ANNUAL REPORT
For the year 2015

SDVLP Makes a Difference

As attorneys we have a moral responsibility to provide legal assistance to those who are unable to afford counsel. Indeed, pro bono publico (for the public good) represents one of the highest values of our profession.

SDVLP is committed to fulfilling this important duty. We provide an organized structure through which volunteers are supported and oriented to our practice areas.

The positive impact of the work of our volunteers is evident throughout this report. In partnership with our volunteer colleagues we are advocating for the rights of thousands of indigent and disadvantaged San Diegans facing difficult and often desperate life situations. In return for our volunteers’ contributions of time, training, and expertise, their reward is knowing that they have made a significant difference in the lives of those families they have assisted.

It is to our attorney and law student volunteers, our community partners, and our many friends and supporters, that we gratefully dedicate our 2015 Annual Report.

Thank you so much for partnering with us.

Amy J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer

Timothy D. Cohelan, Esq.
Board Chair

SDVLP Makes a Difference

As attorneys we have a moral responsibility to provide legal assistance to those who are unable to afford counsel. Indeed, pro bono publico (for the public good) represents one of the highest values of our profession.

SDVLP is committed to fulfilling this important duty. We provide an organized structure through which volunteers are supported and oriented to our practice areas.

The positive impact of the work of our volunteers is evident throughout this report. In partnership with our volunteer colleagues we are advocating for the rights of thousands of indigent and disadvantaged San Diegans facing difficult and often desperate life situations. In return for our volunteers’ contributions of time, training, and expertise, their reward is knowing that they have made a significant difference in the lives of those families they have assisted.

It is to our attorney and law student volunteers, our community partners, and our many friends and supporters, that we gratefully dedicate our 2015 Annual Report.

Thank you so much for partnering with us.

Amy J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer

Timothy D. Cohelan, Esq.
Board Chair



Notable achievements in 2015 include:

Expansion of Services

  • Connector.Connector.

    We extended operating hours so that we could be more responsive to our clients.

  • Connector.Connector.

    We increased attorney staffing of our HIV/AIDS Law Program to provide a more comprehensive level of assistance.

  • Connector.Connector.

    We expanded our family law component to facilitate increased access to services.

Listen as our clients describe the positive impact that our services made on their lives.

Our services address the following civil matters:

Domestic Violence Prevention

Each year SDVLP helps more than three thousand distressed San Diegans take the first step to end the cycle of abuse. Our clients, the vast majority of whom are women, are assisted through the process of filing a restraining order by our knowledgeable and compassionate volunteer attorneys and staff.

 

Domestic Violence Prevention

Each year SDVLP helps more than three thousand distressed San Diegans take the first step to end the cycle of abuse. Our clients, the vast majority of whom are women, are assisted through the process of filing a restraining order by our knowledgeable and compassionate volunteer attorneys and staff.

 

Family Law

Every day, families in our community struggle on their own to handle legal issues involving divorce, child custody, and child and spousal support. Our services provide vital assistance to qualifying low-income San Diegans.

 

Education Law Advocacy

We intervene on behalf of children in foster care who need assistance to access the special education services to which they are entitled by law. Our volunteers work to keep at-risk children in stable, nurturing and productive educational environments.

 

Education Law Advocacy

We intervene on behalf of children in foster care who need assistance to access the special education services to which they are entitled by law. Our volunteers work to keep at-risk children in stable, nurturing and productive educational environments.

 

HIV / AIDS Legal Services

The difficulties faced by those living with HIV or AIDS are not limited to their health. Our clients experience discrimination, obstacles to care, and a host of financial issues stemming from a limited capacity for employment due to the mental and physical burdens caused by chronic illness. We work with clients to access the care and assistance they require.

 

Immigration Law Services for Children

Vulnerable children in foster care who are eligible for legal permanent resident status greatly benefit from our assistance. Our intervention ensures that these children remain safe from abuse and neglect.

 

Immigration Law Services for Children

Vulnerable children in foster care who are eligible for legal permanent resident status greatly benefit from our assistance. Our intervention ensures that these children remain safe from abuse and neglect.

 

Unlawful Detainer

Those struggling with housing issues find relief and guidance from our volunteers. The assistance offered is often the key to preventing degradation and homelessness.

 

Guardianship

Our attorneys successfully represent caring individuals and families seeking legal guardianship of children at risk of being placed in the foster care system. These families are effectively supported through the complicated legal process.

 

Guardianship

Our attorneys successfully represent caring individuals and families seeking legal guardianship of children at risk of being placed in the foster care system. These families are effectively supported through the complicated legal process.

 

Services to Local Nonprofits

Organizations who serve low-income San Diegans are strengthened by our expertise in legal compliance and corporate governance. This assistance increases agencies’ effectiveness in serving the needs of our community.

 

Read Caroline's * Story

She didn’t know what to do next to protect herself and her family

Caroline came in to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order clinic after her husband had chased, beaten, and also threatened her with a gun. He then vanished in the car with their children, along with the gun. An Amber Alert was issued and the children were eventually located and taken into custody by Child Protective Services. Caroline was traumatized by what had happened, physically and emotionally, and did not know what to do next to protect herself and her family. The volunteer attorney was able to explain the process and knew the best way to prepare the paperwork to ensure that the order would be granted – such as including pictures showing Caroline’s injuries and helping her express her fears in a clear manner. Caroline was also provided with crucial resources to help her with the complicated logistics of moving on to regain custody of her children.

Christian's Story

Due to an administrative error, his insurance eligibility was never received by the hospital.

Christian is disabled, living with AIDS. After a hospital stay he was stunned to receive a bill for nearly $70,000. Due to an administrative error, the hospital never received Christian's Medi-Cal eligibility, and as a result, he was assessed the charges. The hospital continued to pursue Christian for payment, even after his eligibility was established. The debt was eventually sent to collections, causing Christian extreme distress and wrongly damaging his credit.
After meeting with Christian, an SDVLP staff attorney worked with the hospital to get the bill transferred to Medi-Cal. The collection agency was told to cease collection efforts, and the attorney succeeded in getting the erroneous debt removed from Christian’s credit reports. In a matter of months, SDVLP was able to help Christian resolve a devastating problem that had burdened him greatly for several years.

Charles' Story

The attorney gave him information for a support group for families with mental illness

Charles is in his seventies. He and his wife are raising their seven year-old granddaughter. Their adult son, Roger, the father of the child, is mentally ill. Roger experienced a psychotic breakdown, which caused him to verbally abuse Charles and his wife, and to destroy property in their home. Our volunteer attorney helped Charles complete the restraining order paperwork. However, Charles felt badly about restraining his own son, as Roger is not well and has nowhere else to go. As an alternative solution, the request for the restraining order was structured to address the negative behaviors, while still allowing Roger to see his daughter and parents outside of the home. This positive outcome allowed the family to maintain their bond.

Annette's Story

Her live-in caregiver was caught tampering with medications.

Annette was born with cerebral palsy and relies on 24/7 care. She sought our assistance following a referral from Adult Protective Services. Her live-in caregiver was caught tampering with medications, and taking inappropriate pictures of Annette’s husband, who also has cerebral palsy. Annette has difficulty speaking due to her disability. With time and patience we were able to collect the information necessary to prepare the paperwork to request the removal of the caregiver from Annette's home. Further legal intervention was required to secure interpretation services at her court hearing. This assistance was necessary to enable Annette and her husband to successfully navigate the complicated legal process and protect them from further harm.

Rose's Story

We are helping Rose to secure permanent guardianship of her cherished grandsons

Rose dearly wanted to raise her two grandsons, aged 3 and 1, but needed to obtain legal guardianship. The toddlers’ parents were unable to care for them due to debilitating struggles with addiction – their mother abandoned the children early on and could not be reached, and their father was relinquishing them to Rose because he was on the brink of losing them to the dependency system. Rose came to our guardianship clinic, willing to provide a healthy, stable and loving home, but she was in dire need of legal assistance. Our volunteer attorney prepared the voluminous paperwork as the boys played contentedly by Rose’s side. Later at her court hearing, the judge was persuaded by the volunteer attorney to grant temporary guardianship to Rose. He is now helping Rose to secure permanent guardianship of her cherished grandsons.

Pamela's Story

She knew what he was capable of and was very afraid.

Pamela recently turned 18 and came to SDVLP to file a restraining order against her father. She was embarking on her road to recovery after years of abuse, and a recent attempt to take her own life. Pamela now feared retaliation as a result of reporting his abuse, recalling an incident during which her father tried to strangle her mother when she left him.

The staff attorney spoke with Pamela in detail about the process. Her young age and recent suicide attempt made Pamela particularly fragile and unable to articulate her fears on her own. The attorney explained that her new address and phone number could remain confidential, so she would not have to fear her father tracking her down after he was served with the restraining order. Pamela would not have been able to successfully navigate this process without the assistance of a skilled and caring advocate.

* All client names have been changed

Tap the images to read each story.

Read Caroline's * Story

She didn’t know what to do next to protect herself and her family

Caroline came in to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order clinic after her husband had chased, beaten, and also threatened her with a gun. He then vanished in the car with their children, along with the gun. An Amber Alert was issued and the children were eventually located and taken into custody by Child Protective Services. Caroline was traumatized by what had happened, physically and emotionally, and did not know what to do next to protect herself and her family. The volunteer attorney was able to explain the process and knew the best way to prepare the paperwork to ensure that the order would be granted – such as including pictures showing Caroline’s injuries and helping her express her fears in a clear manner. Caroline was also provided with crucial resources to help her with the complicated logistics of moving on to regain custody of her children.

Christian's Story

Due to an administrative error, his insurance eligibility was never received by the hospital.

Christian is disabled, living with AIDS. After a hospital stay he was stunned to receive a bill for nearly $70,000. Due to an administrative error, the hospital never received Christian's Medi-Cal eligibility, and as a result, he was assessed the charges. The hospital continued to pursue Christian for payment, even after his eligibility was established. The debt was eventually sent to collections, causing Christian extreme distress and wrongly damaging his credit.
After meeting with Christian, an SDVLP staff attorney worked with the hospital to get the bill transferred to Medi-Cal. The collection agency was told to cease collection efforts, and the attorney succeeded in getting the erroneous debt removed from Christian’s credit reports. In a matter of months, SDVLP was able to help Christian resolve a devastating problem that had burdened him greatly for several years.

Charles' Story

The attorney gave him information for a support group for families with mental illness

Charles, who is in his seventies, with his wife is raising their seven year-old granddaughter. Their adult son, Roger, the father of the child, is mentally ill. Roger experienced a psychotic breakdown, which caused him to verbally abuse Charles and his wife, and to destroy property in their home. Our volunteer attorney helped Charles complete the restraining order paperwork. However, Charles felt badly about restraining his own son, as Roger is not well and has nowhere else to go. As an alternative solution in this case, the request for the restraining order was structured to address the negative behaviors, while still allowing Roger to see his daughter and parents outside of the home. This positive outcome allowed the family to maintain their bond.

Annette's Story

Her live-in caregiver was caught tampering with medications.

Annette was born with cerebral palsy and relies on 24/7 care. She sought our assistance following a referral from Adult Protective Services. Her live-in caregiver was caught tampering with medications, and taking inappropriate pictures of Annette’s husband, who also has cerebral palsy. Annette has difficulty speaking due to her disability. With time and patience we were able to collect the information necessary to prepare the paperwork to request the removal of the caregiver from Annette's home. Further legal intervention was required to secure interpretation services at her court hearing. This assistance was necessary to enable Annette and her husband to successfully navigate the complicated legal process and protect them from further harm.

Rose's Story

We are helping Rose to secure permanent guardianship of her cherished grandsons

Rose* dearly wanted to raise her two grandsons, aged 3 and 1, but needed to obtain legal guardianship in order to take them to see a pediatrician. The boys’ parents were unable to care for the children due to debilitating struggles with addiction – their mother had abandoned the children early on and could not be reached, and their father was relinquishing them to Rose because he was on the brink of losing them to the dependency system. Rose came to our guardianship clinic, willing to provide a healthy, stable and loving home, but she was in dire need of legal assistance. Our volunteer attorney prepared the voluminous paperwork as the boys played contentedly by Rose’s side. Later at her court hearing, the judge was persuaded by the volunteer attorney to grant temporary guardianship to Rose. He is now helping Rose to secure permanent guardianship of her cherished grandsons.

Pamela's Story

She knew what he was capable of and was very afraid.

Pamela recently turned 18 and came to SDVLP to file a restraining order against her father. She was embarking on her road to recovery after years of abuse, and a recent attempt to take her own life. Pamela now feared retaliation as a result of reporting his abuse, recalling an incident during which her father tried to strangle her mother when she left him.

The staff attorney spoke with Pamela in detail about the process. Her young age and recent suicide attempt made Pamela particularly fragile and unable to articulate her fears on her own. The attorney explained that her new address and phone number could remain confidential, so she would not have to fear her father tracking her down after he was served with the restraining order. Pamela would not have been able to successfully navigate this process without the assistance of a skilled and caring advocate.

* All client names have been changed



Volunteers Make a Difference

Our volunteers represent clients, and also provide legal advice and information to many others. Attorneys from large firms, solo practitioners, those recently admitted to the bar, retired attorneys, and law student interns, all find meaningful volunteer opportunities with SDVLP. 

In their own words, our volunteers share why the assistance they provide is meaningful to them:

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Donors Make it Possible

Supporting legal services is a fundamental investment in our community.


Financials

2015 Annual Budget = $1.8 million

Our careful stewardship of grants, contracts, and donations ensures that the resources we receive are effectively utilized to benefit as many San Diegans as possible.

Program Services
92%
General Expenses
4%
Fundraising and Special Events
4%
Your support matters to in San Diego.


SDVLP Board and Staff

Executive Committee

Timothy D. Cohelan, Esq.
Chair
Cohelan, Khoury & Singer

J. William Hargreaves, Esq.
Vice Chair
Hargreaves & Taylor, LLP

Rosalie A. Kramm, CSR
Secretary
Kramm Court Reporting, Inc.

Randall R. Reed
Treasurer
OneAmerica Retirement Services, LLC

Jeffrey Isaacs, Esq.
Past Chair
West Coast Mediation Group

David J. Noonan, Esq.
Past Chair
Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge LLP

Edward D. Vogel, Esq.
Past Chair
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Jeffrey M. Byer, Esq.
Director-at-large
Sandler Lasry Laube Byer & Valdez LLP

Leah Swearingen, APR
Director-at-large
Swearingen Communications

Board of Directors

Michael A. Attanasio, Esq.
Cooley LLP

Elizabeth L. Brann, Esq.
Paul Hastings LLP

Sharon L. Cohen, Esq.
Sempra Energy

Craig E. Countryman, Esq.
Fish & Richardson, P.C.

Truc T. Do
Jones Day, LLP

Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo
University of San Diego School of Law

Samuel F. Hoffman, Esq.
Foley & Lardner LLP

Christopher J. Huffman, CFA
The Huffman Group

Chris D. Humphreys, Esq.
Dentons US LLP

Jay W. Jeffcoat, Esq.
DLA Piper LLP

Patricia J. Lane, CLM
Dentons US LLP

Laurie L. Largent, Esq.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP

Euphemia Lee Ng
Community member

Katherine K. Pothier, Esq.
Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP

John T. Ryan, Esq.
Latham & Watkins LLP

John A. Scott, Esq.
Qualcomm, Inc.

Steven R. Smith
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law
California Western School of Law

Julie A. Vogelzang, Esq.
Duane Morris LLP

Dale B. Walls
Community member

Christopher L. Walters, Esq.
Walters Law Group

Michael J. Weaver, Esq.
JAMS

Justice Howard B. Wiener (Ret.)

M. Andrew Woodmansee, Esq.
Jones Day LLP


Amy J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer

Staff

Araceli Acevedo
Legal Administrative Assistant

Iriana Bahena
Legal Administrative Assistant

Devon Blake
Office Administrator

Renee Cadmus
Staff Attorney

Heather Carmody
Staff Attorney

Helaina Chinn
Staff Attorney

Irasema Coronado
Legal Administrative Assistant

Nichole Dominguez
Staff Attorney

Laura R. Handler
Staff Attorney

Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi
Pro Bono Manager and Supervising Attorney

Kris L. Jacobs
Managing Attorney

Linda Johnson
Staff Attorney

Emily Kirohn
Staff Attorney

K. Angela Leitch
Accountant

Leslie J. Mackay
Staff Attorney

Cheryl A. Martinez
Senior Manager

Eliseo Martinez
Legal Administrative Assistant

Bhavani Peesapati-Madero
Staff Attorney

Mayte Ramirez
Legal Administrative Assistant

Roberto Sarmiento
Staff Attorney

Lindsay Slocum
Staff Attorney

Michele M. White
Legal Assistant

Thank you for viewing our annual report.

If you would like to learn more about our work, we invite you to explore our website.