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The Litigation Section of the California Lawyers Association is proud to have recently established a new Committee on Access to Justice and Civic Engagement.

Chair: Erik Silber (Los Angeles)

Vice Chair: Chad Stegeman (San Francisco)


  • Amanda Bettinelli (Los Angeles)
  • Jamie Crook (San Francisco)
  • Elisa Fernandez (Los Angeles)
  • Kimberly Jaimez (Los Angeles)
  • Lucy Jennings (Los Angeles)
  • Jessica Riggin (Los Angeles)
  • Erin Smith (Oakland)
  • Marina Torres (Los Angeles)
  • Kenneth Wang (Los Angeles)

Oversight: The Litigation Section Executive Committee

Number of Members: 18

Member Terms: Three years.  Terms begin and end on the last day of the CLA Annual Meeting.

Committee Opportunities: The Litigation Section formed the Committee on Access to Justice and Civic Engagement in the spring of 2019. Because it is a new committee, there are opportunities to turn your ideas into action. The Committee on Access to Justice and Civic Engagement is looking for people with ideas, energy, and time to help to make this exciting new committee a success.

Committee Missions:

Access to Justice:  We have a three-pronged focus to help increase access to justice:

  • Assistance to those in Need:  The Committee will work to increase access to justice in state and federal court for those who cannot afford attorneys and for those who have access issues due to language barriers.  Our goal is to create new tools to increase access to justice and to help promote existing programs for those in need, including creating or promoting existing video instruction for self-represented litigants.
  • Education to the Legal Community:  The Committee will work to educate the legal community on access-to-justice issues and how to help.
  • Access-to-Justice Program:  We put on a program at the Litigation Section’s Litigation Summit in September 2019 in Los Angeles on access-to-justice issues with former Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal (C.D. Cal.), former U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz (C.D. Cal.) and Kendall, Brill, and Kelly partner Bert Deixler (and moderated by Vice Chair Chad Stegeman).
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  • Inmate Access-to-Justice Program:  At the Litigation Section’s Litigation and Appellate Summits in San Francisco in 2020, we will have a program with Georgetown University Law School Professor Shon Hopwood.  Professor Hopwood is a former federal inmate (for committing bank robbery), who became a “jailhouse lawyer” and got certiorari granted in two cases when he was in prison.  After his release from prison, Professor Hopwood went to law school, clerked on the D.C. Circuit, and now is a Georgetown Law School professor and an author on his experiences,  He has previously appeared on “60 Minutes” to discuss his life story.
  • New Programs or Initiatives:  The Committee will develop and promote changes to court procedure and legislative initiatives that advance access to justice.

Civic Engagement:  The Committee will work to: (1) create new programs to enhance civic engagement; (2) expand existing programs to enhance civic engagement, including expanding successful local programs into new cities in California; and (3) promote existing civic engagement programs.

  • Create New Civics Programs:  At the CLA annual meeting in October 2019 in Monterey, our Committee teamed up with CLA’s Civic Engagement and Outreach Committee and the Power of Democracy to put on a civics program involving two fifth grade classes from Los Padres Elementary School in Salinas.  The Chair of the Power of Democracy, Cal. Court of Appeal Justice Judith McConnell, spoke to the students about civics and then small groups of students discussed with a judge and attorney a mock law that prohibited animals in school due to safety concerns (for example, would/should the law prohibit brining stuffed animals to school).
image of Civic Engagement at Monterey annual meeting with school classroom

Assist with Existing Civics Programs:

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    • Just the Beginning Summer Legal Institute.  Just the Beginning puts on Summer Legal Institutes (“SLI”) in June in Los Angeles for minority and disadvantaged high school students who are thinking about a legal career.  “The goal of the SLI is to enhance skill sets that are essential for students to progress successfully through high school, college and law school.”  “The key to every Summer Legal Institute is the unique learning experience created by attorney volunteers from corporations and law firms that actively collaborate and work with the students.”  Our Committee has committed to finding the volunteer attorneys for the Los Angeles SLI mediation competition in June 2020.  The Litigation Section’s Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution will work with our Committee to get the volunteers.

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