Kevin Duffy“The legal profession was good to me, and I am glad to be giving back in some small measure.”

Since he joined the Volunteer Resource Center in 2011, Kevin Duffy has been good to LASC. Kevin has faithfully donated his free time for the past four years, occupying weekly shifts with the Volunteer Resource Center, where he screens landlord-tenant, unemployment compensation, and consumer debt cases for potential pro bono referral. For his many years and hundreds of donated hours, he serves as an excellent example of how retired attorneys can still give back to the legal community.

After completing his undergraduate studies at Cuyahoga Community College and The Ohio State University, Kevin attended Cleveland State Law School. While there, he worked for Cleveland Legal Aid and used his legal intern certificate to represent low-income clients. He learned a lesson that summer that has carried through his volunteer career: when compared to the seemingly insurmountable pile of challenges facing them, legal issues were often the least of his low-income clients’ worries.

He was then drafted into the Army in 1969, and after moving to Columbus, he spent seven years as an Assistant AG at the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, handling public utilities and PUCO regulatory law. Soon thereafter, he joined AEP, where he would become the head of its regulatory utility practice group. After 27 years with AEP, Kevin retired in 2010, and like many others, he was approached by Sally Bloomfield, who wasted no time by recruiting him for the VRC at his retirement reception. Kevin paid it forward by drawing in two recently retired colleagues—Ann Graf and David Cohen—both of whom joined the inaugural in-house VRC group that year.

Kevin finds VRC volunteering fulfilling. Although he has spoken to hundreds of tenants, he recalls one case in particular in which an elderly woman caring for four disabled children was facing eviction from her rental unit. The property had been cited for twenty code violations—many of them horrendous and potentially hazardous to the children, including a hole in the porch through which she had fallen, feces in the basement, and exposed electrical wires. Through the efforts of Kevin and the other VRC volunteers, the client was matched with a pro bono attorney who negotiated a favorable resolution for her family.

Although the regular schedule during daytime hours is ideal for retired attorneys and paralegals, Kevin also believes that serving on one of the VRC referral panels can be a fulfilling experience. In particular, he thinks new attorneys could greatly benefit from taking VRC cases, particularly those attorneys working at firms where they might not have a great deal of court time or the opportunity to argue in front of a judge or magistrate. “Because we screen the cases for merit, the experience is generally positive, and the pro bono attorneys often achieve favorable results for their clients.” Kevin has been pleased to see growth in the program, with the VRC adding rent escrow cases and focusing on motions to prohibit re-rental in 2015.

Now inactive, Kevin still brings a great deal to the VRC, including his expertly worded case descriptions and a calm demeanor that gently guides clients through their chaotic narratives. Bogged down by fear of homelessness and the stress of litigation, many VRC clients struggle to tell their stories, fearful of the implications of their answers or potential weaknesses in their cases. During his interviews, Kevin exhibits a remarkable ability to de-escalate while obtaining clear and concise information necessary to determine whether the case is meritorious. Most importantly, he is kind and generous with his time.

A writer at heart, Kevin is a member of the Columbus Creative Cooperative, which has published one of his stories in Best Ohio Short Stories: Volume One. When he is not volunteering at the VRC or a food pantry, he also enjoys traveling and spending time with his children (including Franklin County Probate Magistrate Maureen Duffy) and his five grandchildren.

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