BayLegal Remembers Robert Planthold

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Bay Area Legal Aid joins with friends, colleagues, and allies in the access to justice, disability, and tenant rights communities in our shared grief for the loss of our dear friend and long-serving member of our Board of Directors, Robert “Bob” Planthold who passed away unexpectedly on January 27th.

BayLegal’s Board Chair Rob Goodin spoke of Bob’s love of justice and what his dedication to our clients meant to the firm: “It was my privilege to serve with Bob, first for five years on the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation (SFNLAF) Board and then for 22 years on the board of Bay Area Legal Aid [when SFNLAF merged with other County legal aids to form BayLegal, a regional anti-poverty law firm]. Bob was a tremendously valuable, hardworking, and important board member of both organizations, and was a passionate voice for the interests of our clients at both organizations. He has been justly described as a giant of the disability rights movement and was a passionate voice for the interests of our clients. I considered Bob a friend; he will be deeply missed.”

Ramón Arias, BayLegal’s founding Executive Director shared upon learning of our loss, “Above all, Bob always placed the needs of our clients foremost in his mind and heart. His love for community and in promoting social justice are attributes I always admire and respect.”

Beyond being active at the BayLegal Board table, Bob actively supported BayLegal’s advocacy and litigation to ensure access to economic security, healthcare and safe affordable housing. Don Medearis, Supervising Attorney in our Economic Justice practice, recalls that “Bob was always extremely keen on ensuring that disabled people had equal access to needed services.”  He gave an example of when they had a meeting at the Social Security office.  The sidewalk was torn up for repairs making access to the building difficult.  Despite having a meeting in just a few minutes that meant a lot to Bob personally, “Bob immediately got on the phone with his city contacts to try to get the access problem resolved – he wanted the access problem fixed ASAP!”

Lauren DeMartini, our Housing Regional Counsel, worked with Bob on issues related to tenants’ rights and accessibility to safe public housing.  She admired his insistence to hold public agencies responsible for both complying with the law and treating tenants with the dignity and respect that they deserve.  For example, while it is commonplace for the Housing Authority to send Notices with deadlines occurring before the postmark date, and while still possible to protect a tenant’s interest without addressing these errors, she said that Bob “demanded better” from the Housing Authority. “He had no tolerance for their thoughtless errors. He had very legitimate expectations of how a housing authority should function and serve tenants, and I appreciated him holding them accountable and expecting that we do the same.”

Bob’s advocacy for access to civil legal services was just one part of his extensive and lifelong activism and unwavering belief in equal justice and public accountability. We invite you to read more highlights of his work and life here:


I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know Bob, serve with him, and learn from him.  I join my colleagues in grief, gratitude and celebration of Bob and his tremendous impact.

Genevieve Richardson, Executive Director