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Providing Legal Assistance in the Aftermath of Disaster

Speaker(s): Claire Johnson Raba, Dan R. Wade, Erin Scott, Gloria Chun, Jeffery Hoffman, Kendall Jarvis, Lee S. Harris, Lisa Sitkin, Maria Tapia-Hernandez, Monica I. De La Hoya
Recorded on: Apr. 6, 2018
PLI Program #: 244040

"Dan" Wade is the Staff Attorney for United Policyholders ("UP"), a national non-profit 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group based in San Francisco that focuses on helping disaster victims with insurance recovery. UP’s mission is to “empower the insured” and was founded following the Oakland-Berkeley Hills Firestorm – to this date still the most destructive wildfire in California’s history. Dan has experience working with legislators and regulators on issues affecting insurance consumers, with a particular focus on victims of wildfires, floods, tornados, hurricanes, and explosions. Dan is returning to the Disaster Legal Services team for the 2017-2018 as one of two Vice-Coordinators.

In his role at UP, Dan has staffed multiple Local Assistance Centers and FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers and guided homeowners and renters through UP's Roadmap to Recovery™ Program. UP works with state, local, and federal partners, including the American Red Cross, FEMA, and VOADs (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) to deliver a crucial component of disaster recovery. At UP, Dan has assisted with recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy, flooding and wildfires in Colorado, flooding in Texas and South Carolina, and numerous wildfires in California. UP has trained legal services providers in many states on insurance law and related topics following disasters.

In addition to his work with the Young Lawyers Division and the DLS Team, Dan is also a Vice Chair of the Property Insurance Law Committee and a member of the Insurance Regulation and Insurance Coverage Litigation Committees. Dan speaks and writes with regularity on insurance law topics for professional associations and trade groups and has been published by Lexis Nexis, the ABA, and other groups. Dan received his J.D. from California Western School of Law in 2013 and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Policy from San Diego State University (2007). Before coming to UP, he gained experience with an environmental group and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago. Dan is admitted to practice in Illinois (2013) and California (2014).

Monica I. De La Hoya, is the Directing Attorney of the Basic Unit of the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. in Oxnard, California.  For the past five and a half years, she has overseen cases in the areas of Housing, Labor, and Public Benefits, Education with significant experience in representing tenants in subsidized housing.  Prior to working for CRLA, Monica gained experience in civil litigation.  She also has legal experience in municipal law (Imperial County Office of County Counsel) and criminal law (Ventura County Public Defender’s Office).  Monica has been practicing law since 2008.  Prior to attending law school she was a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia for two years, where she taught English and developed a library at a village elementary school.

CRLA serves low-income individuals residing in over 22 California counties. As rural areas and small cities of California continue to change, so does our outreach and service to diverse communities. Today, CRLA serves a wide array of clients, while maintaining specialized programs that focus on services for farmworker populations. CRLA clients also include individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, school children, lesbian/gay/bisexual and transgender populations, seniors and individuals with limited English proficiency.

CRLA reaches over 29,000 individuals a year through a combination of advocacy strategies that: 1) increase access to high-quality, no-cost legal services; 2) ensure the equitable and fair distribution of resources in rural communities; and 3) protect the rights of low-income individuals to seek justice under the law.

338 South “A” Street
Oxnard, CA 93030
(805) 483-8083

As an attorney in the Community Legal Services program at Legal Aid at Work, Maria helped launch the Workers’ Rights Clinic in San Diego in collaboration with the University of San Diego School of Law. The clinic partners with local community organizations to provide legal consultation and to do outreach and community trainings about workers’ rights.

Most recently, Maria worked at Bay Area Legal Aid, where she assisted domestic violence survivors apply for protective orders and tackle custody, visitation, and other issues. She has clerked with Legal Aid of Napa Valley and the Immigration Center for Women and Children.

Maria also worked as a student clinic counselor with the Workers' Rights Clinic at Legal Aid at Work, after which she went on to become a student representative at the Civil Justice Clinic at UC Hastings. Maria received her B.A. in Sociology from UC Berkeley in 2009 and her JD from Hastings in 2014. During law school Maria was Co-Chair of La Raza Law Students Association.

Ms. Jarvis is currently the Disaster Relief Attorney for Legal Aid of Sonoma County. In this position, Ms. Jarvis helps survivors of the 2017 Northern California Wildfires address the significant legal challenges faced in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Such legal issues include: FEMA, insurance, housing, employment, construction, and many more.

Before becoming the Disaster Relief Attorney for Legal Aid of Sonoma County, Ms. Jarvis received her Juris Doctorate and Masters of Law from Empire College of Law, where she graduated as Salutatorian of her graduating class. While in law school, Ms. Jarvis volunteered as a law clerk for Legal Aid of Sonoma County and as a mediator for the Sonoma County Courts. Prior to law school, Ms. Jarvis received her Mediation Certification from the University of California, Berkeley and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Society from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she graduated with high honors.

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.

Erin Scott, Esq. has been working on domestic violence and sexual assault issues since volunteering as a rape crisis counselor in 1990. She currently is the Executive Director at the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland and sits on the Board of Directors of UnCommon Law. She is a former Board member of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the Family Violence Appellate Project. She has provided legal services for pregnant and parenting teens and represented a survivor who was imprisoned for killing her batterer. Erin received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. She also currently is enrolled in a Masters in History program with the University of Edinburgh.

Gloria is the Director and Managing Attorney of the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) Pro Bono Legal Services Program.  She oversees eight projects that provide access to justice to low-income people in numerous areas of civil law and business/transactional help to nonprofit organizations that serve low-income communities. 

Since law school, Gloria has advocated for fairness for all, including refugees fleeing gender persecution, consumers and low-wage workers. Before joining JDC, she was a civil and appellate litigator, including a pro bono case where she successfully fought for the release of a domestic violence survivor who was incarcerated on a life sentence.

Jeffery Hoffman is the Directing Attorney of the Santa Rosa Office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Santa Clara University School of Law and has been an attorney in the field of public interest law since 1985.  Jeff has been with CRLA since 2004.   He specializes in housing, indigent health issues, and government benefits law.

Lee S. Harris is a nationally recognized trial lawyer who helps people with insurance, personal injury and home/building damage. Lee served as 2018 President of Consumer Attorneys of California.  His clients include victims of catastrophic home and business destruction, personal injuries, insurance disputes including long term disability denial and wrongful death claims.

Lee has served as chair of the American Association for Justice, Insurance and Bad Faith Litigation groups.  Lee received his undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard and his law degree from the University of San Francisco, where he received the American Jurisprudence Award for Evidence.  He has authored articles and lectured on insurance coverage, jury selection, injury and disability cases, property damage and complex litigation. He was appointed by the State Bar of California to the Commission to revise the Rules of Professional Conduct. Lee received an AV Preeminent 5.0 out of 5 rating from Martindale and has been selected as one of California’s Super Lawyers. He is a fellow of the American Bar Association.  He has instructed at a number of trial advocacy programs including the Stanford Law School Trial Advocacy Skills Program, Hastings College of Advocacy and the University of San Francisco School of Law Intensive Advocacy Program. He is admitted to practice in California State and Federal Court as well as the Supreme Court of the United States.

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.