SANTA BARBARA, CA – On Friday, September 15, nine 1L students boarded the Justice Bus bound for Santa Barbara. The Justice Bus Project mobilizes pro bono volunteers to increase access to legal aid statewide and create pathways to justice for thousands of Californians in need. The mobile legal clinic partners law students with attorneys to serve local communities with potentially life-changing legal assistance. In addition, law students gain practical experience working alongside public defenders.
Legal problems face millions of low-income Californians, and by providing accessibility to legal resources, families are able to overcome barriers to necessities like housing, health care, food, and protection from violence. The mission of OneJustice is to transform the legal aid system, and for ten years, the organization has conducted clinics statewide for veterans, low-income families, and rural immigrants.
This year, under the leadership of Professor Sophia Hamilton, students saw twenty-six clients and helped veterans and low-income families determine eligibility for expungement of California criminal records and reduction of felonies to misdemeanors (if they qualified) under Proposition 47. Ventura County Public Defender Rachel Solomon said, “Once you get to know someone, it’s harder to marginalize them.”
Savannah Billingham-Hemminger shared, “This is a really cool experience to have in our fourth week of law school! To actually go out and practice somewhat what we are learning is something unique about Pepperdine Law.” She added, “It’s a little scary, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Because the Justice Bus Project emphasizes clean-slate work for veterans with criminal records, Sunnie Lund knew she wanted to be a part of the mission: “My dad served for 25 years in the Navy, and I wanted to do something that gets me out of the classroom to remind me why I’m in law school. This grounds me in the real world of it.”
The Pepperdine Clinical Education Program provides students with opportunities to practice law, work with clients, learn from expert practitioners, observe the work of lawyers and courts, grow as professionals, and seek justice in our communities. Through partnerships with organizations and non-profits such as OneJustice, students gain perspective and skills that transfer to every aspect of their future careers. First year law students who participated include: Savannah Billingham-Hemminger, Jacob Bliss, Brittney Cannon, Ravi Dhaliwal, Rebecca Ferrari, Dana Johnston, Sunnie Lund, Victor Mendoza, and Alex Prime.