A coalition of Tennessee legal groups has joined forces to launch a toll-free phone line offering free legal information and referrals to low-income Tennesseans.
The service, known as aLEGALz, will assist Tennesseans in finding resources to deal with civil legal issues. Those who cannot afford a lawyer may call the line at 888-aLEGALz (888 253-4259) and leave a message at any time. Calls will be returned by a licensed Tennessee lawyer.
The aLEGALz program is made possible through a grant from International Paper and funding from the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.
“This new service, along with our website, OnlineTNJustice.org, makes Tennessee a national leader in meeting the challenge of connecting all our citizens to the available resources,” said George T. “Buck” Lewis, chairman of the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. “I am thrilled that these groups have come together to launch this exciting initiative.”
The Access to Justice Commission is facilitating the aLEGALz project. The commission was created by the Supreme Court, which tasked it with developing initiatives to remove barriers to access to justice in the state.
“The Supreme Court considers access to justice for all citizens one of its highest priorities, and we are grateful to those that have made this new service possible,” said Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder, who serves as the court’s liaison to the commission.
aLEGALz is the first statewide phone line dedicated to assisting low-income Tennesseans facing legal problems, and is the next step in an ongoing effort to improve access to the legal system for all Tennesseans. The service will complement the existing web-based resource OnlineTNJustice.org – a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association, which allows users to post legal questions and receive answers from volunteer attorneys through a secure online messaging service. Since the service launched in 2011, more than 1,800 Tennesseans have received free legal assistance through the site.
Both the web and phone programs are part of an effort to eliminate barriers such as geographic location, work schedule or family obligations that keep those in need from receiving free legal help. The services also expand access to free assistance for people in rural areas of the state, and provide an alternative source of assistance for those who are turned away from legal aid offices because they do not qualify or because the local agency lacks the resources to handle the case.
The aLEGALz line will be staffed by a Tennessee-licensed attorney who will be able to provide referrals to appropriate legal service providers, pro bono assistance programs, free legal clinics and other social service providers. If ongoing legal representation is needed, callers may be referred to a free legal service provider or volunteer attorney program.
Tennesseans may use the aLEGALz line to request information and referrals on a range of civil law issues, including, but not limited to the following:
Orders of Protection
Debt & Collection
Credit Card Lawsuits
Social Security / SSI
Welfare / Food Assistance
Health Care Access
Home Repair Scams
Though aLEGALz can assist callers desiring to clear a criminal record, it cannot help with criminal problems, including traffic tickets.
The phone line has been donated by AT&T and will be managed by TALS with significant input from and coordination with the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission.
The following organizations bring OnlineTNJustice.org and aLEGALz to Tennesseans in need:
Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission – The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in 2008 and subsequently created the Access to Justice Commission. The commission is a response to a growing legal needs gap in Tennessee as indigent and working-poor families face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions and foreclosures. The commission is tasked with developing and implementing a strategic plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee to include educating the public on the need for legal representation to meet the ideal of equal justice under the law, identifying the priorities to meet the need of improved access to justice, and making recommendations to the Supreme Court of projects and programs necessary for enhancing access to justice. Learn more at TNCourts.gov.
Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) – TALS is a statewide non-profit organization that seeks to build partnerships to support the delivery of effective civil legal services for low-income and elderly Tennesseans. TALS is committed to increasing equal access to justice across Tennessee. TALS is an alliance of the federally funded legal aid programs, independent providers of civil legal services and supporting agencies in Tennessee. For more information call 615 627-0956 or visit the alliance online at tals.org.
International Paper – International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global paper and packaging company with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa. Its businesses include uncoated papers and industrial and consumer packaging, complemented by xpedx, the company's North American distribution company. Headquartered in Memphis, the company employs approximately 70,000 people and is strategically located in more than 24 countries serving customers worldwide. International Paper net sales for 2011 were $26 billion. Temple-Inland Inc., which was acquired in February 2012, had 2011 net sales of $4 billion. For more information about International Paper, its products and stewardship efforts, visit internationalpaper.com. Press inquiries should be directed to Tom Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901 419-4333.
Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) – The TBA is the largest professional association in Tennessee with over 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA’s dedication to serving the state's legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys. Learn more about the TBA at tba.org.
Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization – The commission is an agency of the Supreme Court of Tennessee created by Supreme Court Rule 21. The commission awards or denies credit to over 9,000 continuing legal education (CLE) courses across the country each year, tracks CLE attendance and compliance for over 20,000 Tennessee attorneys, and certifies over 300 Tennessee attorneys as specialists in 14 areas of law. The CLE Commission is guided by 11 commission members (nine attorneys and two lay members) who are appointed by the Supreme Court. The court also assigns a justice to serve as a liaison to the commission. Learn more about the commission at cletn.com.