Dear BayLegal friends,
Working Together for Justice is much more than a tag line—it is about the expertise, resources and partnerships that are needed to address the deep socioeconomic and civil legal inequities in our country.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) issued an updated Justice Gap Report in 2022, which like the California State Bar Justice Gap study, documents the overwhelming inequities in accessing legal assistance. In California, 55% of low-income Californians have at least one civil legal need each year and 85% of those needs go unmet (it is 92% nationally per LSC study). A significant reason for this is the inadequate funding of legal aid. California households experiencing domestic violence or eviction/housing instability are 3 times more likely to need help with 5 or more simultaneous legal issues.
Let us be clear—this is not just a gap; it is a crisis.
The justice gap contributes to and compounds other crises: increasing homelessness and displacement, widening wealth inequality and socio-economic stratification, creating disparities in healthcare access and health outcomes, and eroding the public’s confidence in and the effectiveness of our legal and public institutions, to name just a few. It is also a crisis of viable and effective solutions; legal aid helps decrease exposure to interpersonal violence, expands access to safety net benefits for financial stability and self-sufficiency, reduces barriers to education, employment, and healthcare, and prevents unlawful evictions and debt collection practices. The work of dismantling these barriers leads to positive outcomes in education, employment, health, housing, and stability.
The power of legal aid in helping to address these crises is exemplified by highlighted stories and advocacy shared in our 2022 Annual Report. BayLegal’s attorney and social worker team partnered with Richard Only to help him gain financial stability and housing after decades of being unsheltered, suffering severe injury due to violence, and disconnected from supportive systems and healthcare. For Suzannah Ramirez, legal help meant stopping a compounding and overwhelming debt due to fees, fines and an improper fraud finding, and denial of benefits that were critical to helping her gain financial and housing stability and a path towards her career goals. And Anita Mendoza Ramos and her five neighbors were able to fight against an unlawful eviction to remain in their homes and in their community.
BayLegal is committed to addressing the justice gap and corresponding crises, and we are grateful for your partnership in this effort! For us, this means continuing to be embedded and in partnership with our local client communities and keeping individual legal advocacy at the heart of our work. It means continuing to leverage our expertise in multiple high priority anti-poverty legal areas to address the simultaneous and intersecting legal barriers that our clients face. It means centering an anti-racism and intersectional lens throughout all our legal work and internal policies. It means making mission aligned investments to increase compensation to hire and retain diverse, expert, and resilient staff. It means using our unique vantage point to amplify our clients’ experiences and needed policy changes. It means partnering with stakeholders like you – in providing services, financially supporting our work, and advocating for greater resources and investment in eliminating the justice gap and related crises.
Thank you for your partnership and support as we Work Together for Justice!
Genevieve Richardson, Executive Director Rob Goodin, Chair, Board of Directors