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Law Day highlights financial limitations


Law Day highlights financial limitations
Speaker: Not enough legal help for the poor

The following article appeared Saturday, May 5, 2012 in The News-Messenger. Read below, or view on thenews-messenger.com.

Local attorneys and judges gathered Friday at Fremont Country Club to celebrate Law Day, an annual event established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.

The keynote speaker at the Sandusky County Bar Association event at Fremont Country Club was Joseph Tafelski, director of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, or ABLE. The nonprofit agency partners with Legal Aid of Western Ohio to provide legal assistance to low-income residents, something Tafelski said is greatly needed in the region.

Law Day highlights financial limitations
Speaker: Not enough legal help for the poor

The following article appeared Saturday, May 5, 2012 in The News-Messenger. Read below, or view on thenews-messenger.com.

Local attorneys and judges gathered Friday at Fremont Country Club to celebrate Law Day, an annual event established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.

The keynote speaker at the Sandusky County Bar Association event at Fremont Country Club was Joseph Tafelski, director of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, or ABLE. The nonprofit agency partners with Legal Aid of Western Ohio to provide legal assistance to low-income residents, something Tafelski said is greatly needed in the region.

He said court-appointed attorneys are available for criminal defendants, but are not offered in civil or domestic relations cases. Tafelski said many low-income residents face issues such as denial of health care, exploitation of mental illnesses and domestic violence.

"All of those situations can be like a prison," Tafelski said.

He said the organization has seen a sharp increase in poverty and an associated increase in demand for ABLE's services, but has seen severe cuts to funding at the same time. As an example, Tafelski said, the organization's Fremont office once housed five attorneys. Now, he said, there are two.

"We are trying to use the combination of innovation and technology to make up for that decline in resources," he said.

Tafelski said new partnerships and revenue streams need to be pursued to fund the problem, and suggested court-appointed attorneys be considered for non-criminal cases.

"If there are no attorneys for the poor, doesn't that really mean there are no courts, no justice and no freedom?" he asked.

The national event, established this year by proclamation from President Barack Obama, had a theme of "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom."

The president asked citizens to reflect on the role legal and judicial professionals play in democracy.

"Our courts are the guarantors of civil justice, social order and public safety, and we must do everything we can to enable their critical work," Obama said. "The courthouse doors must be open and the necessary services must be in place to allow all litigants, judges and juries to operate efficiently. Likewise, we must ensure that access to justice is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment that delivers the promise of counsel and assistance for all who seek it."

During the event in Fremont, the county bar association presented its 2012 Liberty Bell Award to Glenn Rees, a court-appointed special advocate for children.

Five law school students received the association's Mary Brady Scholarship Award: Jeremy Troxel, of Fremont; Taylor Knight, of Lindsey; Jonathan Winters, of Fremont; Lucas Didion, of University Heights; and David Albrechta, of Fremont. All plan to graduate this month.