Testimonials from JusticeCorps Members and Fellows
"Perhaps the most memorable story of my first few months in the FLF office centered around a kindly, late-30s client. Perpetually donning the same green flannel shirt and blue baseball cap, this client, was one of the "familiar faces" in our office, stopping by at least twice a week in a dogged pursuit of visitation time with his young children. Sweet and caring as he was, the client was fully illiterate and didn't speak a word of English, traits that tended to render the U.S. justice system rather opaque and inaccessible. I spent hours during my first few weeks working intimately with the client - discussing his case with him, translating, filling out his forms and helping him file and serve his children's mother, which he accomplished through a 12-hour round-trip drive with a friend to her LA residence.
On a (comparatively) slow day, the attorneys let me go to observe the short-cause family law calendar, which I had never done before. Coincidentally, this happened to be the client's day in court, which I immediately knew upon seeing his blue cap sticking out in the courtroom. Excited to hear his case, I waited eagerly for his name to be called. The judge's demeanor and vernacular, however, was more suited toward English speakers and, particularly, high-paid attorneys, and she breezed past the client's case on the calendar before he even had a chance to speak up. Quickly noting the (perceived) non-attendance of the parties, the judge dropped the case entirely and moved on, rendering my many hours of work with the client's moot; the client himself didn't even understand what had occurred. I was alarmed, and quickly noted to the contract attorney next to me that I knew the client, he was in attendance, he did properly serve the mother, and that he had a right to have his case heard that day. After the calendar ended, the client came up to me and asked why he had not been called; we told him we'd see what we could do.
We went back to the FLF, and after sharing our story, the entire staff - who knew the client as well and felt as invested in him gaining access to the legal system as I did - was similarly alarmed. One of our attorneys ran up to the judge's chambers, explained the situation, and persuaded her that, rather than drop the case, she ought to continue it out a week and allow service of the continuance by mail (rather than through another onerous LA road trip). When we informed the client of his new date, he expressed relief and gratitude that he had been given another chance.
The next week, the client had his hearing. I couldn't attend, but for the following few days, the staff and I would periodically check our court filing system, waiting for when his result would become available. Finally, it was scanned and uploaded, and we all saw what the client had been granted: visitation during school holidays, and three weeks with his kids during the summer. This may not seem like much, but for the client, I'm sure it meant the world.
It wasn't the fact that the client "won" or "lost" that mattered; we don't pick sides in these battles, and I've helped both parents in a case enough times by now to stop playing favorites. It was the fact that he got a fair hearing - that the levers of justice allowed a man who is in so many ways othered and excluded by American society to engage fairly in a complex lawsuit - that felt so meaningful to me. Particularly, knowing that without our office - and in this case, without me happening to end up in court that day - the client never would've had a chance, really crystallized in my mind just how important the work is that we do here."
-Daniel Gifford, San Mateo County JusticeCorps Fellow
"I work in the TRO clinic for Monday afternoon shifts. It has been really satisfying helping litigants complete their forms and guide them along the process. As I have witnessed in court hearings for my Monday morning shifts, a lot of cases are continued because the litigant did not complete proof of service correctly. Therefore, I am pleased to help these litigants access the court and understand the processes so that they can receive the protection they need. While hearing about the violence that they have endured takes an emotional toll on me, I am glad that I can offer a welcoming space to answer their questions and help them receive the protection they desire."
- JusticeCorps Member
"The most satisfying part of my JusticeCorps experience has been my ability to help people who do not understand or speak English as a first language, have access to the justice system. It is especially great knowing that I am a resource for other people who are just like me and the people I grew up with."
- JusticeCorps Member
At the end of every instance of assistance lasting longer than fifteen minutes, JusticeCorps members ask the litigant they assisted to share their feedback via a short survey. The survey has a space where litigants are free to share comments on the service they received. Below are collected responses, that demonstrate the impact and value of the service JusticeCorps members provide:
“The JusticeCorps volunteer that assisted me performed beyond satisfactory. She was patient, well spoken, and clarified and resolved issues that were lingering post my interactions with court faculty. She was a true testament to humanity and the generous nature of the United States as a society.”
“Staff is always knowledgeable and extremely helpful. I couldn't go through this process without their help. They're terrific.”
“The JC intern was patient, communicated clearly and did not hesitate in going over the information a second time. Very knowledgeable in matters discussed and efficient. Thank you”!
“They are very admirable people that are giving back to the community.”
“I felt very confident to speak with someone volunteering because I know she is being neutral. She didn't put emotion nor interest but professionalism on the table. I felt happy and heard for the first time after this nightmare.”
“I am very happy with all services. The services were extremely helpful and invaluable to our community.”
“The intern was thorough and explained everything in language I could understand. She was patient and I could sense she really wanted to help.”
“She was magnificent. I was lost without her help. I have PTSD very bad and she was a shining star to lead me through this difficult time.”
“I am so grateful for the free support. It means the world. And everyone is competent and kind, which is so nice when you are dealing with difficult legal issues.”
“The help and information I received today was above exemplary. Both members were very clear in explaining the process to me and made me feel very comfortable during an uncomfortable time. They are a valuable asset to your team. I am so very grateful. Thank you!!”
“Thank you for all your help. You made this experience peaceful. Thank you for your patience and making it easy for me to understand. Feel better about this.”
“Service was excellent. Very smooth and fast. He answered any questions I had. Coming in, I had no clue how to do any of this. Thanks to him I was able to get my paperwork filed and a court date set. If only court goes as smooth.”
“She explained everything perfectly. I don't feel stressed anymore. I know what to do next! She was awesome.”
“The JC intern was amazing. She was patient and very understanding. She was empathetic and professional. She explained everything to a point where I was comfortable with. She was very knowledgeable.”