The Advocate
Guarding Justice f0r Alabama's Poor
    August 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: Terrika Shaw, Birmingham Office
Why do you do what you do? 

Since I was a little girl, I had aspirations of becoming an attorney. As I got older, that dream morphed into a desire to be a Public Interest Attorney. We all have a purpose in life, and we should strive everyday to make life just a little bit easier for everyone we come into contact with. Working at LSA, has given me the opportunity to work my passion and my purpose. 

What is your most memorable experience? 

I represented a domestic violence client in filing a PFA and a divorce. While these actions were pending, the victim's husband tried everything to intimidate my client, even filing criminal charges against her. I was able to represent her in the divorce, PFA, and the misdemeanor in criminal court. The criminal charges were dismissed. The PFA and divorce granted. It was then that I realized having an attorney during a difficult time like that, could make a difference in her life and the lives of her children. 

What advice can you give attorneys thinking about working with LSA and its offices? 

Practicing at LSA, is immersing yourself in the general practice of civil law. You will know a lot of things about a lot of things. You will be great at juggling.  You will have a rewarding career in which you change lives. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true.  

What do you like to do in your spare time?  

I like to travel, try out new restaurants, attend church, spend time with my family and friends, and watch Alabama Football. 

* Terrika Shaw, Staff Attorney for our Birmingham Office, is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in 2007, and a Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center in 2011, where she worked as a student attorney in the law clinic. Admitted to the Alabama State Bar in 2012, Terrika entered into private practice which focused on family and juvenile law, domestic relations and criminal cases, before coming to LSA. She represents clients in a variety of cases, and also works with the homeless veterans through partnership with the Aletheia House.

"LSA Fights a Homeowner's Association at war with its Residents. We Won!"
By Holly Ray, Managing Attorney, Huntsville Office
 

Homeownership is The American Dream, and for many people, that dream comes along with a membership in their neighborhood’s homeowners’ association. But for one group of Madison County residents, HOA membership nearly meant losing their dream, and their home, until Legal Services Alabama intervened.

The Chandler Farms subdivision in the Harvest community in Madison County, doesn’t have shared common areas, like a pool or a playground. Its homeowners are still required to pay dues of $75 per year to maintain the landscaping surrounding their community and for community events sponsored by the HOA. However, for several years, homeowners reported that these dues seemed to go to nowhere – volunteers were taking care of the yardwork, the HOA never met, and there were no obvious HOA activities. It’s not surprising that many new homeowners never even realized that their HOA existed, and the HOA never actually send reminders or notices about the dues.

Then in 2014, the HOA’s treasurer decided to send her neighbors to a collection agency. Suddenly, a year or two of unpaid $75 dues ballooned into a debt of $2,000 or more per family. The collection agency applied thousands of dollars in fees, and amazingly put a lien against the homes of owners that didn’t or couldn’t pay their inflated demands. Even worse, they sued to foreclose upon the properties! In an unbelievable turn, neighbors tried to rob their fellow neighbors of their homes over dues of $150 or $225. A lawsuit was filed against 31 families to seize their property to pay the HOA debt.

A number of the families contacted LSA’s Huntsville office for help. I prepared to sue the collection agency for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. I defended the homeowners in the pending foreclosure action by showing that the fees owed were improper, and that the treasurer had no standing to pursue these foreclosure actions for unpaid HOA fees.
 
With the threat of a costly lawsuit and a massive public embarrassment hanging over them, the HOA settled and allowed the affected homeowners to pay only the dues owed. The exorbitant and improper fees, which would have devastated these low wage families, were dismissed. The liens were dismissed as well, thirty one families’ homes were saved, and the collapsed property values that would have resulted from mass foreclosures were avoided. 

Our Executive Director Artur Davis said that, "I have not seen a case that enrages me more, or that makes me prouder of one of our lawyers, than the Chandler Farms litigation. These families had war declared them by a greedy homeowners association and I am so glad that the right side won."

I am happy to report that Chandler Farms has also installed new leadership and that two of my clients are part of the new team. These hardworking Harvest families can now rest easy, knowing their investment in their home remains intact and their HOA is no longer at war with them.
 
Client Success Stories:

Birmingham

Congratulations to Jonathan Barry-Blocker, Staff Attorney in our Birmingham office, who helped a disabled couple retain their lease!

Our clients, a married couple with both mental and physical impairments, resided in a particular apartment complex/apartment for 15 years. Just four days before the couple's lease expired, the couple contacted LSA, seeking help. The property manager had been harassing the couple since last fall. The property manager issued the couple its first ever violation for a patio infraction. The couple complied with the request, even though the couple's neighbors were not cited due to the same violation. In late October 2016, the manager also instigated an altercation with the husband, and called police when he verbally retaliated. The police however, de-escalated the situation and didn't arrest our client. As a result of the incident, our client developed anxiety and other healthcare issues. After the incident, the property manager initiated the eviction process. The manager only ceased the process once the wife confronted her. The property manager then advised our clients their lease would not be renewed. During this entire process, the property manager denied the couple was impaired, and refused to acknowledge mental health impairments. The husband's anxiety continued to worsen, and he was prescribed new medicines as a result.

Our LSA attorney disagreed with the context of the property manager's decision of non-renewal of the couple's lease. Our attorney reached out to the complex's corporate office in Nashville. Our office followed up with a formal letter of complaint, giving a full factual history of the property manager's harassment, hostility toward our clients, and potential liability. We met with Regional office representatives along with our clients. Additionally, the couple was put in touch with another property manager as a primary contact. Our clients' lease was renewed, and all looks well!

Thank you to our Birmingham office advocates who fought for/protected a clients' living situation to remain stable!

Huntsville

Congratulations to Laurie McFalls, Staff Attorney in our Huntsville office who helped a high school student to enroll into school!

Our client came to LSA when she faced setbacks enrolling her 16 year old sister in a local high school. The school would not let her enroll her sister because our client does not have custody. Unfortunately, the situation was more complex and tragic than simply a custody issue. The girls’ mother had passed, and the father is not in the picture. The last thing this girl needed after losing her mother was to be denied enrollment in the school that she has been attending. With all of the upheaval in her young life, the student needed the familiarity and stability that could be provided by her school friends and teachers.
 
After hearing our client's story, our attorney reached out to the school system's liaison for children who are homeless. Our attorney argued that this case falls under the McKinney-Vento Act, and that the child should be able to enroll in that school system. After some discussion, the liaison agreed, and our client was able to enroll her sister today without missing any days of school. The liaison for the school even provided us with her direct number so that the client could contact her directly if she needs further assistance in this difficult time.

Thank you to our Huntsville office advocates who helped a teen who had lost a parent and had initial problems enrolling in a school system of her choice, to finally continue her education -- hassle free!
Dothan

Congratulations to Mary Jane Oakley, Staff Attorney in the Dothan Office who helped a client to regain wages that were being garnished by a client's employer!

LSA filed a motion for stay and DCOE on May 31, 2017. The adverse party was Midland Funding and it was represented by the Moxley firm. In June 2017, counsel for the plaintiff filed a garnishee release. For whatever reason, the court had not yet entered an order of stay. Our Attorney filed a motion to dismiss which was granted and our client verified that he had gotten back the last bit that his employer was holding when the garnishment was dismissed!

Thank you to our Dothan Office Advocates for protecting the wages of the working poor!


Montgomery

Congrats to Stephen Last, Staff Attorney in the Montgomery office who helped a client save thousands of dollars!

Our client, a 20-year-old college student, was forced to leave her residence after a fire. She was subsequently sued for $18, 455.80, plus attorneys' fees and court costs for unpaid rent and fire damage to the property. Our client came to us after she realized the debt could ruin her life.
Our attorney filed a demand for a jury trial, since he felt that a jury would be helpful to our client. Our attorney drafted discovery and submitted it to the plaintiff's attorney. The plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the client's counterclaim. Before our attorney had time to draft a reply, the plaintiff's attorney contacted LSA and said the plaintiff wanted to dismiss the whole case, with both parties dismissing their claims. Our client agreed. The case was dismissed with prejudice, therefore lifting a debt burden from our client of $21,574!

Thank you to our Montgomery office advocates for protecting the wages of our client and helping to get her debt-owed removed!

Legal Services Corporation Presidential Visit
August 23, 2017
 James Sandman, LSC President
Alabama State Bar Headquarters/Alabama Supreme Court
President James Sandman (below) speaks to LSA Board members, staff, and partners at a LSC Presidential reception held Aug. 23 inside the State Supreme Court building in downtown Montgomery.
(From L-R): James Sandman, President of LSC; LSA Board of Directors President, LaVeeda Battle; LSA Board of Directors Immediate Past President, Phil Mitchell; Tom Methvin, Beasley Allen Law Firm; and Joel F. Dubina, Senior U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
LSA Staff Attorneys enjoy the Presidential Reception
LSA Staff Attorneys speak to LSC president James Sandman and LSA Board of Directors during a round table session held Aug. 23 inside the Alabama State Bar headquarters
Longtime LSA Attorneys James Smith, Ann Brown and Willie Mays Jones
LSA Staff Attorneys
LSA Staff Attorneys speak with LSC President James Sandman
LSA Managing Attorneys at a Roundtable with President James Sandman
LSC President and Community Partners at the Roundtable Discussion
LSA Staff Attorneys and Community Partners
  Thank you for providing Help & Hope
to poor people throughout Alabama! 

Upcoming Events

Homeless Veteran Stand Down
Thursday, Sept. 7 and Friday, Sept. 8
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Crampton Bowl Multiplex
1022 Madison Ave., Montgomery, AL
Legal Services Alabama will be onsite to offer free legal assistance to homeless veterans

For more information, call 1-800-214-8387 Ext. 2549
*Sponsored by the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System

 
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!


F or more information on becoming a Guardian for Justice, please contact
Jaffe Pickett, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships
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 Development and Communications Associate, Desiree Taylor