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When the justice system doesn't work

When I was younger and far less cynical, I believed in the law to fix wrongs. The law was supposed to be justice and justice was supposed to be the law; I had yet to see that the law wasn’t made for people like me, a first generation immigrant who didn’t understand “adult problems” but still had to translate everything for her parents. The law was not set up for low income families with a native language different from English. The law didn’t accommodate those who had to choose between appearing at a court date for a parking ticket or going to work keep their job and feed their families. 


In our society, we are conditioned from elementary school to be nice, kind, share and empathize with our peers, especially those in more difficult circumstances. We were convinced of the inherent fairness of “the system.” After all, logically speaking, it wouldn’t make sense to emphasize fairness unless the system itself was so. Unfortunately, fairness is not always the reality.


Most of the clients that I speak with on the Information and Referral (I&R) line are people who, one way or the other, have been failed by the legal system; whether its due to income, lack of education, immigration status, language—our justice system is often unjust. This is why CWEALF’s I&R line and Legal Education Program exists. It works to remove barriers and increase equal access to justice for all.


Sometimes, all a client needs is a link, an attorney referral for legal counsel, or help understanding the heaps of paperwork and motions they feel they are drowning under; sometimes their situation has no legal recourse, so they need to be connected to community resources to help them and their families. Though we are not able to resolve all the issues our clients face, just taking the time to actively and empathetically listen to their situation means a lot to them. This experience has taught me that I&R is valuable and truly helps people.


Growing up in a first generation immigrant family, I quickly learned that knowledge is power. After earning my bachelor’s next year, I intend to go for a JD. Even if I can’t save the world, I can reduce the confusion for family and friends when they have to navigate an unfriendly legal system; I can make sure that they are aware of every option that is available to them so that they can be empowered in their choice.


CWEALF’s Information and Referral line works much the same way. Clients call in with questions and confusion and we try our best to help. Whether that help is in the form of information, community agency referrals or attorney referrals, we want our clients to know all the resources available to them. Until our justice system lives up to its name, CWEALF will work to fill the gap.


Do You Need Legal Help? 
Contact CWEALF's Legal Education Program
Information & Referral Service (Hablamos Español) 
Call 860.524.0601 or toll free 1.800.479.2949
Mon-Thurs 9 am – 2 pm & Fri 9 am – 1 pm
Email CWEALF’s I&R Service



Eun Sol Lee is a senior at Trinity College double majoring in Public Policy & Law and Urban Studies with a minor in Japanese.



By Eun Sol Lee, Legal Education Intern at 16 Nov 2017, 14:52 PM



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