Frequently Asked Questions
Is there really a problem facing Alabama’s low-income families in regards to civil legal assistance?
The need for legal aid in Alabama is dire. Unlike the criminal defense system, the constitutional guarantee of funding for low-income Alabamians who need civil legal assistance has not yet been met. The consequences of a lack of access to justice are devastating for the poor and weaken a democratic society as a whole.
I’m an attorney, what can I do to help?
Any attorney licensed in the state of Alabama is asked to donate his or her time to support the Commission and its goals. Many lawyers participate in pro bono work each year, but more are needed. If all 17,000 plus members of the Alabama State Bar Association could volunteer some of their time each year, substantial improvements could be seen.
The Volunteer Lawyers Programs in Alabama ask that volunteers commit to taking at least 2 cases or 20 hours per year. Each program serves a different part of the state and takes different types of cases. To find out more about volunteering with the Volunteer Lawyers Program in your area go to Ways to Help.
What kind of civil problems do these low-income families face?
The majority of civil legal problems include: consumer issues (creditor harassment, debt collection, utility nonpayment, bankruptcy issues), health issues (Medicaid, government insurance, nursing home), family law issues (divorce, child support/custody, abuse), employment issues (unemployment benefits, pension, lost job), and housing issues (unsatisfactory repairs, foreclosure, eviction, poor living conditions).
How does improving the quality of civil legal services of low-income residents help all Alabamians?
Improving the quality of civil legal services helps all residents of Alabama in a number of ways. First, it allows all the residents to have equal and fair legal representation regardless of race, ethnic origin or income level. By providing civil legal services thousands of legal matters can be resolved without actually tying up Alabama’s court system. In addition, many civil legal matters involving family matters that go unresolved can actually end up involving criminal issues due to a lack of resolution. By providing better civil legal services, many of these matters can be resolve before they escalate into criminal issues.
How does the Access to Justice Commission fit?
The Alabama Access to Justice Commission was created by order of the Alabama Supreme Court in April, 2007 to serve as a coordinating entity for the legally underserved, the legal community, social service providers and the private and public sectors. The Commission is comprised of citizens representing the legal profession, educational administration, religious community, military, business sector, advocacy groups representing low-income Alabamians and volunteers.
Does the Commission provide direct services?
No. The Commission does not provide direct legal services or legal referrals. To find organizations that provide direct services in your area go to Find Help Near You.