Collaborating to bring legal aid to Native American Veterans

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Last month, two Equal Justice Works Fellows combined forces to bring much-needed legal aid to Native American veterans in rural areas of northern California. Austin Baumgarten is a 2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP working at Swords to Plowshares, and Lauren Roberts is a 2012 Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow serving at OneJustice.

As you may remember from previous blogs, OneJustice is the founder of the Justice Bus Project—an effort to bring legal services to rural areas by organizing legal clinics that are staffed by pro bono attorneys and law students. Swords to Plowshares is a community-based nonprofit veterans service organization that provides holistic care to veterans. By partnering together with the Yurok Tribal Court, OneJustice and Swords to Plowshares were able to bring legal services to Native American veterans in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.

Over two days, dedicated law students from the University of San Francisco School of Law, staff from the Yurok Tribal Court, and attorneys from Swords to Plowshares and from OneJustice joined Lauren and Austin to staff three free legal clinics and served 36 veterans. Lauren says that the clinics had the feel of a community gathering, as many clients stayed to visit with their friends and fellow veterans after the lawyers finished assisting them. She recalls that, “As we departed, there were thank you’s all around.  Our team was thankful to be there and offer legal assistance, and we were thanked profusely for coming – and most importantly, we were asked to return.”

This was the longest distance the Justice Bus has traveled to serve clients, and both Lauren and Austin were excited to be a part of it. Over the next two weeks we’ll have guest blog posts from both these outstanding Fellows, so stay tuned to hear more about this special trip! 

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