THE LEGAL CLINIC FOR REPRESENTATION OF MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon Israel, the Clinical Legal Education Center (CLEC) initiated the Corona Crisis Program—now known as the Legal Clinic for Representation of Marginalized Communities (LCRMC). The program helps vulnerable individuals to negotiate the policies and practices that may prevent the exercise of their rights and impinge upon their dignity.
The LCRMC provides pro-bono legal services to people with disabilities, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, Arab community members, at-risk youth, ultra-Orthodox women, new immigrants, LGBTQ+ community members, and people in poverty. With many people facing dislocation and poverty for the first time as a result of the pandemic, the need for assistance is growing.
The LCRMC not only provides much-needed help to people in need, but also provides Faculty of Law students a unique learning experience that integrates academic studies with practical work.
An important component of the LCRMC’s outreach has been the creation of Facebook pages in Hebrew and Arabic. These pages ensure that vulnerable people are aware of their socioeconomic and other rights and enable LCRMC volunteers to provide assistance to those having difficulties in exercising their rights. During the first wave of the pandemic, the Facebook pages were operated by 65 volunteers (mostly former CLEC students) who answered approximately 20 questions per day under the supervision of Faculty Advisor Ohad Amar from the Clinic for the Representation of Marginalized Populations, and clinic attorneys oversaw any follow-up work needed from the LCRMC or other CLEC clinics.
As a result of the LCRMC’s initiative in establishing the Facebook pages, HU volunteers succeeded in reaching far beyond local Jerusalem communities and have been engaged in assisting individuals across Israel, a new and exciting development for the CLEC.
Clinic successes to date include:
- LCRMC volunteers helped single mothers who reported losing their child support after being furloughed, since it appeared they were no longer employed (a condition for the stipend).
- The LCRMC successfully appealed for the removal of citations that were received by persons with disabilities who reported that their aides were being fined for being outside, although this was legal.
- LCRMC volunteers asked for and received clarity on guidelines for divorced parents with joint custody.
- The LCRMC met with the CEO and Knesset Member Aida Touma-Suleiman of the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) to discuss the long wait times encountered by callers.
- LCRMC volunteers translated hundreds of applications into Arabic, and joined other civic organizations in an appeal which resulted in the CEO of Bituach Leumi promising Arabic translations for all material.
Currently, the two Facebook pages, known as the Social Justice Operations Room, are staffed for one hour per week by each of the 26 student participants, and two of the students coordinate the platform. The Hebrew Facebook page remains active; the Arabic page, however, mainly serves as a forum to share information, due to the lack of a part-time, paid coordinator who is fluent in Arabic.
- Number of inquiries: To date, the Hebrew and Arabic pages have reached a combined 15,300+ people and 1,250+ questions have been answered. Continuation of the Facebook groups will enable the LCRMC to serve several thousands more.
- Number of people assisted with positive outcomes.
- ‘Class action’ issues handled and changes in law/ policy/ situation achieved.
- Number of law students exposed to using law for social change: at its height, 65 volunteers participated.
$65K per year for 1-2 coordinators of the Social Justice Operations Room.