January
2016

You Stepped Up Big in 2015, Now It's Our Turn
 
As 2015 came to a close, you answered our call for support and added $640,000 worth of free civil legal aid to Orange County. Thank you so much for stepping up in our time of need, so we are ready to serve our most vulnerable neighbors in their time of need. Every dollar you donate adds $8 worth of services for Orange County's low-income seniors, veterans, domestic violence survivors, and children and their families. In addition, every pro bono case you and your firm take on transforms an individual's life.
 
Now that you've done your part, it's time for us to do ours. In 2016, I'm looking forward to partnering with several leaders who are no strangers to PLC or our local legal community. Darren O. Aitken of Aitken*Aitken*Cohn began his role as President of PLC Board of Directors at the beginning of the year. He succeeds Julie M. McCoy of Law Offices of Julie McCoy, who will continue to serve on our Board as Immediate Past President. Joining them are Vice President Aaron J. Malo of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP and Secretary/Treasurer Michael G. Ermer of Irell & Manella LLP. PLC's 37-member strong Board of Directors is well-equipped to provide governance and guidance to our mission of providing access to justice to Orange County's most vulnerable residents, and help us celebrate our past and plan for our future.
 
In addition to our new officers, I'm pleased to announce several promotions on the PLC staff. As many of you heard through PLC's Case List, 11-year PLC veteran Kirsten Kreymann is now PLC's Deputy Director. In this new role, Kirsten will build upon her proven track record supporting PLC's staff and volunteers, as well as developing strategic partnerships throughout the Orange County community. In addition, Leigh Ferrin is now serving as PLC's Pro Bono Director and will continue to provide leadership as a Directing Attorney in our Consumer and Veterans units. Finally, Joyce Noche and Lili Vo Graham are now Directing Attorneys for, respectively, the Immigration unit and the Housing and Veterans units.
 
As you can see, we are ready to achieve great success in 2016 and expand access to justice throughout Orange County. 2016 is an especially significant year, because we will celebrate our 35th Anniversary. There will be much to reminisce about throughout the year, as well as sharing our vision for the next 35 years. For the time being, we hope you will enjoy a quick look back at our early history in the article below.

Best,

Ken Babcock
Executive Director and General Counsel

Mobilizing the Private Bar - A Pro Bono Success Story 35 Years in the Making

In 1980, a small group of Orange County judges, lawyers, and others began to discuss the possibility of forming an organization to mobilize the private bar to provide pro bono legal services for low-income Orange County residents. Within a year Amicus Publico was born as a nonprofit organization with seed funding obtained through the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. Indeed in those early days, we were housed in Legal Aid's offices.

In 1984, a group of social justice advocates began developing an Orange County public interest law group to engage in impact litigation and policy advocacy to address systemic injustices harming the poor. In 1985, they formed the Orange County Public Interest Law Advocates, embarked on a successful fundraising campaign and built the platform for their impact litigation and policy advocacy work.

By late 1988, they two groups began to realize they could do more good together than they could do apart. Merger discussions began and by early 1989 the two groups agreed to merge. A May 31, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled "2 Groups Merge Efforts to Give Legal Aid to Poor" announced: "Two nonprofit community groups have decided to merge their efforts to provide free legal services for the county's poor. Pending final paper work, officials said, the unification of Amicus Publico, a county group that was founded in 1981 and has more than 350 local lawyers on its volunteer panel, and the Orange County Public Interest Law Advocates, created in 1984, could take effect within days."

A new organization named the Poverty Law Center was later formed; and in 1992 the name was changed to the Public Law Center. Our first President was Gar Shallenberger, a former President of the State Bar of California, the Orange County Bar Association and a long time leader at Rutan & Tucker. Reflecting the missions and cultures of the two organizations, PLC was designed to handle both cases for individual clients and larger impact litigation and policy advocacy matters which could affect the lives of many.

We have come a long way from the early days, when a single staff attorney was responsible for mobilizing a small cadre of volunteer lawyers to provide needed free legal services. Today, we have a staff of over 30 attorneys and other professionals, and by working with 1,600 volunteers can provide over 67,000 hours of free legal services per year.

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Public Law Center
     601 Civic Center Drive West, 
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 541-1010