December is a time of giving.
Consider giving a memorable, tax-deductible
donation to the Pro Bono Project Silicon Valley.  
Donating is easy, simply contact Sandra Madrigal
by giving her a call at 408-998-5298 ext. 1001
or by emailing
She will be happy to make the connection between
your goodwill and those who need it the most!
The Pro Bono Project Silicon Valley
wishes you and yours a
Safe and Happy Holiday Season!
Under the CARES Act, donors can get a Federal income tax deduction for charitable contributions of up to 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). This deduction can be enhanced by a Roth IRA conversion. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was enacted on March 27, 2020.
Creativity During Covid:
Shifting Delivery Models to serve our Reentry Population                            
Andrew Messersmith
Supervising Attorney
Reentry Services Program
Virtual Services Program
By now you are probably exhausted from being cooped up in your home. Imagine how much worse it is for those who are incarcerated. In 2014, the Pro Bono Project began serving the Reentry population by working with individuals who had been recently
released. Five years later, we served 3,750 individuals both in and out of custody. However, since March 2020, things shifted. The already limited connection to the outside world for inmates has been severed completely due to Covid 19. Visitations cancelled, classes suspended indefinitely, and our ability to serve these individuals in person evaporated.

So how do we continue to serve individuals in our “new normal?” Through multiple videoconference brainstorming sessions and a myriad of emails, our team arrived at a multi-pronged campaign:
First, we have traditional snail mail to answer questions, send judicial forms and advice on how to pursue legal goals and file necessary paperwork.

What about new potential applicants? To combat this difficulty, we are creating video presentations with information specific to Re-Entry clients on a wide variety of topics, from applying for our services, to custody and visitation matters, domestic violence restraining orders, writing a declaration, and more. These videos will be made available on our website, our YouTube channel, and distributed to community partners to cast a wide net to reach community members. Once limited access begins again, a specially tailored introduction to our services video will be played as part of programming and our applications will be distributed. All applications will be scanned and emailed to our attorneys for prompt assistance to all applicants.

Applications and instructions are already available at both entrances Elmwood Correctional Facility. As community members exit the facility, they will have an opportunity to apply for our services before they depart.

In addition, we have set up tabling at the Santa Clara County Reentry Resource Center. Our team members will be available to answer any questions, help community members apply for our services, and set up appointments with our attorneys.

Through this multi-faceted program, we hope to continue to serve these individuals as robustly as possible throughout the pandemic. So far, we have been tremendously successful. Since the Shelter-In-Place Order began we have assisted more than 150 individuals. With the launch of these additional methods of community engagement, we hope to expand the number of community members served over the coming months.
Phoenix Forbes
Legal Program Coordinator

Our Lawyers in the Library (LIL) program in collaboration with the Martin Luther King Library resumed in August. Sessions are Wednesdays from 6 pm – 8pm, with online sign ups.

We also offer phone-in, first come first served sessions on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays from 10 am – 12 pm. Individuals call 408-998-5298, extension 8.

We also are extremely excited to announce a new collaboration with the Santa Clara Public Library. This program began in September, and is on Mondays from 12 pm – 2 pm, and Wednesdays from 3 pm – 5 pm.

We are providing 13 hours per month with Martin Luther King Library, and 18 hours per month with Santa Clara Library.

We hope to replicate this model, or another version of virtual assistance, at other sites in the future, and be able to provide this valuable service to more members of the community again.

If you would like to volunteer for a LIL session, please contact Phoenix at

Besides LIL, we currently provide a total of at least 35 hours of virtual assistance per month through our various other legal clinics.

Interested in Volunteering with PBP?
Volunteers are a vital part of the Pro Bono Project. We have a survey which details all of the different virtual and in-person opportunities available.
If you are interested in receiving the survey, please email and list “Volunteer Survey” as the subject.

Volunteer Spotlight:
Holly Ullman, in her own words
How did I get involved with PBP?
Before I became an attorney, I volunteered with the legal program at Support Network for Battered Women, and YWCA. My role as a “Resource Person,” was to sit in on the designated DV calendars and speak to parties needing assistance with safety planning, court process info, emotional support, and resources. I fulfilled this role for many years, during which I got to know many attorneys who either staffed or volunteered for the Pro Bono Project.
What motivates me to volunteer with Pro Bono Project?
It is not very original, but simply put, it is satisfying to provide legal help to parties who otherwise cannot afford it.
During my time as a resource person, my job was to speak outside the courtroom with pro pers who were confused about the process, and often were ready to drop their requests for restraining orders based on misunderstanding or misinformation. Sometimes the pro per was being steamrolled by the opposing party’s lawyer, or sometimes just intimidated by the very sight of the other party. I learned how much fear (literally trembling) people experience just by being in court. Of course, paying clients should also get help, but many people who are struggling to meet their basic needs need our assistance, and they simply cannot afford legal help.
Initially, taking Pro Bono cases was a major advantage to me because I got a lot of mentoring, which enabled me to have a solo practice. I started with only DV cases, but also got to experience dissolutions when DV was not necessarily involved. Additionally, through the Pro Bono Project, I became more familiar with attorneys and resources in other related fields such as immigration law and bankruptcy.

Cases with special meaning
Early on, I represented a client who had fled with her children from an abuser in another state. I had to learn a whole lot, very quickly, about jurisdictional issues to keep them safe here in this county. Her four-year-old son was so traumatized that he barely spoke and expressed himself by crying or hitting. After a year in a safe, stable environment, he not only began to thrive and became verbal again, but my client showed me note from his teacher praising his progress in which he had corrected his teacher’s punctuation.

I have always thought of myself as a woman’s advocate, but I have been educated by representing several fathers who have stepped up. One of the cases that meant a lot to me involved a father who was struggling to keep custody of his children while making it through school so he could find gainful employment.

Insights for other attorneys
I have stayed with some cases over extended periods of time. I know that a lot can be done by taking a case short-term in limited scope. For example, you can take a case for a restraining order hearing, or to establish a fair amount of child support. In my experience, the clients are very grateful for the help they receive. 
We greatly appreciate Holly’s long history of pro bono work in our community and for taking the time to share her story with us.
Phoenix Forbes
The past few months of the pandemic and shelter in place has left us with more time on our hands than usual. We have witnessed many disturbing and tragic incidents of violence that have led to increasing social unrest, protests, and demands for systemic changes.

We began our own dialogue focused on what types of collective efforts we were going to implement within our own internal practices so that we would be a part of that change. Words must be followed by progress, action, and accountability.

The Pro Bono Project has instituted implicit bias trainings for all staff, deepened our commitment to diversity, and to practicing collaborative leadership. The Pro Bono Project will recognize Juneteenth as an agency holiday and will continue to stand in solidarity with our communities of color. We are stronger as a society when we include everyone.