Pro Bono

Standing Up for Warriors

Trial Lawyers for Warriors is a nonprofit organization that assists U.S. special forces, including Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Green Berets, and Army Rangers — as well as other military personnel. P. Craig Morrow, senior partner at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett, & Haik in Opelousas, La., founded the organization.

Initially, he simply wanted to take some special operations personnel hunting and fishing with him to give them a break.

Morrow still takes military personnel hunting and fishing, but he also represents them pro bono and helps them and their families in other ways — such as buying plane tickets so that family members can be with their wounded warrior at a hospital.

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Now called the “Legal SEAL” by some special ops personnel, Morrow gained some clout when he stuck up for veterans at a town hall meeting about the Gulf Coast oil spill. Some veterans asked Morrow to attend, and he saw how they were being mistreated. “I almost didn’t stand up,” he said, but then he decided he needed to speak up. “I grilled this BP rep, and I got a standing ovation.”

Morrow has helped members of the military in various ways, including stopping predatory lenders from taking advantage of military personnel while they were away at war in Iraq and Afghanistan because they couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer; helping someone get his Purple Heart; defending a Marine who was falsely accused of a crime in Afghanistan; and drafting legal LLC documents to help people start their own companies.

“I felt that if these warriors were willing to sacrifice their lives and fight for our freedoms on the battlefield, then why shouldn’t I use my unique legal skills and help them in the legal battlefield we call the courtroom?” Morrow said. “I feel that trial lawyers have a unique skill set that we can and should use to protect and defend the warriors who protect and defend our way of life in America.”

Morrow represents some of the SEALs portrayed in the movies Lone Survivor and American Sniper. “They trust me, and I will say it was difficult at first because of the false propaganda spewed against our profession as trial lawyers,” Morrow said. “And I have personally witnessed a complete turnaround from countless military warriors that are now defending trial lawyers through social media.”

Morrow sees this chance to fight negative lawyer stereotypes as a secondary benefit of his efforts. “Trial Lawyers are in a helping profession, and, in my opinion, it is time to turn the tables and demonstrate that we are the good guys and not the people that our critics make us out to be.”

Trial Lawyers for Warriors has also collaborated with the organization Suiting Warriors to give veterans suits to wear to their first job interviews. “I was amazed at how almost none of our veterans had a nice suit to wear to a job interview,” Morrow said. “Who do you know that has more suits than trial lawyers?!”

“Founding Trial Lawyers for Warriors has given me an enormous sense of pride and inner peace in knowing that I am helping those who protect and defend our very freedoms — including the practice of law,” Morrow said.

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Learn more about this organization at www.triallawyersforwarriors.org.

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 4:46 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, General, Good Lawyer Stories, Pro Bono by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

Passion for Justice: Resources to Help Detained Immigrants

Policy changes under the new administration have led to a new and complicated immigration environment in the United States. One of the biggest effects we are seeing, is an increase in deportations and a lack of constitutional protections for detained immigrants. According to the American Immigration Council, less than 20 percent of detained immigrants in the US have legal counsel in their deportation proceedings.

Many AAJ members have expressed concerns over this new dynamic and asked how they can help. We’ve compiled a list of resources and volunteer opportunities below for anyone who would like to lend a hand or learn more about the issues.

Resources:

  • Through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), you can sign up to be a volunteer or mentor in specific legal areas and receive training specific to immigration cases.
  • AILA’s Immigration 2017 webpage is a one-stop-shop for legal and policy analyses of the recent executive actions on immigration.
  • AILA and the American Bar Association have teamed up to encourage lawyers to stop “Notario Fraud” – individuals who falsely represent themselves as qualified to offer legal advice, often taking advantage of immigrants. The Stop Notario Fraud website provides legal resources to help prevent fraud at both the federal and state levels. They also provide resources for attorney and law enforcement and training materials including recorded webinars.
  • Stay up-to-date on legal and political actions related to immigration with AILA’s Immigration Politics Ticker.

Volunteer Opportunities:

  • The Immigration Advocates Network has a Pro Bono Resource Center with a state-by-state map of organizations looking for pro bono volunteers and a calendar of upcoming trainings by state.
  • Advocates for Human Rights has a volunteer program with details on their take action page.
  • Volunteer opportunity in Georgia: The 1,800-bed Stewart Detention Center (run by private prison company CoreCivic) in Lumpkin, Georgia, is one of the largest – and most underserved – immigration detention centers in the country. The Detention Watch Network has written this report on this notorious facility, as part of its “Expose and Close” campaign. Volunteer lawyers will be doing intake, case/litigation prep, and bond hearings. Contact AILA for more information.
  • Volunteer opportunity in Texas: The Dilley Pro Bono Project needs volunteers to help represent detained immigrant children and their mothers – most of whom have fled horrific violence in Central America – at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. The detention of these families is a shameful policy, and AILA has been at the forefront of advocacy to end family detention once and for all. Resources and background information on this fight can be found here. More than 20,000 children and mothers have been represented through the volunteer efforts in Dilley. If you are interested in volunteering, please email the project’s volunteer coordinator Crystal Massey at crystal@caraprobono.org. To learn more about additional opportunities to volunteer at a second family detention center in Karnes, TX, please see the CARA Family Detention Project

Thank you for your support!

Posted on June 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm in Charitable Foundations, Community Outreach, Featured, General, Pro Bono by Marie D'Avignon - RSS 2.0

Newtown, Connecticut: A Year Later

On a quiet Friday in December 2012, people nationwide started hearing reports of the tragic events shattering Newtown, Connecticut. By the end of that day, December 14th, we would learn that a gunman had killed 26 people — 20 of whom were children — at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After that devastating day, members of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association (CTLA) gathered over the next few weeks to make some decisions. They took the position that no lawyer should profit from handling legal issues stemming from the tragedy. They decided to provide free legal services to anyone who needed help, such as a worker injured by a bullet who needed to fill out a workers comp claim, or parents who needed to take the necessary legal steps to prohibit the use of their children’s photos in news stories.

Connecticut trial lawyers also raised more than $50,000 for two charities, the Newtown Memorial Fund and the Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund*, the latter of which was created by the State of Connecticut for the first responders who might need help covering healthcare expenses related to the shooting.

“As this first anniversary approaches, The Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association continues to be available to those persons affected by the shooting,” says CTLA President Doug Mahoney.  “Several members of our Board of Governors reside in Newtown and as an organization we strongly support all who have been harmed by this senseless act of violence. We hope that the families of the victims and the people of Newtown can find some small measure of solace during this holiday season.”

* Donations can be made directly to the State Treasurer’s Office for the Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund. To make a direct donation to the state, mail checks (with Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund in the memo line) to Office of the State Treasurer, 55 Elm Street, Hartford CT 06106.

The United Way of Western Connecticut has also been assisting in receiving contributions for the fund. Private donations are paying for the fund, not tax dollars. Donations can be made to the Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund through the United Way of Western Connecticut. Anyone wishing to donate can visit https://secure.uwwesternct.org/sandy-hook-workers-assistance-fund.

 

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm in Community Outreach, General, Pro Bono by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Standing Up to Big Industries: The Pro Bono Cases of Vince Powers

When Project Extra Mile, a network of community partnerships working to prevent underage drinking, sought to have alcopops classified as distilled spirits, they knew opposing the alcohol industry would be challenging, so they enlisted the assistance of Vince Powers of Vincent M. Powers & Associates.

“Not one to shy away from controversy, Vince guided Project Extra Mile through the legal terrain around a highly contentious issue that some of the state’s highest officials were fighting to protect.  Vince was committed and undeterred, walking side-by-side with us against a very powerful industry,” says Nicole Carritt, Executive Director of Project Extra Mile.

The sweet, fruity alcopop appeals to youth, but is also full of hard liquor. With alcopops not classified as liquor, the alcohol industry benefits by being able to have the price compete with that of beer instead of hard liquor and allowing them to be sold by a greater number of vendors across the state. This allows the industry to create greater access to the products and to market the drink to youth, a price-conscious group with less disposable income.

In March 2012, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Lancaster County District Court that classified alcopops as distilled spirits.

Classifying alcopops as distilled spirits requires the industry to pay higher taxes on the drinks, which will raise the price to the consumer. Statistics show that 26 percent of alcohol sold in Nebraska is consumed by underage persons. Project Extra Mile and Mr. Powers’ victory will limit this group’s access to alcopops. After the ruling, the Governor rushed legislation that restored the alcohol industry’s tax break. Many other states applauded the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling, and will use it as a model as they work to address alcopops.

Vince Powers receives award from Project Extra Mile for his work in the alcopops case.

Mr. Powers says he took this case pro bono because Project Extra Mile was “being treated shabbily by the Governor and some state senators when they tried to get the Legislature to tax alcopops according to Nebraska law and I was confident I could prevail. Unfortunately, the legislature and Governor undid the Supreme Court’s decision by changing the law to benefit the industry and harm the taxpayers.”

Mr. Powers handles pro bono cases to make sure “that folks get a fair shake.” In a recent pro bono case, he obtained a restraining order to stop a deed of trust sale for an elderly couple who had been cheated by the mortgage company, allowing the couple to remain in their home.

“I make a good living because of the law,” says Mr. Powers. “The taxpayers provide the courthouse, the judges, the juries, and the staff – so it’s important to repay the community.”

Ms. Carritt expresses the gratitude of Project Extra Mile, “Vince saw the injustice to Nebraska’s children clearly and fought ardently for the appropriate classification of the products. He will forever be remembered for his commitment to social justice.”

Posted on July 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm in Community Outreach, General, Pro Bono by kloiacono - RSS 2.0

Washington County Lawyers Support All in Tennessee

The belief that indigent and low income individuals should have equal access to our court systems has led to grass roots efforts by Washington County, Tennessee, lawyers to connect with the general public. The Saturday Clinic, General Sessions Court project, and Pro Se Domestic Project have proved successful and continue to grow and expand throughout the state.

Tony Seaton of the Law Offices of Tony Seaton, PLLC along with trial lawyers McKenna Cox and Matt Bolton started the initiatives in October 2009. After learning to be a trial lawyer through pro bono work, Mr. Seaton had a desire to help people who cannot afford the legal services they need.  Mr. Seaton now volunteers his expertise to those who cannot afford legal services at least eight hours per month, which he considers “one of the most rewarding things I have accomplished as a lawyer.”

The Saturday Clinic establishes a set place where clients can find lawyers and paralegals ready to offer free and basic advice about bankruptcy, collection matters, divorce, eviction, foreclosure, and repossession. The Saturday Clinic is open for three hours, in which time approximately 40 clients are helped. This means that about 2,000 individuals have been helped during the Saturday Clinic so far.

Going to court without representation can be frightening because of the unknown, but in the Washington County (TN) General Sessions Court, attorneys from the Washington County Bar Association make it a little less nerve-wracking. A group of attorneys volunteer to speak with any unrepresented defendants who want their advice. They usually speak with 15-20 individuals each month.

The number of pro se litigants (litigants who represent themselves) in Washington County is high and rising. A partnership between attorneys and judges has established a monthly pro se domestic docket day. A domestic docket with many pro se litigants forces judges to play a balancing game of assisting without offering advice. Attorneys appear in court on the scheduled pro se docket day and assist the pro se litigants, benefitting all parties.

All of these initiatives fulfill a consistent need for pro bono services. Washington County serves as a model for counties across Tennessee. Everyone benefits from each of the projects and the trial lawyers are as eager to help as the individuals are to receive free assistance.

Mr. Seaton is on the statewide Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and chairman of the subcommittee to establish free legal clinics throughout Tennessee. The commission has greatly contributed to the development of a telephone line offering legal information and referrals (1-888-alegalz), an email system for legal questions (www.onlinetnjustice.org), and a website for general legal information and court-approved forms (www.justiceforalltn.org). Like the initiatives, all of these new services are free of charge.     

Attorney Seaton recently showed up in court to volunteer free legal services as part of the Access to Justice Initiative. A woman was being sued for credit card debt despite having fulfilled her obligations under a mutually agreed upon payment plan. The creditor attorney acknowledged that his company often sues even if there is a payment plan. Mr. Seaton pointed out that the judge would be equally as upset as his client if this case was presented, and the creditor attorney agreed to dismiss the claim.

“The next day I received one of the warmest and sincerest thank-you notes that I have ever received,” says Mr. Seaton. “It reminded me of why we do what we do.  We touch lives and serve people, partially out of a sense of obligation to our profession and our community.  Our state Supreme Court has initiated, encouraged, and enabled us to join hands to provide these programs.”

Posted on June 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm in Community Outreach, General, Pro Bono by kloiacono - RSS 2.0