“I’m honored to serve someone who has served,” said Carly Surber (3L), after she represented a homeless army veteran in the Family Court set up at Stand Down 2013 – and got the arrears on his child support payments reduced to nothing.
“I’ve never seen an outdoor court before,” said Mary Hardy ’08, a Qualcomm attorney and one of two TJSL alumni who came to represent veterans on behalf of the law school. The court is set up on the handball courts at San Diego High School – a court on the court. “I’m involved because my school is involved,” Hardy said. “It’s the TJSL connection."
The TJSL students at the event are interning this summer at the law school’s Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic (VLAC), which provides year-round legal services to homeless veterans at Veterans Village of San Diego. VVSD sponsors Stand Down each year to help homeless veterans get back on their feet with legal services, health care and a variety of other support programs. This year the event began on Friday July 12 and will last through the weekend.
“This is the most exciting thing we do,” said Professor Steve Berenson, the director of the VLAC since its inception in 2006. “It is legal experience for the students and they are also part of a huge event that does so much for so many people.”
“I look forward to this event each year,” said Superior Court Commissioner Adam Wertheimer, who presides over the informal court sessions at Stand Down. He works to reduce or do away with the child-support payments the homeless veterans who appear before him cannot afford to pay.
“It’s a great service we provide to those who provided great service to us. Anything I can do to help get them to recover their lives, I’m happy to do.”
“It’s exciting to help veterans who have given their time to our country,” said Loc Nguyen (3L), who’s also interning at the veterans clinic this summer. “And it gives us a lot of hands-on experience.”
“It’s great being part of a program that helps them get back on their feet,” said Allen Hall (2L), who is a veteran himself. “In San Diego, we have a great support network to help them get their lives back.”
One of the veterans who feels like he has his life back is Navy veteran Edward Cintron. He was being represented by alumnus Patrick Long ‘10, who is also a Navy veteran and part of TJSL’s Center for Solo Practitioners. “The majority of my practice is dedicated to helping veterans,” Long said.
“He really opened my eyes to the approach we’re going to take,” said Cintron of Long before he and Long went before Commissioner Wertheimer.
VLAC intern Jason Stones (2L) represented Gary Jones, another Navy veteran whose long standing debts were reduced to zero (pending a further hearing) and had his driver’s license restored.
“With these rapid-fire hearings, you get a lot of experience all at once,” Stones said.
“He was awesome,” Jones said of the work Stones did for him. “I could not have done that without you,” he told Stones. “I feel like a new person. I feel like somebody.”
“They are so appreciative,” said Pamela Abella (2L), another veterans clinic summer intern. “They really do need our help.”
Also working at Stand Down were Conrad Ohashi (3L) and Jessica Carlson (2L), who are interns with the County Child Support Services Division.
“It’s a huge privilege to help out in any capacity,” said Ohashi. “It’s a great way for law students to give back to the community that’s been so kind to us.”
“It’s really great for the veterans,” said Carlson. “They get so much benefit from it."
Kristiana Erthner (3L) was also representing veterans at Stand Down – an experience that was a positive, moving and rewarding experience for all of TJSL’s veterans clinic students.
“If you are able to give back to the military, you should,” said Carly Surber, who is from a “large military family.”
As for Patrick Long’s client, Edward Cintron, who drove all night from San Jose to come to Stand Down: “All of his cases were decided in his favor,” said Long. “I could tell a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he looked as if he had a new lease on life."
“The love is starting to show,” said Cintron - “the love for those who participated in serving our country.”