by John Raphling
Along with co-sponsors, Los Angeles Community Action Network and Venice Justice Committee, the Lawyers' Guild opened its Skid Row Homeless Citation Clinic this summer. The Venice Homeless Citation Clinic has been in operation for one year now.
The clinics are all volunteer, helping homeless people who get citations for "quality of life" violations, like sitting on the sidewalk, sleeping on the beach, smoking in public, urinating in public (they close the bathrooms at night), jaywalking, and others. The City and LAPD have systematically cited homeless people for these types of violations in Venice and downtown in an effort to drive them from these rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
The clinic, staffed by community volunteers, law students and pro bono lawyers, holds monthly intakes, then provides lawyers to go to court to fight the cases. Often the battle in court involves explaining to the judge our clients' situations, how they became and remain homeless and how the cost of the ticket will greatly harm them in their efforts to survive. So far our lawyers have been extremely successful in getting cases dismissed.
We are looking for more volunteer lawyers to join the struggle. It is a good opportunity to get courtroom experience and to help people in need. Please contact John Raphling at firstname.lastname@example.org.