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Oklahoma Lawyers Making Equal Justice for all a Reality

In the Loop with Legal Aid April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

  • By: Christa Figgins
  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

 

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO)
April, 2013
 
 
 
 
A Monthly E-Newsletter Connecting Oklahomans with What's New at LASO
 
 
"Nothing makes a man broad-minded like adversity."
-- Will Rogers
 
 
What is LASO?
 
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) is a 501 (c) (3) organization that provides free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income individuals and their families and to the elderly. This service is provided through its law offices that are strategically-located throughout the state so that they can serve clients in every county. These Law Offices are in Ardmore, Bartlesville, Guymon, Hugo, Lawton, Muskogee, Norman, Oklahoma City, Stillwater, Tulsa and Weatherford. There are smaller satellite offices in Ada, Altus, Chickasha, Duncan, Enid, Jay, McAlester, Poteau, Shawnee, Stilwell, and Woodward. The administrative office is in Oklahoma City.
 
Our mission? To be a partner in the community making equal justice for all a reality.
 
To help handle the demand, hundreds of private Oklahoma attorneys volunteer their time and expertise to Legal Aid. Sometimes they teach in our legal clinics, but most often they advise clients and help them fill out legal forms, or they take on simple cases for full representation. In 2012, 292 private attorneys statewide handled at least one Legal Aid case, and a total of 1074 pro bono cases were closed.
 
In 2012 the LASO legal staff and pro bono attorneys closed 10,357 cases statewide. The biggest demand for the services of LASO is for family law, including cases involving domestic violence. Children are the biggest benefactors as LASO strives to stabilize their families through the issues of custody, child support, and divorce. LASO also represents the elderly seeking social security or other public benefits or in helping the elderly resolve the issues of guardianship. LASO helps individuals faced with losing their housing through evictions or mortgage foreclosures and with cases involving Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care problems, helping them gain the benefits for which they qualify. 
Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention and Defense Training
 
LASO and the Office of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are proud to present FREE Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention and Defense Trainings.
 
The trainings will be conducted by nationally  known mortgage foreclosure and defense attorney April C. Charney.  
 
The two-day trainings will be held in:
 
Tulsa on May 13th & 14th, at OSU- Tulsa,
700 N. Greenwood, North Hall
 
Oklahoma City on May 15th & 16th at the Oklahoma Bar Center.
 
To view the Training Agenda, April's biography, or to register online to attend one of the trainings, please click here.
 
Welcome to LASO's Enewsletter
We are happy you are "In the Loop"
 
Welcome to LASO's monthly "In the Loop" E-newsletter!  We know you get a lot of email, so all of us here at LASO will strive to include information each month on LASO News, Pro Bono Information, and other stories that will be of use and interest to our readers.  Please keep reading and learn how LASO is helping Oklahomans every day.
 
LASO's 4th "Make a Will" Workshop
April 20th event helped over 100 clients with testamentary documents
 
Make a Will Workshop Volunteers
Volunteers Michelle Gremmel and Leah Agers help at the 4th "Make a Will" Workshop.
 
LASO's 4th "Make A Will" workshop was held on Saturday, April 20th at the Springlake Campus of the Metro Technology Center.  
 
Appointments to draft testamentary documents were set for 111 clients. Over 25 pro bono attorneys volunteered for the event, as well as law students from OU and OCU.  Legal professionals produced all documents, and the Senior Law Resource Center completed Advance Directives. In addition, volunteers staffed information booths to provide Home Foreclosure avoidance information, as well as information on how to prevent scams against elderly Oklahomans, including zombie debts.  Five financial professionals also volunteered their time to help clients with budgeting and offer basic financial advice.    
 
Many thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make the day so successful and beneficial for so many low-income Oklahomans!
 
 
Your Contributions Make a Difference
LASO Client Story
 
Roberta* became delinquent in her rent for her apartment and was sued by her apartment complex.  Roberta was able to bring her rent current and received receipts from her apartment complex manager showing she had paid the overdue amount.  Roberta was told by the manager that her payments had resolved the issue and that she did not need to attend the upcoming court hearing on the matter.  Roberta believed the issue resolved.   However, the apartment complex did not dismiss the case against Roberta, the court hearing proceeded, and a judgment was entered against Roberta.
 
Many months later, Roberta received a notice of garnishment of her wages from her employer.  The garnishor was Roberta's apartment complex.  When Roberta tried to contact the apartment manager, who was new to the position, the manager avoided Roberta and said Roberta would have to contact the court to find out why her wages were being garnished.  When Roberta went to the court clerk’s office, she was told the garnishment was based on a judgment resulting from the case filed due to her rent delinquency.  Roberta came to LASO. 
 
Roberta filed her claim for exemption on the garnishment and it was set for hearing.  Roberta’s LASO attorney called the new manager in an attempt to settle the matter and had Roberta drop off copies of her receipts at the apartment manager’s office.  The new manager met with Roberta's LASO attorney, relating she had been told to file the garnishment by the owner and that the payment records showed Roberta was behind on rent, but that she could not understand them.  She said she would call the former apartment manager, who now lived out of state, to get an explanation.  A few minutes later the former apartment manager called LASO, but she also could not explain why Roberta was not credited with her repayments of the overdue amount from 2011. In reviewing the apartment payment records, Roberta’s LASO attorney noted that it appeared that various late fees, penalties, and miscalculations were involved in assessing Roberta with an overdue balance that was not valid.   Roberta’s LASO attorney attended the garnishment exemption hearing and produced the receipts for payment of the judgment amount.  Roberta’s apartment manager did not appear.  The court dismissed the garnishment. 
 
Your help makes it possible for LASO advocates to assist clients like Roberta avoid a potentially financially crippling and invalid garnishment.  Roberta's life is better because of your help.  Thank you!
 
*Name changed to protect identity.
 
April 2013 Feature Volunteer
Giselle Perryman
 
(This article, authored by LASO attorney Teresa Rendon, Esq., originally appeared in the Oklahoma County Bar Association's "Briefcase" and is used here with permission.) 
 
This month’s pro bono attorney is well known to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO), having been a volunteer legal assistant for the Farmworker Law Project 1991 to 1993 and then serving six years as LASO’s entitlements/benefits attorney. Currently, Gisele Perryman’s private practice focuses on social security disability, immigration, criminal misdemeanor defense and mediation.

A resident of Choctaw, Oklahoma, Gisele is the daughter of an American oil field worker and a Bolivian mother.  Growing up, Perryman lived all over Latin America, including Brazil, Columbia, Peru and Chile. That’s why it’s no surprise that she has acquired native fluency in Spanish and conversational ability in the Portuguese language. Gisele’s language abilities and expertise have been the keys to her success in her fourteen years of practicing law and have now been called upon to further her efforts as mediator.

So far, Gisele has mediated two Legal Aid family law cases in which the parties were Spanish-speakers. In each case, significant progress was made in narrowing down the issues and getting the parties to work together toward a satisfactory goal.  When asked how mediation could benefit the parties in a divorce case, Perryman observed, “Sometimes the parties just need to sit down and air their grievances and then get down to business of settling the case instead of having one or two days of trial. Not only are you saving the parties time and heartache, but you’re promoting judicial economy.”

To be part of the district court list of qualified mediators, 12 O.S. Sec. 1825 requires civil and commercial mediators to complete at least 24 hours of mediation training, observe a minimum of 2 mediation proceedings, and complete at least 6 hours of professional education every other year.  Divorce and family law mediators must have 40 hours of training in family and divorce mediation, conduct at least 12 hours of mediation for 3 separate families and have 6 hours of continuing education every other year.  Gisele has completed the training requirements for both types of mediation and is working on acquiring practical experience.  Her need of experience and Legal Aid’s need for bilingual mediators created a proverbial match made in heaven.

As a mediator, Gisele believes that she must direct the scope of mediation instead of just letting the parties wander all over the place, “I listen to them and let them tell me their side of the story. What is satisfying is getting them to agree to something and opening up lines of communication with each other. The hardest situation is when the parties are just not ready even if they have come in good faith.” When asked why she volunteered for Legal Aid, Gisele offered the following, “I get the satisfaction of helping someone who could not afford mediation. I would encourage all Oklahoma lawyers to try mediating, if they have the certification. It’s a great way to fulfill your ethical duty to render pro bono services without committing to representing a client in a protracted case.”

Way to go, Gisele, Legal Aid thanks you for your service!
 
 
Funders
LASO's work would not be possible without the assistance of the Legal Services Corporation, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, and the United Way.  Thank you! 
 
 
LSC logo  OBF logo United Way logo
 

 

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