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Providing Legal Assistance in the Aftermath of Disaster 2020

Speaker(s): Amy Bach, Derek G. Schoonmaker, Desiree Nguyen Orth, Erin Scott, Gloria Chun, Jeffery Hoffman, Jora Trang, Kendall Jarvis, Lee S. Harris, Lisa Sitkin, Professor Ora Prochovnick
Recorded on: Jan. 29, 2020
PLI Program #: 294822

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.

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.

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.

Derek is the Directing Attorney for the workers’ rights practice at Centro Legal de la Raza. In that role, he leads Centro Legal’s efforts to provide legal services and representation to low-wage and immigrant workers facing wage theft, workplace safety violations, discrimination, and retaliation. Before joining Centro Legal, Derek served as a legal fellow with Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program in Washington, D.C., where he supported advocacy efforts to challenge abusive immigration detention practices. After the fellowship, Derek joined the Social Justice Law Project to advance impact litigation aimed at removing barriers to employment for low-wage workers with criminal records.

Derek has advocated for the rights of low-wage immigrant workers since his first year of law school, when he and other law students collaborated with a day laborer center to offer a weekly legal clinic for workers confronting wage theft.

Derek holds a Juris Doctor degree from U.C. Berkeley School of Law, and a Joint Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Development Studies from McGill University. He served as a law clerk for Judge Anthony J. Scirica of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Desiree Nguyen Orth is the supervising attorney for the Consumer Advocacy Project at the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco. Desiree recruits, trains, mentors, and supervises volunteer attorneys to work with low income consumers. Desiree conducts a monthly clinic wherein consumers get free legal advice and help with pending lawsuits, student loan issues, debt negotiation, identity theft, and debt enforcement issues. Desiree also mentors and oversees volunteers with full scope cases in collection and post-judgment litigation.

In addition to providing direct services to low income clients, Desiree is an active member in representing the Justice & Diversity Center in the California Low-Income Consumer Coalition which works to create laws that protect low-income consumers in California. Prior to joining the Justice & Diversity Center, Desiree was a managing attorney of the San Francisco office of a consumer protection firm in San Diego.

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.

Jora Trang is the Managing Attorney of Worksafe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the basic right of all people to a safe and healthy workplace. Jora’s pronouns are “they” and “them.” They specialize in employment/labor law and has worked for over 20 years to advance social justice issues affecting marginalized populations. They served as the Managing Attorney for Worksafe since 2011 where they have been instrumental in directing Worksafe’s legal work with regard to advocating for protective worker health and safety laws, policies, regulations and standards; effective remedies for injured workers; stronger government enforcement; and increased capacity of worker leaders, worker advocates, and legal aid organizations to help vulnerable workers in California. They participate in national coalitions and efforts to ensure stronger protections for workers nationwide. They are the current Chair of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

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.