Pro Bono News

Study: Low-Income Oregonians Are Not Receiving Necessary Legal Aid (OR)

Friday, March 01, 2019

Study: Low-Income Oregonians Are Not Receiving Necessary Legal Aid

"A new study released by Oregon’s Access to Justice Coalition, surveyed low-income Oregonians’ access to legal aid in civil cases.

It found that Oregon is meeting only about 16 percent of the need for low-income civil legal aid services.

Civil cases involve any issues that are not criminal in nature, for example, issues with an employer or landlord.

“Everyone knows from watching police dramas on television the Miranda warning with the line that says, ‘You have the right to an attorney,’ but that’s only talking about criminal cases,” said Bill Penn, assistant director of the legal services program at the Oregon State Bar and assistant director of the Oregon Law Foundation.

“With [civil] cases, you don’t have a right to an attorney and if you can’t find one that you can afford, you’re likely going through the process on your own,” he said.

Legal aid offices are designed to provide free lawyers to low-income individuals who are eligible, Penn said.

Those are people who make up to 125 percent of the federal poverty index.

“For a family of four, that’s just $31,373 a year, so super low income,” Penn said.

The study, conducted by Portland State University, revealed that about 84 percent of the people surveyed who had legal issues did not receive legal help of any kind.

This is due to a lack of funding for legal aid offices and a limited amount of legal aid attorneys, Penn said..."

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