Born and raised in a small town in California’s San Joaquin Valley to Azorean immigrants, Evonne Silva has been driven, from a young age, to address injustice and work to improve the conditions under which people live. Her commitment to social change through public interest legal work is an expression of who she is.
Evonne was drawn to UCLA School of Law because of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy and the Critical Race Studies program. Prior to law school, Evonne led a statewide policy advocacy campaign at California Food Policy Advocates to remove a significant barrier impeding low-income Californians from accessing CalFresh, the State’s food stamp program. She worked as a criminal defense investigator with Georgetown University School of Law and as a paralegal with the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law before working on advocacy campaigns at the ACLU of Northern California in the areas of racial justice, death penalty, and police practices.
Evonne arrived at UCLA School of Law with a strong sense of purpose, working to acquire the legal knowledge and skills that would make her an even more effective advocate to advance the rights of marginalized communities. She clerked with the Honorable Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, and worked with the ACLU of Southern California and California Rural Legal Assistance on litigation against a Central Valley school district for denying English learners their fundamental right to equal educational opportunity. Evonne spent a semester with the National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, gaining an understanding of how to marry direct services and litigation to respond more effectively to the needs of low-income, immigrant communities, and served as the Deputy Field Operations Coordinator for the SAFE California campaign. She worked with Professor Gerald Lopez as a student in his Rebellious Lawyering and Legal Analysis courses and with Professor Joanna Schwartz and ACLU attorney Peter Bebring in the Civil Rights Litigation Clinic, in addition to taking courses in Employment Discrimination, Critical Race Theory, and Immigration Law.
Evonne worked as a staff attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) as the recipient of an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. At EBCLC, Evonne implemented the Immigrant Consumer Justice Project, aimed at defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrant consumers through direct services, community outreach, policy advocacy, and affirmative litigation.
Evonne currently oversees the day-to-day operations of the Legal-Policy Department at the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and among other things, directs the Law and Policy Internship Program. She is delighted at the opportunity to return to the ACLU-NC, particularly in light of the organization’s work across the region she calls home. Most recently, the work of the ACLU-NC in the Central Valley includes standing with a Native American student to win his right to wear an eagle feather at his high school graduation and achieving a historic ruling that guarantees that students have a right to sex education that is complete, medically accurate, and free of bias.
As she reflects on her personal and professional path, Evonne seeks to model a life of mentorship given the central role mentors have played in her life, as coaches, teachers, and colleagues. The opportunity to mentor law and policy graduate students in her current position is deeply fulfilling, and it is also what draws her to UCLA Law Women LEAD, a network of women providing advice and mentorship in the legal profession.