News Release — Legal Services Law Line of Vermont
October 26, 2016
Sam Abel-Palmer, Interim Executive Director
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont
802.383.2213, [email protected]
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont (Law Line) has received a two-year $246,034 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from the Legal Services Corporation to organize and manage clinics that focus on housing and debt collection cases in several counties. The grant provides an important opportunity for Vermonters who usually have to represent themselves in court against opponents who are represented by attorneys.
Court statistics show that more than 85% of tenants facing eviction are unrepresented, while almost 90% of landlords have attorneys. For consumer debt collection cases, most defendants are often unable to represent themselves effectively against attorneys who try hundreds of cases every year.
Because affordable housing is so scarce in Vermont, preventing evictions has been an important priority for Law Line for years. Working with the Civil Division court, Law Line has already piloted a clinic that provides volunteer attorneys for tenants facing eviction in Chittenden County. This grant will enable Law Line to replicate the clinic in three more counties in Vermont and pilot a new clinic to provide representation to consumers in debt collection cases. These clinics could have profound long-term effects on clients’ housing and income.
“The whole state of Vermont benefits when more Vermonters live in safe, healthy, and stable housing,” said Sam Abel-Palmer, Law Line’s interim executive director. “Children perform better in school, and families require fewer emergency health services. We look forward to being able to expand the successful housing clinic we’ve developed in Chittenden County to strengthen individuals and their communities in other counties. And we’re excited to have the opportunity to develop a new clinic focused on those whose lives and, in some cases, ability to earn a living are being impacted by unscrupulous debt collection practices.”
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy applauded the grant. “For two decades, Law Line of Vermont has provided critical legal services to low-income Vermonters,” Leahy said. “This grant will enable Law Line to expand those services to defendants in eviction cases who might otherwise not be represented. No one should face the loss of housing without an understanding of their legal rights. But another benefit of this grant is that it will also provide training for volunteer attorneys who are dedicated to pro bono work. I congratulate Law Line for delivering this important public service, and LSC for helping to make that happen.”
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont (Law Line) is a non-profit law firm that provides free legal consultation, advice and community education by telephone for low-income Vermonters throughout the state. Established in 1996, Law Line is supported by grants from the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C. To find out if you qualify for free legal help, call Vermont Law Help at 1-800-889-2047.