Antionette Dozier, senior attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty, focuses on public benefits and other economic disparity issues that low-income Californians face. For them, she litigates, provides technical support to legal aid attorneys, and works on policy and legislation to secure public benefits and remove economic barriers to prosperity. At Western Center she co-counsels in class actions and impact litigation involving access to mental health services and public benefits for indigent families and adults. She clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the chambers of Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. and was a litigation associate at Jones Day after graduating from UCLA School of Law.
Describe a typical day (if there is such a thing) in your job.
There is no such thing as a typical day when working at a statewide legal support center, where I work on impact litigation, administrative and policy issues, and respond to legal services requests for technical assistance. I appreciate that on a daily basis my job can swing between training, talking, strategizing, and conferring with legal services advocates, leading or participating in litigation teams, writing briefs, reviewing legislative bills, or advocating before government agencies or courts. The only thing typical about it is that whatever plans I have for the day will change quickly and interestingly.
If you could give a high five to one of your legal heroes (living or dead), who would get it and why?
This may read like a cop-out, but my high five goes to all of the advocates, nationally and internationally, working to secure civil and human rights and to uphold the dignity of poor people and minorities, and who strive to knock down systems of inequity by challenging the racism, sexism, ableism, mentalism, classism, and every other unmentioned “ism” that work to keep people poor and isolated. It’s tough work that we all do for little material reward or praise, but it often results in small and big positive changes that are enumerable. I’d give all of us two snaps and a cheer, too.
What’s a case or client or piece of advocacy that comes to mind as giving you particular personal satisfaction? Why?
The case felt like a very personal 'pay it forward' moment.
Litigating and settling Hartley v. Lightbourne, a case that challenged California’s collection of overpaid Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits from former minor recipients, is a standout for me personally. My client was a young woman attending community college and working her first job with the goal of moving out of poverty. Her plight resonated with me. She was doing it all on her own, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own journey and challenges as a former public benefits recipient and community college student. The case felt like a very personal “pay it forward” moment.
You were a member of the inaugural class of the Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Training Institute. How do you incorporate racial justice work into your poverty law work?
The training reaffirmed and helped recommit me to the critical race studies education that I received at UCLA. It also gave me permission and confidence to raise race as an issue and made me hopeful that successful advocacy can explicitly address racial injustices. Now I do more than simply think about racial justice issues when analyzing poverty issues; I explicitly do something about them. I apply a racial justice lens to each issue and invariably find that there is a disparate impact on certain racial groups and that the remedy will almost always be insufficient to accomplish the identified aims if we do not address the unique ways in which communities of color experience the systems at issue. With each new advocacy issue, I use new tools of framing and analysis and have a more hopeful sense of what can and should be accomplished to advance racial justice.
What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
I don’t usually hide in my office while I consume chocolate, but I don’t shout it from the rooftop either, so I’ll put my daily consumption of chocolate as a guilty pleasure, even though I’m usually performing some intricate Beyoncé-like moves in my head while I down dark chocolate pieces and constantly promise to eat more healthy food.