Skip to main content

California Rural Legal Assistance Appoints Jessica Jewell as Executive Director

Lindauer partnered with California Rural Legal Assistance in the search for its next Executive Director. Committed to racial and social equity, Jessica Jewell will lead CRLA’s efforts to ensure all people of rural California are guaranteed their fundamental rights.

The Board of Directors of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) is pleased to welcome Jessica Jewell as its next Executive Director.

“Jessica Jewell’s expertise, leadership skills, commitment to racial and social equity, and experience with the organization’s partners and funders make her an exceptional individual for the role,” said CRLA Board Chair Roberto de la Rosa, Jr. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact in achieving its mission and vision will continue to flourish.”

CRLA’s Executive Director is charged with strategic leadership, management, and successful day-to-day operations for the organization, overseeing 17 offices statewide. CRLA is the leading civil legal aid organization serving rural California’s diverse low-income communities, and Jewell is poised to lead CRLA to achieve its vision of a rural California where all people are treated with dignity and respect and guaranteed their fundamental rights.

Jewell begins her executive directorship at a time when crises like climate disruption and the COVID-19 pandemic are driving major changes in California’s rural counties, including housing, healthcare, warehousing and distribution, agriculture, water management, and energy. She sees an opportunity for California to be a leader by ensuring that responses to those changes also address inequality.

“I am deeply honored to serve CRLA as executive director and carry on our legacy of dismantling systemic injustice and inequity by fighting alongside impacted communities,” Jessica Jewell said. “We listen to a client’s experience and make connections so we can address their immediate need for legal services and, at the same time, change conditions so more people’s rights are protected.”

“California is changing, and the diverse communities that make up rural California have the power to shape that change,” Jewell emphasized.

“We want more people to know that CRLA provides free legal services to income-qualified applicants. CRLA is here to fight alongside those who reject systems of oppression and seek to enforce their rights. Even if you don’t qualify for our services, our staff have many connections in local communities where they can refer you. You could get help for yourself and also contribute to changes that can help many more people.”

Jewell was raised in Riverbank, CA, outside Modesto. Growing up in an immigrant working-class family, she saw the strengths of rural communities as well as the systemic barriers that could destabilize families and worsen poverty.

After an internship with CRLA’s Agricultural Worker Program, she joined CRLA as a community worker.  While earning her law degree at Laurence Drivon School of Law in Stockton, CA, Jewell launched a clinic serving unrepresented tenants facing eviction. Jewell then returned to CRLA’s Agricultural Worker Program as a staff attorney. She served as directing attorney in Modesto, regional director of advocacy, legal director of CRLA’s Rural Justice Unit, and deputy director before being selected by CRLA’s board of directors to succeed José Padilla as executive director this year.

Jessica M. Jewell was appointed by the board in January 2023. The search was led by Lindauer senior consultant Diane Felicio, PhD, and consultant Elsa Gomes Bondlow.

Subscribe today to get the latest industry news, resources, and career opportunities.