CONTACT: Kenneth A. Brown, OSBA, 800-282-6556 or 614-487-4426
Columbus, OHIO (Dec. 19, 2013) – Seven law school graduates work on urgent issues facing individuals and families throughout Ohio as part of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Equal Justice Works fellowship. The fellows, who work in legal aid societies across the state, will focus on delivering civil legal aid to individuals in need.
“Our organization is rooted in the belief that all individuals should have access to justice regardless of their income,” Angela M. Lloyd, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s executive director, said. “These fellows will help deliver on that promise by addressing the unmet civil legal needs of some of Ohio’s most underserved populations.”
“These fellowships not only allow recent law school graduates to gain hands-on experience in the field, but also to gain awareness of the need for pro bono legal services in our state,” Jonathan Hollingsworth, Ohio State Bar Association president, said.
Kimberly Adams, a graduate of Wayne State University Law School, works at Community Legal Aid Services in Akron, a non-profit provider of legal services for low-income and senior Ohioans in central northeast Ohio. As a military veteran, her project aims to bring together attorneys, service providers, veterans, and the community-at-large to identify the needs of veterans and develop strategies to meet those needs. “Veterans can face difficulties responding to challenges and asking for help,” Adams said. “My project will implement a personalized approach to gain the trust of those we serve and help empower them to build a foundation that provides positive avenues for growth and success.”
Matthew Barnes, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, conducts his project at Pro Seniors, a non-profit organization that provides free legal and long-term care help to older adults. Barnes will work to raise awareness among seniors about the public benefits available to them and to increase the number of seniors maximizing these benefits. “Many public benefits available to seniors are significantly underutilized, placing a strain on vulnerable members of society, their families and their communities,” Barnes said. “My goal is to help more seniors access the public benefits they are entitled to receive. Improving access to public benefits will increase seniors’ independence and improve their well-being.”
Katherine Holley, a graduate of the Indiana Maurer School of Law, focuses on a project at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, a non-profit organization driven to resolve legal problems of low-income people, promote economic and family stability, and reduce poverty through effective legal assistance. She hopes to improve the quality of the services provided by county job and family services offices. “With the high volume of new food stamp recipients in Ohio and significant job and family services funding cuts, many counties have experienced significant backlogs and delays, higher incidences of lost or delayed paperwork, improper recertification and general misapplication of eligibility rules,” she said. “The goal of the project is to improve the timely and accurate processing of benefits for eligible individuals across our seven-county service area. We also plan to investigate the systemic issues causing large drops in the number of Ohioans receiving Ohio Works First cash benefits.”
Kathleen Kersh, a graduate of the University of Michigan, serves as a fellow at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc., in Dayton, Ohio, a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio. Through her Equal Justice Works project, Kersh hopes to empower those immigrant victims of exploitation and violence who live without justice because of their fear of coming forward. “My work centers on promoting a trusting relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities through policy work, community education and legal representation,” Kersh said.
Melissa Baker Linville, a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, conducts her work with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of and empower low-income central Ohio residents by providing high-quality legal representation to meet clients’ civil legal needs. Her Equal Justice Works project will expand the existing Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project, and she will represent clients directly in bankruptcy proceedings as a member of a consumer team. “The need for bankruptcy programming is quite evident from the drastic influx of bankruptcy clients who have recently overwhelmed LASC,” Linville said. “Increased collaboration among service providers coupled with effective programming and targeted litigation could drastically alter the current climate in which the debtor often loses.”
Danielle Gadomski Littleton, a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, serves at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, a non-profit organization providing free legal services to low-income people in northeast Ohio. Her project aims to provide comprehensive civil legal services to youth in foster care and those who have recently “aged out” of the system. “Youth aging out of foster care face enormous hurdles in accessing housing and other resources,” Littleton said. “Because lack of housing and resources often keep youth from accessing legal services, I work closely and creatively with community partners and the youth themselves to promote knowledge of legal rights and access to services.”
Sara Wheeler, a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, is working with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, a non-profit organization providing free legal services to low-income people in southeast Ohio. Her Equal Justice Works project provides holistic, civil legal services to children involved in the juvenile court system. “Children in the juvenile justice system often have a range of other issues that are causing or exacerbating their juvenile court involvement,” Wheeler said. “By addressing educational issues and other legal problems causing additional stress for the family, my project seeks to promote family stability and improve children’s chances of getting out of the juvenile justice system sooner and staying out for good.”
Equal Justice Works is a national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills to help attorneys provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes.
Since 1999, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation has supported Equal Justice Works fellows who have delivered critically-needed civil legal aid to sustain housing and prevent homelessness; to ensure economic stability; to keep kids healthy and in school; and to serve Ohio’s veterans. More than 80 percent of the fellows funded by the Foundation remain engaged in public interest roles today, working in the nonprofit sector, for the government and for legal aid societies around the state.
The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.