Legal Services = Basic Needs

Extra! Extra! Read All About it!
Extra! Extra! Read All About it!

Earlier today the United Way of the Midlands released their Community-Needs Assessment Report online at http://uway.org/facing_facts/.

While the report is specific to Richland and Lexington Counties, the issues highlighted in the report may be universal for people living in poverty. According to the report:

Many households in our community daily struggle to pay for housing, utilities, food, clothing and legal help.

While many of us recognize shelter and food as basic necessities, we may not associate legal help as one. And, that’s the legal community’s fault for not publicizing this fact.

For people living in poverty, legal services is often their lifeline. As I note often, as a general rule (there are always exceptions), people do not seek legal assistance when all is going well.

  • In the criminal justice arena someone is either the victim of a crime or is accused of perpetrating the crime.
  • In civil legal services, it’s very similar. Someone has been wronged or someone receives a complaint for wrongdoing. This can be contractual – landlord/tenant, debt repayment/collections, utilities, etc. It can be in other forms – divorce, child support, child custody, government benefits, etc.

For those of us working in civil legal services, this is second-nature.

And we’re glad that others now recognize it.

Thanks to United Way of the Midlands for collecting this data and publishing the report!

-RFW

Tennessee latest to add Access to Justice

On Friday, December 5th, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced an Access to Justice Initiative. Chief Justice Janice Holder offered a few remarks as to outline measures of the initiative as well as some general information as to the necessity of the initiative.

Only one in five income-eligible people will receive the legal help they need.

In our current troubled economy, the need for civil legal services among Tennessee’s indigent and working poor families can only be expected to increase as they face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures.

We send our best wishes to Tennessee with this initiative and offer our support. Congratulations and welcome aboard!

-RFW