Contra Costa COMMUNITY Bar Association
“Empower our members to deliver outstanding legal service to our community.”
That is the mission of the Contra Costa County Bar Association. It is a clear statement of our goals, focusing on three core elements: 1) empowering our members 2) outstanding legal service and 3) community. The CCCBA works tirelessly to empower our members to deliver outstanding legal service. It offers varied and numerous MCLE opportunities each year; it supports 22 sections, each dedicated to a different practice area or goal; and it operated the Criminal Conflict Program for 30+ years and it continues to operate the LRIS, both organizations creating opportunities for practice development for our attorneys, but the CCCBA does much more than just that. It also has a long history of working to help members of the larger community in which we live and work.
Contra Costa County is a large and diverse county. Take, for instance, the contrast between cities like Walnut Creek, with its million dollar homes and its posh downtown shopping district, and Bay Point, which has much higher levels of crime and poverty. Our county is a study of contrasts and that, unfortunately means that not everyone is doing as well as everyone else. The United Way recently reported in its “Snapshot of Poverty: Contra Costa County” (https://uwba.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ContraCosta-Snapshot.pdf) that 11 percent of our residents live below the federal poverty guideline. To give you a little context, the federal poverty guideline is set at one income level for all continuous 48 US States. In 2017 (when the Snapshot was published) that rate sat at $20,420 for a family of three, regardless of whether you lived in the Bay Area or in Omaha. To account for the different costs of living, California has created a Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS) to better measure the costs of basic needs here in California. In Contra Costa County (in 2017) the SSS for a family of three was set at $53,551. According to the United Way, 26% of our families – over one quarter of our population – fell at or below the SSS level.(https://uwba.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ContraCosta-Snapshot.pdf)
Food From The Bar
These statistics are sobering and serve to shine a light on the fact that we have a great need in our county to help our community members in a myriad of ways, and the CCCBA has worked to do just that. Since at least 1992, the CCCBA has helped to ensure that our community has access to healthy food by donating generously to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano with money and food raised during the annual Food From The Bar food drive and fundraiser/comedy night. The Food From the Bar food drives and fun run/walk have been a staple in our community for many years and are the result of the great partnership between the CCCBA and its members and firms, who have given generously of their time, money and resources to make this happen every year. The Annual Comedy Night, Res Ipsa Jokuitor, kicks off our annual fundraising and puts the “fun(ny)” in Fundraiser! Together, over the years these events have resulted in donations of over 113,000 pounds of food and over $1.3 million dollars ($1,328,197.95 to be exact) donated to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, making the CCCBA one of the Food Bank’s largest donors!
The Bar Fund
Since 1988, the CCCBA has also worked to help those in need via The Bar Fund. The Bar Fund was created as a permanent and ongoing source of income to:
- Promote and support pro bono legal advice, counsel and representation to the county’s poor and needy;
- Maintain equal access to justice;
- Support and improve administration of justice;
- Contribute to a wider understanding of the law and legal reform;
- Preserve the American heritage of rule by law; and
- Encourage elevated standards of legal education and performance.
To accomplish these goals, the CCCBA has held many different types of fundraisers. Most of you are familiar with the Annual Bar Fund Benefit Gala, which we have held the last few years at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial, but over the years we have also raised money and celebrated pro bono work with a “Never Annual” Trivia Bowl for Access to Justice and the Chief Justice Ronald M. George Pro Bono Awards Gala.
Each year the Bar Fund identifies one or two worthy recipients and raises money specifically to benefit those organizations.[i] Recipients in the last decade have included organizations:
Benefiting Contra Costa’s aging population:
- The Elder Law Center, which provided legal assistance to Contra Costa’s elderly residents who were victims of elder financial abuse and who could not otherwise afford representation;
- Contra Costa Senior Legal Services, which provides free legal help to any seniors in Contra Costa County for problems focusing on their quality of life, such as housing, consumer finance and elder abuse. https://www.ccsls.org/
Benefiting the children and students of Contra Costa County:
- CASA of Contra Costa County, which provides trained, court-approved volunteers to advocate for the needs of abused and neglected children. https://www.cccocasa.org/
- Contra Costa High School Law & Justice Academies, which focuses on at risk students and helps them excel academically, prepare for college and explore careers in the legal field. https://www.antiochschools.net/domain/1057#calendar12062/20190629/month
- BayLegal’s CCC Homeless Youth Project, which provides free civil legal advocacy to youth who must seek safe shelter on their own, outside of their families’ homes.
- Community Violence Solutions, Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Program, for which the CCCBA specifically raised money to support expansion of its Prevention and Education Program to add an evidence-based human trafficking prevention curriculum for middle and high school students. https://cvsolutions.org/about-us/
- The Richard E. Arneson Court Scholarship, which provides financial support for education to residents with criminal convictions or juvenile addictions, thus creating a second chance for people through the power of education. https://www.cccba.org/community/about/court-scholarship.php
Focusing on improving the quality of legal representation and access to justice:
- The Family Justice Center’s Legal Incubator Project, which helps new or transitioning attorneys start their own solo, small firm or nonprofit practice focusing on family law by providing a work environment, resources and mentoring to help get these firms off the ground in return for 18 months of pro bono services to the community. http://www.cocofamilyjustice.org/services-before-import/safety/lawyers/
- Community Violence Solutions Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Program, one of the oldest rape crisis centers in California and the sole provider of 24-hour rape crisis hotline and support services to sexual assault survivors in Contra Costa and Marin counties. It also has expanded intervention services focused specifically on identified victims of commercial sexual exploitation. https://cvsolutions.org/about-us/
- Social Justice Collaborative, which provides depression defense and related criminal defense services to low-income non-citizens, primarily in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. https://socialjusticecollaborative.org/
- The Contra Costa County Public Library, a public library benefiting members of our bench, bar and the general public by providing free access to legal information and resources. The CCCBA raised money specifically to help offset the cost of new computers and a new server to ensure that all members of the community had access to the legal resources they need. http://www.cccpllib.org/
This year the commitment of the CCCBA and the Bar Fund continues, benefiting the Center for Youth Development Through Law. In their own words, “[t]he Center for Youth Development through Law provides transformative educational programs to youth from under-resourced East Bay communities, in cooperation with UC Berkeley School of Law.” https://www.youthlawworks.org/ The students are identified by their teachers either as students who are excelling at their work or as students who should be excelling, but are underperforming relative to their potential due to a variety of factors, including troubles at home, lack of funds and lack of support.
The Bar Fund Benefit will be raising funds specifically to help provide scholarships for students to attend a two-month summer program at UC Berkeley School of Law which includes classwork with a social justice curriculum as well as paid internships within the legal community. During the school year, the Center continues to act as a source of support by providing mentoring and resources to help these students apply to college, apply for financial aid, sign up for the SAT/ACT, and generally succeed in high school (and beyond). Finally, the Center conducts a Mock Trial Program that utilizes local attorneys to help mentor, coach and prepare the students to participate in the annual, county-wide Mock Trial Program.
The results speak for themselves: The Center reports that “[m]ore than 500 young people have graduated from the Summer Legal Fellowship Program, and we remain in contact with approximately 75% of them.” As of December 2018:
- none of these youth have dropped out of high school
- 92% have pursued higher education
- 15 that we know of have attended some type of graduate school
- 9 have attended law school
- 2 are in the process of applying to law school, and
- 5 are members of the California Bar
This year’s Bar Fund Benefit will be held on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at the Lafayette Veteran’s Memorial. Tickets can be purchased through the CCCBA website at: https://www.cccba.org/attorney/calendar/event.php?id=12784.