Navigating the complexities of the American legal system can feel daunting, especially for some of Empower Yolo’s clients who are often survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking. Understanding their legal rights during the most traumatic and dangerous times in their lives can be challenging for many clients. To support them, Empower Yolo provides a legal department staffed with legal advocates and volunteer attorneys.

“Empower Yolo’s free legal services are so important because sometimes securing legal assistance can be too expensive for victims who have recently left an abusive relationship,” says Jaime Garfield-Imus, Empower Yolo’s director of legal services since 2008. “When it comes to domestic violence getting fast legal assistance can be the difference between life and death,” says Garfield-Imus.

One of the legal department’s most important programs is Empower Yolo’s Family Law Clinic (the clinic) founded by attorney Brian Pakpour of Pakpour Banks LLP to fulfill a significant need in Yolo County. “The legal department at Empower Yolo connects survivors of abuse with the family law help they need. That way, those individuals can safely sever ties with their abusers,” says Pakpour. “The experience of helping victims through Empower Yolo’s legal clinic is the most rewarding as a lawyer. None of it would be possible without Empower Yolo’s advocates and personnel. Their passion for this work is obvious from how they go about it,” adds Pakpour.

“We have five amazing family law attorney volunteers who assist with any family law issues,” says Garfield-Imus. The clinic attorneys offer victims of domestic violence free legal advice on issues including divorce, custody, and guardianship; they help prepare motions; and represent clients pro bono. “Their advocacy helps to empower clients,” says Garfield-Imus. Along with Pakpour who serve in the clinic are Sherine Pahlavan of the Law Office of Sherine Pahlavan; Keith Banks of Pakpour Banks LLP; Christopher Dietrich of Kopper, Morgan & Dietrich, and John E.B. Myers, Professor, McGeorge School of Law.

Empower Yolo’s legal advocates provide support and accompaniment to domestic violence survivors in both family and criminal court. Services include immigration support, Safe at Home application preparation, housing and employment advocacy, attorney referral information, Victim Compensation application assistance, guardianship assistance, emancipations, and restraining order clinics.

In 2023, 285 survivors of crime were provided restraining order assistance. Legal advocates hold restraining order clinics throughout Yolo County including Woodland, Winters, Davis, and a new location in West Sacramento at the Arthur F. Turner Library, 1212 Merkley Ave, West Sacramento, on Wednesdays, starting July 10th, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Please note that although the library officially opens at 11:00 a.m., the restraining order clinic will commence at 9:30 a.m. For more information on restraining order clinic hours and locations visit

“The legal department has grown with the expansion of the family law clinic created by Attorney Pakpour. Additionally, I have built relationships with various family law attorneys who accept pro bono cases for our clients,” says Garfield-Imus. “We also now offer help with Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) and elder abuse restraining orders.”

Unfortunately, budget cuts to the Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) have impacted the legal services provided to the community. When advocates leave their positions, they will not be replaced, and the hours of current advocates have been reduced.

The West Sacramento office closed permanently due to federal funding losses. Despite these cuts, Empower Yolo’s legal department continues to provide quality services to survivors. Although state funding was approved this year after significant advocacy, funding remains precarious. Reductions are likely if federal funding does not rebound or state support is not secured in the coming years. For more information on VOCA and ways you can support the budget for victims of crime visit

The community can help by supporting clients with filing fees for divorce or help with court reporter fees. Donations can be made any time at For more information on Empower Yolo’s legal services contact Jaime Garfield-Imus at [email protected], or call (530) 661-6336.

Empower Yolo’s legal department, with its dedicated legal advocates and volunteer attorneys, plays a crucial role in supporting and empowering clients who have faced domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking. By providing guidance and clarity on their legal rights, Empower Yolo helps clients navigate the complex legal system with confidence.

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