The Advocate
Guarding Justice f0r Alabama's Poor
September, 2017
It is through your generous support that Legal Services Alabama provides help and hope to low-income families throughout the State! 
  Your Support to LSA's helps us: 
  • Keep families safe from domestic violence
  • Prevent foreclosures & illegal evictions
  • Advocate for Veterans and the Elderly 
  • Protect the wages of working poor families
  • Empower citizens through community outreach & education
  • Restore Dignity to low income individuals and families 

Be a Hero! Change a life!
Become a Guardian of Justice today!  

Your donation means so much to the almost one million people living in poverty throughout Alabama!  Over 90% of LSA's budget is spent directly on services to our clients!
Attorney Spotlight: Charlotte Tipton, Lead Attorney, Mobile office
Why have you chosen to advocate on behalf of poor people at LSA? 
As an advocate serving clients in the Mobile Office, I have the privilege of positively influencing their quality of life through effective representation in consumer, domestic, housing and public benefits cases.

What is your most memorable experience? 
  At the conclusion of a meeting with a client, one of her four children handed me a drawing which included a thank you note. The thoughtfulness of one child reminded me of the impact our work has upon the lives of clients and their families.

What advice can you give attorneys thinking about working with LSA and its offices? 
Legal Services' advocacy requires resiliency, tenacity, and dedication while maintaining a healthy personal balance. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?  
I enjoy spending quality time with family and friends, exploring national parks, bicycling, and gardening.

* Charlotte Tipton, Lead Attorney in our Mobile office, began her work with LSA in 2007. She served as Staff Attorney from 2005 to 2007 before becoming Lead Attorney in the Mobile office in August 2007. She has handled domestic violence cases as well as consumer and housing cases. Graduating from Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, the University of Texas at Austin, and Auburn University, she has also represented clients before the Alabama Department of Labor, and the U.S. Social Security Administration. Tipton is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, Southern District.
Alabama Supreme Court Rules in Homeowners’ Favor in case where LSA appears as Amicus
 
By: LSA Attorneys Joseph Abrams and Michael Forton, Director of Advocacy
 
In a recent decision announced Sept. 1, the Alabama Supreme Court held that mortgage companies are in fact, required to comply with the requirements of mortgage contracts before they can foreclose on Alabama homeowners. This case was the result of years of litigation, including an amici curiae brief filed this year by two Legal Services Alabama attorneys, Joseph Abrams, and Michael Forton, Director of Advocacy. In our brief, LSA argued the legal, economic, and social justifications of preserving homeowners’ rights and requiring mortgage companies to strictly comply with their own rules.
 
The case began in February 2012, when Wells Fargo sold the Turners’ home and then sought to eject them from their home.  In the trial, the Turners contended that Wells Fargo did not advise them of their rights, as required by the mortgage, before foreclosing on their home. The Turners further contended that the notice they did receive, was actually misleading. The Turners lost the case and appealed.
 
After several years in the appellate court system, including a negative decision from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed to consider the case this past February. The following month, Legal Services Alabama, along with attorneys for the National Consumer Law Center, filed a brief on behalf of Alabama’s low income homeowners and Alabama’s consumers.
 
On September 1, 2017, the Court released its decision in Turner v. Wells Fargo Bank. In the Court's opinion, they stated that the Turners argued Alabama law "requires strict compliance, not merely substantial compliance. We agree." The Court went on to say, "Wells Fargo failed to provide the Turners with proper notice under the mortgage. Accordingly, because Wells Fargo failed to comply with the requirements of the mortgage, the mortgage sale conducted on February 27, 2012, failed.”
 
Mr. and Mrs. Turner were represented during the process by the firm of Hood and Lay in Birmingham. Kenneth Lay, the attorney for the Turners who filed the petition to the Supreme Court, stated:
 
“This is a great win for all Alabama homeowners. This decision by the Alabama Supreme Court means that the huge mortgage companies will be held to the same rules and laws as regular Alabama citizens,” Lay said. “To me, this issue was always very clear, that they should follow the principles set out in their own contract, but I’m very glad today that the Supreme Court has agreed. This decision means that Alabama homeowners will not have their homes taken away without the legal protections that they deserve, and to which they are entitled.”
 
Lay went on to say, “I am very thankful for this result. I’m very glad for the help of the National Consumer Law Center and Legal Services Alabama. I asked them both to join me in this case. I believe that together we can work for the betterment of all Alabamians.”
 
Joseph Abrams, Staff Attorney with LSA’s Tuscaloosa office and member of LSA’s High Impact Litigation Unit, stated that this decision is especially important in Alabama, since banks are not required to go to court before foreclosing.
 
“In judicial foreclosure states, banks must petition the court and obtain approval before selling a person’s home,” Abrams said. “In a non-judicial foreclosure process, such as Alabama, these protections are not available. That shifts the burden from the bank to the family trying to keep their home. That is why this decision is so important: it puts the burden back where it belongs.”

This decision will mean that all Alabama homeowners will receive the rights offered by their mortgage contracts before their homes can be taken. For the Turners, and many others, it means another chance at The American Dream. LSA is very proud to have been involved in this case.
LSC President speaks to LSA, Community Partners about the importance of 'Justice'

By Desiree Taylor

Legal Services Alabama welcomed James Sandman, president of D.C. based Legal Services Corporation (LSC), on August 23 in downtown Montgomery, to discuss the importance of civil legal aid programs.

Sandman met with members of LSA’s executive leadership, Managing and Staff Attorneys, as well as community partners and members of the Alabama State Bar, for a round table and reception which focused on the vital services LSA provides to the community, namely in the areas of veterans affairs, domestic violence and elder law. Sandman also discussed LSC’s efforts to strengthen support for civil legal aid, and ensure access to justice for all Americans.
 
As the nation’s largest funder of civil legal aid programs for low-income people, LSC funds 133 independent legal aid programs and 820 offices across the U.S. This year, LSC awarded $6.2 million to Legal Services Alabama.
 
“I want to thank all of you for what you do to uphold not only the highest values of the legal profession, but the highest values of America itself,” Sandman said. “Alabama lawyers are generous, are committed to giving back to their communities, and have a deep culture of service.”
 
The U.S., Sandman said, was founded on the principle of ‘justice.’
 
“America’s commitment to equal justice is as old as the republic itself,” he said. “Passengers on the Mayflower before they landed at Plymouth Rock covenanted and combined themselves to constitute, and act and frame, just-and-equal laws. That commitment has come down through our history in many points.
 
“The framers [of the U.S. Constitution] cited “establishing justice” as their goal before they mentioned providing for the common defense, or ensuring domestic tranquility,” Sandman said. “They recognized that a well-functioning, accessible system of justice, is essential to society stability.”
 
Our country’s founders and framers – Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, Sandman said, expressed the importance of equal and impartial justice to all its citizens. The value of justice is expressed in the pediment of the Supreme Court building in D.C., and in the closing words of the Pledge of Allegiance.
 
“’Justice for all’ is what we are as a country, and what we hold ourselves out to the world to be,” Sandman said. “The reality here today for people who can’t afford a lawyer doesn’t always meet the loftiness of our ideals.”
 
Sandman further stated that people who can’t afford a lawyer today, face difficulty in navigating the legal system. According to research, 60 million people across the U.S. are financially eligible for legal aid. LSC recently completed a national study of civil legal needs that showed 71 percent of low-income people had at least one civil legal need, and 25 percent had six or more civil legal needs.
 
“Courts are overwhelmed with unrepresented litigants,” Sandman said. “When people have to navigate a legal system that was created largely by lawyers – for lawyers, and built on the assumption that you have a lawyer, is not fair.”
 
Sandman praised the work of LSA, and its partners, in helping the lives of Alabama’s poor across the state.
 
“We need to do something to leverage the limited resources of legal aid programs to serve more people better – and you’re doing that here in Alabama,” Sandman said. “And, you’re doing it in significant part because of the generosity of your private bar … the volume of pro bono work that’s done here … and the success of your volunteer lawyers programs. Alabama is a good place.”
 
Diandra Debrosse, Vice President of the Alabama State Bar Association, stated that LSA is committed to helping low-income individuals get the justice they deserve.
 
“Most folks don’t know how their next bill or mortgage is going to be paid,” Debrosse said. “I’ve always seen our job as lawyers to make our citizens, and all those within our realm, enjoy a better life than what they have right now. No one does that more than legal services. Legal Services’ commitment is to those who don’t have the money or support to get the legal services that they absolutely need.”
 
LSA Board of Directors President LaVeeda Battle stated that the board is “deeply committed to supporting legal services lawyers and pro bono work across the state.”

“We are proud of the work done by legal services lawyers and pro bono lawyers in Alabama to meet the legal needs of low-income families in our state,” Battle said. “We heard from many organizations, during the visit of the President of the Legal Services Corporation, Jim Sandman, about the value that lawyers bring to addressing issues faced by families living in poverty in our state. It is good to know that the legal community in Alabama is standing strong to serve people in need in all 67 counties in Alabama.”

LSA’s experienced attorneys and rising stars of the organization, expressed their appreciation for Sandman’s work in the nation's capital.
 
Rachele Reis, Staff Attorney in the Mobile office, believed the round table session, which also included her colleagues, was productive.
 
“He was receptive, and he thought we all seemed enthusiastic – that everyone here is passionate about what we do,” Reis said when referring to Sandman’s counsel. “We are able to make things happen for our clients, and are able to collaborate when necessary. Knowing that there is a person up there [in Washington] who does believe in what we do and wants to help make sure we can keep doing it, is really wonderful … his remarks were from the heart.”
 
Joseph Abrams, Staff Attorney in the Tuscaloosa office and member of LSA’s High Impact Litigation Unit, believed Sandman was an inspiration.
 
“It was a tremendous honor to meet with, and then listen to, President James Sandman’s words of inspiration,” Abrams said. “While President Sandman’s remarks were quite elegant in presentation, they were also profoundly uplifting to the broad swathe of LSA staff in attendance. The overarching charge of his message was a reminder, a reminder that equal access to justice was the lynchpin of American society. A reminder that without justice, no society could thrive.”
 
Abrams also stated that Sandman’s words provided meaning to the work LSA does for local communities.
 
“President Sandman also reminded LSA that we are the vanguards of justice, the solemn protectors of this sacred ideal,” Abrams said. “His words provided great meaning and context to what we do, and I will rely on these words during the ebbs and flows of my legal practice.” 
 
For Elizabeth Hollie, Staff Attorney in the Selma office, the visit encouraged her to “do even more” for the organization.
 
“It was very important for Legal Services to have the young staff attorneys to meet Sandman,” Hollie said. “I did not realize that he did so much for the individual states. He went to Washington to lobby for funds for us (LSA), and I really appreciated the fact he took the time to come to Alabama to meet with us and listen to our stories and the successes we have.
 
“We are proud of our work, and it’s nice to know that there is someone who is higher up, who appreciates the work we do for our clients,” Hollie said.
 
Holly Ray, Managing Attorney in the Huntsville office, agrees.
 
“It’s so uplifting to have Washington come to us and show us that they care, and see what we’re doing here in Alabama with some of the most impoverished people in the country,” Ray said.
 
According to research, of the more than 4,000 lawyers who are registered to take pro bono cases from LSA, represent an exceptionally high percentage of the Alabama State Bar, relative to other jurisdictions nationally. Every year, more than 1,000 lawyers take at least one pro bono case from LSA. Pro bono lawyers in Alabama close almost three times as many cases per 10,000 people in poverty than the median for legal aid programs funded by LSC.
 
 The series of round table discussions were held at the Alabama State Bar headquarters, followed by a reception held inside the Alabama Supreme Court building in downtown Montgomery.
 
 Client Success Stories:
Selma

Congratulations to Elizabeth Hollie , Staff Attorney in the Selma office, who helped a client to break free from an abusive relationship, and begin a new life!

Our client came to Legal Services Alabama a month after being discharged from the hospital. In November 2016, our client's husband shot her seven times, putting her in critical condition in the hospital.  Our client was released in January 2017. In February, our client had to have additional surgery relating to her injuries. She came to LSA wanting a divorce, due to domestic violence. Our attorney filed the affidavit of substantial hardship and complaint for divorce, and had the husband served in jail. After not receiving an answer from the defendant, we filed for a default judgment of divorce.  At the hearing, our client gave her testimony as to why she wanted the divorce. The Judge granted the divorce, and granted our client sole legal and physical custody of the children, assessed child support as minimum wage, and gave our client a protective order. Our client has since returned to work, and is making a good living for herself and her children!

Thank you to our Selma office Advocates for helping a domestic violence victim escape an abusive marriage and move forward, safely with her family!
Mobile

 Congratulations to Charlotte Tipton , Lead Attorney in the Mobile office, who recently assisted a client with a pending eviction case in District Court. 

Our client's landlord filed the case after a member of our client's household was arrested and charged with a felony. The client's family member no longer resided on the property. The alleged conduct was not in the rental unit or on any other part of the landlord's property. After a trial, the Court entered a judgment in favor of our client for possession of the subsidized rental unit, thereby preserving our client's home, and the home of her disabled younger brother.

Thank you to our Mobile Advocates for helping to preserve our client's home!
"Please let me tell you that it brought tears to my eyes ... literally. You have made my year! Thank you so so very much. Hope you have a great day!"
- Nikki C.
client whose wage garnishments were stopped


Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System
Homeless Veteran Stand Down
Sept. 7th & Sept. 8th
Multiplex at Cramton Bowl, Montgomery
Our Montgomery Office Attorneys assisted a veteran and a representative from the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs during the Homeless Veteran Stand Down held Sept. 7 & 8 in Montgomery. The event welcomed more than 50 organizations and agencies, and assisted nearly 130 veterans!
Members of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Organization, Montgomery.
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of Central Alabama Chapter 607
Montgomery Attorneys (From L-R): Hilaire Armstrong, Staff Attorney; Stephanie Blackburn, Managing Attorney; Perry Myer, Staff Attorney, Valynda Jerome-Williams, Staff Attorney; and Whitley Hall, Staff Attorney
  Thank you for providing Help & Hope
to poor people throughout Alabama! 
*Upcoming Events*

Governor's Disability Job Fair
Monday, Oct. 30
10 am - 2 pm
Bill Harris Arena, Birmingham
This fair serves as a chance for those who are living with challenges to discover employment opportunities and employers to engage with qualified applicants!

*Free for jobseekers and employers!
Visit LABOR.ALABAMA.GOV/JOBFAIR for more information!

The ABC's of Serving low income and Vulnerable families in Alabama
By: Jaffe Pickett

LSA is the only statewide non-profit in Alabama tasked with providing free, civil legal services to poor individuals and families. People often ask why LSA advocates choose a career serving low income people and the t he answer is rarely singular; some of us have been impacted by astute poverty, some of us have been victims, some of us have been former clients of LSA, some of us are former volunteers or interns; and some us have never walked the same path as our clients, but we fully understanding the obstacles low income people face in the legal system without financial means to afford a lawyer.

Our clients are Veterans without family members, Disabled persons who are without basic necessities, Families facing homelessness, Senior citizens who has been neglected or abused, Domestic violence victims who may have faced decades of abuse with no hope and no where else to turn. So how do LSA Advocates approach representing these clients?

Aspiration, Balance and Compassion.

We Aspire to be the Best!
The Advocates at Legal Services aspire to be the best advocates for poor people in the state of Alabama. We offer quality legal assistance but we also offer hope and dignity and a voice for those who may not have a voice or access to the legal system without us.

We strike a Balance everyday making critical decisions that allow us to help those most in need of our services.
We balance the needs of poor communities and the 900,000 people living below the poverty level with the abilities of our staff of 45 advocates covering every county in the state of Alabama! LSA prioritizes to help those in the most dire economic need, those facing emergencies like losing their home or illegal bank account or wage garnishment which may threaten income used for basic necessities like rent and food.

We are Compassionate and have empathy for the clients we are proud to serve everyday!
We understand the number of obstacles our clients overcome just to make it to our offices. We understand transportation barriers and other problems unique to our clients in rural areas like the black belt, which has some of the poorest counties in the nation. Sometimes the voices of callers through our call center that are wrought with despair and anxiety over not having basic necessities or facing being homeless. Our compassion and empathy allow us to connect with our clients and offer the quality legal services our clients and partners have come to expect.

We all come to LSA from different backgrounds and with different experiences, but we are unified around a singular mission to serve low income people, working poor families, the elderly and disabled, and to improve poor communities through collaborations to find solutions to poverty. We offer hope, help and serve as a beacon of light for so many across the state.

You can help us by donating and becoming a
Guardian of Justice today!


What does your donation to LSA do?
Your donation helps poor, elderly and disabled victims of abuse, consumer fraud,  housing discrimination and other illegal actions that our clients face everyday. Over 90% of your contribution goes directly to client services. 

Who are our Donors?
Our donors are Heroes for the low income people we serve statewide. They are students, lawyers, law firms, faith based groups, businesses and corporations who support our mission of improving lives across Alabama. They become Guardians of Justice because they believe poor and vulnerable people should have access to quality, free civil legal aid statewide!

For more information on becoming a Guardian of Justice contact:
Jaffe Pickett , Interim Executive Director/
Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships at jpickett@alsp.org
Support our Veteran Services 
  LSA provides free, civil legal services to Veterans!   
L SA continues our service to Veterans by providing on site services through a partnership with the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. LSA is dedicated to providing holistic solutions to the root issues plaguing low-income and homeless Veterans. An LSA attorney and intake specialist will be available on Wednesdays at two VA locations to provide legal assistance to Veterans: 
Montgomery VA Medical Center on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month and the Tuskegee VA on the first, third, and fifth Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The Advocate is published monthly by Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Desiree Taylor