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California Family Law Basics: Pro Bono Representation in Low-Income Family Law Cases 2018

Speaker(s): Antonia More, Billie-Jean Lee, Christopher J. Donnelly, Erin Orum, Fawn Jade Koopman, Janet L. Frankel, Jerel McCrary, Kemi Mustapha, Lauren De La Rosa, Robyn Dunlap, Roxanne Hoegger Alejandre, Staci M. Lambright, Stephanie E. Bilinski, Trina Chatterjee, Tülin D. Açikalin
Recorded on: Aug. 14, 2018
PLI Program #: 244405

Stephanie E. Bilinski is the Supervising Attorney for Family Law at the Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco.  Ms. Bilinski oversees the Justice & Diversity Center’s family law pro bono project, reviewing cases for placement, conducting training of volunteers and providing guidance and supervision to volunteer attorneys.  Prior to joining the Justice & Diversity Center, Ms. Bilinski was a family law litigator and mediator, working in all courts in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Ms. Bilinski received her J.D. cum laude from Seton Hall University School of Law, and her B.A. in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College.

Christopher J. Donnelly heads the Family Law group at Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick, LLP, San Francisco. He is certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist.

From the commencement of his legal practice in 1990, Chris has devoted his practice exclusively to family law at all levels, from premarital and post-marital agreements to complex settlement negotiations, financial analysis, and pretrial, trial, post-judgment, and appellate representation.

Chris has been rated AV by Martindale Hubble since his first rating. He has been honored as one of Ten Leaders in Matrimonial and Divorce Law in San Francisco, California. He has been distinguished as a Northern California Super Lawyer in family law every year since that program’s inception in 2004.

Chris graduated from San Francisco State University (B.A., magna cum laude, 1981) and the University of California, Boalt Hall (J.D., 1990), where he served as co-editor-in-chief of the Industrial Relations Law Journal, 1989-1990. He is the author of Broadening the Definition of Income in the Context of Spousal Support Litigation, 15 Family Law News, No. 4., and In re Marriage of Ilas (Appropriate Economic Analysis) , California Family Law Monthly (April 1993), and with co-author Carroll J. Collins, Esq., Witnesses Tell the Story, 21 ABA Family Advocate 22. He has presented accredited Continuing Legal Education programs for family law attorneys on the subjects of business valuation, discovery, trial practice, and motion practice.

Chris served as the legislative liaison for the State Bar of California Family Law Section Standing Committee on Property, North, which he chaired from 1994 to 1996. In 1997 he was appointed to the California State Bar’s Family Law Section Executive Committee by the State Bar’s Board of Governors. In 1999 he served as the editor of The Family Law News. In 2003 and 2004 Chris served as Chair of the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Family Law Section.

Chris provides pro bono services as a family law attorney mentor for the Bar Association of San Francisco's Justice and Diversity Center legal services program in San Francisco. He has been trained as and serves as an arbitrator for the Bar Association of San Francisco. He has provided private mediation services dealing with complex family law matters, and serves regularly as a settlement master for the Superior Courts of San Francisco and Marin counties.

Professional Associations Office Service

  • State Bar of California, Family Law Section, 1994 – 1996
  • Chair, Legislative Liaison, Standing Committee
  • Executive Committee, 1997-2000
  • San Francisco Bar Association, Family Law Section
  • Chair, 2004-2006

Pro Bono Activities

  • Family Law Attorney Mentor, Justice and Diversity Center legal services program, San Francisco
  • Arbitrator, Bar Association of San Francisco
  • Settlement Master, San Francisco Superior Court, Unified Family Court
  • Bench/Bar Panelist, Marin Superior Court
  • Select direct representations of indigent family law clients.

Janet Frankel earned her JD from Hastings in 1992, and opened her private law practice.  Janet is a certified family law specialist, certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, was awarded the Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services from the State Bar Board of Governors, and was named as a Northern California Super Lawyer.

Janet co-authored Dissolution Strategies, published by CEB, and regularly serves as a Judge pro tem in the Unified Family Courts of the San Francisco Superior Court. She was appointed to and served as Chair of the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization Family Law Advisory Commission, and eventually served as its Chair. Janet also served on the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the San Francisco Bar Association, also eventually serving as Chair.

Janet is an Adjunct Professor at San Francisco Law School (Alliant University), teaching Community Property Law. Janet volunteers monthly in KALW’s public service radio program “Your Legal Rights,” where listeners can "Call a Lawyer" to pose their legal questions to certified specialists off the air. She mentors attorneys who accept pro bono family law matters through the Justice and Diversity Center of the San Francisco Bar Association, and mentors Hastings Law School and San Francisco Law School students interested in family law.  Janet also volunteers as a sailing instructor at her yacht club’s annual Women’s Sailing Seminar and is learning to play classical guitar.

Janet and her husband Tony enjoy spending time with their family, and when Janet is not teaching or practicing law (or sailing), she and her husband go on family vacations.

Roxanne Hoegger Alejandre has practiced family law since 2002. She received her B.A., summa cum laude, from UC Berkeley and her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law.

Roxanne is a staff attorney in the domestic violence unit of Bay Area Legal Aid's, San Francisco office. After graduating from law school, she joined Bay Area Legal Aid as an Equal Justice Works Fellow to provide prevention and intervention services to teen domestic violence victims and survivors. During law school, Roxanne authored a law review article that was published in the UC Berkeley Women's Law Journal, addressing domestic violence cases under the Hague Convention, which has been cited by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits. Roxanne also participated in U.C. Berkeley's domestic violence clinic as an intern for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

Roxanne has substantial experience litigating contested family law hearings and trials. She was the lead trial attorney in a case that successfully challenged a prenuptial agreement based on the lack of financial disclosures. She also assisted with defending the appeal of this matter and filing a cross appeal. She has appeared pro hac vice in Oklahoma court and successfully handled a trial involving interstate custody, international child abduction, and domestic violence.

During her time in private family law practice, Roxanne worked on cases involving complex property issues such as the division of closely held business interests and stock options, the discovery of hidden assets, and breaches of fiduciary duties. She also collaborated with many well-known forensic experts including child custody evaluators, accountants, private judges, and mediators.

Roxanne is a San Francisco native and lives with her family in San Francisco.

Tülin D. Açikalin is one of three founding partners of ADZ Law, LLP. Ms. Açikalin represents survivors of domestic violence in family law and civil tort cases.  Ms. Açikalin’s litigation practice includes cases with substantial assets and high conflict custody. Ms. Açikalin works to achieve safety, economic stability, dissolve intimate relationships, and to seek justice for victims of crime. Ms. Açikalin is skilled in settlement, negotiation, pre-trial discovery, motion practice, trials, and appeals.

Ten years prior to launching ADZ Law, LLP, Ms. Açikalin was a managing attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, the largest poverty law firm in the Bay Area. When she joined BayLegal, she was a 5th year associate coming from big law.

Ms. Açikalin was a member of the San Mateo County Domestic Violence Council (2005-2015), Legal Process Committee, San Mateo County Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care and its Information Sharing Committee, and the Judicial Council of California's Elkins Family Law Task Force.  She is a member of the San Mateo County Bar Association.

Ms. Açikalin offers a quarterly training on Domestic Violence and the Law for victim advocates as a part of La Casa De Las Madres’ 40 hour domestic violence curriculum.  Ms. Açikalin has volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocates and has served as faculty for the San Francisco Bar Association, Practising Law Institute, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Legal Aid Association of California and other organizations educating lawyers, courts, county agencies, and nonprofits on a variety of issues including, LGBT cultural competency, immigration issues for family law practitioners, domestic violence restraining orders for same-sex couples, and navigating international child custody cases. She has also testified before state legislative committee hearings on a range of topics.

Ms. Açikalin graduated cum laude from Tulane Law School in 2000. During law school, Ms. Açikalin was a member of the Tulane Law Review and served as Associate Editor. Ms. Açikalin received her Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business in 1994.

Trina Chatterjee is a partner at MVTC Family Law. She is a certified as a family specialist with the California Bar Association. Since 2007, Trina has practiced primarily in family law and appears in court regularly in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Depending on her client’s needs, Trina can assist clients with finalizing an amicable divorce or vigorously represent her clients in high-conflict cases including domestic violence restraining orders, custody disputes and complex property division.

Trina currently conducts a legal clinic twice a week at the Alameda County Family Justice Center whereby she advises clients on domestic violence and family law issues. She is co-chair of the Alameda County Family Law Association. She presents regularly on family law issues for Practising Law Institute and provides trainings in family law for local legal associations. She was on the Executive Committee for the Solo and Small Firm section of the California Lawyer’s Association. She is a member of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, Contra Costa Bar Association Family Law Section, the Alameda County Bar Association, and California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

Trina has deep roots in the Bay Area non-profit community. She was previously a volunteer attorney with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, served on the Board of Directors of Narika, a Berkeley-based organization that aids South Asian victims of domestic violence, and served on the Board of Directors of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California.

Trina obtained her J.D. from U.C. Hasting College of Law in 1998 and her B.A. from San Francisco State University in 1994. Prior to joining the firm, Trina worked on criminal appeals as a panel attorney with the First District Appellate Project and Sixth District Appellate Project and worked as an associate attorney at Katzoff & Riggs specializing in real estate litigation. She currently lives with her husband and two children in Oakland, California.

Antonia works in the San Francisco Superior Court as the Justice & Diversity Center's Family Law Assisted Self Help attorney. In this position, she assists low­income litigants in family law cases, who cannot afford attorneys and cannot be placed for full scope representation. Primarily, she works with monolingual Spanish and Russian speakers and cases involving complex issues beyond the scope of the ACCESS Center's services.

Before joining JDC, Antonia staffed the Alameda County Superior Court's Family Law Facilitator's Office, volunteered with the Alameda County Bar Association in the Superior Court, and was a litigation partner in a private firm. She has litigated, mediated and refereed civil and family disputes in both public and private contexts. She earned her J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law.

Erin Orum is a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, a non-profit law firm that helps low income residents of the Bay Area build safer, healthier, and more stable lives. Her practice is devoted to representing survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, with a focus on family law and immigration relief.

Fawn Jade Koopman is a staff attorney in the San Francisco office of Bay Area Legal Aid, a legal services agency providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals.  Fawn has provided a variety of trainings on domestic violence theory and practice for attorneys, judges, public servants, domestic violence agencies, and direct service providers.

Fawn received her B.A. from Hampshire College and her J.D. from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa where she also received a graduate certificate in mediation. She is licensed in both Hawai'i and California.

Since 2012, Fawn has been representing survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking in their family law and immigration cases.  Fawn has significant experience with divorce and custody matters, restraining orders, adoptions, guardianships, child support cases, and appeals. Her work experience ranges from uncontested cases to high-asset division and UCCJEA interstate custody disputes.  Fawn has also drafted domestic violence legislation and participated in the drafting of Title IX initiatives and policies concerning sexual assault survivors on university campuses.

Jerel McCrary is a graduate of Stanford University and Hastings College of the Law. He has been a practicing attorney in the Bay Area since 1977. Jerel was one of the founders of Gay Rights Advocates in 1977, and subsequently worked as an Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco for 5 years. He joined the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation in 1989 in its domestic violence prevention unit and continued representing survivors of abuse until 2001 when he became the Regional Counsel in Domestic Violence for Bay Area Legal Aid. During 2006, he served as Acting Executive Director of BayLegal. In 2013, he was named Managing Attorney of BayLegal's San Francisco Office. He has served as a member of the Board of the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic for 25 years. In 2004, he received the Legal Aid Association of California’s Family Law Award, and in 2006, he received the Tanya Neiman Award for Social Justice Advocacy from the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium. Jerel has presented numerous local and national trainings on matters of family law, domestic violence, serving the LGBT community and management of legal aid programs.

Kemi Mustapha is a Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal), the largest provider of free legal services to low-income residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her practice is devoted exclusively to representing survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in all aspects of family law litigation, including restraining orders, divorces, and custody matters. She also represents immigrant clients in U-Visas and VAWA petitions.

Kemi completed a two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship at BayLegal’s San Francisco County Regional Office dedicated to expanding and improving the delivery of direct legal services to African-American domestic violence survivors. She spent several years working in BayLegal's Alameda County Regional Office before transferring to the Santa Clara County Regional Office in November 2017.

Kemi received her J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and her B.A. from The University of Chicago.

Lauren De La Rosa is currently an Interpersonal Violence Staff Attorney for Bay Area Legal Aid. Ms. De La Rosa represents survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in requests for protection orders and in related family law matters. Prior to joining Bay Legal, Ms. De La Rosa was a bilingual Family Law Attorney for Weave, Inc., Sacramento County's only domestic violence and sexual assault crisis center. Ms. De La Rosa is a San Francisco native and developed a love for public interest while working in San Francisco Superior Court's self-help center, the ACCESS Center. Ms. De La Rosa received her J.D. from the University Of Illinois College Of Law and her B.A. in Political Science from San Francisco State University.

Meet Robyn Dunlap, who has joined the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) Family Law Project to work on the newly formed San Francisco Victim Advocacy Coalition (SFVAC). SFVAC is a collaborative grant-funded project led by JDC, the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic (CROC), San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), and W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

As part of SFVAC’s “no wrong door” approach to holistic help for survivors of sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence, and stalking, Robyn is providing brief services, advice, and legal representation to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in San Francisco’s Family Court. In addition, JDC’s partners in SFVAC are representing survivors in Title IX cases on campus, accompanying survivors to court to provide emotional support, and providing ongoing counseling services, therapy, and a 24-hour crisis line.

Robyn’s career has been devoted to representing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She started working as a rape counselor during college at Sacramento State, and while attending law school at Whittier, she interned with the Orange County District Attorney’s sexual assault division. After law school, Robyn worked for the Sexual Assault Legal Institute in Silver Spring MD, handling sexual assault cases, and continued representing sexual assault survivors when she entered private practice.

Ms. Lee started her legal career as a Deputy Public Defender where she honed her pre-trial and trial skills representing clients in numerous court proceedings and in over 80 jury trials.  Since 2008, Ms. Lee has devoted her practice entirely to family law.  Ms. Lee has experience handling all aspects of family law matters and is skilled in negotiation and settlement as well as litigation.

Staci M. Lambright, CFLS, is a Certified Family Law Specialist and Senior Associate at DeLacey, Riebel & Shindell LLP in San Francisco where she specializes in high conflict custody and domestic violence matters. She has been honored by the California Legislature, Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, San Francisco Bar Association, and San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium for her work on cases involving domestic violence, custody jurisdiction and high-conflict custody. She has also provided technical assistance and training to assist a wide range of professionals – including attorneys, advocates, police, sheriffs, health care professionals – who work with and/or whose work affects domestic violence survivors. Ms. Lambright earned her law degree at the University of Texas and was admitted to the California bar in 2003. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from UCLA.