MoForever Alumni News - Summer 2020

MoForever Summer 2020 | 20 PRO BONO UPDAT E de Paul Dining Hall to establish the Marin Community Court, where low-income residents seek relief from onerous civil fees and fines (mostly vehicle citations) that often accrue simply because they live in poverty. Marin County Superior Court Judge Beverly Wood presides over the community court in the San Rafael dining hall. Laurie recruits, and her office trains, pro bono lawyers to represent individuals. COVID-19 Exacerbates Communication Challenges Laurie’s office is currently trying to help tenants and workers with the many legal issues arising out of the pandemic. But even without COVID-19 complicating matters, communication with Legal Aid clients can be slow and difficult. “With the courts closed and a total inability to meet in person, it feels like I have been handcuffed and shackled, but need to work with triple the caseload at triple the speed,” Laurie says. Many clients lack computers or internet access. Seniors struggle to use technology and may suffer from dementia, confusion, and memory loss. Immigrants may not speak or read English. Veterans and others suffer from trauma, stress, mental illness, and substance abuse. “Despite all that, I am proud and impressed with how quickly our staff set up remote assistance,” Laurie says. The staff conducts weekly Facebook Live and Zoom meetings, as well as radio broadcasts, to inform tenants and low-wage workers of their rights and benefits under state and federal laws. Staff members also go to food banks to distribute information, including sample letters tenants can use to communicate with their landlords about delays in their rent payments. A Silver Lining Revealed While COVID-19 presents many challenges, a silver lining has been discovered: a sudden army of lawyers in the Bay Area who are inspired to help and in some cases have found themselves with additional time to ADVOCATING ON BEHALF OF JUSTICE LAURIE JOYCE, PRO BONO NETWORK COORDINATOR, LEGAL AID OF MARIN