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California Western Celebrates 10 Years Of Community Law

KPBS Investigative Reporter Amita Sharma speaks with Dana Sisitsky, executive director of California Western School of Law, and law student, Mariza Lockhart, about the 10th anniversary of California Western School of Law's Community Law Project.

California Western Celebrates 10 Years Of Community Law


Dana Sisitsky, executive director, California Western School of Law's Community Law Project

Mariza Lockhart, student, California Western School of Law

Mariza Lockhart particularly remembers the older, homeless woman who took a couple of hours off her job to vote. On her return, instead of a pat on the back for performing a basic democratic function, she faced pay-back and retaliation from her boss.

Lockhart, a third-year law student at California Western School of Law, and the volunteer attorneys who work with her at the downtown branch of California Western's Community Law Project, listened to the woman's troubles and steered her to social service agencies that were able to address her housing situation and help her find a more reasonable employer.

For the last 10 years California Western has operated community law clinics in four communities: downtown San Diego, City Heights, Lemon Grove and Solana Beach.

The clinics act as triage centers offering advice, counseling and referrals to those who need legal services but cannot afford them. The goal is to address problems before they become serious and end up in court. Clients need help in several areas: family law, immigration, criminal law, housing and employment issues are among the most important.

The clinics have helped thousands of clients. And many of the hundreds of law students who competed for the privilege of putting in long hours downtown, in addition to finishing school and studying for the bar, would probably say they have been helped as well.

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