One voice alone can’t paint the picture of the tireless work legal aid attorneys are doing to ensure that all Oregonians have their most critical legal needs met. Today we highlight the work of Joe Fichter, a staff attorney at the Center for NonProfit Legal Services in Medford, Oregon. Since the wildfires started, Joe has also been the wildfire point person for legal aid work in Southern Oregon.
The Campaign for Equal Justice is grateful to Joe for taking the time to share some of his story with us.
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.