Appleseed uncovers and corrects injustices and barriers to opportunity through legal, legislative and market-based structural reform. Working with a large pro bono network, Appleseed identifies, researches, and analyzes social injustices, makes specific recommendations, and advocates for effective solutions to deep-seated structural problems. Together, Appleseed and Appleseed Centers form a network for positive change, building a society that provides each individual access to justice and a genuine opportunity to lead a full and productive life.
Appleseed was founded in 1993 by members of Harvard Law School’s class of 1958 at their 35-year reunion. Richard Medalie, one of the founding members, wrote to his classmates to report, "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." The letter went on to announce, “We have called the entity formed to carry on this program The Appleseed Foundation 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 Executive Director; 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. Current co-chairs are Robert Mallett of Pfizer and Jim Rogers of Latham & Watkins.
Appleseed’s national office (referred to as “Appleseed”) is based in Washington, D.C. Appleseed organizes, supports and connects Appleseed Centers. It provides or secures start-up funding and staffing assistance, and recruits leadership to get new Centers off the ground. Additionally, Appleseed identifies, secures funding for and organizes Centers around national collaborative projects in its core issue areas of education, financial access and health care. It mobilizes pro bono professionals to undertake projects that, in the short, medium, or long term, address a clear claim to justice in a structural manner. Indeed the budget that supports Appleseed’s paid staff of 14 is effectively quadrupled by the 3:1 match of provided by donated services.
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's 16 Centers function as independent organizations linked to each other and with the national organization. Each Center recruits new staff and leadership, raises its own funding, and develops its own projects and strategies for reform. Although most Center projects begin at the local level, almost all have broader implications. Additionally, Centers work actively with the national office of Appleseed on substantive projects. Appleseed Centers rely on a combination of staff and pro bono volunteers to conduct project work. 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, Kansas, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Mexico, and an office doing project work in New York City. The Los Angeles and Kansas centers have no paid staff; Centers such as Nebraska, the District of Columbia and Texas have staffs of about 10 employees. In addition, Appleseed projects are on the ground in several other states without Centers.
Virtually every week through a short email entitled Appleseed This Week, Appleseed chronicles a new accomplishment or initiative on behalf of the Appleseed network.
Sample accomplishments include:
South Carolina Appleseed has been a leader in the state’s passage of a number of economic opportunity reforms including passage of the state’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the South Carolina High Cost Mortgage and Consumer Home Loan Act. (1995; 2003)
Massachusetts Appleseed successfully advocated for passage of an open adoption law that provides a much-needed statutory framework for agreements permitting a biological parent to have continued contact with an adopted child, and launched a legal assistance program for low-income families encountering legal barriers while attempting to adopt foster children. (late 1990’s)
Texas Appleseed led the coalition to draft and pass the Fair Defense Act, which fundamentally changed the way lawyers are appointed for low-income criminal defendants in Texas, and led to local reforms to create special appointment mechanisms and practices for defendants with mental illness. The bill was hailed as the most important legislative reform in America in the last 25 years. (1999 - 2001)
New Jersey Appleseed obtained a court order that reversed a gag order on state troopers who speak out about racial profiling of minority motorists. They also filed and won a lawsuit charging discrimina¬tion against African American state troopers. (1999 – 2003)
Appleseed’s New York Office brought in high-level marketing volunteers to assist the New York City Department of Education in mounting a $26 million advertising campaign to encourage teachers to join and stay with the NYC public school system, resulting in an immediate doubling of the applicant pool for teaching positions. (2000 - present)
Chicago Appleseed was the first lawyer’s organization to call for a death penalty moratorium in Illinois, in response to concerns about the state’s flawed capital punishment process. Chicago Appleseed’s recommendations were adopted by the governor’s commission and became part of substantial reforms, which in turn sparked a reconsideration of the death penalty in states across the country. (2002)
Nebraska Appleseed won a groundbreaking appeal in the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a class of more than 10,000 single parents, that regained more than $18 million in health care benefits for otherwise uninsured Nebraskans. (2002-2003)
Connecticut Appleseed helped ensure inclusion of $20 million in the state's budget to motivate dentists to increase access to oral health care for Medicaid children, a win that culminated more than three years of collaborative work and helped resolve a six-year impasse in the State Legislature. (2003 - 2007)
The Appleseed Financial Access and Asset Building Project involves 10 Appleseed Centers as part of a landmark program designed to help recent immigrants gain access to banks and mainstream financial services. Appleseed has sought to make the market work for Latino immigrants as they save, build credit and move up the economic ladder. The project’s recent publication, “Banking in a Global Market: A Financial Institution Guide for Offering International Remittance Services,” provides an assessment of remittance markets and offers financial institutions essential information to implement remittance programs. (2003 -present)
Mexico Appleseed is part of a coalition that successfully reformed the criminal trial system in Mexico, to provide for oral trials rather than to rely only on a written record without oral testimony, or to give the defendant the opportunity to appear in court. (2005 - present)
More broadly, Mexico Appleseed is playing a key role in creating a civil society where top level professionals commit to pro bono service. They have enrolled over 100 firms eager to provide pro bono service.
DC Appleseed has released several editions of its lauded report reviewing the District government’s response to HIV/AIDS. Top officials in Washington, D.C., have hailed the report as a "blueprint for change." As a culmination of the project, DC Appleseed is working with the District government on an ongoing mechanism to enable citizens to speak directly with District officials on the District’s strategic planning process. (2005 - present)
Alabama Appleseed was a key participant in drafting and securing passage of a modern, comprehensive residential landlord/tenant law for the state, which replaced antiquated laws on landlord/ten¬ant relations. This new law establishes rights related to habitability, security deposits, landlord retaliation and evictions. (2006 – 2007)
The Appleseed Immigration Project published “Forcing Our Blues Into Gray Areas: Local Police and Federal Immigration Enforcement," which contains legal and practical guidelines to combat local anti-immigrant ordinances. It also describes troubling legal and political efforts to involve local police in federal immigration matters. Appleseed released the report at a briefing at the U.S. House of Representatives, which attracted national media attention, including segments on CNN and Univision. (2006-2008)
The Appleseed Education Policy Project released a comprehensive report based on research and analysis of the parent involvement practices in 18 school districts across the country. The report includes an evaluation of efforts to inform and engage parents about their children's schooling, and recommendations for what districts can do to help parents, especially in low-income districts, become better "consumers" of public education. Appleseed Centers in Chicago, Connecticut, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington state and volunteer attorneys in North Carolina are currently working with school districts, state education departments and community groups to implement the report’s recommendations. (2006 - present)
Kansas Appleseed successfully advocated for a tuition waiver that will allow foster children to enter the state’s public universities. (2007)
Washington Appleseed's innovative affordable housing project for the Greater Seattle YWCA earned one of the "Bond Buyer" top 10 "Regional Deal of the Year" awards in December 2007. This innovative project created a $30 million revolving fund for the YWCA to purchase transitional housing units for low-income women and families. (2007)
Georgia Appleseed embarked on the largest and most ambitious pro bono project ever under¬taken in the state -– a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s Juvenile Justice Code, the first time any state has drafted a comprehensive "model" juvenile code. More than 130 attorneys have signed on to work on the project, with a goal of securing passage of the new code by the 2009-2010 legislative session. (2007)
The Appleseed Hurricane Katrina Recovery Project initiated a project to secure implementation of an American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule (resolution number 104), to clear obstacles to providing pro bono services following a disaster. Five states have adopted the model rule, and 15 states are considering adoption. (2007 - present)
The Appleseed Tribal Partnership Project helped a Native American tribe in South Dakota launch a natural foods company and assist with the national release of its flagship product -– Tanka Bars –- which has been described by the New York Times as "the first national break-out product made on a reservation," and helps create sustainable jobs and combat a poverty rate of over 90 percent on the reservation. (2008)
Louisiana Appleseed brought attention to "heirship 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. (2008)
Reports Appleseed has published a number of reports, summarizing the results of its policy analysis and making policy recommendations, for policy makers and the public.
• 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 • New York City Teacher Recruitment Ads (June 2005) • “Bank on Your Future”/“Su Dinero, Su Familia, Y Su Futuro” Financial Access Brochures (January 2005)