Pro Bono News

Atlanta Legal Aid Takes on New Foe: Homeowner Tax Hikes (GA)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Atlanta Legal Aid Takes On New Foe: Homeowner Tax Hikes

"The sharp hike in Fulton County property value appraisals and tax assessments, which in some cases doubled, sparked an unprecedented 42,000-plus appeals last month—including dozens from low-income clients of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society who can’t afford a larger tax bill.

Legal Aid was able to help them, thanks to an army of volunteer lawyers coordinated by Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, who heads its two-year old pro bono unit.

The property tax aid initiative is the most ambitious example of Legal Aid’s expansion into limited scope pro bono projects after a major $421,000 grant from the Legal Services Corp. in 2016 allowed it to create the dedicated pro bono unit.
“We were really lucky to have Laurie and the pro bono unit come in and help us,” said Stacy Reynolds, a staff attorney for the group’s Senior Citizens Law Project. “It was an enormous project because it affects all the homeowners in Fulton County.”

Rashidi-Yazd became the new unit’s director after heading Legal Aid’s Grandparent Adoption Project. She was tasked with identifying and facilitating nontraditional pro bono projects, which led to the tax appeal clinic.

Atlanta Legal Aid has always relied on volunteer lawyers, but traditionally they would take on an entire case for a client, said Kristin Verrill, the director of grants and innovation. “They never know if it will take five or 10 hours—or if it will take 50,” she said.
Offering limited scope pro bono opportunities, which are time-limited and easier on lawyers’ schedules, means Atlanta Legal Aid can expand its volunteer lawyer corps and help more clients in high-impact cases, Verrill said..."

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