Pro Bono News

Justice for Some

Monday, July 01, 2019

Justice for Some

"CAROL AND HER HUSBAND, RICHARD, live in Erie County, New York. Today their life together has the type of calm that many people imagine for themselves in retirement. They talk regularly with friends, go to the movies when there’s a new showing, and walk their dog every night before dinner.

But it wasn’t until recently—during a routine hospital screening—that a caseworker learned there was more to the couple’s story. For more than a decade, Richard and Carol had been victims of elder abuse.

Using an app called Legal Risk Detector that screens seniors for potential legal issues, the caseworker learned that Carol’s situation was very high-risk. She “felt unsafe at home,” “was afraid of someone,” and “had been verbally threatened,” according to the assessment.

It came to light that for many years Carol and Richard had been housing Carol’s adult granddaughter, who refused to pay rent or other expenses and often left her newborn daughter in Carol’s care for hours, even days at a time without advance notice. The few times Carol and Richard protested, the granddaughter threatened them verbally—and once even resorted to physical violence.

That’s when Carol learned there were legal options for people in situations like this one. “We didn’t know where to turn,” she says.

Today in the United States, millions of people like Carol lack access to basic legal resources for a variety of reasons. They forgo legal action because they find the system too overwhelming, for example, or because they perceive it to be too expensive. Many simply do not know when they qualify for legal services in the first place. And it isn’t an issue that affects only the elderly. Middle-class Americans, recent college graduates, first-generation immigrants, and new parents can all experience barriers to accessing the legal resources they need.

This issue affects lawyers, too..."

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