Quick Ways You Can Advance Justice Today

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Be sure you like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and add us on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on our work and join our calls for advocacy throughout the year. We're always working to bring you the latest local and national news on the legal issues affecting our community. Spread the word and invite your colleagues and friends to join you!

You can help provide access to justice all year long by becoming a monthly donor. With a regular monthly donation, you're supporting life-changing legal services for thousands of families each year.

Housing Instability Hurts Students

When a family is unsure about where they’ll live in the next few months or faces hurdles in meeting basic needs, children’s health and performance at school can begin to deteriorate. Unstable living conditions and lack of affordable housing options for our community hurts us all. According to the recent Children’s HealthWatch, “…We know children and families in stable, affordable homes arehealthier than those who struggle to afford their basic needs, like rent, food and utilities. Unstable housing is a preventable condition.”

Learn more about how health and education are systematically connected to affordable housing in the latest report from the Children’s HealthWatch.

Supporting a Student’s Bright Future

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After finding himself in a bit of trouble, 17 year-old Miguel began attending the probation-court run school. It wasn’t long before Miguel found himself growing increasingly frustrated. The school was small, the staff was strict, and he had been there most of his junior year of high school. Making matters worse, he had a severe processing disability that made school difficult to understand. Luckily, Miguel and his family found the Law Foundation.

Miguel’s mother started working with one of our attorneys who began reviewing Miguel’s records. A Spanish-speaking social worker from our team planned to attend Miguel’s support team meeting at his school to help interpret for Miguel’s mother. When our social worker arrived to the meeting, she quickly discovered that it was actually an IEP meeting! Taking this surprise in stride, our social worker advocated for Miguel’s wishes: to return to a mainstream high school.

Our attorney and social worker also coordinated meetings at the home and facilitated a meeting between the school district and Miguel’s mother to ensure that everyone understood Miguel’s needs. Together, our team created a goal for Miguel: if he stayed at the probation-court run school and made efforts on his attendance and course work through the last few weeks of the calendar year, he could return to his regular local high school the following month.

Through the support of our attorney and social worker, Miguel successfully transitioned to his local high school in the New Year. The following few months were met with good news; the principal at Miguel’s new school informed our team that he actually had enough credits to graduate at the end of the school year, with the rest of his classmates.

Overjoyed, Miguel’s mother invited our attorney and social worker to his graduation for their part in helping Miguel reach this important milestone. Without our advocacy for the proper educational environment to support Miguel, he might not have had his needs met under the law and may have grown too frustrated to finish school. Earlier this summer, our team loudly cheered Miguel on as he walked across the stage, beaming with pride to accept his diploma.

Tips for Effective Special Education Advocacy

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A student struggling in school may be entitled to an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP, a legal document that creates goals and structural school support for a student with special needs.

The law is complex and difficult to navigate so parents and guardians may find themselves confused or unfamiliar with the legal process that goes into creating an IEP. To help, here are our top 3 tips for effective special education advocacy from Law Foundation attorney Julia Souza.

1.       Put all requests to the school/school district in writing. It’s best to have regular communication with your child’s teacher and school. However, it’s important that your requests, especially for additional special education services or testing, be put in writing. Keep copies of all letters or emails that you have sent.

2.      Bring a friend or family member to IEP meetings. Think of it like a complicated doctor’s appointment. Schools use a lot of technical language, and they sometimes move quickly. The meetings can be more exhausting than you might think, and it helps to have someone else remember everything that was said.

3.      Call an education attorney for help. If your school district is not meeting your student’s needs, and you need more support, call an education attorney.

*The tips above are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Kyra Kazantzis Recognized for her Law Foundation Service

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After 25 years of working with our team to advance justice, Directing Attorney Kyra Kazantzis has moved on from the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. Last month, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors honored Kyra for her extraordinary leadership and service.

Kyra has been a leading force in building our organization’s reputation and success. She has led our team to countless legal and policy wins that have advanced the rights of low income client communities in our region and beyond, including last year’s life-changing victory that kept 400 mostly Latino and low-income residents in their homes at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto. We’re grateful for her endless commitment to our community and all of us at the Law Foundation wish her the very best on her next endeavor.  

Save the date!

We hope you can join us for this year’s LACY Honors luncheon to benefit the Law Foundation’s Legal Advocates for Children & Youth program which supports children and youth facing serious issues like physical and sexual abuse, entry into the foster care system and homelessness.

Our luncheon will take place on Friday, Nov. 3, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto.

Your Voice Can Protect Our Healthcare

What happens when seniors who worked their entire lives are suddenly unable to afford healthcare? What kind of future do we create when children aren’t able to get the medical care they need because they were born with a disability? How do we support individuals who want and need substance abuse counseling or mental health services when the funding for those services is no longer available?

These are the questions we all face as GOP Senators continue to push for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Though the Better Care Reconciliation Act is off the table due in large part to advocacy from people like you, we still need to make sure to keep up the pressure so that the ACA is properly funded and continues to provide access to affordable health care for millions of Americans.

You can help put an end to harmful healthcare cuts that will devastate our community members who would otherwise have no access to healthcare.

1.  Take a few minutes out of your day to call your Senator at (202) 224-3121. You can share a personal story of a time when you used the healthcare system under the Affordable Care Act or simply urge them to oppose any cuts to Medicaid.

2.  Encourage your colleagues, friends, or family in other states to contact their Senators as well.

3.  Challenge your network to take action and share these three action items across social media with the hashtag #ProtectOurCare. 

Three Easy Ways to Support the Law Foundation Right Now

1. Do you purchase items on Amazon? If so, you can sign up with Amazon Smile to make Law Foundation of Silicon Valley your charity of choice. We’ll receive a percentage of all eligible purchases. Visit www.amazon.com/smile for more information and sign up now to shop for good.

2. Have you liked us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter yet? We’re always working to bring you the latest local and national news on the legal issues affecting our community. Be sure to “like” us and share with your colleagues and friends!

3. Did you know that you can help provide access to justice all year long by becoming a monthly donor? With a small monthly donation, you’re supporting free life-changing legal services for thousands of families each year.

Fighting for Education

When Marcos* was admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening medical condition, all he could think about was school. Always an ambitious student, Marcos didn’t want to let his disability get in the way of his future. His mother urged his school repeatedly to provide Marcos with work to do at home, and his treating physician even got involved, providing medical documentation that explained why he couldn’t attend school.

Despite having a strong team advocating for Marcos, the school district failed to provide any work for him to keep up with his studies, did not arrange for a teacher to visit Marcos at home, and didn’t communicate with the family about its plans for Marcos.

With only a few months left until the end of the school year, Marcos’ doctor referred his mother to the Law Foundation and Valley Medical Center’s Medical Legal Partnership program. Marcos’ Law Foundation attorney submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that is currently under review. Within a week of our attorney taking the case, Marcos was visited by a teacher and received the schoolwork he needed to start getting up to speed.

Sometimes all our clients need is for the world to know that we’re in their corner fighting on their behalf.

*Name changed to protect identity

Ensuring Just Treatment for Immigrant Children

Photo by The Atlantic

Photo by The Atlantic

Earlier this summer, the Law Foundation was part of a legal team that obtained a positive federal appeals court ruling determining that undocumented immigrant children detained by federal authorities must be given adequate living conditions, including access to clean water, proper heating and cooling, and appropriate sleeping conditions. Co-counsel on the case included the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and La Raza Centro Legal.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that immigration authorities must abide by the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, named for a teenage girl who brought the original case, that established standards for the detention, release, and treatment of minors in immigration custody.

Law Foundation attorney, Kate Manning, an expert on child welfare, argued for improved conditions on behalf of some of the children who were in detention and served as the Law Foundation’s lead on this case. The Law Foundation is thankful to its partners and is proud to have worked together to ensure that immigrant children across the country are treated with dignity and justice under the law.

Pro Bono Spotlight: A Little Help Goes A Long Way

When 8-year-old Charlie Taylor* began experiencing seizures as a result of mold and dust mites in his family’s apartment, Charlie’s doctor recommended the family clean the mold and replace the carpet with wood flooring. The family informed their landlord of Charlie’s illness and requested the repairs be made. Instead, the landlord refused and suggested the family move to another unit where the rent is higher. That’s when the Taylor family came to the Law Foundation and was matched with volunteer attorneys from Hogan Lovells, who quickly came to their rescue.

The Hogan Lovells team assigned to the case sent a letter to the landlord on the Taylor family’s behalf, requesting that he have the mold in the unit professionally cleaned and the carpet replaced with wood flooring. The landlord promptly agreed and then worked with our volunteers to make the necessary repairs and improve conditions in the apartment. 

Sean Mahsoul, an attorney at Hogan Lovells, shared the following about his experience:

“This case meant a great to deal to me especially given that the health of a child was at stake. We ended up achieving a positive result for our client that helped improve the health of his son and the livelihood of his family. It made me appreciate the impact that I can make as an attorney by using my legal skills to advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. I was especially happy that we were able to achieve a positive result without having to escalate the situation.”

*Name changed to protect identity

A Hard-Fought Five Years Brings a Huge Victory

For five years, more than 400 residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Palo Alto’s last mobile home park, fought to preserve their homes after the park owners announced their intention to sell the property to a developer. 

Earlier this month, a deal was reached that will preserve the park as affordable housing.

Buena Vista families will continue to enjoy their diverse and tight-knit community and benefit from living in a high opportunity area of Silicon Valley, one that has high-quality Palo Alto schools, safe neighborhoods, jobs, and healthcare. 

We thank the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County and its Executive Director Katherine Harasz, who, together with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, worked to ensure that Buena Vista will be preserved--and renovated-- and operated on a day-to-day basis by The Caritas Corporation, a nonprofit with a mission of maintaining quality affordable housing.

We worked in partnership with our tireless and courageous clients, the Buena Vista residents' association, and many other community advocates and supporters, including:  the Friends of Buena Vista, a dedicated group of Palo Altans, led by Winter Dellenbach; the Palo Alto School Board; the Palo Alto and regional PTAs, led by Susan Eldredge and Nancy Krop; the Community Working Group; Stanford professors and students, led by Education Professor Amado Padilla; Larry Klein; and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and his staff members Micaela Hellman-Tincher and Kristina Loquist. 

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

Photo by Eric Kuhri, Bay Area News Group

The Law Foundation's Buena Vista preservation team included senior attorneys Nadia Aziz and Diana Castillo, senior outreach coordinators Teresa Magana and Nuemi Guzman, supervising attorney Melissa Morris, former supervising attorney James Zahradka, and directing attorney Kyra Kazantzis.  The team was supported by expert co-counsel Madeline Howard, Navneet Grewal, Sue Himmelreich, and Dick Rothschild at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP provided generous pro bono staffing and financial resources for the litigation effort; Matt Dolan and Norm Blears were the key, hard-working members of the Sidley team.

You're Supporting A National Award Winning Program


We're proud to announce that the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership honored the Law Foundation's Silicon Valley Medical Legal Partnership as a 2017 Outstanding Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) Award recipient at the annual MLP Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

Our medical-legal partnership with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center connects patients in VMC's pediatrics department and Homeless Healthcare Program with Law Foundation attorneys who are onsite at multiple VMC clinic sites each week to help with underlying legal problems to various medical issues.

We're grateful to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership for this wonderful honor and to Valley Medical Center for supporting our work.

You Did It!

We had a great time with everyone who came together to create a stronger, more inclusive community at our Celebration of Justice dinner. A heartfelt thank you goes out to our annual partners and individual donors who gave generously to help us continue to use the law as a tool for change in Silicon Valley. Together, we can do so much more for the people in our region who need life-changing legal services -families like the Hernandez-Garfias’, who we introduced to you at the dinner.  

Thank you for an unforgettable night! 

Be sure to check out our photos and see if you can spot your friends and colleagues.

Major Win for Mountain View Tenants

Photo by Nailah Morgank, KQED

Photo by Nailah Morgank, KQED

Last November, voters in Mountain View passed Measure V, aimed at stabilizing rents and providing just cause eviction protections for certain rental units.

Following the vote, the California Apartment Association (CAA) moved to sue the City to block the law from going into effect. That’s when the Law Foundation, along with Fenwick & West, the Stanford Community Law Clinic, and the Public Interest Law Project, stepped in to represent a group of Mountain View voters, tenants, and organizations.

In a major win for Mountain View tenants, the CAA dropped the lawsuit earlier this month.

Mountain View tenants will now be protected from unreasonable rent increases and unjust evictions. “This is a complete victory for the City of Mountain View and a critical win for Mountain View residents, including the most marginalized in our community,” said Nadia Aziz, senior attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “We were thankful to have Fenwick’s excellent support in ensuring Mountain View tenants do not have to live in fear of unfair rent increases and evictions.”

Crucial Safety Net Services, Saved

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

Earlier today, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked the Trump administration's efforts to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, which refuse to act as an arm of federal immigration officials by detaining non-criminal immigrants. The decision was in response to lawsuits filed by the County of Santa Clara and City of San Francisco.

The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, along with pro bono co-counsel at Cooley LLP, filed two amici curiae briefs in the matter,  on behalf of dozens of nonprofit organizations and associations throughout California, supporting Santa Clara County's and San Francisco's motions for preliminary injunction. An amicus curiae is a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case.

Funding cuts to sanctuary jurisdictions would endanger programs that provide preventive health care, meals for seniors, HIV/AIDS assistance, domestic violence services and mental health treatment, putting vulnerable individuals and the community at large at risk.

"This order is an important step to making sure that our neighbors who are immigrants feel safe in accessing important health and human services that are provided by local governments and nonprofit agencies," Law Foundation Directing Attorney Kyra Kazantzis said. "It also ensures that nonprofit organizations providing these key safety net services can continue to further their community service missions without fear of losing important federal funding."

Just Cause Protections Sweep into the South Bay

In a life-changing and historic vote by San Jose City Council, renters in San Jose can no longer be evicted without good reason.  Thanks to years of hard work by tenants and nonprofit groups, like the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, landlords will soon need to provide "just cause" for evicting tenants. Until now, San Jose was the only major Bay Area city without a similar policy. The Mercury News reported earlier this month that since 2010, more than 2,400 no cause evictions were reported.

The explosive growth of Silicon Valley continues to leave some members of our community behind, including long-time residents who are being displaced due to the rising cost of living. San Jose City Council’s vote to enact just cause evictions will help to ensure that all members of our community have the opportunity to be part of the Silicon Valley success story. 

Want to learn more about what just cause protections mean for renters? Listen to Law Foundation supervising attorney, Melissa Morris, on KQED's Forum program or read her letter to the editor in The Mercury News.

Thank you to Mayor Liccardo, and Councilmembers Jones, Jimenez, Peralez, Diep, Carraso, Nguyen, Arenas, and Rocha for their courage and leadership in making sure the urgency ordinance passed.


Hope in Devastation

Last month approximately 14,000 San Jose residents were evacuated from their homes after the Coyote Creek flooded. Now, weeks later, over a hundred affected homes are still uninhabitable. Rock Springs, the neighborhood hardest hit by the flood, is primarily home to low-income Latino and Vietnamese families. Many are living in shelters, cars, with friends, or, if they can afford it, in hotels. Many of those displaced have questions about their legal rights as they try to put their lives back together.

The Law Foundation responded immediately to the need for legal services following the flood by preparing know-your-rights materials and coordinating with other non-profit and government agencies. Our attorneys met with displaced tenants onsite at a community center and at San Jose City Hall.  Most of the tenants we talked to lived in apartments that had been "yellow-tagged," which means that, even though the apartment was cleared for entry, there are still structural problems or issues with providing necessary utilities like water, gas, or electricity-making the home unlivable.  

We met with more than 100 tenants who had questions about rent, their right to move back after their landlords finished making repairs, and about damage to their personal property. We helped them understand their options, including the right of tenants in rent controlled apartments to file petitions for rent reductions with the City of San Jose's rental rights and referrals program.  We also provided advice about talking to their landlords, suggesting they write everything down and to immediately call us if they run into problems or receive an eviction notice.

Tenants affected by the flood who have questions about their legal rights can contact our office at (408) 280-2424.  We serve clients regardless of immigration status, and we keep all information confidential.

Battling Housing Discrimination

What happens when someone with a disability is harassed and discriminated against in the place they call home?

Randy is an elderly man who needs an electronic scooter to get around. However, his landlord refused to allow him to use his scooter at his rental complex. Unable to use a ramp to safely get to his unit on the second floor, he was instead forced to use a cane. The property manager believed Randy was too old to live at the property and further harassed him by making comments suggesting he needed to be somewhere with 24 hour care.  We suspected that Randy wasn't the only one being discriminated against. Our community partner, Project Sentinel, sent in people of varying demographics as potential renters. Not only was the landlord refusing to allow wheelchairs on the property, but families with children were also being turned away and denied housing. 

Law Foundation attorneys filed a lawsuit against the property on Randy's behalf, ultimately settling the case. The property owners agreed to pay monetary damages and demote the manager to a non-leadership role. Additionally, the property owners agreed to allow for future fair housing testing, ensuring that no one else is treated to the kind of discrimination Randy endured. 

Tackling Systemic Inequalities in Silicon Valley

With Law Foundation attorneys along with other housing advocates on hand calling for action, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors moved forward last month with a significant anti-discrimination measure that will provide much needed protection for low-income households in Santa Clara County. 

Though our housing crisis offers limited options for low-income families, many landlords refuse to rent to recipients of rental assistance, including holders of federally-subsidized Section 8 vouchers. This legal form of discrimination prevents thousands from securing safe, stable housing despite their ability to pay the rent.

Putting an end to this harmful practice, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that makes sure landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who receive rental assistance. We thank the Supervisors who voted in favor of this vital effort to address Silicon Valley's housing crisis, including President of the Board Dave Cortese, Supervisor Joe Simitian, Supervisor Cindy Chavez, and Supervisor Ken Yeager