Legal Aid Success Stories
Legal aid makes a significant – often lifesaving – difference in the lives of Arkansas’s most vulnerable residents by giving them a place to turn for legal help to resolve problems affecting their most basic needs. Read recent success stories below or visit “How Legal Aid Works” in Arkansas for more information about how we provide free legal help to those who need it most.
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MAKING A DIFFERENCE ONE CASE AT TIME
Legal aid advocates are part of an honorable tradition entrusted to advance the cause of the impoverished, defenseless, and oppressed. Often, 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.
The client had been served with a Complaint for Foreclosure and reached out to the Center for Arkansas Legal Services for help. The client was an 83-year old immigrant from Latvia. Her and her son had moved in the 1950s to California, where she worked in the film industry and bought and sold property until she moved to Arkansas in the 1990s. She'd purchased the home at issue in 2006. Her only source of income was $900 a month in Social Security, and although her son lived in the area, he had no income and refused to help her. The client had no other family.
When FEMA updated the flood maps, it was determined that the client's home was located in a floodplain. She would require a flood insurance policy. Though she was sent a number of notices, the client did not understand the requirement and did not take any action. At that point, the bank force placed a flood insurance policy, and the client stopped paying her mortgage. In addition to all of this, the client was also scammed out of her life savings, approximately $6,000, around the same time.
With the help of staff attorney Patrick Parsons, the client and adverse counsel were able to reach an agreement. The bank agreed to bring the client's account up-to-date by rolling back the four past due payments to the end of the loan in 2037, and the client was now aware that she must continue to pay her homeowner's and flood insurance. The Complaint for Foreclosure was dismissed.
Advocate: Patrick Parsons, Staff Attorney –Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Partners for Justice
The client, an elderly woman, lived in her home with her granddaughter for several years. Her granddaughter purchased furniture on credit for approximately $1,000 and then defaulted on the loan. Soon, the debt was charged off and sold to a debt collection agency.
The collection agency brought a lawsuit to collect on the debt with interest against both the client and her granddaughter. The collection agency had no proof that the client owed on the debt, so the client hired a private attorney to help her. The attorney withdrew from the case.
When the collection agency amended its complaint and served the client again, she turned to the Center for Arkansas Legal Services for help. Staff attorney Cecille Doan worked hard for the client and was able to get the debt collection agency to dismiss the client from the lawsuit.
Advocate: Cecille Doan, Staff Attorney – Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Maintaining Housing Subsidy
When the client's project-based Section 8 property manager refused to re-certify her for her housing subsidy, the client turned to Legal Aid of Arkansas for help. Since the property manager refused to re-certify, the client's rent jumped by $500 per month. The client could not pay the high rent, and the property manager performed a self-help eviction by locking the client out of her apartment.
Legal Aid of Arkansas staff attorney filed a lawsuit under the forcible entry and detainer statute and contract law. With Legal Aid's help, a TRO ensured that the client and her children could get immediate access to the apartment. Auer then settled the action, and the client received a lump sum payment of $1,000 to compensate her for the time that she was dispossessed. Legal Aid also recovered $2,500 in attorney's fees, and since the complex had been problematic in the past with the same issue of failing to re-certify tenants, this litigation resulted in re-certification for three other clients as well.
Advocate: Jason Auer, Staff Attorney – Legal Aid of Arkansas
The client received an eviction notice, but her landlord did not wait for any court action and illegally turned off electricity to the client's apartment. Staff attorney Stacy Fletcher quickly drafted a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Brief with the circuit court. Then she notified the owner of the apartment complex that the Center for Arkansas Legal Services was representing the client and ready to file action in court. Within five minutes of faxing the pleadings, the owner had the electricity to the apartment restored and worked out a longer period of time for the client to vacate the apartment. The additional time allowed the client to transfer her housing voucher to another complex.
Advocate: Stacy D. Fletcher, Staff Attorney – Center for Arkansas Legal Services
In the Name of Justice
The client was born in Lee County with no birth certificate. The client recently needed a birth certificate to obtain a driver's license and went to one lawyer who told him that they wouldn't be able to help him. The client also tried to obtain a birth certificate himself, but he wasn't able to provide the required records. That's when he contacted Legal Aid of Arkansas, who connected him to volunteer attorney Bill Waddell.
Waddell filed a petition to register the client's birth, a step recommended by the Department of Vital Statistics. At the hearing, both the client and his brother testified about his date of birth, place of birth, and his parentage. The judge granted the petition, and the client was awarded his birth certificate.
Advocate: Bill Waddell, Pro Bono Attorney – AVLE