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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

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.

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.

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 and a respected voice for policyholders in legislative and professional forums and in print and broadcast media. Bach is the author of numerous publications including “Wise UP – The Savvy Consumers Guide to Buying Insurance”, "The Disaster Recovery Handbook," articles and guidance at and “friend of the court” legal briefs.   In 2019, Bach was appointed to a 3 year term as a member of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response.

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 for the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance, 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 and 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 is in her thirteenth year as an official consumer representative and is a Consumer Participation Program trustee 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 National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, the Florida Association for Insurance Reform, the Proposition 103 Implementation Project, and the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Lisa Newstrom is Managing Attorney of Bay Area Legal Aid’s Santa Clara County Regional Office.  In her practice, Lisa has represented clients in matters regarding safety-net programs such as SSI, CalWORKS, Food Stamps, 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 served as faculty at Benchmark Institute and Practising Law Institute (PLI) and trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates, and social services providers on legal issues in public benefits, particularly for youth with disabilities, noncitizens, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Lisa Sitkin is a Senior Staff Attorney at National Housing Law Project (NHLP) in San Francisco, CA, where she engages in policy advocacy and provides technical assistance, training and practice resources to attorneys representing low-income homeowners and tenants. 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 in foreclosure matters, participated in policy advocacy regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure at the state and federal levels, 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, the National Consumer Law Center and the National Association of Consumer Attorneys, and has testified before the California State Legislature and other governmental bodies regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure issues. She has been active in legislative and regulatory advocacy related to homeowner and tenant relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is one of the original drafters of the bill that ultimately became the California Homeowner Bill of Rights.

Shirley Gibson is Directing Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. Shirley came to LASSMC in 2007 to develop the housing practice and eviction defense program, which has grown over the past decade to provide direct legal services to over 1,200 tenant households each year. Before coming to Legal Aid, Shirley was a staff attorney at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco for five years, where she helped pilot San Francisco’s day-of-court representation program for pro per tenants in settlement conferences and the Family Eviction Prevention Consortium rental assistance program. As an associate with the Law Offices of Tim A. Pori, Shirley represented plaintiffs in civil rights and bad faith actions. She has a B.A. from Reed College and a J.D. from New College of California School of Public Interest Law.