Appleseed Foundation

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Founded 1993
Type Nonprofit
  • 727 15th Street, NW 11th Floor
    Washington D.C. 20005
Slogan Sowing the Seeds of Justice.

Appleseed (The Appleseed Foundation Inc.) is a non-partisan, nonprofit network of 17 public interest justice centers in the United States and Mexico.


Appleseed was founded in 1993 by members of Harvard Law School’s class of 1958 at their 35th reunion. As founding member Richard Medalie reported to his classmates:[1]

Members of our Class voted to establish a Class of 1958 sponsored and funded foundation to help organize, establish, and guide state centers for law in the public interest throughout the country. We have called the entity formed to carry on this program Appleseed because our concept is to plant a seed from which a public service activity involving lawyers, young and old, can grow and develop across the country.

From the outset Appleseed was framed around what was then a singular approach to pro bono law. Its strategy was to address issues that lent themselves to system-wide reform rather than the traditional model of providing legal services to individuals with legal problems. While litigation is one tool used by some of the Appleseed Centers, the organization tends to focus on achieving structural changes through market-based reforms, policy analysis and research, legislation, and rule making. Its board is no longer limited to its founders, and its reach, partners and methods extend beyond the law and lawyers.

Betsy Cavendish is the President.[2] She succeeded Linda Singer, who guided Appleseed for 13 years prior to becoming Attorney General of the District of Columbia. Appleseed has a large and prestigious board of directors, composed of prominent members of the bar, businesses, other nonprofits, representatives from the Centers, and founding members. The current co-chairs are Eric Koenig, retired from Microsoft and Susan Haller of Sprint Nextel.[3]



Appleseed’s national office (referred to as “Appleseed”) is based in Washington, D.C. It relies on professionals to volunteer their services so that every dollar in the budget can be leveraged into three dollars of pro bono service.[4]

Appleseed helps promote Center work, serves as a clearinghouse of projects and project successes, and provides training and technical assistance, particularly in communications, development, project management and board development, as well as in the substantive areas of education, immigration, financial access, health care and hurricane recovery.

Appleseed Centers[edit]

Appleseed's 17 Centers function as independent organizations linked to each other and with the national organization. They have achieved enduring accomplishment in areas ranging from children’s welfare, education reform, criminal justice reform, juvenile justice, electoral reform, judicial independence, access to health care, immigrant justice, housing development, teacher recruitment, government accountability, and the integration of environmentalism and community development.

Appleseed currently has Centers in Alabama, Chicago, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawai`i, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Mexico, and an office doing project work in New York City. In addition, Appleseed projects are on the ground in several other states without Centers.


Appleseed chronicles new accomplishments of the network through weekly e-newsletters called Appleseed This Week.

Sample Center Accomplishments[edit]

  • Alabama Appleseed drafted and presented to the Alabama Constitutional Revision Commission constitutional reform recommendations to grant broader local government/home rule authority to Alabama counties; establishment of a right to education; increases in personal and homestead exemption; and inclusion of equal protection and due process clause. Alabama Appleseed also works to remove structural barriers that affect the quality of life of immigrants. Alabama Appleseed Legal Director Shay Farley recently spoke out against the Alabama HB 56 anti-illegal immigration law.[5] In its complaint, Alabama Appleseed argues that the law would unjustly prevent the organization from transporting illegal aliens throughout the state.[6]
  • Chicago Appleseed is working with the circuit court of Cook County to develop a courtroom to divert less serious cases to treatment instead of to jail. The courtroom will use new Medicaid funding from the Affordable Care Act to pay for drug and mental health threatment for 90 percent of the defendants who need it.
  • Connecticut Appleseed advanced a bill through Connecticut’s lower House that mandates development of MOAs (Memorandums of Agreement) between school districts and municipal police departments to minimize arrests in public schools and defuse disciplinary situations with less damaging consequences for students.
  • DC Appleseed has released several editions of its lauded report reviewing the District government’s response to HIV/AIDS. The DC Center also helped launch a community college in the District of Columbia and undertook a review of the qualifications, method of selection, and role of the District’s Attorney General. In July 2013, the Local Budget Autonomy Charter Amendment that DC Appleseed drafted and D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved in the April 23 referendum became law.[7]
  • Georgia Appleseed's five-month-old Columbus field office is reviewing the system-wide student code of conduct. The Center collected feedback from students through a focus group and parent and community focus groups will follow. Georgia Appleseed worked to reform and rewrite the state’s Juvenile Justice Code, HB 242, which Governor Nathan Deal signed in May 2013.[8]
  • Hawai'i Appleseed is currently representing more than 250 low-income families who had been overcharged by their Section 8 landlord, and last month, a state court judge granted Hawai’i Appleseed’s motion for partial summary judgment. The decision on the amount of overcharges could total more than a million dollars in the last ten years.[9]
  • Kansas Appleseed reached an important milestone: 850 adoptions and $500,000 in scholarships for foster and adoptive children since board member Gene Balloun started the Kansas Foster Children Adoption and Scholarship Program at Shook, Hardy and Bacon.
  • Louisiana Appleseed, in partnership with the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Access to Justice Program and the Louisiana Department of Education, created a pamphlet to educate public schools about the use of custody affidavits, ensuring that students across Louisiana are able to enroll in school. The pamphlet is based on an extensive white paper written by attorney volunteer Ian Ellis, and a pamphlet to educate community members is coming soon. The Center has also brought attention to "heir property" – property without a clear title – which led the Louisiana Senate to create and approve a bill to enact an Appleseed-led committee to study and develop recommendations for the state Legislature. Through its immigrant financial access project, Louisiana Appleseed is helping local banks and credit unions to better reach unbanked or underbanked members of the Latino community.
  • Massachusetts Appleseed is partnering with the University of Massachusetts to establish the “Massachusetts Homeless College Student Network.” The Center’s three-year plan will identify systemic barriers, advocate for policy changes, and develop programs to facilitate meaningful access to higher education for youth experiencing (or at-risk of) homelessness and youth subject to chronic poverty.
  • Mexico Appleseed is playing a key role in developing a pro bono culture in Mexico and has enrolled over 100 firms eager to provide pro bono service. Mexico Appleseed and “Bufete Sánchez Navarro S.C” co-sponsored the 17th annual 5K Lawyers Race last month to promote the pro bono culture in Mexico and to celebrate Lawyers Day on July 12. A total of 1,500 lawyers participated.
  • Nebraska Appleseed helped pass a bill establishing a system of services and support for young people aging out of foster care. Nebraska Appleseed also helped pass a package of anti-poverty legislation as well as a bill to curtail racial profiling in Nebraska.
  • New Jersey Appleseed is representing the urban league of Essex County in its attempt to stop the creation of an open-air electrical switching station on over five acres of land in the heart of the Fairmont Heights residential community in Downtown Newark. This Environmental and Community Health Program is in conjunction with the Eastern Environmental Law Center.
  • New Mexico Appleseed is partnering with Native American communities to create the infrastructure for rural communities to serve USDA meals to children and fulfilling nutritional requirements through local growers and farmers. The project also includes an Appleseed Fellowship that provides local high school students with for-credit and paid job opportunities while handing out meals and teaching nutrition to local children.
  • South Carolina Appleseed is working with state officials to pursue a statewide “Double Bucks” program to expand access to produce for low-income families and support local farmers. The Center has been protecting unemployed workers who have lost Unemployment Insurance benefits through litigation. SC Appleseed also has been supporting Senator Graham on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
  • Texas Appleseed Texas Appleseed filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the constitutionality of prosecuting truant students in adult courts, and supported a bill that starting September 1 will eliminate the use of tickets for school-based misbehavior. Texas Appleseed’s work to ensure that disaster recovery dollars benefit low-income communities laid the groundwork for billions of federal dollars spent to repair damage in East Coast states after Superstorm Sandy. In 2015 Texas Appleseed filed a complaint with state and federal regulators of the payday loan industry after obtaining data showing that Texas borrowers are facing threats of criminal prosecution, arrest warrants, court appearances, jail time and fines stemming from the industry’s allegedly illegal practice of using the criminal justice system to collect on debts.[10]
  • Washington Appleseed Washington Appleseed began work on a navigational guide for individuals exiting the prison system. The Re-Entry Guide covers more than 13 discrete topics, covering both legal rights and responsibilities and step-by-step information to help take the steps necessary to connect with public benefits, apply for jobs, and secure safe and affordable housing.

Sample Publications[edit]


Appleseed has published a number of reports, summarizing the results of its policy analysis and making policy recommendations, for policy makers and the public.

  • Due Process and Consumer Debt: Eliminating Barriers to Justice in Consumer Credit Cases (March 2010)
  • Protecting Assets and Child Custody in the Face of Deportation (December 2009)
  • Assembly Line Injustice: Blueprint to Reform America's Immigration Court System (June 2009)
  • The Value of a Credit Score: Developing an Equitable Model for the Use of Credit Histories in Financially Underserved Communities (February 2009)
  • Remittance Transparency: Strengthening Business, Building Community (February 2009)
  • Immigrant Use of Financial Services and Unmet Needs: A Survey of Mexican Immigrants in Chicago (December 2008)
  • Forcing Our Blues Into Gray Areas: Local Police and Federal Immigration Enforcement (May 2008)
  • It Takes A North Carolina Parent: Transforming Education Under the No Child Left Behind Act (May 2008)
  • Banking in a Global Market: A Financial Institution Guide for Offering International Remittance Services (January 2008)
  • The Fair Exchange: Improving the Market for International Remittances (April 2007)
  • It Takes a Parent: Transforming Education in the Wake of the No Child Left Behind Act (September 2006)
  • A Continuing Storm: The On-Going Needs of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees (August 2006)
  • Keeping Afloat: Eligibility, Employer Attitudes, and Barriers to Public Benefits for Small Business Employees (August 2006)
  • Helping Small Business Employees Access Affordable Health Care: Recommendations for a State-Level Response (July 2006)
  • Expanding Immigrant Access to Mainstream Financial Services (June 2006)
  • Banking Immigrant Communities: A Toolkit for Banks and Credit Unions (February 2006)
  • Creating a Fair Playing Field for Consumers: The Need for Transparency in the U.S.-Mexico Remittance Market (December 2005)
  • The Database Dilemma: Implementation of HAVA’s Statewide Vote Registration Database Requirement (November 2005)
  • A Guide for Non-profit Organizations Seeking to Connect Immigrant Communities with Mainstream Financial Institutions (May 2004)
  • Need Space? School-Facility Public-Private Partnerships: An Assessment of Alternative Financing Arrangements (May 2004)

Other Publications[edit]

  • Understanding Prepaid Card Partnerships: A Guide for Nonprofit Organizations in New York (June 2010)
  • New York City Teacher Recruitment Ads (June 2005)
  • “Bank on Your Future”/“Su Dinero, Su Familia, Y Su Futuro” Financial Access Brochures (January 2005)


External links[edit]