The California Low-Income Consumer Coalition strives to ensure that all people, regardless of their income or background, have opportunities under the law to achieve their full potential.
Every year, dozens of bills are introduced in the California Legislature that touch on issues affecting low-income consumers, including access to credit, arbitration, auto lending, bankruptcy, car rentals, debt collection, foreclosures, identity theft, medical bills, payday lending, student loans, towing, and utility services. Consumer bills often disproportionately affect low-income Californians, and, in particular, communities of color, who are more likely to enter the marketplace hampered by a lack of financial resources, language access issues, and a history of discrimination. As a result, many of the indigent are easy prey for the unscrupulous.
It is CLICC’s mission to right the balance. We seek to ensure that all consumers in California have their voices heard, and their needs recognized, by the Legislature. Low-income Californians ought to be able both to access the protections of California law and to grasp the opportunities of California’s economy. To that end, we work to build a state, and a future, in which consumer rights and economic justice are fully recognized and firmly established.
CLICC is led by Ted Mermin, Interim Director of the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice, Executive Director of the Public Good Law Center, and former California Deputy Attorney General. Ted currently serves as outside counsel to the East Bay Community Law Center and teaches Consumer Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law. For several years, Ted gathered organizations serving low-income consumers in California into informal legislative coalitions that collectively managed to pass the bills that they proposed. Those successes include SB 233 (2013), the Fair Debt Buying Practices Act; AB 2365 (2014), barring attempts by retailers to prevent consumers from criticizing them or their products (the model for the federal Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2016); SB 641 (2015), extending consumers’ ability to reopen improper default judgments; SB 501 (2015), placing restrictions on wage garnishment of low-income workers; and AB 2819 (2016), restricting release of court records in eviction suits to cases in which tenants are actually evicted. A brief biography is available here.
Samantha Ayres Corbin
Samantha is the CEO and founding partner of Corbin and Kaiser – a woman-owned public affairs and strategic development firm serving not-for-profit, government, and cause-based organizations through government relations, coalition building, fund development, and public relations. Corbin and Kaiser has managed national organizational expansions, procured over $700 million in funding for education and public interest programs, and has led clients and coalitions to victory in front of the legislature.
A dogged advocate on consumer privacy and protection issues, Samantha co-led the effort to pass SB178 (Leno), CalECPA with the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to establish a warrant requirement for digital content. Most recently, she played a significant role in the passage of the California Privacy Act and the passage of Net Neutrality protections in California.
Danielle is the Chief Operating Officer and a founding partner of Corbin and Kaiser. She is a seasoned professional specializing in governmental advocacy, marketing, proposal writing, and copywriting that earn her client’s recognition and contracts. She has more than two decades of experience in creating print and social media advocacy, and marketing campaigns for the state’s leading governmental agencies, commissions, trade associations, political organizations, and the nation’s top luxury brands.
Danielle has played a major role in numerous state and national advocacy, marketing, public relations, and communications campaigns. From 2014 through 2016, she led the organization and direction of monthly, state-wide meetings of the Fair Shake Commission on Income Inequality, chaired by Tom Steyer of NextGen Climate. The work of the Commission focused on public health issues affecting the poor and homeless populations of California, including disability, and mental and behavioral support services, access to affordable housing, appropriate nutrition, early childhood health and wellness, climate change, and access to quality childcare and education.
Founded in 1974, the mission of Bet Tzedek (Hebrew for “House of Justice”) is to act upon a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition: “Tzedek, Tzedek, tirdof—justice, justice, you shall pursue.” The doctrine establishes an obligation to advocate the just causes of the most vulnerable members of society. Consistent with this mandate, Bet Tzedek provides free legal assistance to eligible low-income residents, particularly in Los Angeles County, regardless of their racial, religious, or ethnic background.
Founded in 1969, Centro Legal de la Raza is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. By combining quality legal services with know-your-rights education and youth development, Centro Legal promotes access to justice for thousands of individuals and families each year throughout Northern and Central California.
The mission of the East Bay Community Law Center is to promote justice and build a community that is more healthy, secure, productive and hopeful. EBCLC provides legal services and policy advocacy that are responsive to the needs of low-income communities, and law training that prepares future attorneys to be skilled and principled advocates that are committed to finding innovative solutions to the cause and conditions of poverty.
In Alameda County, nearly one in five people lives at or below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening each year. EBCLC provides assistance to intervene in legal crises, remove barriers to education and employment, and provide pathways to greater economic opportunity and independence.
EBCLC’s Consumer Justice Clinic deploys law students who work side by side with supervising attorneys to provide representation and brief services to low-income consumers facing a wide variety of legal issues, including debt collection, student loans, credit reporting, predatory lending, identity theft, and consumer scams.
To monitor and gauge community need, and to provide assistance outside the usual “boxes” of legal services, CJC uses a unique, open-door approach to helping low-income consumers with the problems they are facing. CJC runs a weekly General Legal Clinic in the office, a bi-monthly Debt Collection Clinic at the county courthouse, a monthly Immigrant Consumer Justice Clinic in partnership with Centro Legal de la Raza, and various other clinics in collaboration with community partners. CJC also hosts a bi-monthly evening Consumer Rights Workshop in the office. Finally, CJC pursues state policy initiatives that seek to address the most pressing challenges faced by low-income consumers in California.
Elder Law & Advocacy is a caring group of experienced elder-law staff and trained volunteers who serve over 8,000 seniors annually in both San Diego and Imperial Counties. We provide free and low-cost civil legal services, Medicare and Medicare related counseling and advocacy, referrals to community senior service providers, and community education. The majority of services are offered at no-cost to qualifying seniors.
Elder Law & Advocacy is the only legal services and Medicare counseling agency in the Southern California region that devotes all of its resources to helping both rural and urban seniors through a unique community-based delivery system. Elder Law & Advocacy’s attorneys, staff, and volunteers travel all over the region to assist seniors, going to senior centers, nutrition sites, senior living complexes, mobile home parks, nursing homes, hospitals, and the residences of ill, homebound individuals. Most program services are provided at no charge to qualifying clients.
The Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco (JDC) advances fairness and equality by providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and educational programs that foster diversity in the legal profession.
JDC is one of the largest and most distinguished legal services providers in San Francisco. JDC’s primary purpose is the delivery of free legal services to low-income San Franciscans, as well as the non-profits that serve them. JDC delivers free legal services through its Legal Services Programs division, which consists of the Pro Bono Legal Services Program, Homeless Advocacy Project, and the Immigration Program. JDC provides enrichment programs to diverse youth and young adults through its Diversity Educational Programs.
Through its Legal Services Programs, JDC serves approximately 8,500 low-income people a year, with the overarching goal of assisting the community’s most vulnerable members with accessing the judicial system and strengthening their personal, professional, and economic security.
The Katherine & George Alexander Community Law Center at Santa Clara School of Law provides free legal services to low-income individuals who have been victimized as consumers and debtors by unfair business practices and fraud. The Community Law Center offers advice clinics twice-a-month regarding consumer-related issues. It also offers a monthly clinic regarding debtors’ rights. The advice provided during the clinics is free of charge. The Consumer Practice Area's major types of cases include: Fraud while purchasing a new or a used car; Car repossession or towing issues; Debt collection harassment; Notario or paralegal fraud; Telemarketing or door-to-door sales fraud; Identity fraud; Credit card fraud; Bankruptcy Credit reporting problems; and other miscellaneous consumer cases.
The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley uses the law as a tool to craft inventive solutions to the challenges low-income people face in our diverse community, with the goal of creating change and opportunity. The Law Foundation advances the rights of and addresses the disparities experienced by marginalized individuals and families through free legal services, strategic and high-impact advocacy, and educational outreach. Law Foundation provides its legal and advocacy services through five programs: Fair Housing Law Project, Health Legal Services, Legal Advocates for Children & Youth, Mental Health Advocacy Project, and Public Interest Law Firm.
Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, a non-profit, has provided free legal services to the neediest residents of this county for over 50 years. Our primary service is the provision of attorney consultations, advice and development of case strategy for those who would otherwise have no means to address their legal problem. The majority of those we serve select a viable approach to engage the judicial system in pursuit of remedial orders. In those cases, Legal Aid also prepares the necessary legal documents and provides the client step-by-step procedural information and advice as they process their action. This work allows our most challenged neighbors to cure legal problems related to their homes, families, income stability, peaceful domestic relations, and legal authority to access health care and supportive social services for disenfranchised minors and disabled, dependent adults. Through on-going assessment of community needs, we have been able to structure our projects to efficiently answer the most prevalent needs of our clients. As a result, we have addressed the increasing complexity of case issues and procedures by developing projects which now allow us to provide full representation of our most challenged clients. Finally, we also present educational programs and provide public speakers on current legal issues.
Public Counsel is the largest pro bono law firm in the nation. Founded in 1970 in Los Angeles, its 71 attorneys and 50 support staff—along with over 5,000 volunteer lawyers, law students, and legal professionals—assist more than 30,000 individuals, families, and community organizations every year. Our projects focus on the needs of those living at or near the poverty level in such areas as Education, Children’s Rights, Immigration, Veterans, Community Development, and Homelessness. The Consumer Law Project is one of Public Counsel’s original projects. From its inception it has assisted thousands of low-income homeowners, students, and consumers in resolving claims of unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentations, and a wide range of issues involving fairness in the marketplace.
The Public Law Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, provides free legal services to low-income residents of Orange County. Annually, over 8,000 of the most vulnerable residents of Orange County, including immigrants, minorities, veterans, seniors, and children, receive services from PLC's staff and volunteers. Our work includes counseling, individual representation, community education and strategic policy advocacy and impact litigation to challenge societal injustices, and we practice in the areas of domestic violence, human trafficking, guardianship, housing, health, bankruptcy, asylum, family law, consumer fraud, immigration, and discrimination. PLC's Consumer Law Unit works on a variety of issues, including debt collection defense, identity theft, bankruptcy, student loans, auto fraud and predatory lending.
Riverside Legal Aid, a dba of the Public Services Law Corporation of the Riverside County Bar Association, provides pro se litigants with legal services, education and counselling. Services are limited to low income residents of Riverside County and are provided at offices in the cities of Riverside and Indio as well as in-court services in both cities and at the courthouse in Temecula. Areas of practice include, but are not limited to Family Law, Probate, Guardianships, Conservatorships, Unlawful Detainers, Bankruptcy and civil litigation in State and Federal courts.
The UC Irvine, School of Law Consumer Law Clinic provides comprehensive advocacy to consumers through policy analysis, community education and outreach, and direct representation of consumers. The Consumer Law Clinic teaches students the skills of lawyering while exploring a community-based approach to consumer law. As advocates for consumers and veterans exploited by predatory lending practices, students will investigate potential consumer protection claims and provide direct representation in state and federal court for violations of California's Unfair Competition Law and other unfair and/or deceptive business practices. Direct representation may also include drafting amicus briefs in consumer cases, filing complaints with regulatory agencies, and disputing inaccuracies in consumer credit reports. Students will have the opportunity to analyze finance industry regulations and legislation through white papers, public comment, and empirical research. To increase community impact and address the growing needs of consumers, students will develop self-help materials and conduct community education and outreach to help protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.
The Watsonville Law Center (WLC) provides free legal services to low-income individuals on California’s Central Coast. We believe that everyone benefits when the most vulnerable among us thrive, and that a holistic collaborative approach is most effective. We focus on legal problems with long-term impacts and solutions, such as workers’ rights, consumer rights, and access to employment.
Corbin & Kaiser is a Sacramento-based firm serving not-for-profit, government, and cause-based organizations through government relations, coalition building, fund development, and public relations. Joint partners Samantha Corbin and Danielle Kando-Kaiser have managed national organizational expansions, procured over $700 million in funding for education and public interest programs, and have led clients and coalitions to victory in front of the legislature. We take our clients from planning to action — and success.
Senate Bill 616 (2019)
Senate Bill 616, authored by Senator Wieckowski and sponsored by CLICC and the East Bay Community Law Center, will reform the bank levy system for low-income California debtors. When a creditor attempts to collect debts owed by a borrower, they can get a court to automatically take money out of the borrower's paycheck, called a wage garnishment, or they can simply convince a court to seize money directly from a debtor's bank account, called a bank levy. When a creditor garnishes your wages, they can only take up to 25% of your earnings—the law says you need the rest to live. But when it comes to savings and bank levies, current California law allows creditors to seize 100% of the funds in a debtor's bank account with little or no warning; this can leave people without enough money to pay for life's most essential needs such as food, rent, and prescription medications. Senate Bill 616 will protect $2000, enough to cover life's essential needs for a few months, from being seized by a creditor who levies a bank account. For seasonal workers like farmworkers or substitute teachers, this law could make the difference between stability and homelessness, or between health and hunger.
Status: In Assembly committee.
More information here:
Read the full text here:
Senate Bill 318 (2019)
Senate Bill 318, authored by Senator Hertzberg and co-sponsored by CLICC, will not change existing law. Instead, it will clarify definitions in consumer protection laws to explicitly include for-profit bail bond companies. Currently, these companies behave as though consumer protection laws do not apply to them. This bill will add language to existing laws to specify that bail bondsmen are not exempt. Consumers of commercial bail services, that is, people in stressful situations who can’t afford to pay bail out of pocket and are therefore particularly susceptible to exploitation, deserve the same protections afforded to other consumers, and Senate Bill 318 ensures the law does not leave them out.
Status: Failed passage in Assembly Insurance Committee.
Watch the hearing here:
Read the full text here:
Positions On Current Bills
Medical Credit Cards
Status: In Assembly committee
Assembly Bill 2063 (2018)
AB 2063 ensures that a program administrator cannot execute an assessment or home improvement contract, or start work on that home improvement contract that is financed by an assessment contract, unless and until the program administrator determines that the property owner has the ability to pay the annual payment obligations for the PACE assessment. This change in the timing of the formation of PACE contracts – conducting the underwriting before the homeowner signs the home improvement and financing contracts – is something that CLICC and its allies had sought for the past two years.
Status: AB 2063, for which CLICC served as lead witness and key supporter, was signed by Governor Brown on September 27th, 2018.
Read the full text here:
Senate Bill 818 (2018)
SB 818 (Homeowners Bill of Rights) prevents dual tracking while also facilitating a process for struggling homeowners to work with their lenders. The Homeowners Bill of Rights (HBOR, 2012) amended California foreclosure procedures to ensure that a homeowner who experiences a financial hardship—such as a lost job or a death in the family—has a meaningful opportunity to be considered for all available alternatives to foreclosure before losing her home. Several key provisions of HBOR sunsetted at the end of 2017. This bill revives those provisions and makes them permanent. CLICC was a lead supporter of the bill and a key witness in committee hearings.
Status: This critical bill was signed by Governor Brown on September 14th, 2018.
Read the full text here:
Assembly Bill 1690 (2017)
Assembly Bill 1690, authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone and co-sponsored by CLICC, prohibits defendants from inquiring into a person's immigration status when s/he brings a claim to enforce state consumer protection or housing laws.
Prior to the passage of AB 1690, which took effect January 1, 2018, some businesses argued that even though they had violated various consumer protection or housing statutes, they should not be held responsible if the person suing them was an undocumented immigrant. In reality, they hoped simply to scare plaintiffs into dropping legitimate claims. CLICC argued that allowing defendants to ask about plaintiffs' immigration status would prevent valid lawsuits from being pursued and would allow wrongs to go unrighted.
By ensuring that all California residents are protected by the same laws, AB 1690 underscores California's commitment to true equality under the law.