Monthly clinics provide free legal advice

(Posted Sept. 6, 2017)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer           

With limited finances available, the husband decided to file for a divorce without the assistance of a hired attorney. Shortly thereafter, he found himself overwhelmed with the paperwork.

The tenant had property-related issues only the landlord could solve. Unfortunately for the tenant, the landlord was unwilling to do so. Not knowing where to turn, the tenant was overcome with helplessness by the circumstance.

Feeling out of their depth as they tried to navigate the intricacies of law, these two individuals searched locally for a solution to their problems. They soon found that free legal assistance was not so far away.

Once a month, several dozen pro bono attorneys and staff with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) come to Madison County Job and Family Services to set up a clinic for eligible residents in need of legal services. For over an hour, the staff helps clients work through a variety of legal issues and legalese and affords them peace of mind during the process.

According to staff attorney Tabitha Woodruff, the clinic has multiple units to help those in needs. For instance, Woodruff works in the domestic unit and helps clients with divorces, custody disputes and child support. There is the housing unit, which aids those facing eviction; the consumer protection unit, which works to protect those from predatory lenders; and the tax unit, which helps those dealing with federal and state tax debts.

In addition to those units, other legal services offered include a bankruptcy team and a public benefits team that help those who have been kicked off of social security. The clinic helps individuals with felony or misdemeanor convictions navigate the court system as they seek employment.

While the clinic offers help in a wide range of cases, there are a few it cannot take up.

“We cannot help with criminal cases, and we do not do immigration cases at the moment,” said Woodruff.

There are some eligibility requirements to participate in the clinic. According to Woodruff, the organization largely serves those who are low-income and the elderly, but they occasionally make exceptions for specialty cases. To make an appointment or to check your eligibility to access free legal aid, call the LASC intake line at (614) 241-2001. The line is open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Upcoming clinic dates are as follows; Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 21 and Dec. 19 from 3 to 4:45 p.m. at Madison County Jobs and Family Services, 200 Midway St., London.

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