"I was born and raised on a farm in Iowa and from the age of five, my grandmother, for whatever reason, wanted me to be a lawyer. So I went to law school.
My job today is to help people in sometimes extraordinarily dire circumstances have access to justice that is otherwise going to be denied them, primarily because of their income level, or because of their ethnicity, or because of their age.
The wildfires have significantly impacted Southern Oregon. I don't think anyone who lives here is unaffected, even if we were lucky enough to avoid having our house burned down. This has created a level of generalized trauma throughout the population.
The work that the Campaign for Equal Justice does throughout the state of Oregon means I get to focus on doing my job to help those people. I don't have to worry about how the rent is paid, or how my salary is paid. The copy machine is there and I don’t have to think about it. That's a real luxury.
I believe that whatever skill, whatever energy, whatever resource we have in this world, that it really comes into bloom by being shared. Some do it by showing up and baking cookies. Some do it by helping to pay the rent for the place where the cookies get baked. That's how we become citizens. So if you can help with paying for the place to make the cookies, I encourage you to do that.
My job in this lifetime is to try to be as helpful as I can be to my fellow humans who otherwise may not have access to legal assistance. Just being able to hear someone's story is so important. Even if we can't give them the answer, people need to be heard and learn what their options are. I think it helps give dignity to all of us.
That’s the reason I do it."
"I am a child of lawyers. My mom would bring her work home every night and read through cases with us and pretty immediately I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer too. I saw the inequality and what was happening in the justice system and it really bothered me. I knew that I wanted to do something that would be beneficial; that would bring more kindness to the world.
So I became a legal aid attorney.
After the pandemic and then the wildfires hit, the world began changing pretty dramatically. The legal aid offices here became a safe place for many of our clients because they know us through our work. Our immigrant clients reached out almost immediately because these folks had lost their jobs, were struggling, and didn’t know where to turn. They didn’t know what services they’d be eligible for, or if any of the services would affect their immigration status. Oftentimes our clients do not feel safe reaching out to social services agencies. It can be scary, but we have built trust.
Pretty immediately our work pivoted. We still were doing our legal work, but we also began helping our clients and their family members fill out applications and doing all we could to keep food on their tables and warm shelter over their heads.
One of the many reasons that I love my job is that I wake up every day feeling like I make a difference because of the work we do.
That’s the reason I do it.
Donating to CEJ means that more people across the state will have access to justice. It means I can serve more people who need a helping hand."
When I was in law school, I volunteered at a Legal Aid office. I knew then what I wanted to do. Once I passed the bar, I joined Legal Aid Services of Oregon in Roseburg and I never looked back.
Legal aid serves Oregon from 17 regional offices staffed by 108 attorneys and I am now one of those attorneys. We are the final step of recourse for a low-income Oregonian. If a tenant shouldn’t be evicted and there is a process in place trying to evict them, I show up to make the argument. I am that final step. I feel a great deal of responsibility in that.
Our work has become even more important now during this pandemic. Low-income workers, domestic violence survivors, homeless people, and farmworker communities are already under a great deal of stress, and these current circumstances don’t help. Although physical offices are closed, the 108 attorneys in this state are still working hard, and thanks to technology and perseverance, we are reaching more people than ever before.
Unfortunately for many of our clients--especially in rural areas--access to the internet is limited. So I meet them where they are. For some, that means mailing the form they need or leaving useful information in a dropbox outside my office. If it becomes necessary, I meet with my clients, masked and six feet apart, in a public park. I do all of this to make sure that justice endures.
I am lucky to work with a small, cohesive staff. Daily virtual staff meetings keep us connected, which helps me to know that the folks in my area will still have help when they need it, especially now. With the moratorium on no-cause and non-payment of rent evictions, working to make sure landlords honor the moratorium has become a large part of the work I do.
Some of our clients have lost work and are now many months behind on their rent. Sadly, there are cases where landlords are trying to get people out of their homes by turning off the utilities. This is of course illegal, so that’s where legal aid steps in to help. .
There is so much to be done and legal aid needs your support now more than ever. Knowing that we have organizations like the CEJ supporting us allows us to keep pushing into new areas of impact work that we might not have had the resources to be able to address otherwise. Work like criminal expungement that helps clean up the criminal records of people who have worked to turn over a new leaf. It feels good to help.
Legal aid helps ensure fairness in the justice system, even during a pandemic.
That’s the reason I do it."
“I am an immigrant. My family came to the U.S. from China in 1956 when I was 7 years old. We didn’t know any English.
As a young person, I saw a lot of discrimination towards people of color. I thought that if I had the legal skills, I could help people, and that's why I went to law school.
I earned my law degree in 1978. In 1985, I was appointed by Governor Vic Atiyeh to be on the State Welfare Advisory Board. I was able to help with welfare reform to make sure that vulnerable families would not be cut off unfairly. That felt right to me.
In our work with the Center for Nonprofit Legal Services in Medford, we pride ourselves on being innovative, collaborative, and able to provide comprehensive civil legal assistance. We really try to be responsive to emerging community needs and we have many families that we help. However, the immigrant communities that we work with are the most vulnerable, especially now, during the pandemic.
If it was pre-pandemic, my office would be filled with people, but we have been closed to the public since March 15th. However, we are still making sure we are there for people. Folks know that they can still get assistance from us. Even with an empty office, we are still doing the work to make sure justice endures.
Access to justice is fundamental to our democracy and I am committed to resolving poverty issues, supporting diversity, and increasing access to justice locally and statewide.
This is my life’s work. Please support the Campaign for Equal Justice.
Donating to CEJ means that I can keep protecting the interests of people who have no voice."