Dear Partners in Justice,
Bay Area Legal Aid is proud to present our 2019 & 2020 Biennial Report. It would require a much longer publication to adequately detail the contributions over those two years of all our practice units, multidisciplinary projects, litigation and advocacy initiatives, and partnerships with other legal services firms and community organizations. What we have collected here, while necessarily incomplete, presents a compelling case for the value of legal services in “normal” times and in times of emergency—and demonstrates the value of your support of BayLegal, whether you are a donor, an institutional funder, a community partner, or a fellow legal advocate or support worker.
The experiences of the past two years have laid bare the critical importance and necessity of civil legal aid as both a crisis response and a means to effectuate long-term social and economic equity. Our advocacy for clients and communities disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic is rooted in our decades-long work against unequal access to the legal system, and in our expanding commitment to center racial justice and anti-racism in every aspect of our firm. BayLegal upholds the immediate needs of our clients, striving for a strong and more effective social safety net, while working to ensure that these most recent moments of reckoning lead to long-term systemic changes.
We are grateful to each of you in our community—thank you for recognizing the importance of our endeavors and standing with us in our advocacy! You contributed to our success throughout the pandemic: we made sure that former foster youth were not cut off from critical housing and economic support systems at the height of the pandemic; we persisted against the Bay Area’s preexisting housing crisis and ongoing racialized displacement through our advocacy for tenant protections to prevent massive evictions and help low-income students trapped in unaffordable housing when economic assistance vanished in the summer of 2020; we ensured thousands continued to receive public benefits and healthcare, and thousands more gained access to these basic resources.
Together we worked to change the systems that reproduce unequal justice. We pressed for statewide protections against debt collection during the pandemic and pushed back against predatory lending and unlawful collections practices that take savings from hardworking families and entrench them in poverty. When some courts shifted, and others failed to shift, to remote proceedings, we identified unsafe and unequal access to courts throughout California and advocated for individuals who should not have to choose between their health and protecting their legal rights. Support like yours sustained multi-year litigation efforts. Cities across the state must now abide by state law and prioritize affordable housing in their land use decisions. We also had significant victories against the racially inequitable fines and fees that create undue financial hardship for low-income defendants of color in court. We helped hundreds of thousands of Californians in 2019 and 2020.
For further detail on these stories, an overview of our operational and financial health, and grateful acknowledgement of our donors, pro bono supporters, and community partners we invite you to read the full report. And for updates on some of BayLegal’s more recent advocacy and resources for youth, for tenants facing eviction after the expiration of the state moratorium, and for veterans — to name a few recent highlights of our work — please subscribe to the BayLegal eNews.
Yours in partnership,
Genevieve Richardson, Executive Director
Robert Goodin, Chair, Board of Directors