Since 2012, the CBF Pro Bono Project has been providing financial support to pro bono projects throughout California that educate and provides services for pro se bankruptcy filers. California continues to have roughly 25% of bankruptcy petitions filed in pro se, which is about three times the national average. The Pro Bono Project is CBF’s attempt to help alleviate the burden to courts caused by pro se debtors and promote the administration of justice in bankruptcy courts.
How the CBF Pro Bono Project Raises Money.
CBF raises money primarily from three sources: (1) CBF sets aside $10 for each registrant at its annual conference in May of each year; (2) voluntary donations from members of the CBF community and from conference attendees; and (3) a donation drive with the help of a raffle or auction of prizes at its annual dinner event. Each year, CBF finds a unique way to increase voluntary donations, such as, a crowdfunding competition between competing proposals or an auction, and CBF has raised over $10,000 per year on average for the pro bono project.
2016 Project Beneficiary – Riverside.
In 2016, CBF raised over $5,740 to support the Riverside Legal Aid’s Pro Se Self-Help Clinic in the Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office in Riverside, and a satellite clinic in the Coachella Valley. The Riverside clinic is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Coachella Valley clinic operates on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Visitors receive advice and help with completing bankruptcy forms. Riverside Legal Aid also holds free public Chapter 7 workshops quarterly in both Riverside and the Coachella Valley, which include page by page, line by line, instructions on how to complete the bankruptcy forms packets and samples. The clinic has a Spanish-speaking attorney and paralegal at every clinic and workshop. The funds donated by the CBF pro bono project will be used to expand the clinic’s self-help library and support the existing services.
Riverside Pro Se Clinic 2016 (from left to right): Clinic Managing Attorney Robert Simmons;
Volunteer Attorney Amelie Kamau; Clinic Paralegal Michelle Lara; Staff Attorney Manfred Schroer
Riverside Pro Se Bankruptcy Clinic 2016
The 2015 Pro Bono Silent Auction – CBF decided to hold an onsite auction to raise additional funds for the CBF Pro Bono Project. The Bay Area Bankruptcy Forum decided that the funds raised would be donated to the Alameda County Bankruptcy Association-Volunteer Legal Service Corporation to help it expand and improve its existing clinic, which should significantly increase the number of pro se filers the ACBA-VLSC reaches each year. Over $20,000 was successfully raised with the help of our generous Insolvency Community donors and bidders. The funds donated to the ACBA-VLSC went to help it cover the cost of a new, larger facility for its clinics, additional equipment and employees, and increased volunteer recruitment and training.
2014 CBF Annual Conference
In connection with the 2014 Annual Conference held in Santa Barbara, CBF elected to use a crowdfunding competition to determine which of two worthy proposals (one from the OCBF and one from the LABF) should receive the majority of the CBF Pro Bono Funds raised that year. Every $10 donated towards a proposal counted as a vote in favor of that proposal. The OCBF s proposal received the majority of the votes, and, with the help of the crowdfunding competition, a total of $10,466.11 was raised. As a result, the LABF received the $10 per vote for its proposal ($1,690.00) and the OCBF received the balance of the funds ($8,776.11).
The funds contributed to the OCBF s proposal are being used to enable pro se filers to have the option of consulting with volunteer attorneys over the internet. The first $2,300.00 raised for the OCBF s proposal was paid to the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (“Legal Aid”), and the balance was paid to the Orange County Public Law Center (“OC PLC”). The amount contributed to Legal Aid is being used to buy the hardware and software necessary for pro se filers to consult with attorneys over the internet via laptops and webcams placed at existing pro se clinics in the state courthouses serving the counties within the Northern Division. The amount contributed to the OC PLC is being used to purchase the equipment necessary to take advantage of an existing infrastructure enabling consultations over the internet (i.e., the Virtual Counselor Network developed by the Housing Opportunities Collaborative, which consists of stand-alone kiosks containing a computer, telephone, and webcam placed in non-profit agencies, libraries, and courthouses).
The funds contributed to the LABF s proposal are being used to support the work of the self-help desks located in the Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley Divisions of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. The funds contributed to the LABF s proposal were divided equally among the two self-help desks. The LA Self-Help Desk is using the funds it received to purchase a scanner and a laptop computer to allow it to serve the pro se clients it meets with more rapidly and more efficiently. The Valley Self-Help Desk, which is staffed by an attorney from Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, is using the funds it received to build up its self-help library of resources for the pro se litigants and debtors which it assists.
2013 CBF Annual Conference
In connection with the 2013 Annual Conference held in San Diego, $5,830 was raised and donated to a project identified by the San Diego Bankruptcy Forum. That project involves a self-help web video for pro se debtors on the topic of reaffirmation agreements that is being produced by the Law Library Justice Foundation in San Diego.