Attachment to Application for Summer Fellowship Program
Travis A. Wise
A: Describe the sponsoring organization.
Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS) was established five years ago to provide legal services to low-income residents of Santa Clara County at absolutely no cost, in matters related to public benefits and housing. The organization receives funding from the Legal Services Corporation and the California IOLTA fund. In addition to advising several thousand clients per year, CLS represents clients hearings. The organization also engages in extensive outreach into the underserved community in Santa Clara County to provide education about public benefits and housing rights.
B: Explain how your proposed work activities will serve the needs of under-represented groups, persons, and/or causes in society.
All of the clients who benefit from the services at CLS are at or under 125% of the federal poverty level. Statistically, most of the clients are minority women and children, specifically those of Latino/a and Vietnamese descent. My work activities will include representing these clients at administrative hearings at the Social Security Administration, intervening on their behalf with the Department of Health Services and the Social Security Administration in order to increase or sustain their public benefits (CalWORKs, SSI, MediCal), and educating clients as to their rights regarding public benefits and health benefits. A large portion of my time will be spent on education and outreach into the community eligible for assistance at CLS, including a project working at the County Welfare Office to educate CalWORKs applicants about their rights regarding public benefits.
C. Describe the project’s expected impact. Please state specific objectives you hope to accomplish.
My project would involve advising several hundred clients as to their rights to public benefits and health benefits, and specifically their options for appealing Notices of Action which would reduce or terminate their benefits. This will result in sustaining and/or increasing public benefit levels for many of the clients. In all cases, it will result in ensuring that the clients’ due process rights have been met by the government. In addition, I expect that my outreach project will reach several thousand CalWORKs and SSI applicants as to their rights regarding public benefits, and specifically what their rights are when the government attempts to reduce or terminate their benefits.
D. Can the project results be extended to other situations? If yes, please explain.
My work will be focused on the Public Benefit / Health Unit, however the results will be used to expand the outreach program on the Housing Unit. Additionally, my work doing intakes and outreach will increase the ability of CLS to serve increased numbers of clients, at no cost to the clients, and provide them self-help educational tools. These skills will increase the ability of the clients to advocate for their own rights. CLS has ongoing networking with community-based service providers, including homeless shelters and other legal service programs. Our results are shared with these other organizations, which in turn enables them to benefit and expand from our projects.
E. You may use this space to highlight your qualifications to carry out the proposed project. Please also highlight any past involvement in public interest law.
I am specially qualified to carry out this project because I have been volunteering at CLS for several months conducting similar outreach projects and assisting clients in regards to public benefit and health law. A Summer Fellowship will allow me to continue this work, through the projects proposed above. I plan to continue working for CLS during my third year of law school, while applying for a NAPIL Fellowship.
Provision of legal services, including representation and empowerment skills, to low-income senior and disabled persons who are the victims of consumer fraud.
II. NAPIL: September 30, 1999
A. Application form
B. Proposal Narrative I: Project Description (5 pages)
1. Describe the need and community to be served by the proposed fellowship.
According to the 1990 Census, there are 1,200,000 persons living in Santa Clara County. The Census Bureau projects this number to expand to 1,719,150 by the year 2000. Of the current population, 109,806, or 9%, are living at or below the federal poverty guidelines. This group composes the “target group” for purposes of this project. The target group in large part consists of non-English speakers, homeless persons, the working poor, disabled persons, recipients of public benefits, and the elderly. In fact, the fastest growing segment of the population in Santa Clara County consists of persons over 75, as well as the aging baby boomer population.
The project’s target group are frequent victims of consumer fraud. They are often seen as easy to take advantage of, and may not be able to advocate for their own rights either because of lack of information or obstacles such as language barriers. Because they are below the poverty line, they are more likely unable to afford the time or money required to locate an attorney to advocate for them, and contingency-fee attorneys often view their cases as too minute to be worth while.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Consumer Fraud Division, reports that in fiscal year 1998-1999 they had a total of 8,218 intakes, and similar numbers the prior year.
2. State the short- and long-terms goals of the project and the work that will be done to accomplish those goals.
a) Evaluate what types of consumer problems the target population experiences, and how an attorney can best be utilized to resolve those problems. Examples include:
(1) Car contracts (lanaguage and lemon law)
(2) Door-to-door sales
(3) Telemarketing and telephone companies (slamming)
(4) Small Claim’s Court
(5) Medical bills
(6) Schemes (pyramid, work-at-home, dieting)
(7) Identity theft
b) Develop self-help materials in English, Spanish and Vietnamese for the consumer problems identified in step one. Distribute the materials in print, faxback, voice mail, and internet.
c) Conduct outreach presentations to the target population, i.e. senior centers, community centers, and low-income housing developments.
d) Interview clients who have consumer problems which fit within the projects priorities (established in step one), and either advocate and/or litigate on their behalf, or refer them to a resource (if their problem is outside the scope of this project).
3. Describe how the project’s approach is innovative or has previously proven effective.
This project approach is innovative in that it will combine high tech delivery methods with traditional delivery methods to provide self-help materials regarding consumer law to the target population. The high tech delivery methods include web sites, and CLS’ in-house fax-back system and voice mail system. The traditional delivery methods are outreaches and printed materials.
While the delivery methods for this project are innovative, this type of project has previously proven effective. Within CLS, the Housing Unit and the Economic Security Unit have both successfully used the same start-up models, outlined in the short-term goals, above, as proposed for this project. By leveraging the experiences of those units, this project will be able to quickly commence provision of services without a lengthy preparation period.
4. Provide a one-page timeline with a breakdown in six-month intervals of what will be accomplished during the two-year fellowship
a) 6 mos
b) 12 mos
c) 18 mos
d) 24 mos
C. Proposal narrative II: Host Organization (3 pages)
1. Describe the organization’s history, current programs and priorities
Community Legal Services, Inc. (“CLS”) was established in 1995, and became funded by the Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”) in January of 1996.
CLS works with very low income persons in Santa Clara County to identify and combat the basic causes of poverty and its most injurious effects. CLS provides community legal education, advice and counsel, and legal representation.
The initiating Board of Directors for CLS established four program priorities, after conducting an environmental assessment outlining data about the composition of the low-income community and written surveys of clients, social service agencies, lawyers and judges. The priorities which were established are: Housing, public benefits, family law, and consumer law. Within each program, CLS prioritizes cases in order to identify and target CLS resources to address the most pressing legal needs of the low-income community. The priority established for consumer law was to target persons with medical debts which had been referred for consumer debt collection.
2. Describe the genesis of the project and how it fits into organizational priorities.
In order to focus its resources on housing and public benefits cases, CLS has, since its inception, referred clients with consumer law issues to other agencies. Of the 2,180 cases handled by CLS during the 1998 calendar year, 294, or roughly 13% of these were consumer. Because CLS does not have a unit whose primary function is to handle consumer cases, the proposed project would enable CLS to have a full-time staff member working on consumer cases.
3. Describe how the organization will provide training, support and supervision throughout the term of the fellowship.
CLS has a firm commitment to training and continuing education. In addition to in-house training seminars conducted by consultants, CLS encourages and enables all staff to take advantage of outside training opportunities.
The Fellow will have access to the same supportive services which are provided to the other attorneys in the office. This includes a state-of-the-art networked computer system, on-line research, an in-house library, computerized court forms, and support personnel. The program will be directly supervised by a senior attorney. In addition, the Fellow will make a weekly report at the Case Review Meeting to review cases with all of the staff attorneys for input and suggestions.
D. Proposal narrative III: Fellowship Candidate (3 pages)
1. Experience and commitment. Describe briefly (2 pages):
a) Previous public interest/public service work: For the four most pertinent places where the candidate worked or volunteered, provide the name of the organization, its address and telephone number, a contact person who can speak about the candidate’s work, and a one-paragraph description of the work that he did. Work that is non-legal in nature may be listed.
(2) Sacred Heart Community Center
(3) Make-A-Wish Foundation
b) Significance of past work experience in accomplishing the proposed project. Describe how the candidate’s public interest/public service and other experiences will help make the proposed project a success.
2. Personal statement. Briefly (not more than 1 page) describe anything we should know about the candidate that has not been covered in the previous questions. For example, describe how his/her personal background and experiences add to his/her qualifications for being chosen a fellow.
F. 2 letters of recommendation
G. Certification form
H. 501(c)(3) certification
III. SKADDEN: October 4, 1999
A. Application form
1. Proposal (300 words)
2. Descriptions of previous projects (300 words)
3. Relevancy of public interest work to contemporary society (300 words)
B. Official law school transcript
C. Two letters of recommendation
1. Law school advisor
2. Former employer
D. Commitment letter from potential sponsoring institution (and brochure)
E. 501(c)3 tax-exempt status qualifying letter