BRIDGING THE JUSTICE GAP
2015 Annual Report
Welcome to Levitt & Quinn’s 2015 annual report. Back in 2014 our board established strategic planning goals for itself and the organization. One of those goals was to release an annual report that shared the results of our work and fostered accountability to our stakeholders. We are so pleased to be able to share this accomplishment with you. Thirty-five years ago massive federal budget cuts decimated traditional legal services programs throughout the nation, including Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). In 1981, LAFLA transferred its Family Law Center and its entire 400 plus family law caseload to Levitt & Quinn's founders, two volunteer lawyers and one paralegal office manager. Those three women, then grandmothers, had the vision and courage to turn a dire situation into an opportunity for refuge and hope for those who would otherwise have fallen through the cracks in our justice system. Founded by and run solely with volunteers on a shoestring budget in the early years, Levitt & Quinn has grown into a million dollar nonprofit organization run by professional staff with expertise in many areas of family and adoption law. We exist with the support of our donors to provide affordable highquality legal representation to low-income Los Angeles County families to ensure stability in the face of legal difficulties. In this report, you will learn how our team of dedicated lawyers, legal assistants, and trained volunteers impacted thousands of lives in Los Angeles County. We helped stabilize our client households by securing orders about custody and support, returning abducted children to their custodial parent, and facilitating adoption of children in need of a loving and safe home. Clearly, Levitt & Quinn continues to provide refuge and hope for our Los Angeles County families. In the pages that follow we share information about our program, the clients we serve, and some key accomplishments. For example, in 2015, we:
• Continued to increase the number of clients we can serve at no-cost thanks to the generous
support of our Kids Fund, as well as reduced service costs to clients overall; • Sustained our partnership with Los Angeles Center for Law & Justice and the LA Superior Court via the Sargent Shriver family law project, providing full scope legal representation to parents whose children were at risk of harm and whose opposing party was represented by counsel; • Collaborated with key figures within the family law community to present a groundbreaking ESI MCLE that helped over 100 family law litigators strengthen their ability to competently handle the electronically stored information issues they face every day. And, we are excited about the promise that 2016 holds! Working with our terrific board, advisory council members, and volunteers, we are strengthening our program, expanding our community connections, and brainstorming new approaches to service delivery that we think will further empower families to effectively and equitably navigate the family court system. Come join us!
Dinah Ruch Board President
Ana M. Storey Executive Director
"Ustedes no saben el gran favor y la mas grande alegria que han hecho por mi y mi familia." -Levitt & Quinn Client
Each year, Levitt & Quinn impacts the lives of thousands of children by fielding calls for help about adoption, child and spousal support, custody, visitation, domestic violence and paternity. In 2015:
WHO WE ARE
Our attorneys helped nearly 100 families adopt a child.
We provided 40% of our clients with extensive legal services, including representation in court.
1,631 families in Los Angeles County received legal help from Levitt & Quinn.
Levitt & Quinn provides affordable legal representation in family law matters to low-income Los Angeles County families to ensure stability for children and their families in the face of legal difficulties.
Adoption Our Adoption Project is the only one of its kind in Los Angeles County. No other law firm provides free and lowcost representation to families seeking to make a child a part of their family through private adoption. Expert advice, counsel, and representation can be vital to family stability and prevent further harm to children in need of a permanent, loving home. The majority of the adoptions established by this program are intrafamily adoptions in which a relative seeks to assist a child whose biological parent is unwilling or unable to care for the child.
The Kids Fund
The Kids Fund assists the financially neediest families who come to Levitt & Quinn by providing free family law services in cases related to the safety and well-being of minor children. Families living at or below 125% of poverty receive early legal intervention in cases involving custody, child and spousal support, visitation, and domestic violence issues.
We assist low-income and homeless veterans with their child support and other family law issues. While many groups have mobilized in recent years to address a number of the needs of U.S. veterans, family law representation remains a top ten unmet need.
This approach facilitates a quicker resolution of disputed issues to help families transition from an adversarial court setting to a more amicable situation where these children can enjoy a more stable life, free to be children.
Clearing up family law issues can change a veteranâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life by making it possible to obtain work and provide for his or her children. Those veterans with unsettled family law issues accrue debt, find their drivers licenses suspended, and face major hurdles to employment and housing.
WHO WE SERVE
Levitt & Quinn's client base is as diverse as the community in which we practice law.
of Levitt & Quinn's clients are racial or ethnic minorities.
of Levitt & Quinn's clients
arrive at our door because of an existing
The average gross monthly income of a Levitt & Quinn client family is
1,900 a month
Our Client Communities
Over 75% of the families we serve live at or below 200% of poverty. That's a
mother and her three children living on less than
$44,000 a year
In 2015, Levitt & Quinn provided over
worth of legal services at little to no cost to our clients.
1 in 5
of our client families are
military or former military In 2015, Levitt & Quinn saved military veterans hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support arrears owed to the government, breaking down the barriers keeping former service men and women isolated from their communities.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Without Levitt & Quinn, my son and I would not be sharing family time together. They brought joy back into my life.â&#x20AC;?
- Levitt & Quinn Client
When Sally was born over four years ago, her biological mother was incarcerated and unable to care for her. Her biological father’s identity was a mystery. Sally’s mom struggled with untreated mental health issues exacerbated by her drug use and transient lifestyle. Knowing she could not care for her unborn baby, Sally’s mom reached out to her maternal aunt Sue, and asked Sue if she would care for her baby. Fearing Sally would end up in foster care, Sue and her husband Bill took Sally home from the hospital when she was only 3 days old. They decided to extend their strong commitment to each other to little Sally, and took her home and began raising her as their own. Yet, she was not legally their daughter. They knew they needed help to make the relationship permanent, but did not have the means to hire a private attorney to help them. Sue works at a drug treatment center and is earning her bachelor’s degree to one day work as a drug and alcohol counselor. Bill is a Vietnam veteran who is also attending college to learn computer skills. They survive on a modest income without much left over each month. With the help of attorneys from Levitt & Quinn, Sue and Bill were able to start the process to adopt Sally. The adoption was difficult to finalize because Sally’s mother never appeared in court. Bill and Sue struggled to contact her to give her proper notice about the court proceedings. The court was hesitant to proceed without Sally’s mom, justifiably concerned about her mental health and how that affected her ability to participate. In all, Bill and Sue went to court 7 times. Levitt & Quinn provided the family with $26,000 worth of legal services that only cost Bill and Sue $1,100. And then shortly after Sally’s 4th birthday, the court was able to finalize the adoption! This cute, lively, and imaginative little girl now has a legal relationship to the couple who took her in when she needed them the most. Without them, she would have been released from the hospital into foster care and an uncertain future. But with Levitt & Quinn’s help, Sue and Bill now have the ability to give Sally the safety and stability that she deserves.
SERVICES PROVIDED What makes Levitt & Quinn Unique? No other family law firm for modest means people provides the scope of services that Levitt & Quinn provides. Unique among non-profit law firms, we can provide sliding scale services to those families and individuals who, while not poor enough to qualify for traditional legal aid, do not have the resources to pay a private attorney to settle their family law issues. Levitt & Quinn is there to serve those who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
Stanley Mosk Edelman Children's Court Central Civil West Courthouse Pasadena Van Nuys Norwalk We have cases in Torrance courthouses across Santa Monica Chatsworth Los Angeles County Compton and beyond. Long Beach Pomona Orange County San Bernadino Burbank Antelope Valley San Fernando
TYPES OF CASES
403 88 26 22 20 18 12 9 8 8 7 7 5 5 4 2 2
At the heart of 80% of Levitt & Quinn's cases is a child.
Juan, a US Army veteran, came to Levitt & Quinn for help with a problem he could not fix on his own. Prior to and during his military service, Juan consistently paid his courtordered child support and had regular contact with his daughter. Then while he was deployed overseas, the court increased Juan's child support obligation without his knowledge. To make matters worse, Juan lost access to his daughter and learned that the court did not credit him for his past child support payments, including those taken directly from his military pay. As a result, Juan faced losing his relationship with his child and a wage garnishment he could not afford. He had already suffered an intercept of his tax return and garnishment of funds from his savings account. From his overseas post in Asia, Juan tried to file paperwork, but nothing he did worked. Everything he submitted came back rejected. When Juan returned from serving his country, he found himself burdened with almost $20,000 in child support arrears, possible suspension of his driverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s license, and cut off from access to his daughter.
Levitt & Quinn stood with Juan. We first tackled the child support arrears issue, helping to save his driverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s license, and successfully representing Juan at multiple hearings to erase his arrears balance and get him credit for a $5,000 over payment. Levitt & Quinn then represented Juan in a different case, and in a different courthouse, to renew his regular contact with his daughter, successfully increasing his visitation time with her. Levitt & Quinn provided over $11,000 worth of legal services at no cost to Juan. He was elated by the outcome, and grateful that Levitt & Quinn was there to help him achieve justice.
CASEWORK IN 2015
(Including Negotiations with Settlement)
IN 2015, LEVITT & QUINN:
COMMUNITY EDUCATION In 2015, Levitt & Quinn continued to increase the number of clients that we can serve at no cost thanks to generous support of our Kids Fund. We were also able to reduce fees for our modest means clients. By providing these families with the legal help they need and could not otherwise afford, they are able to leave behind the threat of instability, contention, or worse.
BOARD DIVERSITY & EXPANSION Levitt & Quinn leverages leadership opportunities to raise issues that concern the low-income litigants we serve. Our Director of Legal Services chairs the California State Bar's Adoptions Committee. L&Q attorneys participate in the LA County Bar Association's Daily Settlement Officer (DSO) program in the Compton courthouse. L&Q also serves as liaison to the LACBA Family Law Executive Committee where a member of our board holds an officer position.
In December, we partnered with the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists to host an allday MCLE at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. An all-star team of presenters shared their expertise with over 100 family law professionals on Electronically Stored Information and its impact on the practice of family law. All event proceeds went to support Levitt & Quinnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work in bridging the justice gap in Los Angeles County.
EXPANDING SERVICES BY INCREASING AFFORDABILITY Building on expansion efforts that began in 2014, Levitt & Quinn welcomed its first board member from outside the legal community. We look forward to benefiting from the expertise, insight, and new relationships that will follow from this targeted expansion approach. We believe that increased board diversity and a wider range of perspectives will allow Levitt & Quinn to better navigate the dynamic issues facing nonprofits in the twenty-first century.
PARTNERED TO FILL THE JUSTICE GAP
Thank you to our major supporters in 2015 for sharing Levitt & Quinnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision of a community where everyone, regardless of income, has access to legal counsel to resolve family law conflicts.
Legacy Circle, $50,000 + Bill & Dinah Ruch Family Foundation The Leila Fund / Stacy McDaniel
Platinum Circle, $20,000 + Michael Levitt Jaffe and Clemens Toyota Financial Services
Champions $1,000 +
Gold Circle, $10,000 + Hadassah Heins Gursey | Schneider LLP Kolodny Law Group Hon. Jill S. Robbins (Ret.) & Robert Eisfelder Don Skeoch Trope and Trope LLP
Silver Circle, $5,000 +
Joan Alexander City National Bank City News Service, Inc. & The Quinn Family Convergent Wealth Advisors Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein, LLP Harris - Ginsberg LLP Hersh, Mannis & Bogen, LLP Jacobson, Scully, Shebby LLP Klopert & Ravden, LLP Leichter Leichter-Maroko, LLP Mayer Hoffman McCann, PC Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers, LLP Minyard | Morris, LLP Morrison & Foerster Foundation O'Melveny & Myers LLP Pines Law Group Margaret Naraghi Quattrin Hon. Robert Schnider & Perryne Anker Sidney Stern Memorial Trust Venable LLP Wasser Cooperman & Carter White, Zuckerman, Warsavsky, Luna & Hunt LLP
Bronze Circle, $2,000 +
Alternative Resolution Centers, LLC Hon. Aviva K. Bobb (Ret.) & Ian Russ The Charitable Foundation James Durant Frankel & Reichman LLP Getman Family Gift Fund Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP Wendy A. Herzog
Cheryl Hoelting John & Hilda Arnold Foundation Inc Lewis Brunswick & Rebecca Matoff Foundation Bill & Ziva Naumann Newman Aaronson Vanaman Union Bank Foundation Valley Community Legal Foundation of the SFVBA Anonymous Board Member Kim Archer Emily Shappell Edelman FileKeepers Law Offices of Flam & Flam The FLAMES Catherine Fuller Hargrave & Hargrave AAC Laemmle Theatres Charitable Foundation Laurent Legal Eve Lopez Blake & Susan Lugash Steve Mindel Cari M. Pines, Esq. Ramin Shamshiri & Donna Langley Jennifer & Doug Walner
Supporters $500 + Attorney's BriefCase, Inc. Barry A. Cane Insurance Services Judy L. Bogen California Community Foundation John & Robbie Carmack Hon. Keith M. Clemens Mike Feuer Franklin R. Garfield Amy Good Susan Gross Roger Halfhide Linda Grey Heitz Steve & Stacy Henning John Lapinski & Paige Serden Ariel Leichter-Maroko Fernando Luna Sandra Mendell Mark E Minyard Hon. John W. Ouderkirk (Ret.) Pacific Federal Lynette Berg Robe Myer & Sandy Sankary Bertram J. & Margot P. Serden Allyn Shapiro Motti & Kelda Shulman Hon. Marjorie & Mark Steinberg Amy Quinn Ttee Hon. Robert Willett Women's Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Jack Zuckerman
Learn more at www.levittquinn.org/finances
OUR PLANS Over the next year, we will continue to provide free and affordable access to justice for clients across Los Angeles County and beyond.
Advancing Program Quality: Advocacy Manual
Widening Our Reach: Volunteers Thirty five years ago, three volunteers with a passion for and commitment to public service founded Levitt & Quinn. These pioneering women wove the spirit of volunteerism into the fabric of the organization, and to this day, volunteers remain an important part of our mission to ensure stability for children and their families in the face of legal difficulties. Attorneys, law students, and community members all play a role. Our goal for 2016 is to develop and expand Levitt & Quinnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s volunteer base, and to ensure that our volunteers have a positive and fulfilling experience working on behalf of our clients. To meet this goal, we are revamping and updating our volunteer programâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s internal systems and tools, with plans to implement a more robust recruitment structure, carry out useful and efficient orientation and training, ensure quality supervision, and build meaningful and lasting relationships with our volunteers.
One of the benefits of having a board filled with experienced family law attorneys and retired judicial officers is the insightful and extensive program oversight and guidance they have provided for decades. And in the coming year, we are taking things a step further. A key 2016 program goal is for Levitt & Quinn to implement a comprehensive advocacy manual, a blueprint for keeping current and future programs effective, mission-aligned, and ethical. Our manual, which we expect to implement midyear, will combine new and existing policies and expectations for effective and ethical relationships with our clients, practice standards to ensure the provision of high quality legal services, and effective supervision of staff and volunteers. We are certain that this new tool will support our staff to expand their zealous advocacy on behalf of our client communities.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH US
1557 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90026
ON BEHALF OF OUR CLIENTS, WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT. Board of Directors
Dinah C. Ruch, Esq. President
Jeffery S. Jacobson, Esq. Jacobson Scully Shebby LLP
Roberta Bennett, Esq. Bennett & Erdman
Hon. Aviva K. Bobb (Ret.) Vice President
Scott M. Klopert, Esq. Klopert & Ravden LLP
Lyor Cohen 300 Entertainment
Cheryl Hoelting, Esq. Secretary
Alexandra Leichter, Esq. Leichter Leichter–Maroko LLP
Zhanna Fish Union Bank
Michael Levitt, Esq. Treasurer
Juliet A. Markowitz, Esq. Tatro Tekosky Sadwick LLP
Jo-Ann W. Grace, Esq. Metropolitan News Enterprise
Katherine E. Adkins, Esq. Toyota Financial Services
Cari M. Pines, Esq. Pines Law Group
Prof. Laurie L. Levenson, Esq. Loyola Law School
Hon. Keith M. Clemens (Ret.) Private Judge
Hon. Robert A. Schnider (Ret.) ARC Alternative Resolution Centers LLC
Forrest S. Mosten, Esq. Mediator and Collaborative Attorney
Elizabeth Potter Scully, Esq. Jacobson Scully Shebby LLP
Steven Mindel, Esq. Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt & Klein LLP
William H. Naumann
Ziva Sirkis Naumann Co-Founder
Harold J. Cohn, Esq. Retired David Deaton, Esq. O’Melveny & Myers LLP James A. Durant, Esq. Trope and Trope LLP Stephen J. Henning, Esq. Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP
Don Skeoch Chief Marketing Officer, L.A. Tourism & Convention Board Bonnie H. Yaeger, Esq. Law & Mediation Office of Bonnie H. Yaeger
Patricia Phillips, Esq. Phillips Jessner LLP Sorrell Trope, Esq. Trope and Trope LLP
Jack Zuckerman White, Zuckerman, Warsavsky, Luna & Hunt LLP
Ana M. Storey Executive Director Sharon Hulse Director of Operations Lucia Reyes Director of Legal Services Caitlyn Kowalczyk Development Manager
Staff Attorneys Elena Correa
Coordinating Staff Jannina Archila Legal Assistant Cruz Gomez Legal Assistant