Sad News From Legal Aid Society

We received some sad news of layoffs at the Legal Aid Society in a time of increased need.  Our Homeless Legal Assistance Program is built on all volunteers and has seen two years of increased demand.  We already know that it is nearly impossible to get legal representation in a divorce with children.  We know that it is extremely difficult to find legal help with an eviction for those not in a subsidized building, and there is not much help for anyone facing child support or child custody issues. 

As you know, when 2011 came to a close, we learned of a 14 percent reduction in our 2012 funding from the Legal Services Corporation.  This cut was in addition to the already realized $2.6 million drop, from $3.38 million to $700,000, in revenue derived from interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA).  Meanwhile, poverty has increased in Northeast Ohio and demand for Legal Aid's service increased. 

It was announced last week that the Legal Aid Society was laying off 8 staff members or 10% of their staff.  Executive Director Colleen Cotter said,

"These cuts also mean that we will serve fewer clients as we move into 2013.  However, we continue to work hard to be as efficient and as effective as we can with the staff and volunteers we have.  We continue to be a strong organization providing high quality legal assistance to low income and vulnerable individuals and families in northeast Ohio .  We will be smaller, but we will continue to have impact on our community.  And, we continue to encourage you to make referrals to us and partner with us."

Access to a qualified attorney even in civil matters should be a right of every taxpayer, and should not be available to only the wealthy.  A dad should be able to find legal help in order to see his children or stay out of debt.   She should be able end her marriage to a man who she has not seen in three years, but who is destroying her credit.  The veteran who is illegally foreclosed on while serving abroad should be able find legal representation to be compensated for the mistake and to get his house back. The problems associated with underfunding of Legal Services should be addressed on the national level, and should get the attention from Congress and the President that it deserves.

Brian Davis

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