Maryland Legal Aid Bureau
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA)
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Iowa Legal Aid
Legal Services of Greater Miami
Wyoming Legal Services
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
Legal Aid Services of Oregon
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
"Jonathan" contacted the Lower Shore Office of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau concerned about his living conditions; specifically, black mold was growing underneath the ceiling tiles and carpet of his mobile home. The mold had begun to affect the breathing of his young, asthmatic son, and Jonathan was forced to send him to live temporarily with a relative until he could convince the landlord to address the situation.
Unfortunately, the landlord refused to properly insulate the home and remedy the mold situation. Karen Dean, a staff attorney with bureau, and paralegal Wanda Deal Fields investigated the situation, eventually representing Jonathan in escrowing his rent.
"The mobile home was improperly insulated and condensation collected on the windows, soaking the curtains on a daily basis," says Dean. "There were also holes leading directly outside throughout the home."
"I had asked for a 50-percent abatement of Jonathan's $100-a-week rent," she recalls of the legal proceedings. "Judge Patrick Hayman instead ordered that 100 percent of future rent was abated until the premises were certified mold-free by a testing lab."
"Just as nice - the landlord had brought a failure-to-pay-rent case for $712 in rent and late fees," Dean notes. "Jonathan had not paid his rent in seven weeks leading up to the escrow due to the conditions. The judge determined that the landlord had known about the conditions for a month and therefore reduced the amount owed to $300 - no late fees even!"
Mr. Bradley, a 74-year old disabled man, lived with his mother until her death in 2003. Following her passing, his two brothers, ages 69 and 72, moved into the house with him. Subsequently, Mr. Bradley received a condolence letter from Medi-Cal, which went on to demand more than $20,000 for health care services received by his mother. In the event they could not pay the amount, the letter noted that the state would put a lien on their home.
The family home was owned jointly by the two younger brothers and their late mother. Living on a fixed income, the brothers could not afford to sell the house, as rent would be too high for them. They turned to LAFLA for help and were put in touch with paralegal Roseland Williams. Williams filed a hardship waiver on their behalf. It was subsequently approved by the state, and the brothers were allowed to keep their home.
The "Nunes" family dreamed of owning their own business. After deciding to go into commercial trash-hauling, they contacted their city government in order to complete the required documents. One was a franchise agreement -- a thick legal document, written in English. However, since their primary language was Spanish, making sense of this intimidating document was nearly impossible. After contacting Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), Mrs. Nunes was referred to its Legal Assistance to Microenterprises Project. A member of the project assisted the Nunes family by explaining and reviewing the franchise agreement and ultimately helping her complete the application. With the assistance of TRLA, the Nunes family was able to submit the required forms to the city and obtain the franchise agreement. Today, they are open for business.
"Connie," who had survived years of domestic violence, had finally obtained a restraining order that forced her husband out of the home. She was ready to move on with her new life, with her granddaughter by her side. However, after being liberated, Connie was severely injured at work by a falling piece of heavy machinery. She suffered severe arm and neck trauma and two herniated disks, confining her to a wheel chair. "I was in bed for two years and couldn't move," she says. "It turned out that the injury caused other physical problems. I could not afford a wheelchair so I went to Iowa Legal Aid for help after Title 19 denied my claim." Teresa Jones of Iowa Legal Aid became Connie's tireless advocate. "I went to see her at her apartment to sign papers," Jones recalls, "and was shocked to find her using an office chair to get around her apartment. In order to walk without the chair she had to hang on to the wall."
Jones contacted Connie's physician for a full report and promptly submitted it to the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS), which had previously denied her claim. This time IDHS responded by granting the claim -- not just for any wheelchair, but for a new electric wheelchair. "I love it. I can get around now," Connie says. "[My granddaughter and I] try to go to the movies every Friday night. We can do things together, and it is really nice. If I hadn't had this legal representation from Iowa Legal Aid, I would have been squashed. It has been great to have the freedom and peace of mind."
Katrina was struggling to get off welfare and gain employment at a stable job to support her two young children. However, because of the geographic size of Miami-Dade County, where she lives and works, she needed a reliable automobile to reduce her three hour commute on public transportation and remain employed.
While Florida state law allowed welfare recipients in such a situation to purchase an automobile, there was no formal application form or procedure for Katrina to submit her request. Therefore, she asked her supportive services caseworker to provide her with an automobile. Following several months of waiting, her request was verbally denied.
Katrina then turned to Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSGMI), who agreed to find her transportation. LSGMI found that not only was there no application form or procedure, but there were also no policies or procedures to guarantee due process protections for people like Katrina. As a result, LSGMI filed an action in the Florida Third District Court of Appeals. Due to negotiations, Katrina eventually received $8,500 toward the purchase of an automobile, as allowed by law. Additionally, LSGMI assisted in developing an application process for others in Katrina's situation, which included standards to evaluate requests, and a detailed client-accessible grievance procedure.
"Anne," legally blind and suffering from a multitude of other physical disabilities, received a notice from the IRS informing her that her income-tax refund had been intercepted by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a result of an overpayment of benefits. Puzzled, she contacted Wyoming Legal Services.
An attorney was able to guide Anne through the long dispute that ensued, ending when an administrative law judge found that the SSA had failed to provide proper notice to her regarding her alleged overpayment, and that, in the end, there simply was no overpayment of benefits. As it turned out, SSA had failed to subtract her Impairment Related Work Expenses from her job wages, which were within the limit allowed by federal regulations.
Anne was reimbursed for her income-tax refund and benefits lost during the dispute. Her continuing benefits were reinstated, affording her much-needed peace of mind and allowing her to concentrate on her job and day-to-day care for her elderly mother.
"Allison" was 35 years old when she plummeted to the ground from a three-story building. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and underwent extensive surgery. But despite the best efforts of her surgeons, Allison suffered permanent damage to her vertebrae. The orthopedic department provided her with a wheelchair and informed her that she might need a titanium cage to support her back.
Just as she was reeling from her new debilitating condition, Allison was notified by the Department of Human Services (DHS) that she was being terminated from general assistance program benefits. Despite the vociferous objections of her personal physician, the DHS doctor thought Allison could handle working up to 30 hours per week.
She contacted the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii in desperate need of help. Despite being represented by Legal Aid at her DHS hearing and providing detailed records concerning her debilitating condition, the DHS Hearings Officers determined that she was, in fact, able to work, and her benefits were terminated.
Legal Aid was also representing Allison in applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Interestingly enough, she was granted SSI benefits, despite being required to prove a higher level of disability for SSI than for general assistance. Thankfully, Allison's income was not interrupted during this process due to assistance of Legal Aid.
"Debra" was raising four children, ages five, six, seven, and nine, by herself when the unthinkable happened. Her estranged husband had never attempted to pay child support and had never gone to court to establish his parental rights. Yet, he filed for a protection order against Debra, alleging that she had abused the children. Based on his false accusations and misstatements, the father obtained an order granting him temporary custody. Debra contacted Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) in a panic because the children had never been without their mother for a night, and the father had a history of abusive behavior.
Despite the fact that Debra contacted the office only one day before the hearing, an attorney from SMRLS was able to obtain documentary evidence from a domestic abuse shelter disproving the allegations. Her attorney immediately filed a motion for immediate return of the children, attaching numerous exhibits that supported Debra's case. The pleadings were drafted only two hours before the scheduled hearing and were served right before the hearing began. The court found the evidence compelling, dismissed the protection order, and returned Debra's children to her.
Juanita and Ron lived on a couple of acres of land near Portland, Ore., where they owned and operated an auto repair shop. Ron did the repairs while Juanita handled the bookkeeping and took care of the kids. In 1996 Ron had two heart attacks, leaving him weakened and unable to work the same long hours he had in the past. Juanita tried to keep the auto shop going using hired mechanics, but they lost customers who had been loyal to Ron. Eventually, the couple lost their business and their home, causing Anita to suffer a heart attack as well.
At first, the Oregon Health Plan covered the couple's medical bills and prescription drugs, but a state budget shortfall in 2003 caused them to lose all of their benefits. Juanita only learned after being charged $140 for one of her seven prescriptions, an amount she could not afford to pay without a steady income.
Eventually, Juanita contacted Legal Aid Services of Oregon, whose attorneys were able to restore the couple's medical coverage, allowing them to purchase the prescription drugs they desperately needed. "When the attorney called, it was the best phone call I ever had," Juanita said. "I was sitting there with a heart rate of 120 and I couldn't afford to pick up the medicine. It was a life saver." Ron agreed: "Just knowing that legal aid is out there to help gives you more confidence so that you can breathe a little bit easier."
"Amy" was in junior high school when she fell victims to a vicious physical assault that left her unable to care for herself. After the attack, an attorney with Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO) represented Amy during the time she was under the jurisdiction of the Family Court to ensure she received services to which she was legally entitled from the Division of Family Services and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
By the time Amy enrolled in high school, she lived in her own apartment and was receiving 24-hour-a-day care from the state because her family was unable and unwilling to assist her. When the state sought to eliminate support services, LAWMO protected Amy's right to receive proper medical care and support services. LAWMO also ensured that she received the special education and related services she was entitled to under federal law.
After graduating from high school, Amy wanted to attend college. Thanks to LAWMO she received state support to help pay for college. Faced with incredible odds, Amy did not give up. She graduated in 2002 and was selected for a one-year Missouri State Archives Internship in African-American History. Amy now hopes to attend law school so that she can help protect the rights of others.