The Advocate
Championing Justice for Alabama's Poor 
June 2017
Legal Services Alabama needs more support to continue its mission of serving poor and vulnerable people statewide.  It is through the generous financial support of our donors, that enables Legal Services Alabama to continue providing high-quality legal assistance to low-income individuals and families throughout the State. 

Be a Hero * Change a Life * Become a Champion of Justice 

Support our mission of helping the most vulnerable among us! 

Your contribution will ensure:

   *Alabama families have adequate food to eat, a roof over their heads        and do not fall victim to predatory lending 

   *Elderly citizens know their legal rights and are protected from                  neglect and abuse  

   *Victims of domestic violence can escape abuse and start a new life  

   *Working poor families are protected from illegal wage                                  garnishments   

Become a Champion of Justice Today!

Your donation means so much to the almost 1 million people living in poverty in Alabama and Ninety (90%) of LSA's budget goes directly to service our clients. 

Attorney Spotlight: 
Stephen Last, Montgomery Staff Attorney

Why do you do what you do? 

To ensure low-income people are afforded access to justice that they would not otherwise be able to obtain. If we don't do what we do, then the people we represent, won't have any representation.

"Getting paid to help people, there's not really anything better than that - it's great! I greatly enjoy my job!"

What is your most memorable experience? 

The time when I got $20,000 in student loans for a client, dismissed. The plaintiff dismissed her case. It was a single-income family with three kids.

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

Do you want to do family law or do you want to do everything else? For law students, the easiest way to figure out what you do or don't want to do, is to do an internship. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Basically outdoor activities. I ride a motorcycle when I can. I've recently gotten into Scuba Diving. I was an Eagle Scout, so I did all kinds of camping growing up. 

 *A 2013 graduate of Faulkner University's Jones School of Law, Stephen Last volunteered at LSA as a law student and began working in LSA's Call Center in Fall 2014. He transferred to the Montgomery Office as a Staff Attorney in 2016. Last's practice areas include: Consumer Law and Mortgage/Foreclosure Law. With an undergraduate degree in Forestry, Last also worked as a timber buyer before coming to LSA.

LSA Helps a Domestic Violence Victim Escape Abuse                      

Nice, quiet, hardworking, humble, and gregarious with friends and family, were the very words our client (referred to as Ms. D) of Selma used to describe her then future husband.  A fter 11 years of marriage, Ms. D said her spouse was far from the perfect partner she believed him to be.

"Everything about him changed," Ms. D said, as she recalled the events of her painful past. "During that time he started to display all of these different things that I hadn't seen before and then, the drug use came."

Ms. D said her husband criticized her often, eventually becoming emotionally and physically abusive toward her. Yet Ms. D, who married young, wanted to keep her marriage intact.  

"I wanted to fix him, especially with the drug use," she said, suggesting rehab as a solution. "That same behavior continued, year after year, until the point where it put me in therapy." 

Fearful at times, Ms. D said the abuse began to weigh on the family.  
 "I would go to sleep at night never knowing what mood he was going to wake up in or what would set him off," she said. "I kept asking God, please get me out of this situation ... I needed to be free from this person."

A saving grace came when Ms. D's therapist recommended her as a client to Legal Services Alabama's Selma Office. The services she received there from staff attorneys changed her life, Ms. D said.

"I was really thankful to really speak to someone who understood. I really would recommend to anyone who is in this situation, to seek out legal aid."

"I have a peace about me that I've never had," Ms. D said, teary-eyed. "When I first came into legal aid, an attorney sent me an informational packet about divorce. I couldn't afford to divorce my husband. I didn't know how I was going to get out of the situation - get my kids out. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I had to put my faith and trust in God."                                                       

For Ms. D, Legal Services Alabama was the answer she had been praying for, noting,
 
"These are people who understand - they were really compassionate," 
 
They told me, we're all in your corner. It made me feel like this is where I'm supposed to be."

Now a single mother of five, Ms. D is moving forward with a new start and renewed purpose.
 
 "I am homeschooling my children and putting a lot of energy into them, making sure that they achieve their goals," Ms. D said. "I want to set the example for them and give them the better life. That's my ultimate goal."

LSA is grateful for the opportunity to help this victim and her children escape domestic violence and our goal is to continue services that help end domestic violence, thus offering a fresh start to victims surviving domestic violence a priority.

Please donate today to support our domestic violence advocacy!
LSA Welcomes Summer Interns
  Montgomery Office: (from L-R) Chandra Sawyer, 3rd year, Jones School of Law; Gabrielle Whitmore, 3rd year, Jones; Joe Bamburg, 3rd year, Jones; Barry Burkett, 3rd year, The University of Alabama School of Law; and Stephanie Robinson, 3rd year, Jones



  Montgomery Office: Ike Lambert, paralegal/3rd year, Auburn University
"I chose LSA because I wanted to get experience with the court, interviewing clients, drafting documents -- practical stuff. I've gotten a little bit of everything (here)" -- Joe Bamburg, Louisiana (Jones School of Law)
  Birmingham Office (from L-R):   Tiffany Jones, Ja'Nise Gentry, Judge John Amari, LSA Lead Attorney Barbara Luckett, Judge Shera Grant, Micah McKinney and Adam Leroy



  Mobile Office:  LeFlore Magnet High School Juniors Jada Johnson (left) and Chassidy Bendolph (right) pose with LSA's Sherri Thomas, Staff Attorney in the Mobile Office



Selma Office:  Ivan Dollar (left), 2nd year at Cumberland School of Law (LSC Equal Justice Rural Fellow 2017)/Montgomery Office:  Marcia Hardney (right), rising 3rd year student at Jones School of Law
   Montgomery Office:  Theresa Basile, rising 3rd year, Jones School of Law 



Huntsville Office: Ian Shippey, rising 3rd year, Cumberland School of Law
   Selma Office:  Margaret Wells, 3rd year, Jones School of Law



Volunteers Not pictured: Jewel Saxon, Sophomore, Tennessee State University (Central Office) and Sybil Sloan, 2nd year, Jones School of Law (Montgomery Office)

"I want to do something in public interest law, because I am very interested in helping as many people as I possibly can ... I felt drawn and compelled to come [to LSA] to see where I could help." - Stephanie Robinson, Mobile (Jones School of Law)

Client Success Stories

Birmingham Office Protects Client's Income!

Congratulations to Margaret Philips, Staff Attorney (CDBG) in the Birmingham office, who fought to protect a client’s income! The client, who is disabled, came to LSA seeking assistance with a money damages lawsuit filed against her by her former Landlord. While our client did not dispute some of the charges, she feared that the amount that her former Landlord was asking for, was excessive. Because of her disability, our client has significantly limited income and she feared she would be unable to support herself with such a large judgment against her. The Birmingham office represented the client in her case, and got the amount of the judgment reduced by $2,100 and attorney’s fees of $1,500 waived!

Thank you to our Birmingham office advocates for protecting the wages of those in need!

Huntsville Office Prevents Wage Garnishment!

Congratulations to Laurie McFalls, Staff Attorney in the Huntsville office, who fought to protect a client’s wages! The client, whose wages were being garnished, was unable to pay her bills and to care for her children. Our client had to rely on her parents, who were also poverty-stricken, to help make ends meet. LSA filed a claim of exemptions on the client’s behalf. Credit Acceptance filed a contest based on Gibbons. LSA argued the client’s case in circuit court and the judge ruled in our client’s favor, dismissing the garnishment and returning her funds!

Thank you to our Huntsville advocates for preventing the garnishment of our client’s wages, and allowing our client to have more income for her family!

Montgomery Office Helps Client with IRS Debt

Congratulations to Maceo Kirkland, Staff Attorney in the Montgomery Office, who fought to keep a client from paying an excessive tax debt. The client, who was experiencing severe financial hardship, had assessed a tax debt in 2011 for more than $11,000. LSA requested a Collection Due Process hearing with the IRS. During the hearing, LSA requested the tax debt be considered non-collectible due to the client’s hardship. The IRS officer reviewed the financial information and arguments we gave but refused to recommend a non-collectible status. LSA filed a petition in the United States Tax Court, challenging the officer’s determination. The IRS Counsel moved for summary judgment, arguing the facts did not show that the officer abused discretion, and therefore there was no issue. LSA responded with evidence that stated otherwise. The judge denied summary judgement upon thorough review of the CDP record, and strongly recommended that IRS have someone else to consider/review LSA’s request for hardship status. Another IRS officer was assigned, who reviewed the evidence and agreed that our client qualified for non-collectible status!

Thank you to our Montgomery Office advocates for protecting the wages of the working poor!

Dothan Office Helps Client Obtain Medicaid/Medicare Benefits

Congratulations to Mary Jane Oakley, Staff Attorney in the Dothan office, for helping a client receive Medicaid/Medicare eligibility. The client requested assistance in getting eligibility for Medicare Savings Program. LSA met with our client, assisting him in completing the required application, as well as attaching documentation, and sending all needed paperwork to the Alabama Medicaid Agency on behalf of the client. The client verified with LSA that his application was approved and he will be paying the Part B premium of $121.80 per month (amount stated on AMA website for Part B in 2017). Additionally, the client will have a refund due him for the premiums he paid while his application was being processed. The client receives a monthly Social Security check of $780. The client is now saving $121.80 of this monthly income, which means a lot to him!

Thank you to our Dothan office advocates for helping a client save in Medicaid/Medicare benefits!


 

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JUNE IS ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS  MONTH

LSA Advocates are fighting to protect our Seniors across Alabama! LSA has partnerships with the Central Alabama Aging Consortium and the East Alabama Commission Area Agency on Aging where dedicated  Elder Law Advocates provide legal services including:

            Consumer Defense
            U tility Dispute Assistance
            Land loss Prevention
            Foreclosure Prevention
            Guardianship Defense
            Community Outreach to Educate and Em power Seniors 
            Estate Planning: Wills, Powers-of-Attorney, Living Wills  
            Assistance with reduced benefits and  Medicaid Cessation
           Assistance with Nursing Home Abuse

LSA Elder Law Staff Attorneys  Leigh Haynie and James Rich specialize in Services to Seniors 

  Thank you for providing Help and Hope to poor people throughout Alabama!  

Your Support :

*  Helps Victims Escape Domestic Violence

*  Prevents foreclosures and illegal Evictions

*  Provides services for Military Veterans and Senior Citizens

  *  Protects the wages of poor working families

   *  Empowers citizens through Community Education

  Donate online: www.legalservicesalabama.org 
or contact:
Jaffe Pickett
Director of Resource Development & Strategic Partnerships
334.223.0232
Upcoming Events
 

LSA Executive Director Artur Davis will speak at the Alabama State Bar’s annual conference at the Board of Bar Commissioner’s Meeting Wednesday, July 12. 


LSA's Opportunity and Empowerment Initiative will assist low-income Alabamians with complying with the process of getting restored to the voting rolls. LSA and ACLU of Alabama have partnered to provide  restoration clinics in Birmingham, Mobile, and Alabama's Black Belt beginning in July. For more information on this initiative, visit www.legalservicesalabama.org 
  Corrections 
In the May edition of The Advocate, the name of Selma Staff Attorney, Elizabeth Hollie was omitted