What does access to justice mean?
Access to housing.
Ms. Williams, an elderly physically disabled woman, came to LAA when a bank foreclosed on her house and issued her an eviction notice. LAA was able to stop the eviction and arrange for the bank to sell the property to a buyer whom Ms. Williams had found. The buyer was willing to keep Ms. Williams as a tenant and even undertake renovation on the property that would make the house more accessible for her. As a result of LAA’s advocacy, Ms. Williams has achieved stability in her housing.
Access to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Mr. Soto worked as a dishwasher at a large restaurant. He was told that he was going to be paid $10, an hour, but he was only paid for half the time he worked. He worked sixty hours a week but was only paid for thirty-five hours, and never paid overtime. When Mr. Soto complained to the owner, he was fired. He then came to LAA. LAA sent a demand letter to the restaurant for the full amount of wages owed plus liquidated damages and also alleged retaliatory firing. The restaurant’s lawyer called and tried to negotiate away most of the value of the case. LAA, on Mr. Soto’s behalf, refused the offer; demanding the wages owed plus liquidated damages. The restaurant settled on those terms. As a result of LAA’s advocacy, Mr. Soto received what he was rightfully owed and the restaurant learned about the legal rights of workers.
Access to a stable source of income.
Jason is a 10-year old boy who has three different mental health diagnoses. He has a history of in-patient hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Jason’s mother applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on his behalf, but the applications were denied at the initial stages. In 2012, a hearing was held and LAA represented Jason. The judge granted SSI benefits, finding that the combination of Jason’s conditions functionally equals a disability. The additional income for this family is critical because it allows his mother to stay home with him at least part of the time.
Access to medical care.
Mr. Martin is a 27 year old blind individual who submitted his Medicid redetermination papers on time to his worker before the deadline, not once but twice. Nevertheless, he was terminated from Medicaid and lost access to both therapy and medical transportation, in a written notice which declared that he had failed to cooperate. After an LAA attorney intervened, DSS conducted an interview of client over the phone and immediately reinstated him. He is now back in treatment.
Access to a stable home life.
Joshua was removed from his parents’ care because of their substance abuse and domestic violence and was placed with his grandmother while the case progressed in court. His grandmother lived in a three bedroom apartment with her two adult children. Though she wanted to move into a larger apartment to accommodate Joshua, she could not afford such a move without receiving funds from DCF by way of a subsidized transfer of guardianship (STOG). Before getting a STOG, Joshua’s grandmother would need to be licensed as a foster parent through DCF and Joshua would have to be committed for 6 months. LAA assisted his grandmother with obtaining a waiver to become a foster parent due to the space concerns in her current apartment. With LAA’s help, the grandmother was licensed and took guardianship of Joshua and an STOG was completed earlier this year, allowing the family to move to more spacious lodgings and to avoid any further disruption in Joshua’s life.
Access to safety and self-sufficiency.
Ms. Perez grew up in a violent and abusive household in Ecuador. She left her home and came to the United States with the hope of finding a better life. She began dating her boss at the meat-packing plant where she worked and she agreed to marry him. Ms. Perez’S husband, an American citizen, soon became abusive. He made her kneel before him and put on his socks and shoes, grabbing her and telling her that “this was her work.” He kept Ms. Perez in a constant state of fear by routinely threatening to call Immigration so that she could be taken away and by describing to her in horrific detail the painful ways he would kill her. It was only when Ms. Perez realized that her husband had been sexually abusing her young daughter that Ms. Perez took immediate action. She reported her husband, now convicted, to the police, moved into a shelter, and with the help of LAA, she obtained protective orders for herself and her daughter. LAA helped her file for legal status under both the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), which allows male and female victims of domestic abuse to self-petition for legal status in place of their legalized spouse and under the U Visa, which allows victims of and witnesses of crimes to obtain legal status. Under the U Visa, she was granted both legal status and a work permit.
Access to education.
Billy is a 12-year-old who was referred to LAA by the juvenile court after several incidents in the community. Because of these incidents, Billy was also recommended for expulsion from school. LAA represented Billy at the expulsion hearing and negotiated a withdrawal of the expulsion pending a referral to special education. LAA represented Billy’s mother in the special education process in which Billy was ultimately determined to be eligible for special education. Billy was placed in a smaller clinical day school to help address his emotional and academic needs. Meanwhile, Billy’s mother received an eviction notice from her landlord. LAA represented Billy’s mother in the eviction case and was able to get the case dismissed. This case demonstrates how LAA is able to take a “full client” approach. LAA helped to keep Billy in school with appropriate support and services while also ensuring that his family was able to maintain its housing.
New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc.
426 State Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06510-2018
Phone: 203-946-4811 | Fax: 203-498-9271