Wednesday, January 21, 2009
California Bar Foundation Awards Grants to Five Local Programs
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Bar Foundation announced yesterday that it has awarded 37 grants totaling $258,000 to organizations providing legal services and education across the state, including five local initiatives.
The foundation said the grants will fund projects to improve access to justice in rural California, increase access to legal services for individuals with limited English proficiency, and promote diversity in the legal profession.
A State Bar-affiliated non-profit organization, the foundation describes itself as being “dedicated to building a better justice system for all Californians,” and is fueled by donations from California law firms, individual attorneys, and corporate sponsors.
Local awardees, which each received a $5,000 grant, include the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Justice Corps Site Supervisor Training program, the Learning Rights Law Center’s Special Education Practice Guide project, the Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center Transforming Lives Fund, and the Korean American Bar Association’s monthly pro bono clinic, which serves Los Angeles’ Koreatown as well as Orange County.
The Public Interest Clearinghouse’s Rural Education and Access to the Law Project Expansion, which will serve Bakersfield, Fresno, the Inland Empire, as well as San Diego and Los Angeles counties, received a grant of $20,000 to be distributed over the course of two years.
That grant—in addition to grants to the Casa Cornelia Legal Services’ Detained Unaccompanied Minors Program and the Center for Community Solutions’ East County Solutions for Safety Project, both in San Diego—marks the first time the foundation has awarded multi-year grants.
The foundation said that the awards of multiple years of funding sought to recognize particularly effective programs within its grant-making priority areas while also easing the administrative burden on the organizations.
Mario Camara, president of the foundation’s board of directors, explained that the foundation prioritized its grant-making to support projects reflecting the needs created by the current economic crisis.
“With many Californians struggling financially, the need for legal services to help individuals facing a home foreclosure, in need of public benefits, and having difficulty accessing health care is greater than ever,” Camara commented. “The foundation is acutely aware of these challenges and has prioritized its grant-making to support projects in areas—such as rural outreach and language access programs—that are in particular need of assistance.”
In addition to launching a new Diversity Scholarship for incoming first-year law students from communities historically underrepresented in the legal profession, the foundation said that it had made increasing the number of minority lawyers a priority in its grant-making.
To that end, it will fund seven “diversity pipeline” programs with grants totaling $35,500 to support efforts at various points along the pipeline and provide meaningful legal education and mentoring that will improve diversity in the legal profession.
One such program is For People of Color’s Law School Admissions Project, which provides resources for minority students navigating the law school admissions process and law students of color who are preparing to take the bar exam.
The foundation further announced that it will fund 17 projects totaling $120,000 serving rural communities in such counties as Fresno, Nevada, Placer, and Tulare in order to further its “commitment to addressing the increasingly large “justice gap” outside California’s major metropolitan areas, where legal services are particularly scarce and community members are often geographically isolated.”
It also said it will fund 11 grants totaling $65,000 to support language access projects that improve accessibility to legal services or legal education for limited English-proficiency clients given the “tremendous difficulty” the foundation said many legal services organizations face in serving the state’s increasingly diverse population.
Founded in 1990, the foundation began its grants program the following year, and has distributed more than $5 million in grants for law-related access to justice, education, and outreach projects to community organizations, legal aid agencies, courts, bar associations, and the State Bar.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company