The face of pro bono clinics is changing as the need for legal assistance grows across communities including Chattanooga, said officials. Legal Aid of East Tennessee has formed new partnerships with other legal aid assistance groups in an effort to bridge the gap of those who can’t get legal assistance for a variety of civil legal issues. An estimated 1 million Tennesseans face some type of civil legal issue each year and many are unable to afford legal representation, qualify for low-income assistance, or simply don’t recognize that they have a legal issue that requires the help of an attorney. One in three people go without professional legal assistance.
Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance, Christian Legal Society and Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative are among those working together on a new effort to expand Access to Justice in Chattanooga through area places of worship. New pro bono legal assistance is now being offered at several area churches including: White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank, Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in East Ridge, South Soddy Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, and the Samaritan Center in Ooltewah. More such partnerships are in the works.
Improving equal access to justice was declared a priority by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the Access to Justice Commission was formed in 2009 in an effort to expand equal access to justice across the state. The Access to Justice Commission created the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance on the premise that many individuals with legal issues will first seek assistance at their local houses of worship. The TFJA offers training of local pastoral leadership to bridge the legal gap and build better legal referral networks.
The week of Oct. 22-28 marks the 8th Annual National Celebrate Pro Bono Week and local events are scheduled to help spread more awareness in the legal community of the needs in the area and also help reach people needing assistance. The following events are currently scheduled:
Oct. 21, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Gospel Justice Initiative Legal Assistance Office Hours
White Oak United Methodist Church
2232 Lyndon Ave., Chattanooga, Tennessee 37405
Oct. 23, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
LAET Celebrate Pro Bono with Free CLE for Local Attorneys
Seven hours of free continuing legal education credits will be offered for attorneys who agree to participate in at least one legal aid clinic in the coming year or take one pro bono case.
• 8:30 a.m.: Registration and Breakfast sponsored by Miller & Martin, PLLC
• 9 a.m.: Estate Planning for Low Income Clients, Lauren Sherrell (O'Shaughnessy & Carter, PLLC)
• 10 a.m.: Consumer/Debt Collections, Brian Frye (LAET)
• 11 a.m.: Benefits, Emily Hooper (LAET)
• 12 p.m.: Networking Lunch sponsored by Miller & Martin, PLLC
• 1 p.m.: Bankruptcy, Deborah Yeomans-Barton (LAET)
• 2 p.m.: Family Law, Kathy Rowell (Private Attorney) and Nicole Benjamin (LAET)
• 3 p.m.: Landlord/Tenant Law, Emily O'Donnell (Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga) and Benjamin Danford (LAET)
• 4 p.m.: Faith and Justice Alliance and Legal Clinics, Nancy Cogar (Private Attorney; Gospel Justice Initiative; Christian Legal Society) and Marcy Eason (Miller & Martin, PLLC)
Oct. 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
LAET, Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative, Christian Legal Society and Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance Partnership Legal Aid Clinic
Jones Memorial United Methodist Church
4131 Ringgold Road
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37412
The clinics are open to anyone with a civil legal issue or question. People interested are advised to call in advance so that attorneys with an expertise in the specific area of concern can be available to assist.
Each attendee will be screened to determine if they are eligible for Legal Aid of East Tennessee. If they are eligible for LAET there is no charge. If they are not eligible for LAET, a $30 administrative fee will be charged through the Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative, but no other fees will be required to consult with an attorney. A receipt will be provided for administrative fees paid and those monies go to support Gospel Justice Initiative efforts here in Chattanooga. Walk-ins are also welcome, but will be served on a first-come basis.
For more information about this event or the partnership, please contact Paige Evatt, pro bono director at Legal Aid of East Tennessee at 402-4758 or email at email@example.com. Or call Nancy Cogar with the Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative at 521-5410 or email at Chattanooga@gji.org. More information on Gospel Justice Initiative is available at www.gji.org/chattanooga.