LBF office is now open to the public.

COVID-19 and Louisiana’s Civil Legal Aid Network

In the COVID-19 era, the Louisiana Bar Foundation supported civil legal aid network are the first responders to those who need help navigating the legal system.

 

Unfair Eviction – Protecting Homes

     Although Orleans Civil District Court judges halted all residential evictions due to the pandemic, sanitation worker John Parker* found himself locked out of his apartment for paying his rent four days late. His landlady refused to comply.  She received a flood of phone calls, including staff from the Mayor’s Office who heard about it on social media.  After working with a Southeast Louisiana Legal Services attorney who filed a petition on Parker’s behalf, the judge ruled the eviction unlawful and ordered the landlady to allow him entry. Soon after, Parker had a shiny, brass key in his hand.  This time, thanks to his legal aid lawyer, the door opened.

 

Domestic Violence - Protecting Families

     Kelly Smith* endured years of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. He berated her, beat her, and choked her. In the fall of 2019, when she was several months pregnant with their child, he threatened to kill her. In fear for her life, she finally broke of the relationship. She believed it was important for her child to have a relationship with his father, so she allowed him to have limited visitation.   

     In April, with the stay at home order still in place, the child’s father asked to deliver a gift to the child. As soon as he arrived, he snatched the child and fled. He refused to answer her phone calls or respond to any of her attempts to contact him. She called the police and was told they could not do anything without a restraining order from the court. With the help of a SLLS legal aid attorney, Kelly was able to obtain a temporary restraining order and her baby was safely returned to her.

 

Unemployment – Protecting Benefits

     After spending months balancing several part-time jobs, Sharon Wise* was excited to start a new full-time job in January 2020. She was relieved that she would finally be earning enough money to meet her family’s monthly expenses. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit our state. In April 2020, Sharon was laid off.

     She immediately applied for unemployment benefits hoping they would provide enough income to stabilize her family until she could get back to work. Weeks passed without any word on the status of her application. When she checked her application status online, she was shocked to find she had been disqualified. She was unable to resolve the problem and sought the help of a SLLS legal aid attorney. Within two days, the Unemployment Office removed Sharon’s disqualification and approved her for unemployment benefits.

 

Civil legal aid is a critical but often overlooked solution to helping vulnerable people and communities recover from disaster. Whether the disaster is natural, manmade, or a global pandemic, the type of civil legal needs that arise are similar. The economic hardship caused by business closures and illness creates conflicts only the civil justice system can resolve, such as:

Missed rent payments leading to eviction notices;
People being wrongly denied public benefits that can keep their families afloat (stimulus/unemployment);
Increased incidents of domestic violence due to quarantines;
Disputes over medical and consumer debt; and
Stay at home orders resulting in custody issues for minor children and an increase in abuse and neglect cases.
 

The inability to resolve these problems can tear families apart or drive people and an entire community further into poverty.

The Louisiana Bar Foundation (LBF) is the single, largest statewide funder that is fully committed to ensuring that Louisiana’s civil justice system is accessible to all. With more than 30 years of experience serving as a trusted authority and responsible steward of funds, the LBF has a network of well-established partnerships with more than 70 grantees across the state’s 64 parishes that are leading community-driven efforts to help hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents gain access to the civil justice system.

 

 

 

The Louisiana Bar Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity organized under the state of Louisiana.



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