New Website Provides Ohioans with Free Legal Information

Ohio Legal Help (, a website created to help all Ohioans access the civil justice system by providing free information on common legal issues, court and other legal forms and referrals to legal aid and bar association referral programs, formally launched today.

Ohio Legal Help provides plain language legal help information, interactive self-help tools and connections to local legal and community resources to help Ohioans resolve their legal issues. All content is reviewed by lawyers, to ensure the website is easy to understand, action-oriented and accurate.

“The Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice recommended in 2015 that Ohio develop a statewide website that provides free and accurate legal information and standardized forms,” said Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “Ohio Legal Help is that website and will increase access to justice for all Ohioans.”

“Following from the recommendation of the Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice, a steering committee of judges, private lawyers, legal aid lawyers, librarians, clerks of court and domestic violence advocates representing various Ohio stakeholder organizations was convened to develop a website for Ohioans who needed legal information,” said David Kutik, Ohio Legal Help board president. “This comprehensive process, which resulted in the creation of the Ohio Legal Help website, has ensured that Ohio Legal Help will meet the diverse needs of potential users.”

To lay the groundwork for Ohio Legal Help, the steering committee commissioned a survey of potential users. Eight hundred Ohioans responded to the survey. Half of the respondents made less than $30,000 per year. The survey showed that costs and confusion of dealing with legal issues were most frequently cited as barriers to accessing the legal system. Sixty one percent of survey respondents believed that they needed more legal education and 68 percent strongly supported a legal access portal website.

Ohio Legal Help addresses these concerns with straightforward legal information that helps Ohioans resolve legal problems in common, critical legal areas, such as housing, family, consumer and income maintenance. The website’s mobile-first design will meet users where they are, and the tailored, personalized approach will ensure that users only receive information and referrals specific to their individual needs.

“By providing free assistance addressing some common legal issues, Ohio Legal Help will allow more Ohioans to advocate for themselves in the civil justice system,” said Kate McGarvey, executive director of the Ohio State Legal Services Association, the umbrella organization that includes the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. “More help is needed because funding constraints prevent legal aids from serving everyone seeking our help.”

Ohio Legal Help is expected to attract more than 300,000 users in its first year. The information available on Ohio Legal Help is free. Ohioans can visit the site at

About Ohio Legal Help

Funded and developed through supporters including the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, and developed by stakeholders including the Ohio Judicial Conference, the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Alliance of Ohio Legal Aids, the Consortium of Ohio County Law Libraries, the Ohio Library Council and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Ohio Legal Help leverages online innovation to improve justice and fairness for all Ohioans. Ohio Legal Help removes barriers to the law so that Ohioans can understand their legal options, make informed decisions and connect to local legal and community resources.


OPLC Report Finds Driver’s License Amnesty Initiative Helped Thousands of Low-income Ohioans

COLUMBUS, Ohio—More than 76,000 Ohioans participated in the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ Amnesty Initiative, a six-month pilot program which waived eligible driver’s license reinstatement fees for low-income individuals, according to Moving Forward, a report released today by the Ohio Poverty Law Center. Intended to address the barriers keeping thousands of Ohioans from getting a valid license, the Amnesty Initiative created an opportunity for legal aid organizations to partner with the BMV, Child Support agencies, Job and Family Service offices, volunteer attorneys and local judges and clerks to assist individuals in taking part in the program. The groups hosted free clinics around the state where those with suspended license could receive a personalized plan for getting back on the road legally.

The program was beneficial for drivers and the state, said Ohio Poverty Law Center staff attorney Megan O’Dell. Low-income Ohioans saved more than $63 million during the Amnesty Initiative and the BMV collected $3.6 million in fines and fees. “The Amnesty Initiative was a great first step in addressing the more than three million pending license suspensions in the state,” she said. “The program was eagerly received by organizations that routinely see how difficult it is for people without driver’s license to get to work as well as the government agencies that are able to assist people in getting valid. While thousands of people were assisted, it’s clear that the need for amnesty still exists.”

The Amnesty Initiative provides opportunities for people to move forward with their lives, said Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jodi Thomas, who participated in the Franklin County clinic.

“Many of the cases that come in front of me are traffic cases for driving without a valid license. The majority of these individuals have gone years without a license because they did not know the steps to take to get a license. Most of these people had accrued so many fees putting them in a hole with no way out. The Amnesty Initiative not only helped waived fees for indigency, but it also brought together agencies and resources that could restore their license.”

The spirit of cooperation among the entities organizing the clinics was remarkable, said Perry County Municipal Judge Dean Wilson. He helped organize a clinic in his rural county, where about 85 percent of the people who come before the court are indigent. “As a member of the OSBA Board of Governors involved with policy and legislative tracking, I was well in-tune with what the objective of the program was. I saw its success in Franklin and Perry counties,” he said. “Receptiveness is what makes the program work. When everyone is on board with the mission and works together to help these people reinstate, it makes a significant impact.”

Gwendy Holloway, a Newark resident who attended a clinic in Licking County, had 20-year-old fines that were preventing her from getting a license and was unclear how to address them. The BMV waived $700 in fees and she left the clinic eligible to take her driver’s license test. “I hadn’t been able to pay on those for years,” she said. “The clinic was good. There were a lot of people there ready to answer questions and help.”

Ninety percent of individuals that sought help through the program, which ran from Jan. 31 to July 31, received it. Suspensions related to alcohol or drug abuse or a deadly were not eligible for the Amnesty Initiative. Individuals who receive SNAP benefits were eligible for fee waivers. The average waived per person was $1,270. Individuals who do not receive food assistance were eligible for fee reductions. The average reduction was $789.

About OPLC
The Ohio Poverty Law Center’s mission is to reduce poverty and increase justice by protecting and expanding the legal rights of Ohioans living, working, and raising their families in poverty.

CLE Planned to Prepare Volunteers to Assist with the the Seniors Referral Project


Thursday, September 26, 2019
9:30 AM–12:15 PM
Office of the Ohio Attorney General, 150 E. Gay Street, Columbus, OH
Application has been made to the Supreme Court of Ohio for 2.50 CLE Credits, including .5 hours of professional conduct (designated with *)

This program is designed to assist volunteer attorneys and paralegals who are participating in the Seniors Referral Project, which matches low-income seniors seeking estate planning and advance directives help with pro bono lawyers from the Office of the Ohio Attorney General and private sector. Attorneys and paralegals help low-income seniors with their basic estate planning documents, including simple wills, health care powers of attorney, living wills, organ donor registry, declaration of funeral arrangements, and financial powers of attorney. The training will conclude with a 30 minute discussion of the importance of pro bono service and access to justice, including feedback from current volunteers.

9:30-10:00—Probate Avoidance
10:00-10:30—Preparing a Simple Will
10:45-11:15-—Advance Directives
11:15-11:45—Practical Considerations and Referral Procedures
11:45-12:15*—Access to Justice, the Importance of Pro Bono Service, Current Volunteer Input

This training is free to any attorney currently participating in (or committed to participate in) a LASC or SEOLS Pro Bono Project. All others should submit a $110.00 fee.
To register, please complete an online form:

Unless a hard copy is specifically requested, materials will be e-mailed to participants in advance of the training. Thank you for helping us save resources!

CEO Q&A: Legal services chief has always fought for poor

The Ohio State Legal Services Association didn’t have to look far for new leadership when its long-time director Thomas Weeks decided to retire this year. The  association tapped Kate McGarvey, 40, who has spent most of her working life at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, one of three organizations the association oversees. OSLSA Executive Director Kate McGarvey

Described by one mentor as a quiet but fierce leader who’s adept at collaborating with others, McGarvey takes over the association at a time when many stalwart staffers are retiring and the legal needs of low-income Ohioans continue to grow. Recently, McGarvey talked with Columbus CEO about her new position.

Q: What is the Ohio State Legal Services Association?

A: It’s the umbrella organization over three separate entities: the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, which provides civil legal services to low-income individuals in six counties in central Ohio; Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, which provides direct civil legal services to local folks in southeastern Ohio in 30 counties; and the Ohio Poverty Law Center, which focuses on legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of low-income individuals.


Read the rest of the article at the Columbus Dispatch


Food assistance benefits for the month of February


Due to the federal government shutdown,
food assistance benefits for the month of February will be added to benefit cards early.

Please note that February’s food assistance benefits will be added to benefit cards on or around January 16th.  There will not be additional food assistance benefits added to the cards in the month of February.

Food assistance benefits for the month of March are expected be added to benefit cards on the normal issuance date in March.  Please help to share this message with individuals and families receiving food assistance benefits to help everyone to plan accordingly.

Local nursing-home owner, state association appeal Supreme Court decision

The Ohio Health Care Association is urging the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider a decision seen by some as relief for surviving spouses in the state facing bills for the care of deceased loved ones.

On Dec. 12, the state’s high court ruled 5-2 that Embassy Healthcare should have filed a claim with the estate of a Warren County widow’s husband before pursuing payment from her for his care under Ohio’s “necessaries” statute.

The decision reversed an appeals court ruling favoring the health-care provider.

Advocates for seniors said the ruling would have far-reaching implications for surviving spouses facing bills for the care of loved ones who have died.

In urging reconsideration, a lawyer representing the owner of the nursing home, Carlisle Manor in Warren County, questioned the implications of the ruling for other senior health-care providers.

“Must they follow this case and engage in the futile act (as the dissent rightly notes) of opening an estate (likely naming the creditor as administrator), present the claim to the administrator, and have that claim denied by the self-same creditor for insufficient assets?” Susan Audey, the lawyer filing for Embassy Healthcare, asked in a motion to reconsider and clarify the decision.


Read the entire article at Dayton Daily News

Harassment Spreads To A New Frontier: Smart Home Technology

Earlier this month, Powell Police released hundreds of pages of records related to the case of Ohio State football coach Zach Smith and his ex-wife Courtney. One detail that arose from the files was apparent cyberstalking, when the email account for a security camera in Courtney Smith’s condominium was deactivated without her knowledge, while a hidden camera was found inside.

Lawyers say they’re seeing more cases of such “smart home harassment,” where abusers take advantage of connected devices like security cameras, which are only becoming more common.

“Here at the Legal Aid Society, we have seen survivors of domestic violence think they’re going crazy, because their lights are turning on and off, their song with their ex husband will come on in the middle of the night, things like that,” says attorney Tabitha Woodruff. “And they report it to police and sound like they’re lunatics because at first, it’s hard for people to understand and believe.”

These cases are often difficult to prosecute, because the legal system lags behind technological advancements.

“It’s kind of the Wild West when it comes to technology in that way,” attorney Dmitry Johnson says. “Courts are always evolving, it’s just it’s not necessarily in parallel in time with reality.”


Read the entire story at WOSU

Columbus pushing back against retaliatory evictions

The Columbus City Council recently updated
its law against retaliatory evictions, prohibiting tenants from being
evicted in retaliation for complaining about housing conditions, unfair
rent increases or other problems.

Before Tinnissha Wilkerson and her roommate complained to
Columbus city code enforcement about conditions in their North Linden
rental house, they asked the landlord to make repairs.

“There’s a lot that he doesn’t fix,” Wilkerson said. “He’d jimmy-rig things and not really repair them.”

The women decided that the moldy, decaying walls were the last straw. They called city code enforcement, which triggered an inspection and a notice of numerous violations, including damaged floors and ceilings, exposed electrical outlets and missing smoke detectors.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch…

Columbus Tenant Advocacy Pilot Shows Strong Results

It’s probably no surprise having a lawyer with you in a court room is better than going it alone. But Jyoshu Tsushima, who heads up Columbus Legal Aid’s Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), says they’re trying to put a number on how their legal advice has improved outcomes for people in eviction court.

“In the cases where attorneys weren’t present, it was about a 50 percent chance that the tenants would end up being evicted from the property,” he said. “And then the cases where we were actually directly representing the tenants, only 1 percent of those tenants would actually got evicted.”

Tsushima says going in, he expected only a handful of tenants would have claims that could help them avoid an eviction — instead, almost half had some defense available. The key, Tsushima says, is they needed an attorney to help them navigate the system and prepare their evidence.

TAP lawyers made significant increases in “agreed entries,” agreements between tenants and landlords to avoid eviction by giving more time for move out or establishing a payment schedule to get back on track. But with just one full time staffer and volunteers, he says TAP has only been able to consult on about 5 percent of Franklin County’s evictions.

Read the rest of the article at

Tenant Advocacy Project helps Franklin County residents stay in their homes, according to new study

Franklin County processes about 18,000 evictions a year and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus created the Tenant Advocacy Project in March 2017.

Franklin County residents facing eviction stand a much better chance of remaining in their homes if they get professional help, according to a study released Monday by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

The study found that tenants who received help from the Tenant Advocacy Project were able to stay in their home 240 percent more often than those who were not helped by the organization. About 1 percent of tenants represented by TAP lost their case compared with 53 percent of those who received no assistance, according to the study.

“Without access to an attorney, most tenants facing eviction cannot effectively raise arguments that could preserve their tenancies or prevent eviction and homelessness,” Melissa Benson, housing attorney at Legal Aid Society of Columbus, said in a news release. “The Tenant Advocacy Project gives tenants a voice in the courthouse. It is balancing the scales in eviction cases in Franklin County.”

The Legal Aid Society of Columbus created the Tenant Advocacy Project in March 2017. TAP runs a daily clinic in Franklin County Municipal Court that provides legal help for tenants facing eviction. TAP also receives support from The Columbus Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Foundation and PNC Bank. The goals of TAP are to lower displacement caused by eviction and increase access to affordable housing for low-income tenants.

Read the rest of the article at the Columbus Dispatch


Pro Bono Program Gets Drivers Legally Back on Road

More than 200 people lined up inside Franklin County Municipal Court looking for a way to be lawfully behind the wheel after lengthy, sometimes years-long, entanglements. They were attempting to reinstate their licenses at a pilot program hosted by the court and several legal groups working pro bono.

“The procedure to get them [drivers’ licenses] reinstated is very, very complicated, and there are a number of steps they have to go through, and there are several different entities, [where] both the BMV and the court system may be involved in their license suspension,” said Sally Bloomfield, a pro bono attorney, who’s volunteered her legal services for decades.

The Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk’s Office, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and Ohio State Bar Association coordinated the event, which was set up with multiple stations among the facilitators to identify and fix issues that prevent people from having their licenses reinstated. Representatives from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Franklin County Job and Family Services, bankruptcy advisers, and an auto insurance company were among the others also on hand as part of a “one-stop shop.”

Read the entire story and watch the video at the Court News Ohio website.


Evicted: No Place to Call Home

In 2016, over 100,000 evictions were filed in Ohio alone. This week, Dr. Cody Price talks with Melissa Benson and Ben Horne from the Legal Aid Society of Columbus to discuss eviction, homelessness and rising rent costs in Ohio. What is at the root of this housing instability, and how do we tackle these issues in a cost-effective and humane way?

For more from the Office of Housing Policy, visit our website and follow us on Twitter @ohiodoorsteps. To learn more about housing needs in Ohio, click here. For more information on eviction in the United States, visit the Eviction Lab’s website.

Contact the Legal Aid Society of Columbus by calling 614-241-2001 or visiting their website. You can also find them on Twitter @LASColumbus.

The views and opinions expressed in Doorsteps are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.


Volunteer Commercial Litigators Serve Columbus, Ohio, Residents Through Innovative Pro Bono Program

In Columbus, Ohio, one innovative pro bono program uses volunteer attorneys—including prominent commercial litigators—to combat the housing and eviction crisis.

As a result of the uniquely high number of evictions in Columbus, many tenants find themselves unrepresented in their cases. To combat this problem, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) piloted the Pro Bono Tenant Advocacy Project, a pro bono program focused on eviction issues. The housing clinic successfully provided a variety of legal services to individuals facing eviction through volunteer attorneys and staff for several years.

Unfortunately, the program lost significant funding and the LASC was forced to discontinue the program in 2011 and consider other options to combat the housing crisis. The following year, with the assistance of the Columbus Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, the LASC created a Volunteer Resource Center (the “VRC”), which ultimately had over 140 volunteer lawyers from the Columbus legal community. Retired attorneys provided leadership to the VRC, and volunteer lawyers assisted with landlord/tenant issues as well as other important cases for those who had no access to justice. Even with the creation of the VRC, however, there were still hundreds of individuals whose needs could not be adequately served.


Read the rest of the story at

How Columbus lawyers have joined the effort to stem evictions

Every day in Central Ohio, an average of 75 people are told they face eviction.

So far, the area is on pace to match last year’s 18,000 filings. While a number of nonprofits and local agencies have been pushing to stem the tide, area lawyers also are working to expand representation for people who often have to navigate unfamiliar court proceedings.

The Ohio State Legal Services Association, a nonprofit group founded by the Ohio State Bar Association to help people without means, has 34 attorneys, including two specifically working with those facing eviction. But each can see five or six cases a day, said Stephanie Harris, development director for the legal services association.


Read the rest of the story at

Legal Aid Society of Columbus Community Discussion

Legal Aid Society of Columbus Community Discussion

Legal Aid Society of Columbus
Community Discussion

On the front lines of Columbus’ eviction battle

By Tristan Navera  – Staff reporter, Columbus Business First

Jul 9, 2018, 1:17pm

Marcus Salter, it seems, is always smiling.

On this day, his madras outfit complements the yellow walls in a local homeless shelter as he leads a group of 25 women in a two-hour workshop on what to do when a landlord threatens eviction.

Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio, whose tools for tenants include these workshops, has a goal of stemming the eviction tide: 18,000 are filed in Franklin County each year, the highest in the state.

More than half of the women in the room have experienced one.

“We’re in the midst of an eviction crisis,” Salter tells them as he starts the program. “One way to combat it is education, and we want to give you ladies an opportunity to learn. Our goal is to avoid evictions altogether, because we all know it can be hard to move on from that.”

Many of the women acknowledge some responsibility but also said they’re frustrated with the system, which Salter says he understands. He has first-hand experience.

The upshot

The first six months of 2018 show the city’s high eviction count is continuing, but there are some signs of progress, according to information obtained from Franklin County.

The number of eviction cases filed in the county is the exact same that it was in the first half of last year – 8,637 cases. Of those, though, the number resulting in eviction judgments ticked down a bit. The number of Writ of Restitutions – which authorize the U.S. Marshals to schedule an eviction and is a good indicator of an eviction judgement – is down 7 percent from last year, to 4,566.

Of those, the number of set-outs processed – when the landlord actually requests law enforcement to remove a tenant’s property – is down 11 percent, to 2,916.

But these numbers only indicate the number of legal proceedings are down. They don’t track how many people were actually displaced. It isn’t uncommon, for example, for a tenant facing an eviction filing to move in with a friend or relative in a hurry, leaving their rental.

And those initial eviction filings are still very much a part of the problem. Jeff Biehl, executive director of the Prevent Family Homelessness Collaborative, noted there’s no way to strike one from a record even if it’s withdrawn, making it harder to find housing in the future.

“You will often hear people who are evicted don’t necessarily go to homelessness, but a lot of families that end up homeless have evictions in their background,” he said. “It really makes it difficult for families to get housing.”

Earlier this year, a group of analysts from around the country called these permanent-mark policies “absolutely ridiculous” and recommended they be taken off the city’s books “immediately.”


Columbus City Councilwoman Jaiza Page talks about affordable housing initiatives at a Columbus Business First event.

One class at a time

In the meantime, education and prevention efforts have to take place at the grassroots level, with groups like Salter’s holding workshops with a few dozen people at a time to educate them about their rights and responsibilities.

Keeping cool, communicating, and working with the landlord are key, Salter said, and all too often a lack of these things makes the process more difficult.


Columbus City Councilwoman Jaiza Page, working with Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Columbus Next Generation, has held a series of workshops to inform landlords and tenants about rental assistance programs, tenant rights and escrow services. The city is exploring how to update its policies, too.

“There are few things we’re looking at, like retaliatory evictions,” Page said via phone. For example, the city might “beef up our tenant code to provide prosecution for landlords who evict tenants who complain about code violations.”

But the main push has been informing tenants and landlords alike about emergency rental assistance and other resources, as well as the letter of the law on how an eviction works, Page said.

Shelley Whalen, executive director of Community Mediation Services, said virtually all of these filings stem from late or non-payment of rent. The group intervenes to help the two parties work out an agreement, or if necessary, a move-out plan.

“I can tell you, roughly 80 percent of the time, we’re able to help the tenant and landlord reach an agreement, and of those, about half are pay and stay and half are move out,” she said via phone.

Many, but not all, landlords are willing to negotiate, she said, especially if a tenant has been living in a space for more than a year and has a good track record.

Education at the front end has been far more successful in fighting the tide of evictions rather than trying to get involved once court proceedings begin, local experts said. That’s because the legal system is fraught with unfamiliar obstacles.

“The vast majority of landlords are represented by legal counsel at court, and almost 90 percent of tenants are not,” Whalen said. “There’s a definite lack of understanding on the part of tenants – they don’t know the process or the language. That’s part of what we try to do in the workshop.”

After his course is finished, Salter awards each of the women a certificate, a handshake and a friendly “Good luck! Pay your rent!”

“It’s up to us to keep our housing because this city is changing,” Salter said, his near-constant smile dimming a bit. “Columbus has too many resources to see you in evictions court.”

Cleveland not yet enforcing lead cleanup, legal action gets results elsewhere

CLEVELAND, Ohio–Now that hundreds of Cleveland property owners and tenants have received orders to vacate homes deemed dangerous due to unaddressed lead hazards, many are asking: What happens next?

It’s a question city officials are still working through, too.

In some Ohio cities over the past year, health officials have started sending some, or all such cases to court for potential legal action, and say they’re seeing results. Problematic homes, some that posed a threat to public health for years, are being cleaned up.

Cleveland, which has been reluctant to follow state law and issue orders to vacate due to concerns about displacing residents, has not yet taken any of its recent non-compliant property owners to court.

The city, through a spokeswoman, said that it will “work with the Law Department to determine the best course of action for each noncompliant property.”


Read the rest of the story at

Jack D’Aurora: State budget should support legal aid

Is access to legal assistance for low-income Americans important? President Donald Trump doesn’t think so. His 2018 budget proposed eliminating the Legal Services Corporation, an independent nonprofit established during the Nixon administration that provides civil legal aid to low-income Americans.

Trump apparently forgot about his campaign theme — “to bring hope to every forgotten stretch of this country.” According to Martha Bergmark, former LSC president, the majority of the states with the lowest ranking for access to legal assistance for low-income citizens supported Trump.

Fortunately, most of Congress didn’t listen to the president. In fact, Congress went a different direction and increased LSC funding in March from $385 million to $410 million.

Across the country, legal-aid offices serve the needs of those whose incomes are below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s $30,740 a year. Roughly 1.5 million Ohioans fall in this category. In 2016, the 28 lawyers and staff members at the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, along with several hundred pro bono attorneys and non-lawyer volunteers, served 6,609 low-income individuals and families.

It’s probably difficult to imagine why those with low incomes would need a lawyer, but low income, in and of itself, generates problems. Seventy-one percent of low-income households have experienced a legal problem in the past year. For households with disabled persons, the percentage jumps to 80 percent; for households with survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, it jumps to 97 percent. One in four low-income households has experienced six or more legal problems in the past year.

“When living on the edge, one problem begets another,” explains Tom Weeks, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. “Get injured on the job without health insurance or workers compensation, and suddenly you’re faced with hospital bills. Because you’re unable to work, you can’t afford to repay the auto title loan you took out for repair work, and you don’t have money for next month’s rent.

“You can afford to pay the lender or the landlord but not both. Eventually, the hospital files suit to collect on its unpaid bills. The lender and landlord will be next. It can be overwhelming.”

What’s staggering is that intimate-partner violence among people with family income at or below the FPL is about four times the rate for those with incomes at or above 400 percent of the FPL. “Twenty-two percent of legal aid work is family law,” says Angie Lloyd, executive director of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. “But it’s actually all domestic-violence-related, so we’re only meeting part of the domestic legal need.”

Legal aid isn’t just about providing assistance. “It’s transformative work,” says Lloyd, “that allows low-income and vulnerable Ohioans to be gainfully employed, financially secure, stably housed, healthy and safe from domestic violence.”

The Access to Justice Task Force formed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court concluded there is a 115-percent return for every dollar invested in legal aid. Studies consistently show that investing in civil legal-aid programs has a positive economic impact.

Even if LSC funding continues in the future, it’s not enough. LSC provides only about 30 percent of the budget for Ohio’s legal-aid offices. Another 40 percent comes from a surcharge on court filing fees and the interest earned on lawyer trust accounts, and that money has been decreasing. With interest rates dropping over the years, revenues from trust accounts fell from $22 million in 2007 to $4 million today.

Remarkably, the state of Ohio contributes nothing to legal aid. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force recommended in 2015 that the Ohio General Assembly fund the cost of the 120 legal-aid attorneys and support staff who were laid off because of declining funds.

Three years later, we’re still waiting for the General Assembly to respond.

Jack D’Aurora is a partner with the Behal Law Group.

Read this article at the Columbus Dispatch

Ohio Seeks to Impose New Medicaid Work Requirements, Tempting Lawsuits

On Monday night, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) officially submitted a request to the Department of Health and Human Services for permission to force the roughly 700,000 people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion to prove they’re working at least 80 hours per month. If the waiver is approved, Ohioans unable to find work would have to get placed with an organization in their county and work without pay to earn the value of their health care benefits.

Ohio’s non-profit Center for Health Affairs estimates that 18,000 people could lose  coverage due to the requirement, though advocacy groups say that number could be much higher if eligible people are deterred by the bureaucratic hoops they have to jump through to document their employment status or prove they’re exempt due to a disability.

“We believe they’re vastly underestimating,” Katie McGarvey with the Legal Aid Society of Ohio told TPM. “There’s not an automatic way to do those exemptions, so each county will have to contact each individual, get documentation, and do an assessment. What if the person doesn’t get the mail or doesn’t have transportation to the appointment? It’s a huge administrative barrier and a lot of people who need the exemption and are eligible will fall through the cracks.”

Read the rest of this story at Talking Points Memo

Franklin County Struggles To Overcome High Number Of Evictions

Jerry Smith wanders through a home on the west side of Columbus with his hands clasped behind his back. His hat says “bailiff” in big block letters, and he’s guiding researcher Stephanie Pierce from room to room. They pass an overturned couch and old clothes strewn on the floor.

“Wow, so there’s a lot of stuff here,” Pierce says, looking around the dining room. “It definitely looks like it’s been a pretty hasty departure.”

“Probably about 50 percent are left in this condition, about 50 percent,” Smith tells her. “You rarely ever get one that’s cleaned out and pristine or anything. Occasionally—but rarely.”

If the eviction process cannot be resolved, this is where it winds up: a set out. Under the supervision of a bailiff, the landlord clears out a tenant’s remaining belongings and retakes possession of the home.

No one wants to end up here. Evictions are expensive for landlords, and they miss out on rent in the meantime. Tenants have to move on short notice, and a past eviction can make it hard to find a new place to stay.

Read or listen to the entire story at WOSU Radio.

Sent to the curb: Affordable housing advocates say evictions can have lasting effects on tenants, neighborhoods

There were nearly 18,000 in Franklin County filed last year, a number that continues to trouble affordable housing advocates and others who note that the poverty rate here continues to tick upward. In all, about 10,500 evictions were completed in 2017. In New York City, whose population is eight times as large, there were 22,000.

Read the full story at Business First


Melissa Linville Receives the 2018 Henry J. Sommer Scholarship

Krista D’Amelio | Latest News | March 14, 2018

The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) is honored to award the prestigious Henry J. Sommer Scholarship every year to an exceptional attorney who shows the same dedication of service to their clients that President Emeritus Henry J. Sommer (2005 to 2008 and Board of Directors member 1992 to 2011) gave to NACBA. This year NACBA is pleased to announce that Melissa Linville is the recipient for the 2018 Henry J. Somm er Scholarship.

Melissa LinvilleMelissa is a bankruptcy attorney at The Legal Aid Society of Columbus in Ohio and has been working in this role since 2012. She coordinates the Bankruptcy Pro Bono program and represents clients in-house. As the recipient of the scholarship, she will be attending #NACBADEN, NACBA’s Annual Convention held April 19-22, 2018 in Denver, CO. Melissa was chosen for her dedication to processing intake clients and recruiting and training pro bono attorneys for LASC cases, as well as her assistance to clients in filing Chapter 7 bankruptcies, foreclosure defense, debt collection defense, and other bankruptcy matters.

“This scholarship is one that NACBA is proud to award every year. We are pleased to select Melissa Linville for the 2018 Henry J. Sommer Scholarship. We look forward to providing her the opportunity to enhance her profession in the public sector and connect her to NACBA’s vast network of consumer bankruptcy attorneys,” says NACBA Executive Director Dan LaBert.

Melissa graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2011. She has always wanted to work in the public sector. After three and a half years of piecing together various legal fellowships while working on the implementation and maintenance of a bankruptcy pro bono program, Melissa became a staff attorney at Legal Aid in 2015. She enjoys working with the private bar and judiciary to continue to improve and grow the bankruptcy pro bono program.

We can look forward to reading about Melissa’s convention experience in the Summer 2018 edition of NACBA’s Consumer Bankruptcy Journal.

Read the original post at NACBA

Franklin County has the highest eviction rate in Ohio. Why? And what can be done about it?

When Stacy Dellibovi arrived at eviction court on a Friday morning in early February, she felt like a failure.

Everything had gone downhill so quickly. A few months earlier, the 40-year-old single mom had been employed as a phlebotomist and support technician at CompDrug, an addiction treatment center. Drawing blood and overseeing urine screenings was gritty, challenging work, but Dellibovi loved it. She relished being a positive presence in the lives of those struggling with addiction. For the first time in her life, she woke up every morning excited to go to work.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, she lost her job. Dellibovi scrambled to look for another job, spending day after day on the computer filling out applications and redoing her resume. But nothing came quickly. Pretty soon she couldn’t make her car payments, and she fell behind on the $1,395 rent for the Canal Winchester home she shared with her two youngest kids, 8 and 13. She lost her brand-new car, and now she was facing an eviction.

Read more at Columbus Alive


Human Trafficking: Ohio’s Current Landscape

By Tabitha Woodruff

 January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month since former President Barack Obama first proclaimed it in 2010. In December 2017, President Donald Trump continued the tradition with his own proclamation making January 2018 a month dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking.

In Ohio, grassroots efforts have grown into extensive government action addressing this issue. Here, I will discuss the legal landscape of human trafficking in Ohio, the challenges the state still faces and the legal resources available to trafficking survivors.


Human trafficking is the illegal ownership and sale of human beings; in modern times it takes many different forms.

Read more at Attorney At Law Magazine

Legal Aid Society of Columbus Featured in Columbus Bar’s Legal Connections

Click here to read the article in Legal Connections

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