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Johnson joins Legal Aid Society’s Marion office

Demitri JohnsonThe Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Marion Branch office is excited to announce that Demitri P. Johnson joined the Marion office on March 31, 2017.

Johnson is a 2014 graduate of the Capital University Law School where she obtained a Juris Doctorate. During law school, Johnson was a recipient of the Ronald L. Friedman Memorial Award, a member of the 2013 Spring National Moot Court Team, and a member of the 2014 Criminal Law Moot Court Team. Prior to law school, she earned a B.A. in Political Science from Denison University.

While Johnson is originally from the Columbus area, she is looking forward to learning more about the area and becoming a member of the community. Johnson said she is excited to work together with The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Marion Branch office and other local advocates to aid the residents of Marion County.

Read more at Marion Online

Better Call Jackson finds help for tenants whose landlords aren’t fixing major problems

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Two Columbus area residents have two completely different problems with their rented homes.

Janita Steele has lived with rodents since she moved into her rented house seven months ago. Mouse traps scattered throughout her home have trapped eight so far, but the rodents are still coming. Steel says holes in the foundation of the house are likely the possible entryway of the mice.

But her landlord has not addressed the problem.

On the other side of town, Kenya DoBose lives with a square cut into the ceiling of one of her bathrooms. A tenant who lives above Kenya had a water issue that caused the water to leak into the bathroom. A maintenance crew cut the hole to make repairs, but that was almost one year ago and it still has not been repaired.

According to the legal aid society of Columbus, both tenants have options.

Watch the video at NBC4i.com

What renters need to know when the AC stops working

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — The summer months are typically the hottest of the year and air conditioners are on full blast, unless yours is on the fritz.

If you’re paying rent, it can be tempting to lose your cool.

In Ohio, a landlord has a duty to keep all fixtures and appliances in good working order.

Benjamin Horne, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, says there are certain steps you need to take to get the landlord’s attention.

“The tenant should request repairs in writing,” said Horne. “Keep a copy of the written request. After 30 days, if the problem hasn’t been remedied, then the tenant can start a rent escrow account over at the municipal court,” he said.

He said you should never stop paying rent.

Read more or watch the video at WSYX 6.

 

Columbus poor struggle with evictions, high housing costs

If she can find a place, Danielle Bailey said, she’ll probably have to spend more than half her monthly income on rent. That’s a best-case scenario. She and her children have been stuck since March in a worse one.

“Homelessness is not just not having a house,” Bailey said.

 The 32-year-old is trying to land a new job, find a house or apartment, get her cellphone fixed, care for four children and keep depression at bay — all while living in an emergency shelter. “I need to get a foot in the door,” Bailey said. “And I need my own door.”

Housing loss has long been considered a condition of poverty in America. Matthew Desmond says it’s time to flip that view and see eviction as a cause.

“If we want more family stability and more community stability, we need fewer evictions,” said Desmond, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who spoke Wednesday during the Community Shelter Board’s annual gathering at the Southern Theatre, Downtown. “Without housing, everything falls apart.”

Read more at The Columbus Dispatch

Women living in poverty play a high-stakes game

By Kathleen McGavey

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” women are told: “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”

As director of The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, I’ve thought repeatedly about how Sandberg’s idea applies in my own professional life. But despite the fact that I work with low-income women and their families, it wasn’t until I read “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond, that I thought about how this idea effects poor women.

Using real-world examples from Desmond’s book, “leaning in” can bring about harm and negative consequences that are unique to women living in poverty.

Gender perspective on eviction

While living in a Wisconsin trailer park, Desmond follows the lives of individuals, many of whom fall behind on their rent, on the verge of eviction. He notices a gender difference.

Men, he states, are more likely to talk to the landlord, explain the circumstances, try to get an extension and offer to do odd jobs around the rental complex to make up some of the difference. Women, however, are observed hiding in their units, closing the blinds and hoping no one notices them. That, you might think, explains the difference in eviction rates by gender.

Desmond reports that three of every four African Americans who were evicted in Milwaukee were female. The Community Shelter Board, a nonprofit that oversees Columbus’ response to homelessness, reports that nationally 78 percent of families with children in the shelter system have a female adult in the household, while only 22 percent have a male adult.

With these statistics, the solution seems easy. Poor women, like more highly educated, affluent professional women, need only to “lean in.” They need to be assertive, talk to the landlord and see what they might do to avoid eviction.

But low-income women have learned the perils of such an approach much more painfully than those of us with professional careers.

Read the rest of the article at Smart Business

Legal services offered at TCC

It took five years to create and fund the first known partnership in the United States between a legal aid law firm and a drug/alcohol addiction treatment center. The partnership has begun in Portsmouth.

Ohio State Legal Services Association (also known locally as SEOLS or Southeastern Ohio Legal Services) and The Counseling Center (TCC) initiated a partnership in December, with the help of a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF). Mark J. Cardosi, Managing Attorney of SEOLS in Portsmouth, said enhancing the likelihood of long-term addiction recovery is the goal driving the collaboration between the legal aid law office and the treatment center.

The new project places a SEOLS lawyer inside TCC offices in Portsmouth and West Union. Although the legal assistance to TCC clients will not be different from that generally available from SEOLS, the partnership focus is on the civil legal problems most often impacting those people in drug/alcohol addiction treatment. Those legal problems are more often associated with employment barriers, access to subsidized housing, and costs related to past criminal court actions.

Read more at the Portsmouth Daily Times

 

Columbus Ice Miller Partner Recognized for Pro Bono Service

Columbus Ice Miller Partner Recognized for Pro Bono Service

John Gilligan Receives Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service

Ice Miller LLP congratulates partner John Gilligan, who was presented with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service. The award is presented annually by the president of the OLAF Board of Trustees to an individual, firm or organization that has provided outstanding leadership in the delivery of pro bono legal services in the state of Ohio.

“John is deeply dedicated to serving his clients in both private practice as well as those he serves pro bono, via the Legal Aid Society and other similar organizations,” said Richard Barnhart, managing partner in Ice Miller’s Columbus office. “John has served in numerous leadership roles to promote access to justice and legal services, and his efforts have made a tremendous impact both nationally and locally. The OLAF Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service could not have been presented to a more deserving individual.”

The award was presented at the OSBA Council of Delegates meeting on Friday, April 28.

John is the vice chair of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, whose goal is to promote and encourage the funding of programs, services and entities that provide access to justice, especially for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

John also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and was chair of that board for three years. There, he is active in recruiting pro bono volunteers, handling pro bono matters and assisting with fundraising.

In addition, he served as co-chair of the Access to Justice and Legal Services Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers and now is immediate past co-chair.

John began his legal career working for four years as a public defender. Although he entered private practice, John, along with his co-counsel in the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, successfully set aside the murder conviction and death penalty sentence of Derrick Jamison in a habeas corpus action. Today, Jamison is living in Middletown, Ohio as a free man.

In his practice at Ice Miller, John focuses on resolving or trying difficult business disputes, often involving financial services companies or governmental entities. During his 40 years of trial experience, John has tried more than 70 cases to decision, the majority by jury verdict. He has represented clients in federal and state courts, the Ohio Court of Claims and before arbitration panels.

About Ice Miller LLP

Ice Miller LLP is a full service law firm dedicated to helping our clients stay ahead of a changing world. With over 340 legal professionals in seven offices, we advise clients on all aspects of complex business issues across more than 20 practice areas. Our clients include emerging growth companies, FORTUNE 500 corporations, municipal entities and nonprofits. Learn more about Ice Miller and our client commitments.

This press release is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

Know your rights: Getting your security deposit back when apartment plans fall through

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Imagine finding a new place to live, putting down a deposit, and then when you’re ready to move in, it’s no longer yours.

When Ms. E. found an apartment complex she wanted to live in, she filled out an application, took a tour and paid the security deposit. So, imagine her surprise when she was told the unit she wanted was no longer available.

“First it was, oh, I never made my deposit, then his own paperwork shows I made my deposit, then secondly, it was, oh there’s some confusion with the names being similar,” Loving said. “Well, even with that name case, I’m here for a two bedroom, never had an interest in a one bedroom. It’s not the same address, then it became, oh well, somebody came and made a deposit before you, well at this point, if that’s the case I want proof, nobody called me.”

Please note that our intake phone number is 614-241-2001

Watch the video and read the rest of the story at BetterCallJackson.com

LASC seeks relief for immigrant tenants living in apartments with extensive housing code violations

LASC seeks relief for immigrant tenants living in apartments with extensive housing code violations

The LASC Housing Unit has joined a lawsuit filed by City of Columbus against the Whispering Oaks Apartment Complex on the city’s northeast side that seeks relief for mostly immigrant tenants living in apartments with extensive housing code violations.  LASC became involved with eighteen of the tenant families in August of 2016, first helping the tenants write letters to the owners of the complex, requesting repairs, and then coordinating with Columbus City Code officers to make sure each of the properties was inspected.  Over 200 individual code violations were found, and the eighteen families began escrowing their rent in December.  In February, the City of Columbus filed a lawsuit in Environmental Court seeking court-ordered repairs.  LASC filed an Answer and Cross-claim on behalf of the eighteen families, asking that the complex be turned over to a receiver who would make the repairs, and asking for compensatory damages.  The litigation is ongoing. The tenants have now escrowed over $40,000 in rent money.

Whispering Oaks

Program to help tenants navigate eviction process

A new tenant-advocacy program soon will operate inside Franklin County Municipal Court, where a high number of filings make for the state’s busiest eviction docket.

About 19,000 evictions are filed here each year, far more than in the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas, advocates say.

The Legal Aid Society of Columbus is hoping that onsite access to legal help and resources will help curb the fallout and keep more low-income families from losing their rental homes.

“We’re really excited. It’s a very meaningful project,” said Thomas Weeks, the agency’s executive director. “We will have a Legal Aid staff person there whenever eviction court is in session, and we will also have pro bono attorneys.”

Legal Aid received grants from the Columbus Foundation, Ohio State Bar Foundation and PNC bank to create the program. It aims to begin in March.

 

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch

Education, Developmental Disabilities, and Basic Needs Supported through Columbus Foundation Grants

COLUMBUS, Ohio (January 11, 2017)—Grants recently approved by The Columbus Foundation will help 25 local nonprofits address a plethora of needs, from providing meals to seniors and fostering independence for those with disabilities, to helping high school seniors apply to college. The grants, totaling $762,990, were approved by the Foundation’s Governing Committee at its December meeting.

One of those grants will aid people during a particularly difficult time. A $60,000 grant, thanks in part to the R. Leo and Juanita Lee Prindle Fund of The Columbus Foundation, was awarded to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) to support the Tenant Advocacy Program (TAP) aimed at reducing evictions in Franklin County.

Originally formed in 1953 by a single attorney and an administrative assistant, LASC’s mission is to be “the voice of justice for families living in poverty or near poverty, the disabled, senior citizens, veterans, domestic abuse victims, and abused and neglected children.” This grant will help enable an onsite clinic at eviction court, providing a voice for those individuals and families who are often not represented when facing eviction.

With nearly 19,000 evictions filed in Franklin County each year, this growing issue affects the self-sustainability of some of central Ohio’s most vulnerable. The TAP clinic, staffed by an LASC housing attorney and supplemented by non-lawyer volunteers, will recruit, train, mentor, and support pro-bono attorneys and legal interns who agree to provide short-term, limited legal representation to tenants.

 

Read more here…

Bill lets collection firms tack fees onto Ohio student-loan debt

Even as state Attorney General Mike DeWine expressed concern in August about collection fees that can jack up the debt owed by former college students, a bill backed by his office was moving through the legislature to codify those fees.

Senate Bill 227, passed on Dec. 6, makes a variety of changes to how the attorney general’s office does business. Consumer advocates are questioning the one that says that, when the office hires a private law firm to collect delinquent debts, the fees paid to those firms “shall be fully recoverable from the party indebted” — tacked on to the principal, interest and late fees the debtor already owes, rather than deducted from it.

It puts no limit on how high the fees can be.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch

 

Veterans issues: Stand Down offers legal aid that can help vets land jobs, homes

In a convention hall packed with dozens of organizations offering homeless veterans free haircuts, medical and eye exams, a hot meal and even warm winter coats, the booth where attorneys dispense legal advice might not seem so enticing.

But clearing an ancient criminal conviction from your record, dealing with an unpaid debt that a creditor took to court or finally addressing a former landlord’s claim that you damaged an apartment can be the simple first steps toward landing a job or finding stable housing, said Dianna Howie, managing attorney of the pro bono section of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to realize by working with those connected to the military that it is not a guarantee that you have legal assistance just by virtue of being a veteran,” Howie said. “Veterans are a vulnerable population, but we understand that addressing that legal issue will impact their ability to have a stable life in so many ways.”

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch

Student debt can balloon with little notice

The former Ohio State student paid down her student loan to just $23.

By last year, when the Ohio attorney general’s office sued to recoup that 21-year-old debt, she owed $968.

Across Ohio every year, lawyers working for the attorney general sue thousands of college students with unpaid loans from one of the state’s public universities.

A Dispatch investigation of 114 cases filed in Franklin County found that some former Ohio State students have been wrongfully sued. Others, because of Ohio’s lax laws on notification of lawsuits, didn’t know they had been sued. For some, their debts date to President Richard Nixon’s first term. With compounding interest and fees assessed on top of other fees, some of these borrowers now owe as much as five times the original principal.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said Friday that, because of the newspaper’s findings, he will convene a citizens’ group within 10 days to examine how universities and his office handle student loans. The group will be asked to recommend any needed changes.

Read more at The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio sued over student-loan collection fees

Bill collectors and law firms working for the Ohio attorney general’s office are tacking unreasonably high charges onto the amounts they try to collect from people with long-overdue student loans, according to lawsuits filed by the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

One man said he doesn’t even remember taking out loans totaling $900 in the early 1970s, but the state wants to add more than $1,500 in collection costs to the $2,368 he owes in principal, interest and late fees.

The society has filed lawsuits on behalf of four people who were sued by Ohio State University last year. According to Legal Aid lawyer Scott Torguson, a law firm hired by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office to sue for judgments against the four violated state and federal laws by demanding excessive collection costs.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

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.

Tenants Move Out as Eviction Deadline Arrives

Some residents of the Bryden House apartments on the Near East Side milled inside, while others crammed belongings into cars. Still others questioned why they were being forced out by Sunday, despite assurances from lawyers that they have rights.

In December, dozens of tenants — many elderly and some disabled and using federal Section 8 housing vouchers to help pay their rent — were told they needed to be out by Jan. 31. The building, at 1555 Bryden Road, has 152 units.

Attorneys with the Legal Aid Society questioned the evictions in the middle of winter but acknowledged their legality.

On Sunday afternoon, stacks of fliers offering housing options and legal advice were left inside the lobby. They were later found ripped in half and scattered.

Tom Kramer, who suffers breathing problems, had, until recently, been receiving $497 monthly in housing assistance from Columbus Area, Inc.

That stopped without explanation. So on Sunday, he was loading a truck with his belongings, including bedding and a television. The agency said it had found new housing for him.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Some Evicted from Bryden House Offered Homes

Rental property managers and others have offered homes to residents of the Bryden House apartments who were told by management that they need to be out of the building by this weekend.

Meanwhile, Ben Horne, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, talked on Tuesday to a lawyer representing the apartments’ management company. Horne wants to connect tenants who need help with organizations that have offered assistance, and go through the Near East Side building apartment by apartment to find them.

In December, an unknown number of tenants — most of them elderly and some disabled and using federal Section 8 housing vouchers to help pay their rent — received notices that they needed to be out by Jan. 31. The building, at 1555 Bryden Road, has 152 units.

Horne said that the management can legally do that, but he questioned the timing — in the dead of winter — and wondered why the company didn’t give tenants more time to find housing.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Elderly Tenants Evicted from Near East Side Apartments without Explanation

The owner of the Bryden House apartmentson Columbus’ Near East Side is ending the leases of a number of elderly, low-income tenants, leaving many wondering why and struggling to find a place to live in the dead of winter.

The residents started receiving terse notices in December that they needed to be out by Jan. 31. There was no explanation.

“I was shocked,” said Gregory Pritchard, 59, who has spinal problems and has lived there five years. He fears that if he can’t find somewhere else to live by the end of the month, he’ll be forced to go to a shelter.

The short notice concerns Ben Horne, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. He believes that though the move is legal, the owner didn’t allow enough time to find new housing.

He’d like management to give residents, many of whom are elderly or disabled, more time to locate an apartment.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Somali immigrants fight for improvements to North Side apartments

Cockroaches and mice scurry across the carpeted floor where Luul Botan’s three young children play.

The bathroom and kitchen faucets leak a steady stream of water. Some of the kitchen cabinets are broken. The drawers stick. And the front door doesn’t close easily, leaving the 32-year-old mother fearful that someone might break into their North Side apartment at night.

“The conditions are horrible, and the management at Capital Park apartments doesn’t care how bad it gets,” she said last week through a Somali interpreter.

Botan said she fears that her children, who are 5 years, 1 year and 4 months old, are being sickened by the insects and mouse droppings. She said she asked the manager five times to replace a missing screen in the living-room window of her second-floor apartment in the complex on Agler Road.

“I’m so afraid my daughter will fall out when she runs over to watch children playing outside. It’s so dangerous,” she said.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Summary of Voluntary Compliance Agreement

On August 11, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” requiring federally-assisted programs, such as housing authorities, to draft and implement language access plans that would assure that individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) would have meaningful access to their programs.  On January 22, 2007, HUD released its Final LEP Guidance, setting forth its expectations of what steps would be required to be in compliance with 13166.

In response to this, in the summer of 2009, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority drafted a Language Access Plan, promising to translate all vital documents into Spanish and Somali. The Plan promised voicemail options in Spanish and Somali, and called for the Plan to be published on its website.  These steps were to be completed by October, 2009. 

Settlement Reached in Homewood v. McCarthy

Settlement Reached in Homewood v. McCarthy

Settlement Reached in Homewood v. McCarthy reinstating benefits for over 180,000 Ohio Medicaid Recipients and Overhauling Renewal Process

The Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and Marshall & Morrow reached a settlement agreement with the Ohio Department of Medicaid on May 11, 2015. The agreement brings Ohio’s Medicaid renewal process into compliance with federal law and results in the reinstatement of Medicaid coverage for all beneficiaries across Ohio who lost coverage between January 1, 2015 and March 31, 2015 as a result of the flawed renewal process. The agreement also reinstates coverage for the individual Plaintiffs and members of the two organizational plaintiffs, Community Development for All People and Community Refugee and Immigration Services, who lost Medicaid coverage as a result of Ohio’s Medicaid renewal process. 

New Rules Troubling Advocates

The state says it is making changes to its Medicaid program specifically for low-income people with disabilities to simplify the process and make more Ohioans qualify for health coverage.

But advocates say thousands of needy residents will be left without a safety net — when the state no longer allows older adults and people with disabilities to “spend down” their excess income so they can qualify for Medicaid.

“Everybody is for expanding health-care efficiency and lowering unnecessary spending,” said Cathy Levine, executive director of Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, which helps the poor secure coverage.

“But to pull the rug out from under some of our most-vulnerable citizens just defies the imagination.”

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

ADAMH Clients Make Good Use of Legal Services

It was great to see the Oct. 6 Dispatch endorsement of Issue 14, the ADAMH Renewal levy. The Legal Aid Society of Columbus has been fortunate to have a partnership with the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County over the past few years to provide legal services to low-income residents of Franklin County. This has given us insight into the fine work of ADAMH and the tremendous needs it addresses.

Studies in the past 20 years have shown a link between mental illness and poverty as a part of a complex negative cycle. Living in poverty increases an individual’s risk of mental illness and mental illness increases the chance an individual will end up poor.

We applaud ADAMH for recognizing that the needs of those who are mentally ill go beyond medication and therapy, and for helping Legal Aid stabilize the living situations of low-income individuals who are mentally ill or who have substance-abuse disorders.

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio Fees for Debt Collection Questioned

John Kasich has argued forcefully that politicians have a duty to help the poor. He’s even been praised by some on the left who see him as a more compassionate voice of his party, largely because of his cooperation with the Obama administration in expanding Medicaid in his state.

Kasich’s compassion, though, has always been tempered with a kind of discipline. First as Ohio’s congressman and now as its governor, he advocated requiring the poor to work or take classes in order to get help from the government. Far fewer American families are on the rolls because of Kasich. From the conservative point of view, his policies encouraged more people to support themselves. Liberal opponents of his approach worry that some families simply have nothing as a result of the reforms.

Kasich, now a Republican candidate for president, was one of the sponsors of the legislation that reformed federal welfare policy in 1996. The law combined with a healthy economy to decrease the national cash-assistance caseload by about 20 percent, an unprecedented change.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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