Closing the Justice Gap

By Giving List Staff   |   November 26, 2022
Legal Aid changes lives through advice, legal representation, and community education.

Civil legal representation is expensive. Even basic legal services cost thousands of dollars. If you are struggling to pay rent, how do you pay for an attorney to fight an illegal eviction? If you are a stay-at-home mom, and a victim of domestic violence, how can you pay a lawyer?

The Family Violence Prevention attorneys participate in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County provides high-quality civil legal services to the most vulnerable people. Starting in 1959 with a few volunteers, the foundation has transformed into a full-fledged, county-wide, nonprofit law firm. Employing 12 lawyers and six legal support staff, the foundation provides legal services to lower-income individuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, senior citizens, and survivors of domestic violence. The foundation has offices in Santa Barbara, Lompoc, and Santa Maria. All services are provided free of charge.

According to Executive Director Jennifer Smith, the foundation provides an invaluable service. “We all know that if you are accused of a crime, you are guaranteed access to counsel,” Smith says. “But, if you need a restraining order against an abuser, or if you are at risk of homlessness due to an unjust eviction, you are not automatically provided counsel.”

Access to legal representation can be a life or death matter. In one case, the foundation worked with an immigrant family where the mother and children were the victims of ongoing domestic abuse. The abuse had flown under the radar for years due to a language and cultural barrier. Eventually, local police got involved. The police then reached out to the foundation. 

Legal aid attorneys worked to obtain a restraining order, ensured the family was able to receive counseling and support, and even helped the family obtain visas to remain in the United States. As a result, the mother was able to secure a job and gain financial independence from the abuser. All free to the family.

In addition to providing court representation, the foundation maintains self-service stations at courthouses throughout the county. Individuals can receive guidance on completing legal paperwork, and advice on navigating the legal process. The self-service stations even help the government reduce costs by ensuring required processes are followed, and paperwork isn’t repeatedly rejected.  


Legal Aid Foundation

Donate now!
(805) 963-6754 x103
Executive Director: Jennifer R. Smith


Our mission is to provide high-quality civil legal services to low-income and other vulnerable residents in order to ensure equal access to justice. We change lives through direct representation, legal advice and information, and community education.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

I am proud to support the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County. As an attorney, I know our system works best when everyone has legal representation. Through my work, I see how seniors may become victims of unscrupulous business practices or be taken advantage of by family members. Equal access to justice means that everyone – regardless of age, income, or physical ability – deserves to receive high-quality legal advice and representation.
Julianna Malis, Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law Board Vice President

Help Ensure Equal Access to Justice

We’re seeking $10,000 of general support, and with that dollar amount we can serve 26 individuals and families in all different areas of law. Because the nature of our work is professional legal services to individuals, that money goes to support our number one cost – personnel.

Key Supporters

The Hon. Susan Rose
Allan Ghitterman
(in memoriam)
Alan Blakeboro
Julianna Malis
Susan Thompson
Crystal Forsher
The Women’s Fund
of Santa Barbara
The State Bar of California
Judicial Council of California
U.S Dept. of Justice, Office of
Violence Against Women
Hutton Parker Foundation
Montecito Bank & Trust
Yardi Systems Inc.