Many people face problems that can be solved if they know their rights and if they know how to access free assistance in protecting their rights and achieving justice. The problem is that too many people do not have this knowledge.
Educating people on these matters is difficult but not impossible. It suggests that efforts from grassroots organizations will be most effective in reaching communities and making a difference. The information must be spread even to children in elementary schools up to colleges and universities, as well as persons outside the school system.
The problem is that nonprofit organizations usually do not have enough resources for these types of campaigns. The article urges businesses to volunteer their marketing teams and provide free services for such outreach campaigns.
Lack of Legal Representation
When cases are taken to court, only persons accused in criminal cases are provided with free legal representation while complainants are not. Hence, many poor people cannot afford to sue for justice because it is expensive to hire lawyers.
On the other hand, free legal representation is not available for persons sued in civil cases. This includes cases regarding eviction from housing, debt collection, child custody, and child support payment, among others. The article cites that in 62 percent of eviction cases, the result is eviction when only the complainant has representation. This decreases to 36 percent when both sides have legal representation.
There are organizations that provide free legal civil aid for low-income persons, but they also lack funding. Legal Services Corporation is the largest among these and it receives $410 million annually from Congress. Its president emeritus, James Sandman, states that the amount is less than the annual spending of Americans on the Halloween costumes of their pets. States also add to that federal funding, but their supplementary contributions vary. While New York gives $100 million annually, other states give almost nothing.
He adds that many people are also not qualified to receive free legal civil aid because the annual income cap for a family with four members is $31,374. This means that many people who are living from one paycheck to the next do not make the cut.
Those who do not qualify can reach out online to get free civil legal advice from the American Bar Association (ABA).
Legal Information from Non-Lawyers
When faced with a legal dilemma, the first step is to pause and identify your problem clearly. It is important to write down the facts of the situation in chronological order, with dates and the names of the people involved. Gather all evidence you have that is relevant to the problem, such as receipts or letters.
Based on the details of the case, research your rights as well as your responsibilities, and those of the other party. You need to know if there is anything you or the other party should have done but did not. You can research online on many libraries and make sure to choose reliable sources of information such as legal sites and government sites.
Clarify what solution you want and what compromise you are willing to accept. Keep the second information to yourself because only you must know how far you are willing to bend.
Research for prescribed processes to settle your problem. For instance, if you are going to make a complaint, follow any procedure required. If there are no guidelines, write to the party involved and clearly state your proposed solution. Keep a copy of all communication exchanges. If you are communicating over the phone, ask for the other person’s name, make notes of everything you talk about and include the date and the time the call started and ended. Repeat any agreements you arrived at by the end of the call for emphasis.
If you do not reach an acceptable solution, look for free assistance online. You can look for lawyers who give pro-bono advice or even non-lawyers who can help you navigate your situation.
There are organizations that have lawyer-trained volunteers who give legal information for free. Because they are not lawyers, they are not allowed to give legal advice but, in some instances, the information is enough to resolve a problem. They also give referrals to other resources, help people complete legal forms online or draft form letters, and help them with various issues regarding social services.
It is empowering to know your rights and to know that there is help available. Spread the word and encourage others to stand up for themselves, as well.