This Week's Use Your Life Award
Paul Newman, Newman's Own and You, the Viewers
For more Information, please contact:
Inner City Law Center
1325 E. Seventh St.
P.O. Box 21487
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Nancy Mintie, a mom and a lawyer, is giving a voice to children and families forced to endure horrific living conditions in Los Angeles.
How it Began — Rescuing Children From Rats and Roaches
After graduating from UCLA Law School, Nancy Mintie wanted to practice law in an area where people would otherwise not be served. She began the Inner City Law Center in a little garage behind a soup kitchen in Los Angeles.
The Inner City Law Center (ICLC) is a community law office for homeless people and poor families living in the worst slums. "My very first housing case involved a young mother whose five daughters had been attacked by rats in their apartment," says Nancy, "And I thought that would be the worst case of my career...we are still seeing those kinds of conditions. Children grow up in buildings that are dark, dank, dangerous, foul smelling and that is their memory of their childhood home. That breaks my heart," says Nancy.
Housing That Can Be Life Threatening
According to Nancy, some housing conditions in Los Angeles are so horrible, they are actually killing people. "In a recent case, we had a baby die of a severe respiratory illness brought on by the vermin, the dampness, the cold, mold and filth in the apartment," Nancy says. "Then there are all the structural problems. We are handling a case right now where the entire building collapsed and a young father was crushed to death."
The ICLC works to get rid of these devastating conditions. Nancy says, "We force [the landlords] to get rid of the rats and cockroaches, put in heat and decent plumbing, clean up the water supply, and make the building safe."
The Solution — A New Mission
Lawyers at ICLC have traded high salaries for a different kind of mission. "We don't do it for the money, we do it for love," says Nancy. Lawyers treat their clients with respect they are usually denied.
In 21 years, the ICLC has never lost a housing case. Nancy feels ICLC wins because, "the facts are so horrible and the violation of the law is so clear that they are hard to lose."
Inspiring Other Lawyers
Nancy is an inspiration to young lawyers. Nancy returns to her alma mater to speak to UCLA Law School students at least once a year. One of Nancy's former professors says, "I think Nancy makes the students really believe they can go out and do good and really change the world. And their life will be richer, fuller and more meaningful than it would be otherwise." She has also established "Uncommon Good" — a fund that helps payback student loans so talented lawyers can afford to serve the poor.
Nancy says, "I could do something else and make a lot of money... but this work makes me happy, so I don't need the money. I do this work because it is so joyful to be able to serve these beautiful people."