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Winter Newsletter 2023

Lady Justice is back!


Thursday, June 20, 2024

from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Adobe Lodge, Santa Clara

Lawyers in the Library

Pro Bono Project's community clinic group is staffed exclusively by local, experienced volunteer attorneys who generously donate their time and expertise. We also appreciate the on-going support of the libraries, community agencies, and their staff that make this resource possible.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library Clinic is held on Wednesdays from 4pm to 6pm click here and the first and third Saturday from 10am to 12pm by calling (408) 998-5298 x8 the week prior to the session.

The Santa Clara City Library Clinic is held Wednesdays from 3pm to 5pm. Click here or visit the library's website to sign up.

The Wills, Trusts, Probate and More Clinic is held the second Friday of the month from 10am to 12pm. Please sign up by calling (408) 998-5298.

The Small Claims Clinic is held every first Wednesday and third Friday of the month from 10am to 12pm. Please call (408) 998-5298 to sign up.

The SABA-NC’s Pro Bono legal clinic is held on the fourth Sunday of every month at 525 Los Coches Street in Milpitas and on the first Saturday of the month at 785 Morse Avenue in Sunnyvale. Both clinics are from 10am to 12pm, and they are walk-in only.



Articles from our team

Having compassion while working with DV survivors


Rachel McKenzie, Managing Attorney

Catherine Connor, Staff Attorney

Sandra Madrigal, Executive Director


For many of us who work with survivors of domestic violence, it is critical to collect detailed information from the client to make a competent decision regarding their case.

We discuss the personal interactions between the couple, including any access to resources the survivor may need. We review custody, visitation and other issues surrounding the children, especially their relationship with the other parent. We examine the presence of power and coercive control in the couple’s relationship (often using the power and control wheel), and we identify whether there is physical abuse, which can include sexual abuse from their partner. Other forms of abuse can include threats of any kind such as stalking, harassment, and the use of weapons.

All of these topics are personal, emotional, and triggering, especially to the teller. As practitioners and advocates, we should always be mindful of our unconscious bias. One should also extend a feeling of compassion to the survivor in order to put them more at ease and build trust. This means we must engage in active listening, conveying confidence, being friendly, and using statements like 'I hear you saying' or 'that makes sense.' You should also communicate as an empathetic, respectful person who is trauma informed. Validating, being culturally responsive, which includes translation and interpretation in a survivor's native language if possible, and simply building rapport with this person is the most critical aspect of this work. Trust is essential to empower the survivor to want to tell you about the abuse they have experienced.

Identifying patterns of emotional abuse in the survivor’s experience allows survivors to view their own experiences with empathetic lenses. Survivors often experience self-blame for putting themselves in harm's way. They often need our confirmation that the abuser made choices and committed actions which caused the survivor to doubt their own experiences. They often will ask themselves, "am I going crazy?" A trauma-informed person can recognize and acknowledge these patterns of emotional abuse, both in the past and in the present. By shedding light to the abuse, the survivor’s experience is validated. As a result, the survivor begins to heal and feel empowered.

Often times, a survivor has no one to speak to for fear of not being believed. This fear creates isolation and shame. Many times, they are not able to express what’s happening to them because of language barriers. When the survivor does speak, perhaps it’s to an unskilled/unprepared ear, like someone who does not know what to do.

However, here at Pro Bono Project, when the survivor realizes we actually want to hear what they have to say, and we want to help fix their horrible situation so they can move on in their life, they breathe a sigh of relief. Even if we only assist in helping them prepare for court, we are still empowering them to face their fears and move forward in life. We want them to be healthier and better for themselves and their children, and compassion is the only way to achieve that.

Expanded Record Clearance

Lisa Cope Duflock, 

Staff Attorney

In our last newsletter, I wrote briefly about the passage of SB 731 and some of the potential positive impacts it will have for Californians seeking record clearance. I thought with the effective date of the new laws now imminent, I would expand on the practical aspects of these new laws and how they will broaden record clearance relief.

When SB 731 takes effect on July 1, 2023, it will have two distinct, major impacts. First, a wide array of offenses will become eligible for record clearance that were previously ineligible, and second, many convictions that previously required a petition before a court for record clearance relief will now be automatic.

Previously, convictions eligible for mandatory record clearance were granted relief only after filing a petition in court. Beginning July 1, 2023, these offenses will be cleared automatically without any petition for relief.

Beyond the impact of many convictions transitioning from mandatory relief to automatic relief, almost all felony convictions (with some exceptions) will now be eligible for expungement relief within the discretion of the court. Where previously many felony convictions (including almost all felony offenses that resulted in a prison sentence) were ineligible for expungement, now almost all felony convictions except for those requiring 290-registration are eligible for discretionary relief, subject to certain conditions. This means that if an individual is convicted of a felony that is not automatically expungable and it is not an offense that requires 290-registration, that individual can petition the court to expunge the conviction.

This is a massive expansion of record clearance relief in the State of California. It is estimated that at a minimum 225,000 Californians will have at least one conviction automatically cleared from their record, and a further 1 million will be able to petition the court for discretionary relief after July 1, 2023. These expansions of record relief will assist many Californians to secure employment and find housing where their criminal record had previously prevented them from doing so.

Recipe Corner

My Favorite Harvest Time Munchies

-Offered by Rachel McKenzie, Managing Attorney

Carmel Corn with Pepitas

(serves 6)

1 ½ cups pepitas

12 cups popped popcorn (1/2 c. kernels)

1 ½ sticks butter, melted

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar

1/3 cup corn syrup

½ tsp (or more to taste) salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

  1. Preheat oven to 250.
  2. Heat pepitas in dry skillet over medium heat to lightly toast. Let cool.
  3. Mix popcorn and pepitas in large bowl.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine melted butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium heart, stirring occasionally, until melted and combined.
  5. Remove mixture from heat and carefully stir in baking soda.
  6. Pour caramel evenly over popcorn mixture, stirring with a spatula to coat.
  7. Transfer mixture to making sheet and bake at 250 stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely. Then break into clusters and enjoy!

Thank you to Phoenix Forbes, Volunteer Program Manager for curating the content for this season's newsletter, as well as to Catherine Connor, Staff Attorney and Sandra Madrigal, Executive Director, for designing, editing, and/or publishing the newsletter and articles on our website.

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