The Office of Inspector General for the Legal Services Corporation Warns of Fraud Targeting Legal Services Clients

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has learned of a recent scam where someone tried to obtain money from a legal services client as a “retainer fee.” Legal services programs like LASC do not charge for services or collect “retainer fees.”

In the recent case, the client received a letter in the mail, purportedly from the legal services provider. The letter contained the provider’s logo at the top and instructed the client to remit payment to the grantee at a P.O. Box that is not affiliated with the organization. The client’s name, address, and case number were included within the letter. The organization believes the client information was gained through media exposure for the case, as well as through information that is publicly available.

The client contacted the program attorney assigned to her case, who informed her that the program does not charge for legal services. The attorney immediately informed the program Executive Director, the state’s Attorney General’s Office, and the local police department. Anyone receiving such a letter should call LASC as well as local and state authorities.

 

New CLE Opportunity: Ohio Record-Sealing Law Change and its Effect on Individuals Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

As part of its racial justice advocacy, Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA), including its direct service civil legal aid programs the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS), offers programming for low-income individuals throughout their collective 36 county service area who are navigating these barriers with the goal of obtaining a clean slate or second chance.

On May 17, OSLSA will be conducting a live interactive webinar on the recent changes in Ohio record sealing laws to ensure attorneys are properly equipped to aid low-income clients with record sealing applications. Through the program OSLSA also hopes to raise awareness on new record sealing eligibility criteria.

­­Application was made to the Supreme Court of Ohio for 2.75 hours of CLE credit for the program.

For more details and registration information, visit the link below.

Ohio Record-Sealing Law Change and its Effect on Individuals Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

Marion Eviction Prevention Grant

Thanks to United Way of North Central Ohio, the Marion Eviction Prevention Grant has been made possible. The grant was created to provide Marion residents with rental assistance throughout the pandemic. In order to qualify, you must be a Marion resident. The grant is available to people who have received a 3-day notice about non-payment of rent or utilities or has received court papers for non-payment of rent or utilities. Lastly, qualifying residents cannot be more than three months behind on rent payments.

 

“We are very thankful to United Way of North Central Ohio for help as we know many of our neighbors could use this critical assistance during the pandemic,” said Staci Thomas, an attorney in LASC’s Marion office.

 

Those who think they may qualify can reach out to legal aid for more information and assistance at 740-383-2161.

LASC Study Reveals Lack of Attention to Veterans’ Claims of Racism in Discharge Upgrades

A study conducted by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) has found that the military boards charged with addressing veterans’ discharge upgrade requests grant claims on the basis of racial discrimination at a lower rate than their overall grant rate. The study, which looks at discharge upgrade decisions between 2010 and 2020, reveals that upgrades based on racial trauma occur in LESS THAN 17 PERCENT OF THE CASES—with most rates far lower.

Each branch of the military has two boards that decide discharge upgrade requests. Discharge Review Boards (DRB) handle petitions from Veterans within 15 years of their discharge. Veterans with an older discharge or who were denied by the DRB apply to a Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR).

“Unlike most administrative and civil courts that place statutes of limitation on a victim’s ability to seek redress from employee discrimination or harassment, members of the military have an almost unlimited timeframe to request a remedy,” says LASC Staff Attorney Karin Nordstrom, who conducted the study. “The military is in a unique position in that it could use its lenient timeframe policy to make amends for a long history of racial discrimination in the armed forces.”

“Given the overall low approval rate, it appears that military leaders have lost an opportunity for reconciliation of past injustices. The decisions that we reviewed from each branch of the military indicate an unwillingness to confront racial disparities,” Nordstrom says.

Report Findings: Percentage Grant Rate for Racial Trauma Claims

Army

Discharge Review Boards: 11.54

Board for Correction of Military Records: 6.73

Navy & Marines

Discharge Review Boards: 0

Board for Correction of Naval Records: 0

Air Force

Discharge Review Boards: 5

Board for Correction of Military Records: 16.67

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT

Debt Collection Defense Basics Webinar

This program is designed to prepare volunteer attorneys to represent low income individuals being sued for consumer debt, primarily collection cases brought by debt buyers.  This training will provide basic information on consumer law, practical information on legal defenses and strategy, and helpful forms and template pleadings. The training will also focus on identifying consumer law issues for low-income clients.

Read more about the training here.

Register for the training here.

Advocating for Equality in Ohio’s Highest Court

Advocating for Equality in Ohio’s Highest Court

After serving in the United States Army as a combat medic, Marcus Pryor was honorably discharged in August of 2012. Upon his discharge, he applied for unemployment compensation through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and was granted benefits. However, seven months later the Director of ODJFS issued a redetermination and ordered Pryor to repay the benefits already received. Then, as allowed under Ohio law, Pryor decided to appeal the determination to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission and when the Commission ruled in the Director’s favor, again sought to appeal the decision with the court of common pleas. Pryor was unfortunately not granted the appeal because he failed to list the Army as an interested party in his appeal, which meant that a small clerical error limited his access to a fair hearing.

Pryor subsequently appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) and other Legal Aid organizations across the state filed an Amicus Brief in support of Pryor.  The Ohio Supreme Court allowed LASC attorney Kathleen McGarvey time during oral argument. In May 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Pryor’s favor, explaining that Pryor had completed his duty to ensure he was granted an appeals hearing by simply filing the appeal on time. This decision by the Ohio Supreme Court provides a step in the right direction to ensure that all individuals tackling important legal issues will not be sidelined by administrative nuances that only those well versed in the law can understand. LASC is proud to have assisted Pryor in his case, and commends his hard work in front of the highest court in the state. Moving forward, we remain strongly committed to justice and our mission to advocate for equality in a complex legal system.

 

View more here.

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