Legal Aid offers assistance to low-income with legal issues
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 03, 2013 | 746 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Legal Aid of East Tennessee is set to have two intake sessions during February to provide free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families with legal issues. LAET staff will be in Cleveland Monday, Feb. 4, at 9 a.m. and Feb. 25, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. They will work out of the Family Support Centre at 1075 Blythe Ave., Suite 8. “We look at every case and we offer legal advice so they do not have to worry about whether or not they have a case,” said Charlie McDaniel, Pro Bono project director. Advice can be offered on the following topics: housing, consumer, health/benefits/food stamps, senior, unemployment, mortgage/foreclosure and family. Applicants must meet federal poverty and LAET priority guidelines. A grant allows LAET to help senior citizens regardless of their income level. “We screen everyone for eligibility,” said Stacey Emigh-Ooten, paralegal. Further action is based on an individual case basis. Some cases will receive an attorney’s aid while others can expect legal advice from a paralegal. “A lot of times it is up to the attorney to determine if there is litigation involved and whether they will be able to take [the case],” Emigh-Ooten said. She continued, “For example, say they haven’t paid their rent in three months and they are being evicted. There is no case, but we can advise them on what will happen in court and how to proceed.” Paralegals are equipped to advise clients, McDaniel said. “If a person meets with a paralegal and receives advice, they can feel comfortable knowing all the advice has been reviewed and approved by an attorney,” McDaniel said. “Using paralegals allows us to be in Bradley County more often.” Residents in Cleveland on a work permit or Green Card must have their papers. They will be asked to sign a separate form. McDaniel said these proceedings must be in line with the legal service corporation regulations. Illegal immigrants seeking advice due to a domestic violence case or human trafficking are accepted regardless of citizenship. “If we are unable to help you, it is not because of decisions we have made,” McDaniel said. “It is because of decisions the federal government has made.” Any clients requesting help for ongoing court cases are encouraged to bring all applicable information and papers. “If they do have some kind of court proceedings, then we ask them to bring those so we will have the information for the attorney to review,” Emigh-Ooten said. Added McDaniel, “That is very important. It is better to bring too much than too little. We can help them a lot faster than if we had to give them a list of what they have to find before we can go further.” He said intake sessions are not the only time Cleveland and Bradley County residents can request assistance. “When we go to Cleveland, we do that as a convenience to Bradley County residents. In the meantime, if they are able to come to Chattanooga then they are more than welcome,” McDaniel said. “They can also call in.” Continued McDaniel, “The intake days are not the only window available to Bradley County residents. Our doors are open every single day they need help.”