Contact: Ken Theisen, Bay Area Legal Aid
415.354.6335  .  ktheisen@baylegal.org

 Contact: Eric Miller, Bingham McCutchen
213.680.6583  .   eric.miller@bingham.com

Bingham Launches Bicoastal Public Interest Fellowships: West Coast Fellowship Hosted by Bay Area Legal Aid

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 25, 2012) – Bingham announced today that it will be funding two three-year public interest fellowships with two of the nation’s most prominent and respected legal service organizations — Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) and the New York Lawyers for Public Interest (NYLPI).

“This program enables Bingham to support two very deserving organizations that have a profound impact in the communities they serve,” said Bingham Chairman Jay Zimmerman.

“We have long-established relationships with BayLegal and NYLPI,” said Edward Maluf, a partner in Bingham’s New York office, co-chair of the firm’s national Pro Bono Committee and a member of NYLPI’s executive board. “Both organizations advocate on behalf of two core areas of interest for Bingham’s pro-bono practice — children and education.”

The recipient of the BayLegal fellowship will lead its Youth Justice Project (YJP). The YJP provides full scope civil legal representation for youth in foster care or delinquency , transitional aged youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and educational advocacy for youth referred from BayLegal’s Medical-Legal Collaborative. The Fellow will also continue to serve as the civil legal aid attorney to the Alameda County Collaborative Court — a specialty court created in 2007 for youth whose connection to the delinquency system is directly related to their mental illness. The Bingham Fellow will work with youth to address their civil legal needs in key areas including accessing health insurance for mental health treatment, unmet educational needs and housing instability. BayLegal has awarded the fellowship to Brian Blalock Esq. Blalock, a recognized leader in the youth justice movement, is an attorney at BayLegal and a graduate of Stanford Law School.

“Thanks to the Bingham fellowship, we will expand the efforts and impact of our Youth Justice Project and the vital legal aid needed to help these children stabilize their lives,” said Ramon Arias, Executive Director of BayLegal.

The recipient of the NYLPI fellowship will work directly with leadership of NYLPI’s Education Program to protect and promote the educational rights of students with disabilities in New York City. NYLPI is currently conducting a search to fill this position and anticipates doing so in the first quarter of 2012.

“The Bingham fellowship will be a tremendous help in our efforts to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to education in the New York City school system,” said Shelley J. Dropkin, chair of the board of directors of NYLPI. “We are incredibly grateful for the firm’s support.”

The funding for each fellowship is derived from attorneys’ fees awarded to Bingham for its work on various pro bono matters.

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Bingham offers a broad range of market-leading practices focused on global financial services firms and Fortune 100 companies. The firm has more than 1,000 lawyers in 14 locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Follow the firm on Twitter @Binghamlaw.

Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) is the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest poverty law firm. BayLegal provides high quality legal counsel, advice and representation designed to help families achieve economic security and escape domestic violence. It reaches more than 70,000 people annually through its legal advice hotline, the only one of its kind in Northern California, direct representation, and its pro bono panel.

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) advances equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Through community lawyering, NYLPI puts its legal, policy and community organizing expertise at the service of New York City communities and individuals. NYLPI’s partnership with the private bar strengthens its advocacy and connects community groups and non-profits with critical legal assistance. NYLPI is the recipient of the 2010 New York Times Awards for Nonprofit Excellence.

Reasonable Accomodations for a Little Girl

The Marquez family* lived in a very noisy public housing complex next to a fire station and a hospital, where ambulances were constantly driving by with sirens blaring. Their youngest daughter, Anna, has a hearing disability and requires a hearing aid; however, because the family’s home was so loud, the little girl had to turn off her hearing aid at home, which interfered with her ability to communicate with her family. Anna’s mom tried to ask their building manager for help, but due to a language barrier, she was unable to get a response to her requests. She didn’t know about reasonable accommodations within public housing, because all of the information she saw was written in English.

With BayLegal’s help the Marquez family was transferred to a much quieter housing development and Anna can now use her hearing aid. The Housing Authority has also started helping Anna’s mother with translation of their information and resources, so that she and other residents are better equipped to deal with any issues in the future.

 *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

 

Kidnap Victim Reunited with Daughter

Baoping, a Chinese national, met, married and had a child with a US citizen in her hometown in China.  Six months after the baby’s birth her husband convinced her to come to the United States to visit his family in the San Joaquin Valley.

What was supposed to be a family bonding trip quickly turned into a nightmare. Soon after their arrival, Baoping’s husband locked her in his parents’ garage, a room with no ventilation in the middle of summer.  He beat her, raped her, withheld food and worst of all to her, she couldn’t breast feed her baby because he didn’t allow her to see her, telling her that she would never see her again. When the date for the family’s return to China finally came, her husband and some of his family members took her to the San Francisco Airport for her trip back to China– alone and without her baby.

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Second Chance for an American Veteran

Bill is a 55-year-old disabled veteran whose only source of income is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). When Bill learned his SSDI and health insurance was about to be terminated, he feared he would not be able to pay his rent, and came to BayLegal for help. The Social Security Administration informed Bill there was an arrest warrant issued for him from North Carolina. In 2001, Bill was arrested for driving under the influence, served several days in jail, paid a fine, and spent a year on probation. Through a clerical error, his payment of the fine was never communicated to the court, and thus there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. BayLegal appealed for a 90-day grace period from the Social Security Administration to investigate the warrant.  With BayLegal’s help, Bill was able to show that he had paid the fine and that the arrest warrant was issued because of a clerical error. Bill is the first to admit that he was going through a rough period in his life in 2001 and he is grateful to get a second chance. With BayLegal’s assistance, Bill was able to stay in his home and continue receiving medical care.

Teen’s Chance of Accessing Essential Health Care

16-year-old Caitlin was receiving medical treatment for emotional problems. Just after her 16th birthday, her parents died in an automobile accident, leaving her on her own. Her only source of income, a small SSI survivor’s benefit, qualified her for MediCal health coverage. In the middle of receiving intensive counseling from a psychiatrist, MediCal terminated Caitlin’s health care. Without health coverage, Caitlin was unable to continue counseling or get her prescriptions filled. Caitlin contacted Bay Area Legal Aid. BayLegal investigated and learned that MediCal wrongfully denied Caitlin’s treatment due to a coding error. BayLegal appealed MediCal’s termination of benefits and advocated for an immediate reinstatement of coverage. The Court agreed and ordered MediCal to restore Caitlin’s health care coverage. Caitlin is back in counseling and able to continue the healing process under the care of a doctor.

Family’s Struggle to End Domestic Violence

Mae and her three children were living in Section-8 housing when her estranged husband began stalking and threatening them. Mae had been abused by him for years, and now that he was out on parole she feared for herself and her children. Mae tried to get a restraining order against her husband but was unsuccessful because she had been unable to locate him to serve him the order. Mae knew she needed to move her family to a safer location, but was unsure of how to work with the Housing Authority. Mae contacted Bay Area Legal Aid for help. A BayLegal housing advocate worked with the Housing Authority to facilitate a housing transfer. BayLegal also provided Mae with a family law advocate, who helped her obtain a three-year restraining order and a divorce from her abuser, preventing her ex-husband from stalking her or contacting her in any way. Thanks to BayLegal’s advocates, Mae and her children are now safe from their abuser and are beginning a new life.

Consumer Law Takes on Domestic Violence

Sandra’s former husband controlled everything in her life and her daughter’s life, from every dollar that was spent to where they were allowed to be every minute of the day. When Sandra was sick with shingles brought on by lupus, he would tell her that she was worthless and lock her out of the house in the cold.

Sandra finally escaped her abuser in 2009 when she obtained a domestic violence restraining order and ultimately a divorce. But the nightmare reoccurred in 2012 when Sandra received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service telling her that she owed more than $2 million in back taxes. Sandra’s abusive husband had been trading stocks online throughout that year and reported none of his gains or losses to the IRS.

Sandra was terrified. She never saw any benefit from the stock trading and as far as she knew, during the year in question the family was living on only the income from her part-time job. BayLegal went to work to file an innocent spouse relief application with the IRS.

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