Representing Hope: Client Stories
Legal services advocates and pro bono attorneys are part of an honorable tradition entrusted to advance the cause of the impoverished, defenseless, and oppressed. By giving their time, money, and assistance, they make the difference between justice for some and justice for all. The stories below are a handful of examples of successful pro bono and legal services cases.
Keeping Families Together
A Marshallese client and his wife wanted to adopt his niece. When they looked for help, Keith Morrison volunteered to take their case through the Equal Access to Justice Panel. The child, Mr. Morrison learned, had been living with the couple since birth, but the couple wanted to make it official. Mr. Morrison worked hard on the adoption case for seven months. In the end, the child was secure with the client and his wife and gained access to health insurance and other benefits.
Advocate: Keith Morrison, EAJP Pro Bono Attorney – Wilson & Associates, PLLC
The child's maternal grandmother and caretaker had been diagnosed with cancer and she could no longer provide for the child's needs. She took the one-year old child to his father. Soon afterward, the Office of Child Support Enforcement sued the father for paternity and child support. The father learned that before he reached out for help that the court had entered a default judgment of paternity with an order requiring him to make child support payments for the care of his son.
The Center for Arkansas Legal Services staff attorney Vernon Walker came to the client's aid and helped the client get a temporary order of custody with an abatement of the child support order. In the end, Mr. Walker helped the father get permanent custody of his child.
Advocate: Vernon Walker, Staff Attorney - Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Saving Limited Income
More than $600 was taken from the client's bank account. It was everything that her family would live off of for the month. When the client investigated, she discovered that she had a $16,000 judgment against her, even though she had never seen a single document concerning the judgment until a writ of garnishment was placed on her bank account. She immediately sought help and went to Legal Aid of Arkansas.
The creditor asserted that the client's son had accepted service at the same residence as the client, but the son's residence had been divided and there were separate addresses. With the help of AmeriCorps attorney Cory Crawford, the case was ultimately dismissed and the garnishment was refunded.
Advocate: Cory Crawford, Staff Attorney – Legal Aid of Arkansas
Partners for Justice
The client, who was disabled, learned that her bank froze her account after it received notice of a garnishment against her. The client's bank account contained more than $1,800 in Social Security Disability benefits and the only funds that she had to live on. In addition to freezing her account, the bank had also charged her various bank fees and returned check fees after the garnishment left insufficient funds in her account.
She reached out to the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and Cecille Doan was assigned the case. Ms. Doan contacted the bank on the client's behalf and directed the bank's attorneys to new federal regulations requiring that federal disability benefits be protected from garnishment. The bank, however, refused to release the freeze on the account and refused to refund the client the fees.
Ms. Doan reported the bank to the federal regulatory agency, and the matter was resolved in the client's favor. The client was given access to her disability benefits and refunded the fees and was able to move her funds to a different bank.
Advocate: Cecille Doan, Staff Attorney – Center for Arkansas Legal Services
The client had earned her bachelor's degree in nursing and wanted to take the exam to become a registered nurse. The Board of Nursing denied the client's request because of her past criminal record. The client had since reformed, though. She had stopped using drugs, entered nursing school, where she earned good grades, and was raising a family. The client requested a waiver to be allowed to take the exam and reached out for help.
Dustin Duke, managing attorney at the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, appeared with the client at the hearing on her waiver request before the Board of Nursing. The Board ruled that the client would be allowed to sit for her exam. The client passed and is now a registered nurse.
Advocate: Dustin Duke, Managing Attorney – Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Desperate for help, the client contacted Legal Aid of Arkansas for a divorce. She had only been married to her husband for a month when he attacked her while riding in his truck. He beat her and left her in a ditch in the country. Someone found the client, but her injuries were so severe that she had to be airlifted to the hospital, where she remained in critical care. The client survived but has ongoing health problems because of the abuse.
Staff attorney Hollie Greenway represented the client in court and was successful in obtaining not only a divorce but also an order of protection. The ex-husband was sent to jail for 20 years for the crime.
Advocate: Hollie Greenway, Staff Attorney – Legal Aid of Arkansas
The client wanted to adopt his 2-year old stepson. The child had never seen or had a relationship with his biological father, and the client felt that the child was his son. They reached out to the Center for Arkansas Legal Services for help.
Stacy D. Fletcher was assigned the case. The client and his wife were able to find an address for the child's biological father, and the biological father consented to the adooption. Within nine months, the client adopted the child and is proud and happy to be the child's father.
Advocate: Stacy D. Fletcher, Staff Attorney – Center for Arkansas Legal Services
In the Name of Justice
A mother of four, the client didn't know what to do when she received notice from the Housing Authority that her public housing Section 8 voucher would be terminated if she didn't pay her landlord more than $1,500 in damages. The client had moved from her rented home when her landlord falsely reported the damages to the Housing Authority.
The Center for Arkansas Legal Services became involved and assigned Erin O'Leary to the case. Ms. O'Leary requested an administrative hearing on the damages issue. The landlord failed to prove his claim for damages, and the hearing was decided in the client's favor. The client was allowed to keep her voucher and didn't have to pay any damages to the landlord.
Advocate: Erin O'Leary, Staff Attorney – Legal Aid of Arkansas