Celebrating a Partnership for Justice

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Often the issues that clients bring to Bay Area Legal Aid involve basic human rights: freedom from coercion, safety from violence, health, and shelter. Few issues are more fundamental than the right to live safely in stable housing. However, addressing the legal dimensions of this right often involves multiple, complex systems and areas of law. Defending our clients’ right to remain housed and free from abuse requires effective collaboration and expertise across a range of legal practices. This wraparound model of legal service is a central strategic priority for BayLegal.

Our Impact Litigation team led by Brenda Adams recently filed a writ with the Court of Appeals to challenge a decision by the trial court in one of our cases. The client is a youth who was experiencing severe domestic violence by her mother’s boyfriend, and sought not only to protect herself and her siblings from him, but also to exclude him from the home that she and her mother and siblings rented pursuant to a Section 8 agreement to which the abuser was not a party. The trial court erroneously concluded that she did not have the right to seek a move-out order despite having lived in the home, being on the lease, and being named on the Section 8 paperwork.

BayLegal Youth Justice attorney Kristen Dooley wrote the initial draft of the writ petition while keeping the client informed throughout the case. Interpersonal Violence/Family Law Supervising Attorney Kemi Mustapha lent a reviewing eye. Our co-counsels at the Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP) were instrumental in steering us through the writ process. As a result, the appellate court issued a decision affirming our legal arguments and confirming the low standard for move-out orders, which does not even require that a resident be named on the lease. Meanwhile, members of BayLegal’s housing team worked diligently to help client assert her fair housing rights to keep her housing voucher as a survivor of domestic violence so that she can remain in affordable housing. Ultimately, the opposing party stipulated to a permanent restraining order, which meant our client did not have to undergo the grueling and potentially traumatizing experience of testifying in court.

This case provides a great example of how BayLegal teams and our community partners and co-counsels work together to provide the wraparound assistance our clients need. Thanks to our Youth team, Family Law team, Housing team, Impact team, and co-counsels all working together, this client got the safe and stable housing she needed—and that she deserves.