The Access to Justice Committee believes that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, has the right to legal assistance. Please help us continue to make our dream a reality by sponsoring and running or walking in the 35th Annual Race Judicata 5K.
Memphis has the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest metropolitan area in the country: 26.9% (compared to 15.8% in Tennessee). Almost half (44.7%) of Memphis children live in poverty. Most of the problems facing low-income people, including the working poor, can be ameliorated with legal assistance – housing, benefits, health care, and consumer issues. Unfortunately, it is difficult for low-income residents to gain access to affordable legal assistance. The major issue lies in the lack of resources available for providers of free legal services in Memphis, primarily Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Community Legal Center (CLC), to assist all the clients who contact them for help. This is where the Memphis Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Program and private attorneys come into the picture to provide assistance. The Access to Justice Committee works to recruit, train and deploy local attorneys to help “plug the gap” between the need for legal assistance and resources available to provide legal assistance, through such events as the Second Saturday Free Legal Clinic, the Veteran’s Clinic, Courthouse of the Day Clinic, and non-conviction expungement clinics. Proceeds from Race Judicata will be used to support the work of MALS and CLC, as well as the Memphis Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Program.
The current statistics paint a grim picture: Last year, MALS received more than 21,000 requests for service, but due to lack of resources, handled only 30% of them. CLC fielded almost 4,700 calls in 2017 but could only assist half of the callers. Despite the lack of resources, MALS served 4,734 clients and impacted the lives of more than 9,300 individuals, achieving a total economic recovery of over $2.6 million for its clients. Local attorneys spent 4305 hours on pro bono cases through MALS. CLC more than doubled the numbers of those attending client educational workshops; helped over 100 unaccompanied child immigrants; and obtained 22 conservatorships for abused elders.
Perhaps nothing can bring home the importance of legal assistance to low-income families and the scope of the problems being addressed, like telling their stories. Here are a few:
•CLC helped the daughter of a client who suffered from Alzheimer’s and other medication conditionssubmit a power of attorney so she could place him in a reputable and safe home.
•MALS, through its Medical-Legal Partnership with Methodist LeBonheur and the University of MemphisCecil C. Humphreys School of Law, assisted a veteran’s family to secure safe and affordable housing so theirchild could be released from the hospital. MALS is also assisting this veteran with attaining VA benefits andfinding employment.
•CLC secured asylum for a Guatemalan woman who suffered years of brutal abuse at the hands of herhusband. She and her children are now safe in the US.
•MALS, through its Fair Housing Center, helped a single mother of three, who fell behind on hermortgage, get a permanent loan modification agreement with the lender to cure her default, thus avoidingforeclosure and preserving a home for her family.