Northampton County Bar Association Contributes $60,000 to NPLS
At least 150 low-income individuals with civil legal needs will get the help they need thanks to a $60,000 gift from the Northampton County Bar Association to North Penn Legal Services. 2016 marks the fourth consecutive year that the NCBA membership has demonstrated its belief in the importance of civil legal aid in Northampton County by funding a full time staff attorney at NPLS. The attorney funded by this major gift will focus on a wide variety of legal issues affecting low-income people. In fact, over a four-year period – 2013-2016, the Northampton County Bar Association has donated $237,500 to NPLS.
“The barrier of access to justice just got smaller thanks to the generosity of the Northampton County Bar Association,” said NPLS Executive Director Victoria A. Coyle. “In this environment, a decision to say 'yes' to legal aid is an affirmation of the work NPLS does on behalf of low-income people in our community.
“We are proud to support North Penn Legal Services because it fills a need in our community, said Northampton County Bar Association President Alyssa Lopiano-Reilly. “Civil legal aid is vital to helping people protect their families, their health, and their livelihoods, and to ensuring fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have.”
When the community partners with NPLS, we can have a direct impact on people’s livelihood. One example is a recent client named Jennifer. Jennifer, a mother of three, lost her job and was at risk of eviction. By the time she contacted NPLS, the back rent she owed to a local housing authority totaled $5,000. The legal aid attorney, funded by the Northampton County Bar Association, discovered that Jennifer was in need of mental health services to help her cope with the loss of her job and possible eviction. Once our attorney reached out to a local mental health provider, Jennifer started treatment and was able to work through her legal issues with the help of NPLS. Fortunately, Jennifer qualified for a grant from the mental health provider to pay her back rent. However, our attorney had also arranged a payment plan prior to receiving the grant money just as a precaution. The grant money was secured and full payment of Jennifer’s back rent was paid. Today, Jennifer has obtained a new job and her kids are all in school doing well.
As Jennifer’s story demonstrates, many clients need a lawyer to help them navigate the justice system. The law prevents anyone but an attorney from giving legal advice, so this is critical. Something as simple as properly filing documents with the court helps streamline the flow of cases on the docket, preventing backlogs and problems with paperwork. This saves each client the stress of appearing in court without specialized training and saves judges the frustration of wanting to see people get a fair day in court without a working knowledge of the ins and outs of the civil legal system. Thanks to the generous contribution by the Northampton County Bar Association, more clients like Jennifer will be able to get the assistance they need.
North Penn Legal Services, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, provides free civil legal assistance to low-income families, individuals, and groups in Northeastern Pennsylvania and equal access to justice for all. Services include individual representation (ranging from document preparation to litigation), information, referral and advice through a telephone helpline, community legal education, and support for those clients who will be taking responsibility for handling some or all aspects of their own problem.