California Rural Legal Assistance

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California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit legal and political advocacy group that promotes the interests of migrant laborers and the rural poor. The organization provides legal assistance in the areas of employment and labor, housing and eviction, health, public benefits, and educational access.

Based in San Francisco, the organization operates 24 regional offices throughout California. CRLA has an annual operating budget of $10 million, and employs 138 staff, 51 of which are attorneys.[1] José R. Padilla, a lawyer and Berkeley Law graduate, has been the executive director since 1984.


California Rural Legal Assistance was founded in 1966 as part of the Johnson administration's War on Poverty. From 1965 until 1981, it was funded by the federal Community Services Agency (CSA). When the Reagan Administration defunded the CSA, it came under the auspices of the government's Legal Services Corporation (LSC). It also receives funding from private foundations such as The California Endowment and businesses such as the Union Bank of California.[2]

In 2002 CRLA was awarded the Domestic Human Rights Award by Global Exchange, and international NGO based in San Francisco.

Between 2000 and 2006, CRLA was investigated six times by LSC or by its Inspector General. The subject of the investigations ranged from issues of timekeeping, to facilities sharing, to CRLA affiliations with non-LSC agencies. The CRLA maintained that the investigations were political fallout for obtaining over one million dollars in settlements from dairy farmers.[3]

Padilla contends that organizations such as CRLA are "seemingly singled out for special political harassment, through more intense investigations".[4]

CRLA was also the subject of two complaints from the National Legal and Policy Center, both for apparently "violat[ing] the Legal Services Corporation Act and regulations regarding fee-generating cases"[5]


The CRLA has been involved in litigation that led to the ban of DDT, brought legal challenges to the practice of placing non-English-speaking students in special education classes, and the ban of the cortito, the short-handled hoe.[6]


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