Three years ago, during Brandon Greene’s first week working as a lawyer in a new clinic affiliated with the East Bay Community Law Center, he was handed a stack of cases to review. Each involved a client who was struggling to pay down the fines and fees that easily accumulate in California’s criminal justice system. It was his job to help. A handful of the cases were so old that he couldn’t find current contact information for the clients. He quickly realized that “some of those folks,” even if he did reach them, “could not get back on their feet at all” because of their debt. “The folks who were being affected were mostly indigent,” he said. “Everything costs money. Every program costs money. And a lot of folks can’t afford to pay these things.”
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In 2017, Neumann helped represent First They Came for the Homeless, an organized encampment, against an eviction by BART. In 2018, he represented the RV-based Berkeley Friends on Wheels, and assisted in representing Oakland’s Housing and Dignity Village camp. He’s now working on a lawsuit against Caltrans, which, according to Neumann, has been “taking property and destroying it,” a violation, he argues, of the Fourth Amendment.
Theresa Zhen, a staff attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, who is helping coordinate the advocacy effort for SB144, is already declaring victory. “The fact that even the opposition to the bill admits that it’s philosophically right is huge,” she said. “We’re finally having the real conversation: that courts have been built on the backs of the poor.”
Each summer, EBCLC sends a new class of over 150 principled, compassionate attorneys into the world. We hope you will join us in celebrating all of our students, and in congratulating our very own Nirali Beri, Hannah Flanery, and Cindy Pan on the highly distinguished honors they received in May!
Her parents were in attendance April 22 at the Bancroft Hotel, where Beri received Berkeley Law’s annual Sax Prize for Clinical Advocacy. She was honored for her exceptional efforts at the school’s East Bay Community Law Center and Death Penalty Clinic.
“Dueñas has changed the landscape in a number of ways,” said Brandon Greene, an attorney who worked with the East Bay Community Law Center on the case. “I think California is on track to recognize that the way that we fund certain services — whether it’s at the state or county level — is on the cusp of re-envisioning.”
A 2016 study in California from the East Bay Community Law Center found that license suspensions for failing to pay fines or appear in court are “directly correlated with poverty indicators and with race,” with driver’s license suspension rates ranging as high as five times the state average in communities that are primarily Black or Latino.
The crisis cannot be addressed merely by new construction nor in implementing anti-displacement measures alone, says Rooted in Home, a November 2018 report from nonprofits Urban Habitat and the East Bay Community Law Center exploring alternatives to market-based land and housing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Today, Senate Bill 144, introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell, was amended with text that will end the assessment and collection of administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system
By doing so, it would dramatically reduce the economic hardships caused by court-ordered debt and enhance the economic security of system-involved populations, their families and their communities. SB 144 will usher in an era of criminal justice policy that does not rely on stripping wealth from communities of color and low-income communities.
East Bay Community Law Center celebrates victory as Alameda County Courts vote to make changes to the current Ability to Pay Determination Process that will provide more people with access to reduce their burdensome traffic court fines and fees.