14th Annual Trial Run 5K

Trial Run logo

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Struble Trail | Downingtown, PA | 8 a.m.

Run to support free civil legal aid!

Registration fee is $10 before June 1, and $15 afterward and on race day. Online registration is at https://trialrun5k.itsyourrace.com/register/. The race is at Struble Trail in Downingtown.
Staging area is at Pennsylvania Avenue park entrance, across from Planet Fitness. Race starts at 8 a.m.
Sponsorships are available at http://trialrun5k.lasp.org/sponsors/! For more information, please contact Brian Doyle at 610-436-4510 x211 or bdoyle@lasp.org.

Delaware County news

Our Chester City office has moved, but only 1 block!

LASP's Chester City office moved in April, from 410 Welsh Street to 419 Avenue of States, just a block away. The office phone number remains the same, 610-874-8421.


New! Online application available!

Access to LASP's free civil legal services just got easier!

New: Online application

Beginning immediately, people who need LASP's services can apply using a secure online portal. The online application is available 24 hours a day and works with a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
To use the new online application:
  • • Go to lasp.org and click Online Assistance to be directed to the secure site. OR visit http://lasp.org/apply-here.
  • • Enter basic information about your legal problem and follow the prompts.
  • • Applicants need either an email address or phone number to use the system.
  • • People who appear to be eligible will be asked to schedule a time for a LASP paralegal to contact them to complete their application.
  • • People who are not eligible will be directed to other resources. In some cases, people will be directed to call the Helpline because more information is needed to determine eligibility.
People facing an emergency or who have a hearing within the next 10 days should use the LASP toll-free Helpline, 877-429-5994, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or check their county office's walk-in intake hours at http://lasp.org/locations.


AmazonSmile offers opportunity to donate to LASP

Through AmazonSmile's program in support of nonprofits, it's as simple as clicking this link to support LASP whenever you make a purchase at Amazon: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/23-1901014. AmazonSmile is a way to support LASP at no additional cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you'll find the same prices, selection and shopping experience as at amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to LASP.

Expungement Clinic held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in Delaware County

LASP co-sponsored a Delaware County expungement clinic on Jan. 15, 2018 as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The event, at Yeadon Public Library, was held in partnership with State Sen. Anthony Williams and State Rep. Joanna McClinton, and the Chester Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. Staff attorney Erica Briant noted that 24 people attended, with LASP opening up 14 client files. The other attendees were over income or their records were ineligible for service, but all received a review of their records and pro se information.

Streamlining client education through bankruptcy clinics

When callers contact the LASP Helpline about bankruptcy protection, they may be invited to a bankruptcy clinic in Chester or Montgomery counties. Longtime staff attorney Leo Vasmanis noted, "It's a good way to see a lot of clients." He has utilized this time-efficient model for many years, Vasmanis said from LASP's West Chester office.
Staff attorney Erica Briant adopted the model for Montgomery County. For the past six months, Briant has conducted monthly bankruptcy clinics in Montgomery County for clients who don't have an urgent need such as a utility termination notice or eviction notice.
The clinics include about an hour of teaching clients about the legal process, timeline and requirements for bankruptcy protection, and answering questions that could affect multiple attendees. Then LASP attorneys meet individually with clients to address their individual situations.

LASP attorneys present CLE to help launch Eviction Prevention & Intervention Coalition (EPIC)

LASP housing attorneys Eileen Carroll (left), Don Cheetham and Susan Strong, and Emma Hertz, administrator at Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development, presented a CLE in advance of the January 2018 implementation of Eviction Prevention & Intervention
To prepare for the January 2018 launch of the Eviction Prevention & Intervention Coalition (EPIC), LASP attorneys presented a CLE Nov. 30, 2017 at the Montgomery Bar Association. Susan Strong, Don Cheetham and Eileen Carroll, along with Emma Hertz of Montco Housing and Community Development, outlined procedures, claims, and defenses in landlord-tenant matters to prepare pro bono attorneys to represent tenants in District Justice Court. EPIC aims to prevent evictions and homelessness by providing both legal representation from volunteer attorneys and the social services available through Your Way Home.
With a goal of serving people at the time they're facing eviction and BEFORE they become homeless, LASP has joined a broad-based Montgomery County partnership of government, nonprofit, philanthropic and community groups. After months of planning, the Eviction Prevention & Intervention Coalition (EPIC) was formally announced Nov. 14 at a Montgomery Bar Association gathering, and officially launches in January 2018.
Over the past year, EPIC grew out of three converging initiatives. Your Way Home of Montgomery County conducted a 2016 research study in conjunction with HealthSpark Foundation of Colmar which identified eviction as a serious problem. Meanwhile, the Montgomery Bar Association planned and held an Access to Justice Summit in April 2017, which identified legal assistance to those facing eviction as an unmet legal need in the county. Finally, Legal Aid of Southeastern PA applied for and received funding to hire an attorney who would focus exclusively on assistance to tenants at risk of eviction.
As Your Way Home describes the project, "...EPIC is a six-month pilot project designed to stabilize vulnerable families and individuals in Montgomery County who are facing eviction by providing them with free legal representation and social services on the day of their eviction hearing." In addition, EPIC "will provide limited financial assistance to prevent evictions, and referrals to the long-term financial and social supports needed to prevent future housing instability." LASP will contribute expertise and experience in landlord-tenant law to train volunteer attorneys to assist tenants at Magisterial District Justice court proceedings.
"We're very happy to be aboard" said Eileen Carroll, regional LASP attorney for landlord-tenant issues.
The work of EPIC was featured after the State of the County update Feb. 15, 2018 in Norristown. To read the article from the Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 Lansdale Reporter, Norristown Times-Herald, Pottstown Mercury, and other Digital First Media Philly publications, please visit http://bit.ly/2CBX4Rp.


LASP's Randi Riefner wins state legal aid Excellence Award

photo of Randi Riefner
In late November, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) announced that LASP's Randi Riefner is one of the 2018 Excellence Award winners. Randi works out of LASP's Bucks County office in Bristol.
Since starting at LASP in May 1993, Randi has worn many hats, including pro bono coordinator for 17+ years. "For the past 20 or so years I have had the task of scheduling pro bono attorneys for PFA (Protection from Abuse) hearings every Wednesday in Bucks County," she said. "I also schedule pro bono attorneys to represent clients at custody conferences and hearings."
Randi noted, "I treat clients with the same respect that I'd like to be treated with," adding that the realization at the end of each day that "I helped someone today" has been her inspiration all these years. "I've always loved my job," she said. "I am most proud of being a part of the relationship that has developed between the Bench, the Bar Association and Legal Aid since I first started." Born in Vermont, Randi lived in Manhattan before moving to Pennsylvania with her husband in 1974. Her four grandchildren "are the light of my life."
Randi is among the individuals and groups who "have demonstrated excellence in their efforts to increase the availability of legal aid and raise the quality of civil legal services for low income people and victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania," according to PLAN's announcement. Honorees were selected by criteria assessing impact on increased access to civil legal aid, excellence in advocacy, leadership, and/or innovation in service delivery.
For the full list of honorees, visit http://bit.ly/PLAN2018ExcellenceAwards.

Domestic Violence & the Courts" Town Meeting

A "Light the Courthouse" ceremony closes the first Town Meeting on Domestic Violence & the Courts, held Oct. 3 at Montgomery County Courthouse, Norristown.

In honor of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, LASP staff attorney Beverly Boyle and paralegal Liliana Ventura joined professionals from Montco's Domestic Violence Legal Network (DVLN) at a town meeting. The Oct. 3, 2017 event outlined services available to victims. Speaking on the panel, Boyle noted that LASP helps domestic abuse victims obtain Protection From Abuse orders (PFAs) and can also help clients under Pennsylvania's 2015 law, the Protection From Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act. Victims and friends/family of victims shared their stories. They observed that educational programs on "what a healthy relationship looks like" were missing from their experiences as students. School assemblies on the dangers of drunk driving, drugs and other issues did make a difference, they said, and they encouraged schools to teach about healthy relationships through health classes and school presentations. Moderated by Joel Bernbaum, Esq., the town meeting also addressed: * Procedures of the Montco Prothonotary's Office and Sheriff's Dept. * Improvements in Norristown Police Dept. procedure in addressing domestic violence calls in the last 11 years. * Friends of the Court volunteer program, implemented by Hon. Kelly C. Wall, Administrative Judge for the Family Division of Montco's Court of Common Pleas. * Assistance to victims from Women's Center of Montgomery County. * Help offered to victims through Laurel House and DART (Domestic Abuse Response Team).

LASP offers monthly outreach clinic at Coatesville veterans center

LASP staff attorney Deborah Steeves prepares for the monthly veterans clinic.
Inspired by her father, who served in the Air Force, attorney Deborah Steeves initiated LASP's outreach to veterans in 2013, with a goal of making it easier for veterans to get legal help. Since then, LASP has held a monthly clinic at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the second Wednesday of each month, from 9 a.m. to noon.
In any given month, Steeves will see 10-20 vets. She's helped nearly 1,000 vets with their legal issues since 2013. Veterans bring many types of legal problems to the clinic. Some are related to their service, or to resulting health challenges. Steeves recalled a veteran who had to leave his apartment in order to get treatment for PTSD related to his tour in Iraq. When his landlord refused to refund his deposit, LASP intervened and worked out an arrangement with his landlord so that he could break his lease without financial penalty. Another vet gave his car away when he was suffering from mental health issues. "We were able to successfully get him his car back," Steeves said.
Steeves helps veterans with many other issues, including bankruptcy; divorce; removing barriers to employment; preparing wills, powers of attorney and health directives; and family law problems. Steeves recalled a custody case with a gratifying outcome. "A veteran father had not been allowed to see his son for a year," she said. "LASP filed a petition for custody and was able to get an order allowing visitation. The son was so glad to be able to see his father again, while the father was able to enjoy a renewed bond with his son."
If veterans need legal assistance outside LASP's jurisdiction, Steeves can refer them to the appropriate Legal Aid organization nationally. She also refers veterans to programs such as the Military Assistance Project, which helps veterans seek bankruptcy protection if they are over LASP's income guidelines. Widener University's Veterans Law Clinic, which accepts PA residents, assists with veterans' disability claims.
While LASP doesn't assist clients in criminal matters, attorneys can refer them to Veterans Court in the appropriate jurisdiction. Steeves noted that most Pennsylvania counties now have veterans courts, in the same way that some specialized courts address mental health or drug issues.