The Advocate
Guarding Justice for Low-Income and vulnerable Alabamians
August 2018
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    Your Support to LSA helps:

  • 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 

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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 :
Barbara Luckett
Managing Attorney, Birmingham Office
Why have you chosen to advocate on behalf of
low-income people? 

I take my Call To Service from Nelson Mandela who said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of Justice.” With almost 25 years of service with LSA, I’ve devoted much of my professional life to public interest legal work. I have chosen to advocate on behalf of the needy and underserved, because I just want to make the world a better place. I value being a community advocate and conveying a sense of injustice by drawing from the fundamental principles of fairness, decency, and justice. I actually did not have a legal career in my plans. In my life before law school, I had a public service career that provided public services to the needy and underserved. It was the hurdles and barriers that I saw people struggling with in my first career, that was the catalyst that launched me on a path to being a public interest attorney. I have a passion for advocacy, and I have always known that I wanted to be a voice for those without a voice . My professional interactions with the legal staff in the Birmingham office, sparked my interest in the practice of public interest law. It was an extension of my community advocacy and I believed that I could provide a greater service by representing citizens with limited legal options. Over the years, I have been able to build a body of work that speaks to my ownership of the work that Legal Services Alabama has allowed me the opportunity to experience, practice, and commit to the service of those less fortunate. You might say that I champion the causes of the underdog.  
What is your most memorable experience at LSA? 

There are cases that come across an attorney’s desk that stay with you forever. My most memorable experience is my client, a 25 year old mentally challenged mother with a learning disability, pregnant with her fourth child, and she had three children ages 5, 3 and 2. Her parents were deceased, an older brother was in prison, and her sister was in the military. Her aunt was trying to help her but became overwhelmed when the Housing Authority again began eviction proceedings, this time, because they said she had a dirty apartment in violation of her lease. The landlord said roaches, dirty dishes in the sink, a disconnected smoke detector, and piles of clothes affected the health and safety of the other residents. I visited her apartment, and it was apparent to me that the unit was actually too small for her family size and she did not have a washer and dryer. In the district court, the Housing Authority won a default judgment because the tenant got confused about the process. When she came to LSA, we appealed and requested a jury trial. Evidently, they had brought several unsuccessful actions, and believed that this was a cycle of poor housekeeping that had to be stopped. Sadly, my client thought her place was clean. This case struck me especially hard because I just could not envision these babies being put out on the street. The aunt told me she could not take them all in. Even with all the children in court, the jury ruled for the Housing Authority.  I was shocked.  When I polled the jurors, they felt that if she had gotten help sooner, she would have been able to meet the requirements of the lease. They felt she did get help, but it was a little late. The aunt testified to buying her a washer and dryer because she did not have a car to drive to the laundromat, buying window shades that had been torn down, and supplying cleaning materials.  
Despite my conviction of the jury’s error, I held out little hope that a motion to overturn the jury’s verdict would be granted; this Judge had never overturned a single Jury in his entire career. I could not let it go! I was not ready to give up hope for my client!  The little hope I held on to was enough! The Judge granted my motion and set the jury’s decision aside saying, “that while the jury ruled in favor of the Housing Authority, it did so reluctantly.” He pointed to a written note from the jurors, urging the Authority to work with the tenant and allow her to stay as an act of good faith.   My client and her babies were allowed to stay in their home!
A little recognized, but obvious byproduct of homelessness or housing instability, impacts the overall well-being of children, the innocent victims of poverty. When a child is forced to move and change schools, a path of personal destruction follows like falling dominoes. For the low income families who face eviction and forced relocation because of this type of misfortune, a cycle of moving downward ensues. It was the ultimate success in this case that I truly began to understand the power I could harness through passion in my advocacy.   
What advice can you give attorneys thinking about working with LSA and its offices? 
I would tell attorneys contemplating working with LSA, that this work is not for the faint of heart. If you have a heart for the people we serve, we have some excellent mentors who will foster passionate advocacy. I would tell them that, just like Atticus Finch, the staff at LSA “were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. ”  Everyday, LSA provides legal service to the state on matters that most other attorneys do not take, and we represent citizens who cannot afford to pay a private attorney. LSA can provide you an opportunity to pay the rent for your life here on earth by pursuing justice for the needy, downtrodden, and unde rserved. If you are so inclined, you can meet and make a difference, in the life of some of the most encouraging people, even though they are in a time of struggle and hardship.


What do you like to do in your spare time? 
In my “spare” time, I love spending time with family and friends. I enjoy working in my church and with community organizations. I am a History Buff and passionate about traveling, hiking, nature, and wildlife. My gym and running groups give me life! I always carry with me the words of my deceased pastor who taught us, in my heart: “To whom much is given, much is required.”  


* Barbara Luckett, Managing Attorney in the Birmingham Office, joined LSA as a Staff Attorney in 1994. Luckett specializes in general civil practice, focusing on trial advocacy, issues related to homelessness, community economic development, property rights and Landlord-tenant law. Her membership includes the Alabama State Bar Association. Luckett, who also served as Lead Attorney in the Birmingham Office until January 2018, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the Birmingham School of Law.
LSA Community Outreach
LSA's Montgomery and Selma offices participated in Congresswoman Terri Sewell's 7th Annual Congressional Job Fair held inside Alabama State University's Dunn-Oliver Acadome on Aug. 2. Nearly 100 organizations and more than 1,000 job seekers participated in the event.
Birmingham Elder Law Staff Attorney
Faye Doss Suggs gave a presentation on elder law services at the United Way Area Agency on Aging Jefferson County's
Caregiver Conference held Aug. 15 in Birmingham. Suggs spoke extensively on healthcare directives, Powers-of-Attorney, Wills, and legal rights and responsibilities of caretakers and their loved ones.
The Mobile Regional Office held a
Will & Probate event on Aug. 22 inside the Government Plaza in downtown Mobile. Staff Attorney Valynda Jerome-Williams (center) assisted clients in free drafting and executing of wills, with estate planning and Advanced Directives, through the City of Mobile's Leaving a Legacy Heir Property Grant Project partnership. The city also will sponsor a
Homebuyers' Workshop on Aug. 27-29.
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LSA and the VA Gulf Coast offer continued legal services for veterans

At Legal Services Alabama we meet veterans where they are. Since March 2018, we’ve been helping veterans of low income across South Alabama with their civil legal needs. Tim Kingston, Mobile Regional Office Staff Attorney, meets with veterans the first Thursday of each month at the Mobile Office, located at 104 Saint Francis Street, Suite 700.

In partnership with the VA Gulf Coast, Kingston stated the Mobile Office has held nearly 30 clinics, seeing roughly 138 veterans since the clinics began. Kingston also stated he receives at least two inquiries a week – almost 50 contacts, since early March.

For Kingston, meeting the legal needs of veterans is of utmost importance.
“The legal needs of Veterans are a core part of our mission at Legal Services Alabama,” Kingston said. “They are an underserved population, many of whose civil legal needs are directly related to their service to our country. Over the last six months, LSA has served a significant number of Veterans in South Alabama through our new Veterans’ Clinic, providing them ways to address needs ranging from upgrading their discharge, to helping them find and retain a home, to obtain the benefits they are entitled to as Veterans and as Alabama citizens, and many other legal services. As our Veterans’ Clinic continues to grow, we hope many more Veterans receive the very best legal services we can provide.”

David Neslen, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist with the VA Gulf Coast, believes the partnership with LSA, has “filled a need” in the community.
“Our VA providers are now able to refer Veterans who have noncriminal legal problems directly to Legal Services of Alabama,” Neslen said. “I feel confident that we have resources to assist our Veterans with criminal and noncriminal legal problems. I hope to continue to get the word out to the community and our Veterans that this resource is available.”

Jaffe Pickett, LSA Deputy Director, stated the success of the Central Alabama Veterans’ services clinic, which began in 2017, has opened the door for the partnership in Mobile and established plans for a Legal Veterans’ clinic in the Black Belt, through the Selma Regional Office.

"Funding for these important Veteran services is critical. We are using the ‘Meeting Veterans Where They Are’ motto for projects that provide support for our Veterans services, and we are committed to these partnerships that allow free legal services to Veterans,” Pickett said.

Low-income Veterans of South Alabama who are in need of free civil legal help, can visit the LSA Mobile Office, located at 104 St. Francis Street, Suite 700, the first Thursday of every month from 10 am to 2 pm.

Services are also available to Veterans of Central Alabama every Wednesday of each month from 9 am to 3 pm onsite at two locations: The Central Alabama Healthcare System, located at 215 Perry Hill Road in Montgomery, AL (2nd & Fourth Wednesday), and the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee, located at 2400 Hospital Road (1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday).

For more information about our veteran services, please visit our website: www.legalservicesalabama.org or Facebook.com/LegalServicesAlabama
"In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same." - Albert Einstein
 Advocacy Success Stories:
Anniston/Gadsden

Congratulations to James Rich, Staff Attorney in the Anniston Office, who helped to get a wage garnishment against an elderly client dismissed!

Our client had a judgment entered against her for $2,490.54 in a case with Republic Finance. The company then attempted to garnish our client's wages. Our Advocate filed a Declaration and Claim Exemption on the client's behalf, as her income from her job was approximately $550 every two weeks. Republic then filed a contest to LSA's Declaration and Claim of Exemption. LSA filed a trial brief supporting our positions that the Contest was invalid formally because it was not a sworn affidavit, and because it lacked specificity. The brief also detailed the case law and constitutional argument, supporting exempting wages as personal property. The Contest was called for hearing and both sides made oral arguments before the Judge. In March 2018, the Judge entered an order, dismissing the Contest and the Writ of Garnishment, and ordered all money withheld to be returned to our client!

Thank you to our Anniston/Gadsden Office Advocates for protecting the wages of the elderly!
Huntsville

Congratulations to Farah Majid, Staff Attorney in the Huntsville Office, who helped a client retain housing!

Our Advocate represented a client in a Landlord-tenant dispute. Our client signed a lease to move into a home and paid $450 toward her deposit. The client's Landlord then changed her mind and refused to rent to our client and to return the money she had paid, stating she had "forfeited" it (which there was no basis for). Our Advocate called the Landlord to demand the return of the money. Our client wanted a total of $1,200 since she had relied on the Landlord's promise to rent to her and now had to find a new place to live. Our client would be homeless otherwise since she had to vacate her current home. The Landlord was also in breach of a contract for failing to deliver possession of the home since she had signed a 1-year lease with our client.

The Landlord quickly agreed to return the $450. She initially refused to pay $1,200 but called back later the same day and agreed to it. Our client received $1,200 from the Landlord within a few days of first meeting with our Advocate. Thanks to help from LSA, our client will be able to use this money to find a new home for her family, despite the Landlord's bad faith. This will ensure her family's future stability.

Thank you to our Huntsville Office Advocates for helping to prevent homelessness for our client!
Selma

Congratulations to Felecia Pettway, Managing Attorney in the Selma Office, who helped a student be placed in the right grade level.

A student in Central Alabama was expelled from school at the beginning of the school year for fighting and was not given a hearing before the Board of Education before the decision to expel the student. Because the student had moved, the student's mother never received notice of the hearing. When LSA received the case at the end of the school year, our Advocate requested a meeting before the Board to discuss the expulsion process and reinstatement of the student.

Based on our Advocate's arguments, the Board allowed the student to attend summer school at their expense and the student was offered credit recovery, which assisted the student in working her way back to grade level. LSA stressed the importance of notice and the presence of all parties before a final decision on an expulsion is to be made. Our Advocate also requested that every effort be made for a student to attend Alternative School and/or online access to class work before a decision of expulsion is to be made.

Thank you to our Selma Office Advocates for helping a student receive adequate, proper education!

Birmingham
Congratulations to Rae Bolton, Staff Attorney in the Birmingham Office, who helped to protect the income of the working poor!

Our client came to LSA because she had received notice that she was to be garnished by the Alabama Power Company for appliances purchased. Our client was confused because she had been sued in 2015, and a default judgment was entered against her. She had almost paid off that debt when she received notice of a 2017 judgment. The lawsuit was for the same debt she was sued for previously! Our advocates were able to have the garnishment set aside, and after eight (8) months of litigation and multiple hearings, the second lawsuit was dismissed, resulting in our client getting back all of her garnished wages!

Thank you to our Birmingham Office Advocates for stopping a wage garnishment against our client!
How Does your Donation to LSA Help?
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!
-Jaffe Pickett, LSA Deputy Director
" The Attorney made sure I understood everything. I was treated with dignity and respect in an atmosphere of excellence!"
-Client, Selma Office

"The Attorney made us feel at ease in an uneasy situation.The advocate was great!"
- Client, Dothan Office

Thank you for Supporting LSA's mission of providing high quality legal services to low income people statewide!
Federal Employees may donate to LSA using CFC #69651 at   https://cfcgiving.opm.gov
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Support our Veteran Services 
  LSA provides free, civil legal services to Veterans!   
L SA continues providing legal services to Veterans by providing onsite services through a partnership with the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System and VA Gulf Coast.
 LSA is dedicated to providing holistic solutions to the root issues plaguing low-income and homeless Veterans. 
Since May 2017, we've helped more than 1,200 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 am until 3 pm.

South Alabama Civil Legal Clinic:
Held the first Thursday of each month from 10 am to 2 pm at our Mobile Regional Office.

Call 1-866-456-4995 for more information!
The Advocate is published monthly by Communications & Community Development Coordinator, Desiree Taylor