation, including an inclusionary provision requiring that 3% of new housing be affordable to “extremely low income” families. Gary Smith serves as a principal contributing editor for national publication of the Federal Practice Manual for Legal Aid Attorneys. Regional Counsel Jodie Berger is recognized as Western Center on Law and Poverty’s Outstanding Community Advocate for 2004. Sadly, LSNC mourns the death of LSNC advocate and former Managing Attorney Coleen Jarvis of Chico. And William E. “Willie” Hunter retires after 26 years as Director of Finance and Administration.
2005 – LSNC alumnus Dave Jones becomes Chair of the California Assembly Judiciary Committee, and shines a spotlight on issue of access to justice for the poor. The Butte Regional Office receives a Partnership Grant from the Equal Access Fund to launch an innovative landlord-tenant mediation project, and the Mother Lode Office obtains foundation funding to sustain its successful court-based clinic in Placer County. The nine county Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) is awarded to LSNC, and begins operations July 1st; over the next six months, LSNC’s health and seniors programs provide assistance to thousands of clients on issues concerning the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program. LSNC’s land use advocacy continues throughout the service area, with a successful litigation challenge to the Mendocino County housing element, and a new lawsuit filed in Solano County. In Humboldt County, the first low-income homeowners move into new homes developed by the Humboldt Bay Housing Development Corporation. The Shasta Regional office wins substantial relocation benefits for displaced mobilehome tenants. The Butte office receives state-wide attention for successfully preventing a disabled senior from losing his home, after his homeowner’s association foreclosed over a $123 delinquency in association dues. LSNC clients intervene, along with the Attorney General, in litigation brought by developers to challenge Sacramento County low-income housing policy. The Senior Legal Hotline continues to expand, as it begins serving clients in southern California, and the Health Rights Hotline begins an innovative Hmong Outreach Project. In Sacramento, staff attorney Tammi Wong receives the Unity Bar Association’s Community Service Award for her work with at-risk youth in Sacramento schools, and with newly arrived Hmong refugee children. Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao receives the Legal Aid Association of California’s 2005 award for the Outstanding Legal Services Attorney in the state. At the LSNC All Staff Conference in Los Gatos, keynote speaker Eva Paterson of the Equal Justice Society congratulates LSNC for its continuing innovative work in race and poverty advocacy. Jackie Porter, Paralegal, Secretary, Office Manager, and Executive Secretary, retires after 17 years of service to LSNC.
2006 – LSNC celebrates its 50th anniversary with a gala evening in Sacramento keynoted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, and with local office events throughout the year (including a memorable dinner in Chico attended by many Butte Region LSNC alumni). The Board’s 50th Anniversary Endowment Campaign raises over $50,000. LSNC finalizes purchase of its office building in Redding, bringing the total of LSNC-owned offices to eight. LSNC wins dismissal of building industry challenge to Sacramento’s progressive inclusionary ordinance, and case moves to court of appeal. Innovative court-based pro per clinics continue to flourish in Mother Lode, Solano, Butte, Mendocino, and Shasta regions. Ukiah staff support adoption of ordinance providing relocation assistance to displaced tenants in Mendocino County. Auburn office wins injunction against harassment of seniors by apartment manager. Shasta office sponsors successful region-wide fair housing event. On behalf of the Legal Aid Association of California, Gary Smith serves as lead amicus counsel in two important California Supreme Court victories: Frye v. Tenderloin Housing Clinic, precluding harsh regulation of non-profit law firms, and People v. Garcia, reaffirming collateral estoppel defense to welfare fraud prosecutions. (In the case of Ms. Garcia, a LSNC client, the critical legal work was done by Butte advocates Laurel Blankinship and Evanne O’Donnell at the administrative agency and trial court levels.) Regional Counsel Jodie Berger’s model of “cooperative” administrative welfare advocacy receives national recognition. LSNC’s technology takes yet another quantum leap forward, under the leadership of Brian Lawlor, Mark Sawyer, and the Office Managers, with roll-out of the PIKA case management system. The Yolo office successfully defends a senior public housing resident member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners against a retaliatory eviction brought by the Authority because of his outspoken criticism of Board policies. Staff attorney Valerie Feldman and Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao receive awards from the Community Reinvestment Coalition for their work in housing preservation. Staff attorney Sofia Sarabia wins award from the Sacramento City Council for her work in the Westerner mobile home park case. Managing Attorney Bob Stalker is elected President of the Solano County Bar Association. Two LSNC volunteer attorneys – John Davis of Sacramento, and Joe Montoya of Senior Legal Hotline – receive distinguished pro bono awards. Senior Legal Hotline loses substantial revenue, and WIEP program is terminated, as a result of restructured federal grant processes. Julie Aguilar Rogado sets record for management versatility by providing legal supervision to CAP, HRH, WIEP, HICAP, and VLSP – all in the same year. Anne Gayles, senior paralegal, retires after 30 years of service to the Yolo and Sacramento communities. LSNC’s Race Equity Project (REP) extends into the rural service areas and launches innovative web page for legal services advocates engaged in race and poverty work. LSNC once again closes more cases (15,000) than any other LSC program in California; OSNC, HRH, CAP, HICAP and SLH close over 19,000 additional cases. Legal Services Corporation praises LSNC as “a program of such extraordinary vision and skill, where justice is so earnestly sought, and where the highest values of poverty law abide without compromise.”
2007 – LSNC receives national recognition for its leadership in creating a new “Race Equity” training track at the National Legal Aid and Defender (NLADA) Substantive Law Conference. Darryll Alvey is hired as Managing Attorney in the Shasta Regional Office, and helps LSNC acquire a substantial Area Agency on Aging grant for senior legal advocacy, HICAP, and ombudsman services. The Voluntary Legal Services Program opens a new Self-Help Center in the Sacramento Superior Court, serving 600 clients per month, and LSNC is awarded (or re-awarded) Equal Access Partnership grants for court-based services in Mendocino, Butte, Solano, and Shasta counties as well. Julie Aguilar Rogato is hired as Program Manager at the Health Rights Hotline, and joins Jodie Berger on the State Bar’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. Bob Stalker is appointed to the State Bar Ethics Committee. The Senior Legal Hotline receives a $250,000 appropriation in the state budget, and a substantial pension counseling grant as well. In Ombudsman Services of Northern California v. Superior Court, OSNC (represented by Brian Lawlor and Sacramento Staff Attorney Colin Bailey) wins a published decision of first impression from the California Court of Appeal, upholding important statutory privileges against disclosure of long term care ombudsman program’s investigative records. Mother Lode Office wins preliminary injunction against harassment of tenants by manager of seniors apartment complexes. The (newly independent) Ukiah Regional Office continues significant land use advocacy. In Sacramento, building industry dismisses its appeal challenging county’s progressive inclusionary ordinance, with key provisions protected by LSNC’s advocacy. The Butte Regional Office takes on redevelopment and relocation rights advocacy on behalf of mobilehome park residents. Redwood Region advocates represent Housing for All, an affordable housing group advocating for land use policies of benefit to the low-income community in Humboldt County. A variety of LSNC advocates represent clients in multiple lawsuits filed against state and county agencies for failure to comply with welfare, child support, Food Stamps, and General Assistance laws; two cases challenge non-functioning aspects of new state automation systems for welfare programs. LSNC says farewell to John Gianola, who leaves the Yolo office after fifteen years as a law student, staff attorney, and Managing Attorney. Bill Kennedy is recognized by the Community Reinvestment Coalition for his community-based leadership and advocacy. Carolyn Honda of the Redwood Region receives Award of Merit from the Legal Aid Association of California for outstanding contribution by a legal services paralegal. The theme of the All Staff Conference in October is “Celebrating LSNC in Community,” and Assembly Judiciary Committee Counsel Kevin Baker is recognized for his work promoting Access to Justice in California. Under the leadership of the Judiciary Committee Chair (and LSNC alumnus) Dave Jones, state enacts AB 1723, designed to substantially increase legal services funds in the state IOLTA program. Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao is named as recipient of NLADA’s highest civil legal services honor, the Reginald Heber Smith Award.
2008 – The worsening economic recession closes legal services offices and forces staff layoffs throughout the country as IOLTA interest rates plummet. The Governor vetoes Senior Legal Hotline and OSNC state budget appropriations totaling nearly $500,000, and OSNC’s Joan Parks takes a leadership role in creating a statewide workgroup for ombudsman funding. Clients are faced with mortgage foreclosures throughout our service area; SHL saves the homes of many seniors through loan modifications and foreclosure defense, and the Butte office also engages in complex litigation (and media advocacy) to save a disabled client’s home. LSNC’s Race Equity Project spurs multi-forum environmental justice advocacy in Sacramento, as LSNC opposes the proposed storage of natural gas in caverns under a low-income community of color, and the REP also supports the Butte office’s representation of a non-profit organization in the African-American community seeking an equitable distribution of municipal services in Oroville. Significant affordable housing work continues (through litigation and legislative advocacy) throughout the service area, with very active housing element litigation in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Alysa Meyer is welcomed as Yolo’s third Managing Attorney in 20 years. The Finance Department implements new accounting, human resources, and in-house payroll systems, resulting in a quantum leap of efficiency in LSNC’s fiscal operations. Shasta consolidates its new senior programs into its main office in Redding. Solano advocates support county program to assist clients with “re-entry” issues upon release from incarceration. Julie Aguilar Rogado assumes the newly created post of Deputy Director of Program Operations, and Amy Williams is appointed Acting Managing Attorney of the Health Rights Hotline. HRH coordinates a coalition of hospitals, clinics, health systems, health care advocates, and Sacramento County officials working to improve health care services to low-income county residents. Mother Lode office calculates that it obtained or protected over $400,000 in public benefits settlements and administrative decisions for clients. SLH Emeritus Attorney Joe Montoya receives the State Bar’s Pro Bono Service Award. VLSP establishes a Pro Bono Partnership between the legal department of Intel Corporation and Orrick, Herrington law firm providing hundreds of pro bono hours representing guardians of minors in probate court. Regional Counsel Jodie Berger is named 2008′s “Outstanding Legal Services Attorney” by the Legal Aid Association of California. LSNC staff authored or co-authored four law review articles, on a variety of advocacy issues, published in the national Journal of Poverty Law and Policy (Clearinghouse Review). LSNC Board President Kevin Johnson is named Dean of UC Davis King Hall School of Law, the first Latino Dean of any University of California law school. LSNC’s Bill Kennedy (1) is named the 2008 “Board Leader of the Year” by the Sacramento Non Profit Resource Center for his work with LSNC client Cottage Housing; (2) receives an “Access to Justice” Award from the Western Center on Law and Poverty; and (3) along with Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao, is presented with the 2008 “Race Equity Award” by the Equal Justice Society of San Francisco.
2009 – The economic crisis deepens in California and across the nation. LSNC’s clients and communities are devastated by soaring job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and the evisceration of state and local “safety net” programs. The IOLTA fund plummets, and several LSNC programs (OSNC and Senior Legal Hotline) suffer severe state funding reductions. In March, the Ukiah office building is significantly damaged by a fire, forcing the relocation of staff to a rental office for the remainder of the year. Six LSNC offices (in an effort spearheaded by Bill Kennedy and Herb Whitaker) are awarded substantial grants under the federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP), for representation of tenants facing eviction. Mortgage foreclosure advocacy increases across the service area (e.g., in Solano County, with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and in Butte, with a well-publicized litigation success for a homeowner with disabilities), and particularly at SLH, which saves dozens of seniors’ homes from foreclosure, and assists hundreds of others in foreclosure avoidance strategies. LSNC land use advocacy continues, with (1) housing element successes in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Chico; (2) a beneficial settlement of a challenge by the Ukiah office to unlawful use of redevelopment funds in Clearlake; (3) approval won by the Yolo staff for the 69 unit New Harmony project in Davis; and (4) the creation of new homeownership opportunities for low-income families through the Humboldt Community Land Trust. LSNC wins substantial policy changes for tenants from housing authorities in Humboldt, Eureka, and Vallejo. LSNC represents homeless service providers in high profile advocacy in Eureka (preventing the city from evicting the provider from its offices), and in Sacramento, where LSNC client Loaves and Fishes leads a “safe ground” campaign attracting national media spotlight. LSNC’s Race Equity Project continues to play a leadership role in the national and state legal services communities through training and advocacy examining the intersections of race and poverty. The Health Rights Hotline leads advocacy successfully challenging some draconian indigent health care program reductions in Yolo and Sacramento counties, and achieves substantial policy changes on emergency ambulance care through litigation in Sacramento. Community outreach, education, and advocacy continues on a variety of issues (HRH’s Hmong Health Collaborative, and the Building Healthy Communities process in Sacramento and Del Norte; “street law” clinics in the Mother Lode; criminal records expungement in Solano and VLSP; CBO outreach and collaborations in Yolo; and community economic development initiatives promoting Earned Income Tax Credit and Individual Development Accounts in Shasta). In October, the somber theme for LSNC’s All Staff Conference is “Poverty Advocacy in the Great Recession,” with increased focus on issues such as foreclosure defense, unemployment insurance denials, and the preservation of safety net programs. AB 590, the Sargent Shriver Civil Representation Project is enacted by the legislature, with the support of the LAAC Advocacy Committee, and receives national attention as a “Civil Gideon” model. OSNC helps recover lost state funding for ombudsman programs through a $1.6 million appropriation, and (with collaborative input from LSNC advocates) is a key participant in a state Senate study and review of local program effectiveness. HICAP assists nearly 2,400 clients across its service area, and increases outreach to low-income clients as well. New Deputy Director Julie Aguilar Rogado implements significant improvements in various LSNC advocate training, case handling, and operational systems. The Intel Corporation Legal Department and Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe receive a State Bar Pro Bono Award for their guardianship/probate work with VLSP. Laurel Yorks, Butte office paralegal, receives the Peace Endeavor Award from the Chico Peace and Justice Center. The Sacramento County Bar Association President’s Award is presented to Vicki Jacobs of VLSP. Bob Stalker is named “Attorney of the Year” by the Solano County Bar Association. Martha Valles of the Sacramento office receives Legal Aid Association of California’s 2009 Award of Merit for Outstanding Advocacy by a Paralegal. As usual, LSNC advocates make significant contributions to the national community with three articles published in the Journal of Poverty Law and Policy. Having reported more closed cases to the Legal Services Corporation than any other California LSC program for many consecutive years, LSNC in 2009 closes 15,314 LSC cases, an increase of more than 2,000 from 2008. In December, a year of significant hardship for legal aid programs and clients ends on a hopeful note, as Congress rescinds the rule prohibiting Legal Services Corporation grantees from collecting statutory attorney’s fees. And Gary Smith enters his eleventh year at the helm of the organization, becoming the longest-serving Executive Director in LSNC history, surpassing the nearly ten year tenures of Dorothy Littlefield (1956-1965) and Mario Victor Geminiani (1984-1994).
2010 – In a year when the recession continued to create a new demographic of (formerly middle-class) clients, overwhelming LSNC (and VLSP) with issues involving unemployment insurance benefits, evictions, debt collections, bankruptcy, and foreclosures, the organization nevertheless celebrated some remarkable accomplishments. Litigation successes abounded. In Sacramento, the Mose eviction defense and affirmative loan modification cases succeeded in enforcing the terms of a modification agreement that restored title to the client and prevented eviction from his home; Regional Counsel Mona Tawatao’s testimony before the national Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission contributed to that successful resolution. Sacramento and Senior Legal Hotline staff obtained a monetary settlement for a victim of a predatory lending scheme in the Scherbenske case. Ukiah advocates (1) favorably settled the Coplen II litigation, enforcing state housing element requirements against the County of Mendocino, and (2) engaged in multi-forum litigation on behalf of five Native Americans disenrolled from their tribe and sued for eviction from tribal housing. In the Shasta Office, the Azzato litigation successfully enforced HUD regulations benefitting tenants, and compelled changes in the Redding Housing Authority’s administrative plan. In Eureka, the intervention of LSNC’s organizational client in housing element litigation between a developer and Humboldt County has resulted in significant increased potential for affordable housing development. In the Caderet suit, the Mother Lode staff obtained retroactive CalWORKs benefits for their client and the issuance of a state directive excluding adoption assistance from inclusion in the CalWORKs grant calculation. Deputy Director Julie Aguilar Rogado successfully settled two Food Stamp cases enforcing (1) federal notice requirements against the state, and (2) expedited benefits timelines against Sacramento County. And in Poole v. Sacramento County, a team of advocates from LSNC’s Sacramento office and the Health Rights Hotline, led by lead counsel Stacey Wittorff, obtained a TRO (and subsequently a permanent settlement) preventing draconian cuts to the county’s indigent health care program, directly benefitting over 20,000 of the county’s neediest residents.
In addition to litigation successes, LSNC’s multi-forum advocacy achieved significant benefits for thousands of low-income persons throughout our service area (and beyond it). Pre-litigation administrative advocacy by Yolo and HRH advocates prevented unlawful health care cuts in that county. The Senior Legal Hotline’s Western States Pension Assistance Project, and its housing counseling program, helped hundreds of seniors with those legal needs. The Solano County staff prevented the enactment of a Vallejo ordinance unfairly targeting (and “profiling”) residents of a low-income apartment complex; part of the advocacy included the production of an extremely effective video featuring several of the residents. Advocates of the Butte Regional Office (1) corrected the erroneous issuance of welfare overpayment collection notices to hundreds of persons, now adults, who were children when the overpayments occurred years ago; (2) provided training to a number of transitional housing providers on residents’ due process rights, after preventing one provider’s issuance of unlawful eviction notices; and (3) corrected a county Superior Court’s unlawful interpretation of the fee waiver process. In collaboration with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Ombudsman Services of Northern California launched a year-long focus on the “toxic drugging” of patients and residents of long-term care facilities. Legislative advocacy in Ukiah resulted on a Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance by the city of Ukiah, creating protections for low-income mobile home park residents. VLSP established a new Juvenile Records Sealing Project Clinic, and the Redding staff were instrumental in the establishment of the Shasta Family Justice Center, focusing upon victims of domestic violence and abuse. Regional Counsel Jodie Berger continued her leadership role in numerous state committees and working groups improving public benefits administration and language access. LSNC advocacy on behalf of homeless persons continued across the program, and especially in Humboldt and Sacramento counties, where advocates are engaged in complex structural reform efforts to assist this vulnerable population. The Yolo Office succeeded in obtaining increased funding for its senior legal services programs, and also launched an education project to assist foster care children with special education and disciplinary issues. Administrative advocacy in the Mother Lode resulted in awards, set-offs, and waivers to clients in excess of $433,000. LSNC’s unparalleled IT unit, led by Regional Counsel Brian Lawlor, completed the implementation of an upgraded, more efficient, and less costly program-wide telephone system, and continued its work on a number of innovative case-management and website improvements.
In July, LSNC had its first “Program Quality Review” from the Office of Program Performance of the Legal Services Corporation in several decades. In its glowing final report, LSC praised LSNC for its successful impact advocacy, its distinctive community lawyering model, its innovative initiatives, and its “very favorable reputation” within the client communities, the judiciary, and the bar. The LSNC Board of Directors was commended for its new fundraising initiative. In general, LSNC leadership was honored for its “sharp sense of vision and mission, and its emphasis upon excellence, innovation, and the achievement of goals and objectives.”
As usual, LSNC staff received a number of individual distinctions and recognition. Sacramento Managing Attorney Bill Kennedy received the 2010 “Repairer of the Breach Award” from Sacramento’s Repairing the Breach Neighborhood Project. The Rural Advisory Committee of the California Commission on Access to Justice, co-chaired by Mother Lode Managing Attorney Herb Whitaker, released its voluminous report, “Improving Civil Justice in Rural California.” LSNC’s ongoing Race Equity Project was honored by the selection of Mona Tawatao as panelist at the Equal Justice Society’s annual Constance Baker Motley Civil Rights presentation on “Strategic Civil Rights Advocacy.” HICAP Program Manager Margaret Reilly received an “Award of Excellence” from California Health Advocates. VLSP Managing Attorney Vicki Jacobs not only was named “Distinguished Attorney of the Year” by the Sacramento County Bar Association, but she also received the California Women Lawyers Association’s highest honor, the Fay Stender Award. And at the State Bar Annual Meeting in October, the Chief Justice of California presented the Bar’s highest public service honor, the Loren Miller Legal Services Award, to Executive Director Gary Smith.