Growing up, Ami Nguyen often interpreted for her parents, who are refugees from Vietnam and were unable to obtain more than elementary level education. Her family relied on government benefits and programs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Ami personally knows how difficult it is for low-income and immigrant families to navigate the justice system. Obtaining a graduate degree, especially a law degree from UCLA School of Law, seemed like an impossible dream.
With her family’s support and guidance from UCLA Law School’s Law Fellows Program, Ami applied to law school, was accepted, and entered law school with the goal of improving access to justice. While at UCLA, Ami participated in Professor Jyoti Nanda’s Youth & Justice Seminar and Professor Ingrid Eagly’s Criminal Defense Clinic, where she gained practical experience and deepened her understanding of our justice system. She also clerked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’ Asian Pacific Islander Unit where she learned about the importance of court provided interpreters.
After graduating from UCLA School of Law, Ami volunteered with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office where she played a significant role in winning an acquittal based on self-defense for a monolingual Vietnamese defendant charged with first degree murder. She also volunteered in Judge Jacqueline Nguyen’s District Court Chambers before gaining a position as a Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County. For two years, Ami devotedly served the Coachella Valley community where she won several acquittals for her clients and successfully advocated for alternative sentencing arrangements for many of her clients.
In 2014, Ami Nguyen became a Staff Attorney with Inner City Law Center’s Homelessness Prevention Project, a pilot project funded by the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, AB 590. Her efforts are dedicated to creating equal access to justice by representing low-income individuals and families facing illegal evictions, slum conditions, and housing discrimination.
The Shriver Project is in its fifth year of funding and will terminate in 2017 unless the Legislature votes to continue funding. Inner City Law Center has a strong pro bono program that not only encourages involvement in direct services, but also the shaping of policy for continued legal services. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Vidhya Ragunathan ’09.
On Tuesday, June 2, 2015, Inner City Law Center will be hosting its Annual Awards Luncheon Fundraiser at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel located at 251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021. Please contact Harry Batt for more information.
Ami is a member of UCLA Law Women LEAD, a network of women providing advice and mentorship in the legal profession. As the first in her family to attend law school, Ami has relied on female mentors for invaluable advice on important personal and professional decisions. As a member of UCLA Law Women LEAD, Ami looks forward to continuing to provide and receive mentorship.