March 10, 2006
Pro bono eviction clinic grand opening
The brand new pro bono eviction clinic help desk has opened its metaphorical doors for at the Franklin County Municipal Court. A joint effort by Chester Willcox & Saxbe, Legal Aid of Columbus and the Columbus Bar, the program offers on-site assistance to clients who qualify for assistance because of income. With an eye towards providing representation and quality advice to clients, the program hopes to help tenants come out of the courthouse with the best possible options and information. The clinic will be open Wednesday mornings on a weekly basis at the courthouse to assist clients.
The first morning was a hectic one. In the short window after potential clients arrive, but before their dockets are pulled, Legal Aid screens clients for income qualification and assigns a volunteer attorney. Volunteers review the client's file and meet with the client to prepare for court.
Most tenants face many issues when coming to the courthouse for an eviction. In addition to being concerned about their future living arrangements, they don't know where to go, who to talk to, or even what is going to happen to them during and after the hearing.
By preparing clients to understand the procedures, policies and quirks of the courthouse, as well as providing representation and advice, volunteer attorneys can help clients come to the most favorable resolution to conflicts they face. Providing this kind of support can completely change the client's experience with the court in addition to improving the realities of their living situations.
All the participants were excited about the future of the clinic and the impact it will have on the lives of tenants facing eviction. Volunteer attorney James Abrams was very exited by the clinic's success and said, "The initial experience gives us hope that the concept will work on an ongoing basis." Volunteers look forward the next session, and are working to streamline the intake and preparation process.
Volunteer attorneys were eager to serve clients for whom legal assistance can mean the difference between stable housing and homelessness. Roderick Willcox, another volunteer attorney, said, "I thought the experience working with the pro bono eviction clinic was very rewarding. I am certain we helped people who were truly in need."
Our thanks go Chester Willcox & Saxbe and Legal Aid Society of Columbus for their efforts to get this clinic off the ground. We applaud their desire to provide legal assistance to indigent clients in crisis and wish them continued success in the future. If you, or your firm, are interested in participating in the clinic, contact She'lia Bolding at the Columbus Bar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614/221.4112.