Holistic Advocacy at Work: JDC’s Medical-Legal Project

Jay Lee, JDC Pro Bono Manager


Providing legal services to low-income clients is one of the goals of the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) Medical-Legal Project.  Supervising Attorney Marie Appel meets with clients facing legal issues weekly at Southeast Health Center in the Bayview District and at Saint Mary’s Sister Philippa Clinic.

If you’re interested in volunteering, the Medical-Legal Project can use volunteer attorneys who have experience in administrative hearings, in particular Social Security and other public benefits overpayments or eligibility issues.  To learn more, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at probono@sfbar.org.

Many of Marie’s cases require only minimal intervention from an attorney to come to a resolution.  In one such case, the client moved into senior housing after being on the waiting list.  However, she soon found out that her upstairs neighbor made excessive noise during all hours.  As a result, the client suffered from severe migraines and sleep deprivation.  Her doctor had completed a Request for Reasonable Accommodation with no response.  Marie reviewed the documents and then sent a letter inquiring about the status of her request, resulting in an immediate response from the housing provider offering another unit.

Another client came to see Marie unable to renew his driver’s license due to a hold for child support arrears.  The client had paid child support when he was working, but still owed money from when he hadn’t been able to pay.   However, the client had previously cashed out his pension plan, paying off his entire child support arrearage.  Marie contacted the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), which confirmed that his account was paid off, but the hold on his driver’s license was mistakenly never removed.  A DCSS agent said the hold would be removed, but the hold remained.  Marie then wrote a letter to the DCSS requesting that the hold be removed.  Finally, the client was able to get his driver’s license renewed.

These are just a couple of examples of legal problems faced by JDC’s Medical-Legal Project clients and how legal services can make a difference in their lives.  If you are an attorney with the appropriate expertise, consider joining Marie and defending the legal rights of underserved clients.

To learn more, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at probono@sfbar.org.