Rigel Massaro Clerking for Equity in California’s Classrooms: Supporting Public Advocates’ Education Team After her second year at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, Rigel spent last summer supporting Public Advocates’ impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community education efforts towards the ultimate goal of ensuring an equal and adequate education for all California public school students. Public Advocates is a public interest law firm that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and discrimination by promoting civil rights through advocacy, litigation, and partnership with low- income communities, people of color, and immigrants. Receiving a Dan Bradley Fellowship from the Legal Aid Association of California enabled Rigel to live in the Bay Area and work as an unpaid intern without accruing more debt. At Public Advocates, Rigel created and presented a training in Spanish to a Central Valley community group interested in using the Williams settlement as a tool to remedy contaminated drinking water in local schools. As part of her work implementing the Williams settlement, Rigel used her experience as a middle school teacher to interview and document the experience of immigrant students denied permanent, credentialed teachers in their English class and switched involuntarily into electives unrelated to their academic needs. She researched and wrote legal memoranda in support of two high- profile cases currently rolling through the courts: Renee v. Spellings, a case to enforce NCLB’s “highly qualified teacher” provisions and In re Rachel L., a case addressing the rights of homeschooled children. Rigel determined whether schools in Contra Costa County had published their School Accountability Report Cards—the primary tool that parents and the public have for assessing differences in quality between schools—and drafted demand letters for districts that are failing to publish their SARCs. She also researched legal claims for potential new litigation. After attending meetings, legislative hearings, and strategy sessions, Rigel understands how this public interest law firm uses impact litigation, policy and media advocacy, and strong community partnerships to foster increased educational equity in California. Following graduation in 2009, Rigel plans to leverage her professional experiences as a teacher, leader, and advocate to pursue a career fighting for equal educational opportunities for public school students in Arizona and California. She greatly appreciates the Legal Aid Association of California and the Dan Bradley Fellowship Committee for supporting her fight for equity in California’s classrooms. Annie Pan I went to law school with the goal of making systemic change and empowering the voiceless. I have always wanted to work at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, an organization with the mission “to advocate civil rights, provide legal services and education and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Pacific Americans and to create a more equitable and harmonious society,” because I deeply believe in its mission and it represents a place at which I envision myself working as an attorney after law school. The Dan Bradley Fellowship made it possible for me to take a summer clerkship at the Impact Litigation Unit of APALC this year. I spent the first of my summer at APALC working on a housing case involving four low-income Koreatown tenants whose landlords sought to make money from the “condo boom” by converting their 12-unit apartments to condominiums. Without providing advance notice, the landlords tore out ceilings, walls and doors, and removed bathroom and kitchen fixtures. For seven months, the landlords entered the tenants’ apartments at any time of day, on weekends and holidays, without warning and without knocking. The tenants were subject to horrible living conditions, including exposed electrical wires everywhere, unbearable amounts dust and no water for cooking, while the landlords continued to collect full rent from the tenants. With only two weeks away from trial, I immediate delve into the case when I started my summer clerkship. I assisted with the attorneys with the trial brief, witness preparation, and other trial preparation. My involvement in pre-trial matters included writing memoranda regarding defectively pled defenses and principal-agency liability, summarizing witness depositions, researching the elements of defenses, researching on civil procedure, and drafting direct examination questions for a co-defendant. I also participated in various meetings and settlement negotiations. My suggestion was incorporated into one of the counteroffers to the defendants during mediation. The case proceeded to trial at the end of May. I brainstormed with the attorneys on last minute trial strategies and provided feedback on trial progress. Since the trial was bifurcated, I wrote a memorandum regarding the procedure and requirements of Phase II. After a six-day trial, I assisted with post-trial motions and wrote part of a brief. At the end, our clients won a total judgment of over $572,000. In the latter half of my summer at APALC, I worked on several potential cases important to the public interest. I researched and drafted memoranda regarding the California Unfair Competition Law, immigrant healthcare access, and the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act. I also participated in meetings with the attorneys on case selection. My summer experience at APALC was challenging, invaluable, and rewarding. I was given the opportunity to see how impact litigation works from within. I saw the many different phases of litigation ranging from case selection to post-trial motions. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about civil rights litigation, I also found incredible mentors at APALC. My summer would not have been possible without the support of the Dan Bradley Fellowship and I am extremely grateful to be a recipient. Eve Epstein Prior to entering law school I knew that I wanted to practice family law. As a queer activist, I was very conscious of the problematic history of the field in reinforcing normative family structures. I saw my fellowship at the Senior Legal Hotline’s Grandparent Project as a unique opportunity to assist clients who fall out of that structure. Perhaps naïvely, I thought the largest hurdle in filing petitions for guardianship and adoption would be either suspending or terminating parental rights. My assumption was that the courts would try to preserve the immediate family as much as possible regardless of race or ethnicity. In actuality, I experienced that the court was committed to maintaining white families, but less invested in preserving black families. This gross inconsistency spoke to the court’s racialized conception of a healthy and stable family. Most of the grandparents I assisted were women in their late 40’s and greatgrandparents in their 60’s. They were predominately low-income women of color. By the time most of these women sought guardianship or adoption, their grandchildren or greatgrandchildren were already in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). The majority of the social workers with whom I spoke were too busy to return my calls or respond to my letters. One case which illustrates the court’s disregard for preserving the family of origin involved a great-grandmother who wanted to adopt her greatgranddaughter. The child was living with her father’s female partner. The child’s father was incarcerated and she had been abandoned by her mother several years ago. While filing a petition for guardianship, my client and I discovered that the female partner had obtained guardianship without providing notice to the rest of the family. With the assistance of Child Protective Services, the partner had provided false or misleading statements about the family in her petition. Nonetheless, guardianship was granted. Despite consistently seeking assistance from the guardianship social worker and CPS ombudsperson involved in the case, my client and I encountered deliberate obfuscation of the details of the case. I have witnessed flagrant violations of due process and overt instances of institutional racism. My time with the Senior Legal Hotline reinforced the importance of being a culturally sensitive and socially conscious family law attorney. The Dan Bradley Fellowship was an invaluable opportunity to develop as an activist and to learn how to work within an often dysfunctional system. Although I was not successful in all of my cases, I was able to reach multiple communities that are largely ignored within family law. My fellowship only lasted a summer, but this experience will contribute to a lifelong commitment to changing the face of the field.
Pages to are hidden for
"Equity Apartments and Arizona - DOC"Please download to view full document