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Raised in a low-income neighborhood in San Francisco, this Second Chance client grew up in a household of eight children solely supported by his mother's income. Drug dealing became a way of life until fourteen years ago, when he was arrested and convicted for a drug-related incident. While in prison, he vowed to change his life. Since the day of his release over twelve years ago, he has not had any contact with the criminal justice system.

A devoted husband and father, he supported his family by working as a doorman at a San Francisco bar for the past six years, where he was described as an "exemplary staff member." As a result of a new licensing requirement, he lost his job because his application was denied due to the fourteen-year-old conviction.

Through the Second Chance Legal Clinic, the client was matched with a pro bono attorney from Latham & Watkins. They appealed the license denial, and in September, the client received his license. With help from his attorney, the client has transformed this obstacle into a mere road bump, and he is now able to continue on his successful path.

Racial Justice

Racial Justice

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area was founded with the belief that advancing racial justice is the central component of any true civil rights movement. Our core programs remain focused on addressing structural racism and ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice.

Direct Services

The disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans is a major focus of our current work. In particular, the stigma of a criminal conviction can follow individuals - particularly African-Americans - well beyond the walls of jails and prison into their communities, serving as a barrier to employment, housing and successful rehabilitation. We are addressing this need through our Second Chance Legal Services Clinic.

Impact Work

Lawyers' Committee champions racial justice though advocacy and impact litigation that covers a wide spectrum of work, including the areas of voting rights, education, housing, public contracting, criminal justice reform, and equal access to municipal services. Our current projects include:

  • Educational Equity: Lawyers' Committee's educational equity work looks at issues in education that are impacting low-income students of color throughout the Bay Area. We assist community based organizations, parents, and students in leveraging the law to identify and create community-based solutions for issues in our schools.

Among the issues we address are:

  • Discipline
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Educational equity within districts
  • School desegregation and district student assignment plans

For more information, contact Cecilia Chen at cchen@lccr.com.

  • Equal Opportunity in Contracting: Lawyers' Committee is a leader in the fight to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses have equal opportunity to compete for public contracts. Most recently, we successfully represented small minority business owners in pursuing a civil rights complaint to ensure that California's high speed rail contracting - the largest public works project in the nation - is conducted in a manner that ensures fair and equitable contracting opportunities for all.

    We also represent a coalition of minority business contractors in a federal court case involving Caltrans' Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, seeking to preserve the program's efforts to ensure equitable contracting for small businesses. If you are minority business owner concerned about contracting equity, please contact Oren Sellstrom at osellstrom@lccr.com. Please note that we generally do not handle individual cases, but focus instead on class actions or other matters seeking systemic reform.

  • Equity in Access to Municipal Services: Lawyers’ Committee has been active in ensuring that minority and low-income communities are receiving equitable access to municipal services. In June 2011, Lawyers’ Committee reached a settlement with the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County that remedies many of the discrepancies in public services for the county’s Latino neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had not been included in previous city annexations, remaining unincorporated and without services (including sewage, sidewalks, streetlights and police protection) provided to residents in adjacent communities. For more information, contact Oren Sellstrom at osellstrom@lccr.com.

  • Reentry and Criminal Justice Reform: Lawyers' Committee's reentry and criminal justice reform work seeks to address the racial and civil rights injustices embedded in today’s system of mass incarceration. In California, an estimated 1 in 4 adults has a criminal record, and communities of color are disproportionately affected. Through our impact work, we collaborate with community-based organizations and legal partners to challenge the racial and civil rights injustices resulting from the criminal justice system.

Among the issues we address are:

  • Voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals
  • Access to criminal records remedies (i.e. “expungement”)
  • Discrimination in employment and housing

For more information, contact Meredith Desautels at mdesautels@lccr.com.

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In the Spotlight

07.18.14 - Lawyers' Committee featured in East Bay Express cover story ,"Coming Home" - an examination of reentry and realignment issues in Oakland and San Francisco, citing, among other things, our recently launched Alameda County project , which seeks to promote successful reentry by addressing the need for meaningful economic opportunity for formerly incarcerated people.

05.21.14 - "Traffic court is a judicial dead end for California's working poor" In an op-ed in the Daily Journal, Legal Director, Oren Sellstrom, describes the unreasonable challenge traffic courts pose for working class and poor people who find themselves in a maze of never ending and exorbitant debt from which they practically have no way out. The consequences of this situation can be dire, limiting many people’s ability to earn a living and participate fully in society. Also read this letter to San Francisco Superior Court about proposed changes to local traffic court rules that would exacerbate the problems and disparities described in the op-ed.  

05.13.14 - Brown v. Board of Education at 60: Examining Racial Equity in San Francisco. On Tuesday, May 13, at the California Historical Society, @ 6-8pm, join a panel of esteemed community leaders for a discussion celebrating recent achievements in San Francisco public schools, and examining the future of educational opportunity for racially diverse student populations. The program will include student reflections, and an interactive audience discussion. The event is free. Please click here to register and get event location.

03.18.14 -  HOT OFF THE PRESS! Lawyers’ Committee releases a new study, "Voting Rights Barriers and Discrimination in Twenty-First Century California: 2000-2013", based on an in-depth study of voting discrimination in California over the past 13 years, and exposes a trend in voting rights violations and disenfranchisement throughout the state. To read more, click here

02.05.14 - LCCR is pleased to announce the passage of the Fair Chance Act by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim, and co-sponsored by Supervisor Malia Cohen, the Fair Chance Act will strengthen and expand the City’s current fair hiring policies, known commonly as “ban the box,” to private businesses, affordable housing, and contracting, and remove unnecessary barriers to stable housing and employment for individuals with conviction records.

01.30.14 - An historic settlement was reached on January 23, 2014, in a class action lawsuit between immigration authorities and immigrants who are held in custody during their civil immigration proceedings in San Francisco. The settlement brings an end to the federal government’s practice of forcing detained immigrants to go through their civil immigration hearings in handcuffs, leg irons, and chains.Settlement Agreement Notices Posted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Punjabi.

01.24.14 - SAVE THE DATE -We Who Believe in Justice Cannot Wait... Celebrating 50 Years of the Civil Rights Act. Friday, January 24, 2014 - Click here for sponsorship and ticket forms.

The 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon - The Westin St. Francis (on Union Square); 335 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Reception - 11:00 a.m.; Luncheon & Program - 11:45 a.m. E-mail: mlk@lccr.com or call: 415.543.9444 x203

12.12.13 -

Please join Board Co-Chair, Pamela Y. Price, at a special holiday gathering of the membership to celebrate the accomplishments of the Lawyers' Committee.

Thursday, December 12, 2013. Price And Associates - 901 Clay Street; Oakland, CA 94607.

Wine and light hors d'oeuvres will be served. RSVP - asouza@lccr.com


11.19.13 - William Tamayo, Regional Attorney, U.S. EEOC, to give keynote address at Lawyers' Committee 45th Annual Meeting of the Membership on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, generously hosted by Latham & Watkins, LLP, 505 Montgomery Street; Suite 2000; San Francisco, CA 94111-6538. Reception - 5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.; Program - 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.

RSVP: asouza@lccr.com

11.08.13 - Immigrant Rights ARE Civil Rights! The current issue of Clearinghouse Review - Journal of Poverty Law and Policy features "Closing the Gap in Understanding Immigrant Rights as Civil Rights", by authors Cecilia Chen, Thurgood Marshall Fellow, and Robin Goldfaden, Senior Attorney, Immigrant Justice, who chronicle the history of immigration in the United States and underscore how the struggle for immigrant rights has always been a struggle for civil rights.