Pro Bono

Passion for Justice

Information Update-March 6, 2017: Lawyers interested in learning more about this issue can sign up at www.immigrationjustice.us.

Hundreds of members of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) have called and emailed association leaders to express their concern and interest in providing legal assistance in the wake of the recent Executive Orders on immigration. AAJ has started a dialogue with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA will need trial lawyers who are comfortable in front of judges and passionate about justice.

Access to Justice Campaign

AILA’s campaign will provide training for attorneys to provide immigration removal defense services. AILA is developing the training, as well as pilot sites for representing people either in detention or in immigration court who face the prospect of removal without any opportunity to be represented by a lawyer.

Opportunities Right Now

Until the AILA Access to Justice website is up and running, good opportunities for volunteer legal work and trainings on immigration issues, recommended by AILA, include:

Materials from AILA

AILA’s Immigration 2017 webpage is a one-stop-shop for legal and policy analyses of the executive actions. The summaries will help you understand who will be impacted and how.

With respect to the Executive Order which suspended the U.S. Refugee Program and banned entry from seven Muslim-majority countries, AILA created an Executive Summary/Section-by-Section analysis of the Order. In addition, AILA’s American Immigration Council has already filed suit challenging the Muslim ban and created a practice advisory to guide other lawyers in bringing similar challenges.

The Trump Administration has issued two other Executive Orders with enormous enforcement ramifications for immigrants and their families in the U.S. AILA has created summaries/analyses of both the border enforcement and interior enforcement orders.

Ways to Stay Updated and Contribute

We appreciate your passion for fighting for justice!

 

Posted on February 5, 2017 at 10:54 pm in Community Outreach, General, Pro Bono by kloiacono - 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