U/Z partner Adina Stowell currently serves as President of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Orange County (CRF-OC) – a non-profit, non-partisan education organization dedicated to empowering Orange County youth to be active, responsible citizens.
For over 34 years, CRF-OC has been the only provider of high-quality, interactive civic and law-related education programs to all high school students in Orange County, regardless of ability to pay. CRF-OC’s programs include Mock Trial and Peer Court, as well as Law Day, Constitution Day and Career Forum conferences. These programs and conferences serve nearly 10,000 local teens and adult volunteers each year.
Adina began volunteering for CRF-OC early in her legal career and has been on CRF-OC’s Board of Directors since 2006. Needless to say, she is very committed to the organization and a huge fan of its programs. “All of CRF-OC’s programs encourage active participation by students in civic affairs and the legal system,” Adina noted “It is truly rewarding to be part of an organization that addresses the critical need for civic learning and in the long term hopefully inspires the next generation of legal professionals and community leaders.”
During Adina’s term as President, CRF-OC has focused, among other things, on strengthening its Peer Court program. Peer Court is a juvenile crime diversion program that offers a second chance to first-time juvenile offenders who have committed nonviolent misdemeanors and an educational opportunity for high school students who serve as jurors or observers.
Operating since 1994, Peer Court was started in collaboration with the Orange County Superior Court, Orange County Probation Department, Orange County Department of Education, and local lawyers. The loss of a grant in 2008 and budget cutbacks at local government agencies have curtailed its scope over the last few years. Adina and her colleagues at CRF-OC are working hard to extend its reach.
Currently, 14 high schools throughout Orange County participate in Peer Court. Sitting judges preside and high school students designated as “jurors” assess the cases presented and assign appropriate sanctions assisted by volunteer attorneys. “The Peer Court process is a very sobering and impactful experience for the young offenders who are being cross-examined by their peers, as well as for the high school students who observe the sessions, said Adina. “We’re hoping to be able to offer more Peer Court sessions in the future.” CRF-OC will be honoring some special Peer Court supporters at its Annual Benefit on October 22, 2015, which will be held at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.
Adina’s colleagues at Umberg Zipser are also long-time supporters of CRF. Dean Zipser continues to serve on the CRF board. Tom Umberg has been a speaker at various CRF events, most recently in April at CRF’s 2015 Orange County Career Forum.
As Adina concludes her term as President, she’s excited about the future of CRF-OC. “It’s a joy and a privilege to see CRF’s programs in action,” she said. “I’m very proud to be part of an organization that plays such an important role in engaging students in civic affairs here in Orange County.”