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Providing Legal Assistance in the Aftermath of the NorCal Wildfires

Speaker(s): Aaron P. Minnis, Amy Bach, Claire Johnson Raba, Lisa M. Newstrom, Lisa Sitkin, Professor Ora Prochovnick, Shirley Gibson, William Friedman
Recorded on: Nov. 28, 2017
PLI Program #: 234687

Amy Bach has been a professional advocate for insurance consumers since 1984 and an attorney since 1989. A native of Brooklyn, New York residing in San Francisco, she co- founded United Policyholders in 1991. She currently serves as the organization's Executive Director and primary spokesperson; shaping and overseeing the Roadmap to Recovery™, Roadmap to Preparedness, and Advocacy and Action programs. She is a nationally recognized expert on insurance claim and legal matters; frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media, and the author of numerous publications including "The Disaster Recovery Handbook" and consumer tips and guides in the UP Claim Help Library.

Bach graduated cum laude from Cornell University in 1982 and received her Juris Doctor degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1989. Ms. Bach has performed government service with the New York and California State Legislatures, and the New York State Consumer Protection Board. She served as counsel to a special master overseeing reforms at the California Department of Insurance in the 1990s. Bach served on the Product Enhancement Advisory Board to the California Earthquake Authority in 2005—2007. Bach was appointed in January, 2008 by the California Insurance Commissioner to Chair a Consumer Advisory Task Force.   In 2011 she was selected to serve as an adviser to the American Law Institute on the Principles of the Law of Liability Insurance. 

Bach has been appointed for six consecutive terms to serve as an official consumer representative at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  She was honored as a 2012 Money Hero by Money Magazine and has received awards from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California, the Proposition 103 Implementation Project, and the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Lisa Sitkin is a Senior Staff Attorney at National Housing Law Project (NHLP) in San Francisco, CA, where she provides technical assistance, training and practice resources to attorneys representing homeowners in connection with mortgages and foreclosure. She has been practicing law since 1997. Prior to joining NHLP, Ms. Sitkin was a Managing Attorney at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates in Oakland, CA. Ms. Sitkin has counseled and represented individual clients, participated in policy advocacy regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure, and assisted with mortgage servicing, predatory and unfair lending litigation. She has conducted numerous workshops and trainings regarding mortgages, foreclosures, loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams, including programs produced by the Practicing Law Institute and the National Consumer Law Center, and has testified before the California State Legislature and other governmental bodies regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure issues. She is one of the original drafters of the bill that ultimately became the California Homeowner Bill of Rights.

Ora Prochovnick is the Director of Clinical and Public Interest Law Programs at John F. Kennedy University College of Law. She teaches in the fields of Real Property, Gender and Sexual Orientation and the Law, and Tenant Rights as supervising attorney for JFKU’s innovative Housing Advocacy Clinic, operated in collaboration with Bay Area Legal Aid. She has received many awards from the State Bar and local bar associations in recognition of her expertise and legal assistance, particularly to the low income community. Ora has been a frequent presenter at workshops and seminars, for both legal professionals and the general public.

Aaron Minnis, a partner at Minnis & Smallets, has been practicing law in California since 1999. Aaron advises executives, professionals, attorneys, and employees through complex and sensitive work issues. He has litigated numerous employment cases, and resolved cases at mediation, trial, and after appeal.

Claire Johnson Raba is a staff attorney and the consumer law unit coordinator at Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) in San Francisco, California. Claire represents low-income consumers in state, federal, and bankruptcy court in matters including debt defense, fair debt collection, fair credit reporting, bankruptcy, student loans, automobile loans, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and foreclosure. The BayLegal consumer law unit serves clients in the communities in which they live through a combination of full representation, affirmative and impact litigation, and a robust unbundled services clinic model which empowers low-income consumers to understand their consumer rights. In 2011, Claire founded the Debtors' Rights Clinics, through which BayLegal provides legal services to over one hundred consumers each month on site in local communities throughout the seven counties of the San Francisco Bay Area. Claire teaches Consumer Law as adjunct faculty at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Lisa Newstrom joined Bay Area Legal Aid in 2009 as a Public Benefits Attorney and has served as Managing Attorney of the Santa Clara County Regional Office since 2013. In her practice, Lisa represents clients in matters regarding safety-net programs such as SSI, CalWORKS, CalFresh, Medi-Cal and General Assistance. Lisa serves on several regional task forces including the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking and the Santa Clara County Public Benefits Task Force. She has trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates, and social services providers on legal issues in public benefits, particularly for immigrants, youths with disabilities, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Prior to her legal career, Lisa worked with low-income immigrant families as a bilingual/ESL special education teacher.

William Friedman is the Acting Director of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)’s Storm Response Unit, which provides comprehensive legal services for victims of Superstorm Sandy. During the storm recovery process, he has advocated for clients across multiple practice areas, including landlord-tenant, foreclosure, consumer, insurance, and benefit programs. Prior to joining NYLAG, William practiced landlord-tenant and foreclosure defense litigation at Nassau-Suffolk Legal Services. He earned his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law and his B.A. from Muhlenberg College.

Shirley Gibson is Directing Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, where she has supervised the housing and eviction defense practice since 2007. Ms. Gibson was previously a staff attorney at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco for five years, and a litigation associate with Law Offices of Tim A. Pori for two years. She is a graduate of Reed College (B.A, 1994) and New College of California School of Public Interest Law (J.D., 1999).