Court Fees Often Serve as Barrier to Accessing Justice

When a Montana couple were facing eviction, they nearly became homeless for one reason: they couldn't afford to pay $60 in court fees that would allow them to respond to their eviction notice in court. They tried to file for a fee waiver based on their lack of income, but when the judge denied their request, they were left with few options. If they didn't pay the fee, their landlord could have gotten a default judgement against them. They could have been evicted without any opportunity to defend themselves.

Luckily, they were able to reach out to MLSA for help. MLSA Attorney Amy Hall took their case to the Montana Supreme Court, which decided in their favor that the judge should not have charged them a fee. With MLSA's help, they worked with a rent assistance program to help them pay their rent on time, and they were able to stay in their home.

Unfortunately, being unable to pay a court fee is one of the main barriers low income people face when trying to access our justice system. In a recently published ThinkProgress article "Judges Across the Country Are Shaking Down Poor People," editor Bryce Covert writes that although all 50 states require court fees to be waived for people deemed too poor to pay, in many states there are no rules about who will automatically receive fee waivers. As a result, thousands of low income people across the country still face having to pay court fees they cannot afford for the right to argue their case in court.

This is a big reason why having access to civil legal aid matters in the lives of low income people – it can make all the difference in determining if a person is able to have their court fees waived or if they will have to try to pay a fee they cannot afford to gain access to our justice system. Click here to read more about how MLSA and other civil legal aid organizations are working to make it easier for all Americans to gain access to justice, no matter their income.

Posted in Access to Justice, Client Success Story, The Legal System, Uncategorized

Important Changes Coming for Taxpayers with ITINs

Important Changes Coming for Taxpayers with ITINsThe IRS recently announced that they will require taxpayers who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to renew their ITINs periodically on a rolling schedule, beginning this October. More information can be found here:
https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs-works-to-help-taxpayers-affected-by-itin-changes-renewals-begin-in-october
 
If you use an ITIN to file your taxes and have questions on how or when you will need to renew your ITIN, you may be eligible for free tax help from the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. Please call Montana Legal Services Association's HelpLine at 1 (800) 666-6899 to schedule an appointment with the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
 
For more information about LITC, check out our website: http://www.mtlsa.org/montanalitc/
Posted in Taxes, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Low-Income Taxpayers Clinic Outreach Coming Your Way!

1040 tax form

Have a tax problem with the IRS? MLSA's Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) can help. LITC will be visiting community partners across the state this summer to expand access to legal services for taxpayers. Feel free to contact LITC to set up a meeting during their visit to your town! 1-800-666-6899 M-Thur 8:30am-5:30pm, and Fri 8:30am-4:30pm.

 

July 19th – Polson & Pablo
July 28th – Missoula
August 17th – Browning
August 21-22 – Billings, Crow Agency & Lame Deer
 
For more information about LITC, check out the website at http://www.mtlsa.org/montanalitc/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Taxes Tagged with: , ,

Jerry Metcalf Foundation Helps Fund Medical-Legal Partnership

The Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) recently received a grant from the Jerry Metcalf Foundation in support of a staff attorney who provides services free of charge to Montanans living in poverty with health-harming civil legal needs whose solutions lay outside the boundaries of medicine and in the justice forums. These patient/clients are referred through on-site monthly office hours at four Community Health Center partners throughout Montana.

The Montana Health Justice Partnership is designed to help low-income people access legal services in order to address their health-harming legal needs: a veteran wrongfully denied nutritional supports through veterans benefits whose medical conditions worsens from lack of food; a family who lives in housing with mold and whose child has asthma; a senior denied long-term care which prevents her from getting the health care she needs. Healthcare providers can try to treat the symptoms of these problems on their own, but without legal assistance they are unable to address the root cause. According to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership, 1 in 6 people in this nation need legal care to be healthy.

The Montana Health Justice Partnership allows low-income Montanans to receive direct legal services through referral from a partner Community Health Center. These partner service providers are in a strong position to “spot” a potential legal issue during a medical service appointment and can use MLSA’s attorney as a tool to address their patients’ health problems.

 The Montana Health Justice Partnership is just one way that MLSA provides equal justice to all Montanans. Civil legal aid from MLSA assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money a person has, and helps Montanans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Health Care, Uncategorized

Yellowstone Club Community Foundation supports MLSA’s Survivor’s Legal Project

yccf-logo-2016The Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) recently received a grant from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation to help fund its Survivor’s Legal Project, which partners with Bozeman’s HAVEN domestic violence shelter, and targets the unmet civil legal needs of survivors of domestic violence in the Greater Big Sky / Bozeman communities.  

The Survivors Legal Project: Bozeman HAVEN is an ongoing project which helps people fight civil injustices that affect essential human needs, including by ensuring personal safety for domestic violence survivors through orders of protection and family law legal matters. Survivors often believe they cannot escape abusive situations and live independently because they fear they will lose their children, become financially destitute, or encounter other issues involving their civil legal rights.

Studies show that civil legal services greatly increase the safety of domestic violence survivors by deterring future violence and preventing the escalation of abuse in the future. Indeed, a landmark study concluded that the single most important factor in determining whether a woman escapes domestic abuse is her access to civil legal services.

The Yellowstone Club Community Foundation support will support the MLSA domestic violence attorney who is housed at Bozeman HAVEN. The services include direct legal aid and advice to survivors.

The Survivors Legal Project: Bozeman HAVEN is just one way that MLSA provides equal justice to all Montanans. With the support of the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, civil legal aid from MLSA assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money a person has, and helps Montanans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Uncategorized

The Treacy Foundation and NorthWestern Energy Help Support to MLSA

MLP carThanks to the generosity of the Treacy Foundation, along with financial assistance from the NorthWestern Energy Charitable Giving Program, MLSA was recently able to purchase a car to be used by attorneys like Kallie Dale-Ramos, pictured right, on circuit rides throughout the state.

Circuit rides to rural areas of Montana are an essential part of MLSA's efforts to make sure that all Montanans have access to justice, regardless of income. MLSA casehandlers regularly make trips to rural or remote areas of Montana to provide civil legal services to Montanans living throughout the state.

Support from organizations like the Treacy Foundation and the NorthWestern Energy Charitable Giving Program makes MLSA's work possible. MLSA thanks them for their support!

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Uncategorized

MLSA Receives Funding to Help Preserve Native American Families’ Trust Land

Tribal NationsThe Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) recently received a contract to help fund its Indian Wills Project, aimed at assisting Native American Montanans on seven reservations to avoid losing their trust land upon death. The contract, for funding from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, will run through September 30, 2017.

 

The Indian Wills Project has been serving Native American Montanan families since 2006. Without properly drafted wills and estate documents, Native Americans can lose their trust land to the federal government upon death, rather than the land passing to their families. Through the Indian Wills Project, MLSA brings affordable and accessible legal help that prevents families from losing their land.

 

MLSA will coordinate with Tribal Leaders, the State of Montana Area Agency on Aging, Senior Centers, Fiduciary Trust Officers, Bureau of Indian Affairs Realty Offices, and others to provide legal help to Native American families. The services include direct legal aid, legal aid through clinics, training for pro bono (free) attorneys in order that they can provide legal aid, and more.

 

The Indian Wills Project is just one way that MLSA provides equal justice to all Montanans. Civil legal aid from MLSA assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money a person has, and helps Montanans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Posted in American Indian Issues Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA to Hold Community Conversations on Access to Justice

In honor of MLSA's 50th Anniversary of providing civil legal services to Montana’s most vulnerable citizens, MLSA is holding a series of community conversations on civil legal aid and access to justice. Titled “Justice for Some? A Conversation on Securing Equal Justice for All,” these conversations are chance for everyone to learn more about what civil legal aid is, how it works, and why it matters to your community.

These events will take place at public libraries located across Montana. Each event will be one hour long and will include a presentation on civil legal aid followed by a Q&A session.

  • Missoula Public Library – Tuesday, March 22 at 7pm
  • Lewis and Clark Library in Helena – Wednesday, April 20 at 7pm
  • Great Falls Public Library – Thursday, May 12 at 7pm
  • Belgrade Community Library – Wednesday, June 15 at 6pm
  • Lewistown Public Library – Tuesday, July 12 at 5:30pm
  • More to be announced!

These events are open to all audiences. We hope to see you there!.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

IRS Has Refunds of Over $3 Million Waiting for Montanans Who Have Not Filed Their 2012 Taxes

The IRS announced last week that about 3,500 Montanans have an average refund of $669 available to them if they file their 2012 tax refund before April 18, 2016.  You will lose your right to a refund for your 2012 taxes if you don't file before April 18th. For more information on 2012 refunds, visit: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Has-Refunds-Totaling-950-Million-dollars-for-People-Who-Have-Not-Filed-a-2012-Federal-Income-Tax-Return
 
If you can't get your 2012 wage information from your employer, you can request information from the IRS to help you file.  For help filing your taxes, visit: www.MontanaFreeFile.org.

If you have a tax dispute with the IRS and need legal assistance, Montana Legal Services Association's Low Income Tax Clinic may be able to assist you. Please contact 1-800-666-6899 FREE to see if you are eligible for free tax law help.

Posted in Taxes Tagged with: , , ,

Access to Justice Commission to Examine Civil Legal Needs/Civil Legal Aid in Billings March 16

MLSA and other providers of civil legal aid, community services, and judicial and political leaders will meet Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Billings, to discuss civil access to justice in the Billings area and in Montana.

The forum is part of a statewide series happening in 2015 and 2016. The public is invited and welcome to sign up to provide a brief public comment during the forum. 

Location information, etc, can be found here and a poster for the event can be found here

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , , ,

March is the Final Month to Take Advantage of Health Insurance Special Enrollment Period for Those Who Need to File 2014 Taxes

If you tried to enroll in healthcare coverage on the federal Marketplace earlier this year and were told you were ineligible for coverage because you had not filed your 2014 taxes or reconciled your 2014 advance payment premium tax credit (APTC), you may be able to enroll in healthcare coverage through a newly announced Special Enrollment Period (SEP) from February 1, 2016 through March 31, 2016.
 

To be eligible, you must:

  • not be currently enrolled in 2016 coverage through the Marketplace;
  • not be receiving an APTC in 2016 because you had not filed your 2014 taxes, and
  • file your 2014 taxes and reconcile your 2014 APTC prior to March 31, 2016.

You may be eligible for free tax preparation assistance to take advantage of this SEP. Please visit montanafreefile.org for tax preparation locations near you. 

If you have a tax dispute with the IRS and need legal assistance, Montana Legal Services Association's Low Income Tax Clinic may be able to assist you. Please contact 1-800-666-6899 to see if you are eligible for free tax law help.

Posted in Public Benefits, Taxes Tagged with: , ,

Do you know about MLSA’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic?

do you have a tax problem with the IRS?

 The LITC helps low-income taxpayers in Montana with federal tax problems. The LITC will be busy during tax season. Check out the list of events below where the LITC will provide information about its services and/or provide help with federal tax problems.

Need tax filing help? The LITC does not help prepare taxes for filing but some of the events below include basic tax preparation help from IRS-certified volunteers. Read on for more information:

  • February 6 – Super Saturday Kick-Off Event, Great Falls: 10:00am – 5:00pm; Great Falls Senior Center, 1004 Central Ave (LITC will be available to meet with individuals with tax issues and help them apply for its services; basic tax-filing preparation help will be available from IRS-certified volunteers on a first come, first served basis)

 

  • February 6 – Free Tax Help Day, Helena: 9:30AM to 1:00PM, Lewis and Clark Library, 120 S. Last Chance Gulch (LITC will be available to meet with individuals with tax issues and help them apply for its services; basic tax-filing preparation help will be available from IRS-certified volunteers on a first come, first served basis)

 

  • February 10 – Federal Tax Problems Office Hours, Crow Agency: 10:00am – Noon, Location TBD (LITC will be available to meet with individuals with tax issues and help them apply for its services. It may be able to provide advice and representation)

 

  • February 10 – Federal Tax Problems Office Hours, Lame Deer: 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Blessed Sacrament Parish Church, 630 Cheyenne Ave (LITC will be available to meet with individuals with tax issues and help them apply for its services. It may be able to provide advice and representation)

 

  • February 13 – Welcoming Vietnam Veterans Home, Lame Deer: Noon – 4:00pm, Lame Deer High School Gymnasium (LITC will provide information about its and MLSA's services. Please note that the LITC will not be able to provide any tax help during the event)

 

  • April 25 – Helena Tax Court, all day (LITC will meet with individuals with tax issues who are on the Court’s docket (schedule) and may be able to provide advice and representation to them.

 

  • April 28 – Billings Tax Court (Small Tax Cases), all day (LITC will meet with individuals with tax issues who are on the Court's docket (schedule) and may be able to provide advice and representation to them.

 

Check out the LITC website!

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Taxes Tagged with: , ,

MLK Jr. Day: A day of service

MLK Day of Service

Across the US, many are making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a day on, not off . . . volunteering in their communities and honoring Dr. King's legacy through service. MLSA staff and Americorps members are pleased to be joining them
Are you interested in a day of service to your community? Learn more about Dr. King, why MLK Day is the perfect day to volunteer, and how you can help.
Posted in Access to Justice, Justice for Montanans Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Seeks Developer for Interactive Family Law Forms

Computer

Montana Legal Services Association is seeking a HotDocs and A2J developer to automate a series of interactive family law forms for MLSA and our partner the Montana Access to Justice Commission / Self-Represented Litigants Committee. Interactive forms allow users to answer questions in an online interview. The computer uses the answers to fill in the forms, which users can then print or email for court filing.

Please note there is a tight turn-around for responses (noon on Dec 28).  For more information and directions on how to respond, please review the Request for Proposals document here.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements Tagged with: , ,

LawHelper: Find the legal info you need

computer-mouseNow featuring the LawHelper!

The LawHelper is the new interactive tool on www.MontanaLawHelp.org designed to help users determine what options they have for representing themselves in court, finding a private attorney, or solving rental problems.

Users start by telling the LawHelper exactly what they are looking for, such as “How to represent myself in court” and “Renters’ info for tenants.” Once they have chosen an option, the LawHelper offers text and video information that corresponds to that particular legal issue. In the past, MontanaLawHelp.org users who needed help had to know the type of legal issue they were having and then be able to search through numerous categories to find helpful resources. Now that is a thing of the past!

Try the LawHelper for yourself! Then head on over to Survey Monkey to take a quick survey about your experience and help us make LawHelper better.

Posted in Access to Justice, Housing, The Legal System

MLSA Gives Thanks

Turkey

 

MLSA staff wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving and shares what we are thankful for:

 

  • Opportunity to serve our clients in ways that not only make a difference in the clients' lives but also strengthens our communities.
  • Work which helps make the world a more just place for all beings — together with a group of friendly, kind hearted, and professional folks.
  • That I get to spend my workday trying to have a positive impact on my community and that my workplace is filled with talented people endeavoring to do the same.
  • Coworkers who work hard and patiently to create a better world for those facing civil legal problems.
  • Judges and court clerks who treat all persons with respect.
  • Pro bono attorneys and paralegals who donate their time and talents to assist Montanans living in poverty.
  • MLSA's leadership team, for its commitment to advancing the cause of justice in Montana.
  • Clients who take the bold step of contacting MLSA when their rights are at risk and who are willing to take a stand.
  • Community partners who work with MLSA toward the goal of justice for Montanans living in poverty.
  • Justice for Montanans members for their dedicated service to assisting Montanans living in poverty.
  • To be surrounded by clients, staff and community partners who care about the world around them and try every day to make it a better place.
  • For all the wonderful co-workers I have the pleasure to work with and all our volunteers (AmeriCorps) members to do the work we do to help others.
  • Opportunity to provide meaningful legal services to those who truly need it while getting to travel to and know vast, beautiful areas of this gorgeous State that I would not know otherwise.
  • To be part of a team of dedicated legal aid warriors who work tenaciously to improve their clients' lives and who do it with lots of perspective and humility.

How do we show thanks? In Missoula, our staff volunteered at the annual food bank turkey distribution.                                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Uncategorized Tagged with:

Health Care Coverage and You – What are your options?

As you may know November 2nd marked the beginning of Open Enrollment for healthcare coverage through the Marketplace. It’s crucial that you investigate your options and find coverage that is right for you and your family. Failure to have health insurance this year means you will probably have to pay a fee of at least $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18.

Healthcare Marketplace

You may be wondering how you’ll afford this healthcare coverage, but don’t stress there are many great options! To start your research look at Montana's Marketplace website and their get covered calculator, which allows you to get simple estimates on what your monthly costs would be. The Marketplace is the only place that offers Advanced Premium Tax Credits, which cover part or most of your monthly costs so long as you filed taxes for this past year – it’s really a great system to get VERY affordable healthcare coverage. Last year these tax credits helped 80% of Montanans enrolled through the Marketplace pay for health insurance. Enrollment through the Marketplace is open November 2nd 2015 through January 31st 2016, so get on it! If you have any questions or need assistance in navigating the Marketplace you can contact a local enrollment specialist. You can also go directly to the Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.

 

Healthcare for Kids

Some low income families may qualify for Medicaid, Healthy Montana Kids Plus (HMK+ which is basically Medicaid for children), and Healthy Montana Kids (HMK). Generally if your family’s income falls under 138% of the Federal Poverty Line you will probably qualify for Medicaid and HMK+, though there are many exceptions and different qualifying circumstances for those with disabilities, veterans, etc., so it’s worth looking into your circumstances and seeing if you can qualify. HMK provides free or low-cost health insurance for children and generally one qualifies for it if you family’s income falls within 144% and 261% of the Federal Poverty Line.

Enrollment for these programs is always open.

  • If you need help figuring out where you may be in regards to the Federal Poverty Line you can look here.
  • Find out more about Medicaid for kids and getting covered here
  • Look here to find out more about HMK.
  • You can apply for all of these programs at https://apply.mt.gov/.

 

Montana Medicaid Expansion

Montana has expanded Medicaid, and coverage will be available from January 1, 2016 onwards. This means that many more Montana residents will be able to access health coverage. Individuals who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, are Montana residents, and are not eligible for Medicare should apply.

Enrollment for Medicaid is always open

  • If you need help figuring out where you may be in regards to the Federal Poverty Line you can look here.
  • For more information about Medicaid expansion: http://dphhs.mt.gov/medicaidexpansion
  • Apply

– Over the phone at the Federal Marketplace at 1–800–318–2596

24 hours a day / 7 days a week

– Online at healthcare.gov or apply.mt.gov

Medicare

Another option to look into is Medicare, which provides supplemental coverage to your primary health insurance for people 65 or older or with disabilities. Enrollment is open now until December 7th, 2015. You can check out plans and cost estimates by looking at their website here.

 

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There are many options for affordable health insurance. Finding It may seem daunting at first, but there’s lots of information out there and you can always speak to a local enrollment specialist to help you sort through it all. Just make sure to do it before the open enrollment closes and to file you taxes so you can qualify for these benefits!

Here’s to healthy year for you and your family in 2016!

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Families and Kids, Health Care, Public Benefits, Support

MLSA to Provide Civil Legal Aid to Patients Through Montana Health Justice Partnership

Montana Legal Services Association has been funded as a partner of the Montana Health Justice Partnership, a pilot program to address the health-harming civil legal needs of patients whose health solutions lay outside the boundaries of medicine.

Medical legal scales of justiceThe Montana Health Justice Partnership pilot program includes MLSA, the Montana Primary Care Association, Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre, Northwest Community Health Center in Libby, Cascade Community Health Care Center in Great Falls, and the Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Council in Billings. Funding from the Montana Health Care Foundation, in combination with funding from all partners, will allow MLSA to hire a full time attorney to train health care teams to screen for health-harming legal needs and treat those needs by providing legal services to positively impact a client’s health. Expected outcomes include increased access to civil legal services and increased access to health services. 

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According to the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership, 1 in 6 people in this nation need legal care to be healthy. People are wrongfully denied nutritional supports and educational services, and resources necessary to meet daily needs. People who live in housing with mold or rodents are in a physical environment that makes them sick. Seniors are denied benefits, such as access to supportive services or long term care, which prevents them from getting the health care they need. These all constitute health-harming legal needs.

The Montana Health Justice Partnership presents a unique method of addressing health problems because it also solves unaddressed civil legal needs at the same time: improving substandard housing conditions, preventing evictions, securing disability and veterans’ benefits, reducing unfair debt, and securing restraining orders for survivors of domestic violence. Each of these civil legal actions impacts a patient’s health care: stable housing helps individuals avoid costly emergency room visits related to homelessness; healthy food helps people manage chronic disease and helps children develop; increased income means a person need make fewer tradeoffs between affording food and healthcare and medications; and less violence at home means less need for costly emergency health care services and less stress.

View the Montana Primary Care Association press release here.

More Information About Medical-Legal Partnerships:

NYTimes: “When Poverty Makes You Sick, a Lawyer Can Be the Cure”

National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Health Care

Celebrate Pro Bono Week!

Celebrate Pro Bono logo

 

 

 

With only 13 full time staff attorneys, Montana Legal Services relies on pro bono (free) attorneys to help bridge the gap in access to justice for low income Montanans.

In 2014, over 300 pro bono attorneys assisted MLSA in handling cases, providing a huge service to those Montanans with civil legal needs who could not afford to hire attorneys.

MLSA wishes to thank all pro bono attorneys who make access to justice a reality for thousands of Montanans.

On behalf of MLSA and the thousands of clients who
benefit from pro bono services, thank you to all pro bono
volunteers.  You are appreciated not only during Pro Bono
Celebration week, but year-round. You really are making
a positive difference for people in your communities.
— Alison Paul, MLSA Executive Director
 
 
 
 

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Will Attend Veteran Stand Down in Missoula Oct 29

MLSA AmeriCorps members will attend the Missoula Stand Down on October 29, 2015, from 9:00am – 3:00pm and provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees. The Stand Down will take place at the American Legion at 825 Ronan St., Missoula.

US FlagVeteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

Missoula Stand Down Flyer

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Shares View on Access to Justice During Forum

MLSA, along with other legal and social providers, shared information about the state of access to justice in Montana to a listening panel of legal, governmental, and policy leaders in Kalispell this week during a forum hosted by the Montana Access to Justice Commission.

MLSA's Executive Director, Alison Paul, shared that there are potential devastating consequences when someone cannot afford an attorney because there is no right to counsel in civil legal matters, saying "Many people don’t realize that you can lose your children, and not have the right to an attorney. You can lose your children in a custody battle. You can lose your house, and not have a right to an attorney to enforce your rights in court."

Ms. Paul emphasized the need for more support for civil legal aid in Montana, saying, "We don’t have enough help. We don’t have enough attorneys, we don’t have enough money for attorneys to support the system that we have."

Legal books and gavelOthers who provided information to the panel described clogged court systems due to people trying to represent themselves, problems of youth and seniors in accessing needed help due to inability to afford legal counsel, and inability of low-income Montanans in moving forward in their lives due to legal problems for which they cannot afford legal help. 

Many positives were also shared, including the provision of pro bono (free) services by private attorneys to help those with civil legal needs, the people helped by the small staffs of MLSA and the Montana Supreme Court – Court Help Program Self Help Law Centers, the high economic impact of civil legal aid in Montana, and the work of those employed or volunteering in social service fields to help connect people needing legal help with attorneys and legal information.

For more information on the Kalispell forum, see the articles in the Flathead Beacon and the Daily Inter Lake, as well as on the Montana Public Radio website.

The listening session in Kalispell was one of seven to be held across the state over the next year. A brochure about the forums is here.

Access to Justice Forum Series dates:

  • Kalispell – Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015
  • Great Falls – Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015
  • Billings – Wednesday, March 16, 2016
  • Missoula – Wednesday, April 13, 2016
  • Bozeman – Wednesday, May 18, 2016
  • Butte – Wednesday, September 21, 2016
  • Helena – Wednesday, October 19, 2016

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Pro Bono, The Legal System Tagged with: , , , ,

MLSA Will Attend Billings Veteran Stand Down Oct 15

MLSA AmeriCorps members will attend the Billings Stand Down on October 15, 2015, from 9:00am – 2:00pm and provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees. The Stand Down will take place at the Al Bedoo Shrine Auditorium located at 1125 Broadwater Ave.

US FlagVeteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: ,

50th Anniversary Kickoff with MLSA’s Own Beer, Justice for Alt

 

Justice for Alt Beer

MLSA will hold its 50th Anniversary kickoff tonight, October 6, from 5-8pm at the Blackfoot River Brewing Company.

The kickoff, which includes the roll-out of an altbier brewed for MLSA, appropriately named "Justice for Alt," is part of a Community Partnership sponsored by the Blackfoot River Brewing Co. and Crowley Fleck Law Firm.
Proceeds from the sale of the Justice for Alt beer will be matched by Crowley Fleck and will continue after Oct 6 as long as the beer lasts. Proceeds will go directly to MLSA to help provide civil legal services to low income Montanans.

The event will include music by Matt Stachan (formerly from Hard Arnold Palmers) and the Hoot Owls.

You can read more about the event and Community Partnership in the Helena Independent Record and check out our Facebook event page http://on.fb.me/1OVqQDr!

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements Tagged with: , , , ,

Record Number of Domestic Violence Deaths in Montana

Before you read this article, please know: An abuser can track your computer and Internet use. Learn more about using a safer computer and keeping your computer sessions private.

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Domestic violence, relationship abuse, stalking, sexual assault . . . All are more common than we like to admit. In fact, 16 Montanans have been killed by their significant others this year, a new record (video).

Sometimes we suspect someone we know is a victim but we don't know what to do. Often it seems easier to look the other way, change the subject, think about something else. Sometimes we try to deny the fact that we, ourselves, suffer domestic violence.

But the violence will not go away on its own. We must identify it, call it what it is, stand up to it, help those who suffer, help ourselves. We'll do it today, the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October). We can do it most readily–and safely–through education, understanding, and using tools and resources that have been developed for that purpose.

Fortunately there are many resources to help.

If you are in danger right now, call 911.

Posted in Access to Justice, Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Attend Libby Veteran Stand Down Oct 3

American Flag

MLSA AmeriCorps members will attend the Libby Veteran Stand Down on Saturday, October 3, where they will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees. The Stand Down will take place at the VFW Post 1548, at 110 W. 2nd Street.

Veteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

Libby Stand Down 2015

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Celebrates American Indian Heritage Day!

Tribal NationsMLSA Celebrates American Indian Heritage Day[/caption]For years, MLSA has been honored to collaborate with Montana Tribal Nations to provide effective services to Tribal members both in and out of court. With MLSA, Tribal members protect their rights against illegal and unfair actions by creditors,  get repairs made so that housing is safe and healthy, build safety nets for families affected by domestic violence, and much more. Today, on Montana's American Indian Heritage Day, MLSA celebrates and looks forward to further collaborations with Montana's Tribal Nations.

Learn More: MLSA's Indian Law Work

Posted in American Indian Issues Tagged with: , ,

MLSA at Sidney Stand Down Sept 25-26

MLSA AmeriCorps members will attend the Sidney Stand Down on Sept 25 and 26, where they will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees. The Stand Down will take place at the Richland County Event Center, 2118 W. Holly Street, Sidney MT.

Soldier's BootsVeteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , , ,

State Bar Passes Resolution Supporting MLSA

On September 10, 2015, the State Bar of Montana passed a resolution of support for MLSA. Specifically, the resolution urges Congress to maintain its commitment to access to justice for low-income people and to increase federal funding for civil legal aid programs, and strongly urges all State Bar of Montana members to participate in pro bono services. Read the resolution here.

MLSA thanks all State Bar of Montana members and leaders for the continued support for MLSA programs and civil legal aid.

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Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA to Attend Great Falls Veteran Stand Down Sept 17-18, 2015

MLSA is pleased to attend the Veteran Stand Down in Great Falls on Sept 17 and 18. The Stand Down will take place at the Montana ExpoPark in the Mercantile Building. MLSA AmeriCorps members will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees.

American FlagVeteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

(Please note, this year surplus gear will only be available to veterans who are determined to be at risk of homelessness).

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Hosts a Cheers for Charity at Draught Works Brewery

Draught WorksMLSA and Draught Works Brewery are teaming up to help protect and enhance the civil legal rights of, and promote systemic change for, Montanans living in poverty.

On Tuesday September 22, 2015 Draught Works will donate 50 cents of every pint sold between 5pm and 8pm to MLSA. Please join us for a festive event for a great cause- enhancing access to justice for low to moderate income Montanans!

Check out MLSA's Facebook Event and come join the fun!

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , ,

Montana Online Child Support Calculator

Do You Need to Calculate Child Support for Your Parenting Plan or Dissolution?

Are you representing yourself in a court case involving a marital dissolution or parenting plan?

Do you need to calculate child support for your case?


Use the Montana Online Child Support Calculator to calculate your own child support!


  • Answer questions about your income, assets, parenting arrangements, etc.
  • The Calculator will calculate child support for you.
  • The Calculator will create the forms you need to file to establish child support in your dissolution or parenting plan case.
  • For more information call the MLSA HelpLine at 1-800-666-6899 M-Thurs 7:30am-6:00pm and Fridays 8:00am-5:00pm

Brought to you by Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) with the expertise of the State of Montana Child Support Enforcement Division

Click here for a free downloadable flier.

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Families and Kids, Self-Help Tagged with: , , ,

Legal Information at Project Homeless Connect / Kalispell

Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless? Do you need general legal information and resources?

Kalispell Homeless Connect 2015Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) will be attending the 2015 Kalispell Project Homeless Connect event on Wednesday, June 17. Come find answers to your general legal questions and/or apply for MLSA services.

The event, which runs from 11am-7pm, also will offer such services as dental screening/cleaning, employment assistance, medical vouchers, pet check-ups/immunizations/micro-chipping and much much more.

We look forward to serving you!

Posted in Access to Justice, Housing, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Attend Bozeman Veteran Stand Down June 13

 

MLSA is pleased to attend the Veteran Stand Down in Bozeman on June 13. The event will take place at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds from 7:45am – 12:30pm.

'MLSA AmeriCorps members and/or staff will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referraBozeman stand downls to attendees.

Veteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc. The Bozeman Stand Down is one of many that MLSA will attend this spring, summer, and fall. Follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for up-to-date information on the Stand Downs we will attend.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Veterans and Military Tagged with: ,

MLSA to Attend Veteran Stand Down in Kalispell May 30

MLSA is pleased to attend the Veteran Stand Down in Kalispell on May 30. The Stand Down will take place at the Evergreen Fire Hall (2236 Highway 2 East, Evergreen MT) from 9am – 2pm.

Kalispell Stand Down FlyerMLSA AmeriCorps members and/or staff will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to attendees.

Veteran Stand Downs provide veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.

The Kalispell Stand Down is one of many that MLSA will attend this spring, summer, and fall. Follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for up-to-date information on the Stand Downs we will attend.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Guest Blog Post for Legal Aid Ontario: An Evolution for Quality Service Delivery

MLSA was recently glad to accomodate Legal Aid Ontario's request for an article for its blog on how MLSA's delivery of services to clients has changed over the years.

Having done the hard work of changing with the times to better serve clients, we were happy to share our story and hope that doing so can help others to better serve clients.

Check out the post here!

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , , ,

May 1 is Law Day!

Today we reflect on and honor law.

Law gives us rights. It gives us a process to protect our rights.

Law is important to us as individuals and as a country.

Law is important whether or not we have legal problems.

Want to learn more about Law Day 2015? American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard discusses the significance of the 2015 Law Day theme: “Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law.”  

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: ,

April is Fair Housing Month!

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability in the sale or rental of housing.

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/images/hudimg?id=Are_You_a_Victim.png

If you are a Montanan who has experienced housing discrimination, there is help. You can:

  • Contact Montana Fair Housing at: (406) 782-2573 / 1-800-929-2611   Montana Relay: 711- (406 782-2573 / 800-929-2611
  • View Montana Fair Housing's website by clicking here.
  • Read more about the Fair Housing Act, Fair Housing Month, or learn about filing a housing discrimination complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  by clicking here.
Posted in Housing Tagged with: ,

2014 Montana Pro Bono Report Released

The Montana Supreme Court and the State Bar of Montana recently released the State’s 2014 attorney pro bono report.  The report details the involvement of Montana attorneys in pro bono work across the state and provides detailed information on the types of pro bono work being done around the state.

The dedication that Montana attorneys show to pro bono service continues to set a gold standard.  In fact, this year the report shows a significant increase in the number of attorneys providing free legal services over past years.  According to the report, Montana attorneys volunteered in excess of 87,000 hours of free legal services to low-income Montanans across the state in 2014.  The report also shows that 94% of attorneys who volunteer their legal services report that the experience was a positive one.

With only 13 full time staff attorneys, Montana Legal Services relies on pro bono attorneys to help bridge the gap in access to justice for low income Montanans.  The report released by the Montana Supreme Court and the State Bar of Montana shows that Montana attorneys continue to step up to the plate to help out a neighbor in need.  The report can be found at http://courts.mt.gov/cao/ct_services/probono/default.mcpx

Posted in Pro Bono Tagged with:

MLSA to Attend Homeless Connect Events in Missoula, Billings

Homeless Connect Billings 1-14MLSA will attend two events targeted to address the needs of the homeless in Missoula and Billings.

MLSA will attend the Missoula Project Homeless Connect on January 30th from 10am -3pm at the First United Methodist Church (300 E. Main).

MLSA will also attend the Billings Community Connect on February 3rd from 9am -4pm at Albedo Shrine Auditorium (1125 Broadwater Avenue).

At each event, MLSA will provide general legal information, information about MLSA, and will help people apply for MLSA services.

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: ,

MT Court Help Program Seeks State Funding

Volunteer helping woman on computerMLSA partner, the Montana Supreme Court – Court Help Program, is seeking permanent state funding to continue its service to self-represented litigants across the state. 

The Court Help Program, like MLSA, provides legal information and referrals to self-represented litigants with civil legal problems. Court Help serves people of all incomes. MLSA provides AmeriCorps Justice for Montanans members to help serve six Court Help locations in the state, as well as remote service delivery to additional locations.

Read more about the Court Help Program here

 A Helena Independent Record article regarding the Court Help Program's request for funding is here

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , ,

Taking a Look at Food Stamps in Montana

Food Stamps in Montana…

During the holiday season, when plates get piled high with family meals, this becomes the hallmark image of how people celebrate and eat around this time of year.

However, thinking about how food gets to those plates is a different image.  Many people may not consider those using Food Stamps to purchase food during the holidays, and year round.  People may also not know that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Food Stamp program.   Now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP for short, it provides a wide range of people (single households, families with children, elderly, and people with disabilities) with low incomes more food security.  With the year winding down, here is some information about Food Stamps in Montana.  

Hunger

  • 1 in 5 Americans have difficulty affording food.
  • 1 in 7 Montanans are affected by hunger.
  • 48,000 children in Montana live in food insecure homes.

SNAP

  • 46.5 million people are enrolled in SNAP nationwide.
  • In 2011, Montanans received $193.3 million in food benefits.
  • Almost 125,000 Montanans receive SNAP monthly.
  • In 2013, the average monthly benefit per person was $124.65 with a household average of $269.73.

Economic Activity

  • Each dollar in SNAP benefits creates $1.80 in economic activity.
  • In 2013, $1 billion in SNAP benefits supported 8,900 to 17,900 jobs.  Including 3,000 farm jobs.
  • In 2009-2011 82% of Montanan households receiving SNAP had 1 or more worker. 

Access to Benefits

          – 58% of respondents receive SNAP benefits.  Of the remaining respondents not on SNAP, 32% said they didn’t know they would be eligible.

          – SNAP still only reaches about 75% of eligible people in Montana.

To see if you are eligible, and to apply for SNAP visit http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/snap

To screen a client for SNAP eligibility visit Bridge to Benefits http://montana.bridgetobenefits.org/

To find the nearest Office of Public Assistance visit http://dphhs.mt.gov/contact/humancommunityservices

You can find the MFBN Hungry in Montana 2014 report http://mfbn.org/learn/outreach-education/research-and-reports

Resources for this article:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/ops/snap-community-characteristics-montana

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err116.aspx#.UkCsxH82fNJ

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3239

http://frac.org/initiatives/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act/snapfood-stamps-provide-real-stimulus/

http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

Posted in Public Benefits Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Develop Comprehensive No-Cost Legal Services for Victims of Crime

police carMontana Legal Services Association (MLSA), in partnership with the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC), will implement the Vision 21 Victim Legal Assistance Network (Network), providing comprehensive, wraparound, no-cost legal services for victims of crime through a coordinated network of providers.

The Network will assess crime victims’ legal needs across the state, including on tribal reservations, and design a detailed implementation plan for providing victims with necessary legal services and referrals through MLSA and project partners. Partners will include state agencies, service providers, and legal partners.

The funding will allow MLSA and its partners to provide access to comprehensive, coordinated, and holistic legal services throughout Montana for victims of crime. Crimes ranging from identity theft to elder abuse, financial fraud to domestic and sexual assault leave victims with emotional and physical damage. Add in the need for an attorney, and victims are left feeling overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated by all the needs related to their victimization.

The Vision 21 Network is supported by a grant from the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime to MBCC in the amount of $299,027.  MBCC also contract with Professor Jackson Bunch at the Criminology Research Group of the Social Science Research Lab at the University of Montana to develop the project.

Roundup Web.com Article

Posted in Uncategorized

Need Affordable Health Insurance?

Enroll Now

November 15, 2014 marked the Open Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This makes health insurance available for some low income Montanans. The Open Enrollment is for both people who are new to the marketplace, looking to get health insurance for the first time, and for those renewing coverage from last year.

The application process has changed slightly from last year, and so have dates and deadlines.

New User-Friendly Application
 
For those who are new to the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace www.healthcare.gov there is a more user friendly application this year.  The new application should cut down the amount of pages in the application people experience when applying online. However, some people with more complicated situations may need to use a longer application.

 
Enrollment Deadlines

There is also some important information about deadlines.  

  • For health care coverage to begin at the start of the year, January 1, 2015, the enrollment deadline is December 15th, 2014. 
  • February 15, 2015 is the last day to enroll for coverage.  Missing this deadline means that you won’t be able to sign up for health coverage for the rest of 2015. 
  • In some specific cases there is a Special Enrollment Period.  For example, if you experience life changes (marriage, having a baby, job changes, etc.) outside of the enrollment period, then you may be eligible to enroll through special enrollment.  

Important Dates

Sign Up Date

Health Coverage Begins

Nov. 15 – Dec. 15, 2014

Jan. 1, 2015

Dec. 16, 2014 – Jan. 15, 2015

Feb. 1, 2015

Jan. 16 – Feb. 15, 2014

Mar. 1, 2015

Montana has not expanded its Medicaid eligibility.  This means that even though people may be low income, they are not eligible for a health care subsidy or Medicaid.  To see if you are eligible, get started by applying here or by going to www.healthcare.gov.

For more general information on how to apply, and guides about possible coverage, also visit www.healthcare.gov

There is more information about the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare marketplace at http://www.montanalawhelp.org/issues/public-benefits/health-insurance-marketplace

And for even more information about health care in general, including forms, FAQ’s, and articles visit the Public Benefits section of MontanaLawHelp.org.


Much of the information in this post was found through the National Health Law Help Program, in an article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Health Care, Public Benefits Tagged with: ,

MLSA Receives Funding from the Sample Foundation

The Sample Foundation, a private family foundation located in Billings, has granted $10,000 to Montana Legal Services Association  to help purchase a reliable, safe vehicle for legal aid advocates to reach rural, remote, and Native American clients. MLSA attorneys serving remote clients frequently drive anywhere from one to 12 hours, longer in winter, making a reliable vehicle a necessity for providing advocacy.

With Sample Foundation support, MLSA casehandlers can safely travel to ensure rural Montanans have fair access to our justice system, help domestic violence survivors and their children start new lives, assist to preserve their incomes, and help tenants and homeowners stay in their homes. MLSA has great gratitude toward  the Sample Foundation for enabling it to continue to serve its clients through this gift.

More information about the Sample Foundation can be found here.

Posted in Access to Justice, American Indian Issues Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Create Updated Interactive Family Law Forms for Self-Represented Litigants

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has granted $52,946 to enable Montana Legal Services Association to create new interactive family law forms for self-represented litigants. Interactive forms allow a computer user to answer questions in an online interview. The answers populate the forms, which can then be printed, emailed, or saved for further editing.

The new forms will replace outdated interactive forms and will be approved by the Montana Access to Justice Commission Self-Represented Litigants Committee. The forms will be available on www.MontanaLawHelp.org as well as the State Law Library/Montana Supreme Court websites.

LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation, promoting equal access to justice and providing grants for high-quality civil legal aid. LSC has funded many MLSA technology-oriented projects through its Technology Initiatives Grants (TIG) program. MLSA appreciates the opportunity to use the current TIG funding to help ensure fairness for all family law litigants in Montana.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements Tagged with: , , ,

Pro Bono Celebration Week

Celebrate Pro Bono 2011 image badge small

Do you know that this week is a National Pro Bono Celebration?

At Montana Legal Services Association, we like to celebrate Pro Bono attorneys and legal professionals all year long. Pro Bono legal professionals make justice happen for many Montanans. MLSA appreciates Pro Bono professionals and we know their clients do, too.

 

Law Student Pro Bono Service Award

Law student Tobias Cook (pictured here with Judge Karen Townsend and Attorney Gary Connelley) was honored as this year’s recipient of the Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award. The award-including a $500 check donated by Crowley Fleck, PLLP- was given to Mr. Cook on Friday, October 17th at the Missoula County Courthouse. The Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award is provided annually in October by MLSA and the University of Montana School of Law to a third year law student who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to public service and pro bono legal work during their law school career.

A deserving candidate, Mr. Cook donated over 130 hours to volunteer legal work outside classroom over the last three years. His involvement in pro bono has ranged from being a regular volunteer with the Montana Innocence Project to working with social studies students at St. Joseph’s middle school, educating them about law and assisting with their mock trial. Toby’s passion when it comes to the law is public service and working with underserved populations. He is vocal in his commitment to continue providing pro bono assistance to indigent Montanans after graduating law school.


Montana Businesses Donate to Recognize Pro Bono Attorneys

Montana pro bono attorneys are being recognized this week by several businesses from across the state who donated gifts. MLSA thanks and commends the following businesses for recognizing the efforts of the pro bono attorneys who help obtain justice for all Montanans regardless of their incomes:

Casagranda’s Steakhouse, Butte

Great Burn Brewing Co., Missoula

Philipsburg Brewing Co., Philipsburg

Plonk Wine, Missoula and Bozeman

Rialto Community Theatre, Deer Lodge

Whitefish Theatre Co., Whitefish

Windbag Saloon & Grill, Helena

Posted in Access to Justice, Pro Bono

MLSA Receives Funding from Steele-Reese Foundation

The Steele-Reese Foundation has granted $30,000 to Montana Legal Services Association to support civil legal assistance to rural Montanans living in poverty. The funding will help assure fairness for all in the justice system by protecting low-income Montanans’ legal rights related to their basic needs: housing, economic security, freedom from abuse, and more.
family on porchThe Steele-Reese Foundation is a charitable trust committed to supporting rural communities in Idaho, Montana, and Appalachian Kentucky. The Foundation maintains a focus on the unique challenges of rural living and on helping people build healthy, successful, and sustainable communities.

MLSA gives a full-hearted thanks to the Steele-Reese Foundation for this funding that will help enforce the rights of low-income and rural Montanans, ensuring equal justice for all.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements

MLSA Receives Innovative Community Improvement Award

Citing Montana Legal Services Association's (MLSA) technology and service delivery innovations to improve Montana communities, the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC) presented the 2014 Innovative Community Improvement Award to MLSA during MBCC's annual Crime Prevention Conference on October 8, 2014.

The award is given to individuals or organizations that have made impacting and lasting contributions through specific campaigns or programs to promote or support significant improvements within their communities, such as improving quality of life, reducing the fear of crime, or providing measurable positive results.


State of Montana Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services Director Matthew Dale nominated MLSA for this year's award and MLSA staff were on hand at the conference banquet to receive the award.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month RibbonDo you know that October is domestic violence awareness month? Domestic violence, relationship abuse, stalking, sexual assault . . . All such forms of violence are more common than we like to admit. Sometimes we suspect someone we know is a victim but we don't know what to do. Often it seems easier to look the other way, change the subject, think about something else. Sometimes we try to deny the fact that we, ourselves, suffer domestic violence. But these forms of violence will not go away on their own. We must identify them, call them what they are, stand up to them, help those who suffer, help ourselves. We can do that most readily–and safely–through education, understanding, and using tools and resources that have been developed for that purpose.

Fortunately there are many resources to help.

If you are in danger right now, call 911.

Posted in Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , ,

Nominate a Law Student for Pro Bono Award

 

Scales of JusticeNominations are open now until October 3, 2014, for the Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award.

The award is a collaborative effort between the University of Montana Law School, private firms and attorneys, Montana Legal Services Association, and the local judiciary to recognize the outstanding volunteer work of law students. The award is given annually in October during National Pro Bono week to a 3L student who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to public service-in particular the field of pro bono legal work.

Students can either apply for the award or be nominated by a third party. See the criteria and how to apply or nominate a law student here.

Posted in Access to Justice, Pro Bono Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Awarded Pro Bono Innovation Grant / Director Alison Paul Speaking on Innovation at LSC 40th Anniversary

Pictured: Alison Paul Receiving Grant Award at LSC 40th Anniversary

MLSA is honored to be among the inaugural recipients of a new national pro bono initiative by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to address the civil legal needs of low-income people.

The $141,087 two-year grant will fund the Montana Pro Bono Connect project to support and enhance the current work of Montana pro bono professionals by expanding capacity to provide legal advice and brief services as well as to create new pro bono opportunities. The project will develop and implement innovative strategies and technological tools that will help pro bono attorneys provide services to clients throughout the state, including remote services.  

MLSA is a nationally recognized innovator among civil legal aid providers, particularly in the development of technological tools to increase access to justice. MLSA Executive Director Alison Paul is currently in Washington, D.C, for a ceremonial award of the grant, as well as to serve as a panelist at LSC’s 40th Anniversary on the topic of innovation to increase access to justice.

Established in 1974, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation, promoting equal access to justice and providing grants for high-quality civil legal aid.

LSC's 40th Anniversary celebration has been marked by several days of panels. Anniversary speakers include US Vice President Joe Biden, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, US Associate Attorney General Tony West, as well as many others.


     MLSA Board President Andy Patten on Break During 40th                 US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Justice For Montanans Members Serve and Celebrate for AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary

"Montana is a better place to live, to work, to raise a family because of the investment of time, energy and enthusiasm of AmeriCorps members." — Governor Steve Bullock

MLSA Justice for Montanans members join Governor Bullock in a service project during the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary. L-R: Gareth Ford, Andrew Martinez, Meghan Flannery, Gov. Steve Bullock, Eric Parsons, Nolan Harris.

In honor of the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary, MLSA Justice for Montanans members joined fellow AmeriCorps members in completing a service project as well as celebrating the special occasion at the State Capitol.

Members were honored to be joined by Governor Bullock in completing a bridge-building project as well as at anniversary festivities.

MLSA Justice For Montanans members joined AmeriCorps members across the nation in celebrating AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary.

AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. MLSA Justice for Montanans members help to provide access to justice for Montanans at MLSA offices, Self Help Law Centers, the State Bar of Montana, and the Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services.


Watch MLSA Justice for Montanans member Meghan Flannery talk about her service in AmeriCorps (KXLH)

Read about MLSA Justice for Montanans member Larken Yackulic's experience with AmeriCorps (Helena Independent Record)

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Justice for Montanans Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Cheers for Charity Fundraiser – Missoula – Sept 9

Draughtworks MissoulaCome join the fun at the MLSA Cheers for Charity Fundraiser in Missoula on Sept 9 at Draught Works and support MLSA!

Draughtworks will donate $0.50 from each pint sold between 5-8pm to support MLSA projects.

This is our second year at Draught Works' "Cheers for Charity" and after much success last fall we are hoping for another great night! Come on out, say hi, and have a pint!

Check out our Facebook event here.

Draughtworks is located at 915 Toole Ave, Missoula, Montana 59802. Phone (406) 541-1592.

Posted in Announcements Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Trains Law Enforcement at Rocky Boy’s Reservation

MLSA training law enforcement

MLSA staff attorney Jennifer Hill-Hart recently trained law enforcement at Rocky Boy's Reservation on domestic violence issues.

Alongside trainers from the FBI, Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and others, Ms. Hill-Hart provided information and resources on identifying domestic violence and determining predominate aggressors in domestic violence situations.

MLSA legal experts are available for training on many legal subjects. If your agency or organization is interested in training, please contact MLSA with your request.

Posted in American Indian Issues, Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , , ,

Build Your Own Legal Case

Missoula Independent Cover

 

 

The Missoula Independent explores the challenges of pro se litigants in Montana.

Posted in Access to Justice, Self-Help, The Legal System

MLSA HelpLine Hours Changed

Red phone

Due to a staff shortage, the MLSA HelpLine hours have changed temporarily.

The new hours are:

Monday – Friday 9am-noon and 1pm-4pm

 

If you try to call the HelpLine and can't get through, please remember you can apply using our online application or mail/fax in a paper applicationEspanol.

We expect the temporary HelpLine hours to remain in effect until approximately September 12. At that time we hope to resume regular HelpLine hours (7:30am-6:00pm).

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

Posted in Announcements Tagged with:

Have Fun and Support MLSA at PintAid! (August 4)

PintAid

Come have a pint of beer and support MLSA on Monday Aug 4 at PintAid at The Garage (Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company) in Billings.

For every pint purchased, the Garage will donate $1.00 to MLSA!

The fun begins at 6pm and runs through 8pm. We're going to have a rocking band and some lively legal trivia. All that and good beer with $1 per pint donated to civil legal aid—It doesn't get any better than that!

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Support Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Congratulates Crime Victim Advocates of the Year

Kelly Erickson-HAVEN (Bozeman), Angie Fox-Yellowstone County Attorney's Office (Billings), and Janel Pliley, Adult Protective Services (Powell County), were recently recognized for their exemplary service in 2014 by Montana's Attorney General Tim Fox.

Jan Berry, MLSA Supervising Attorney-Domestic Violence Practice Group, wrote a letter of recommendation for Ms. Erickson and presented at a ceremony in Bozeman.

MLSA attorneys and legal staff work closely with victim advocates across the state on individual cases, policies and procedures, and education for both the public and professionals working with crime victims. MLSA congratulates the crime victim advocates of 2014.

Learn more about MLSA's Domestic Violence Practice Group here.

Posted in Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Wins Commuter Challenge

MLSA's Missoula office has won Missoula's "Commuter Challenge" in the small non-profit category for the second year in a row.

Missoula in Motion

The challenge, a week-long event encouraging people to adapt sustainable forms of commuting to work, is sponsored by Missoula in Motion.

 

Way to go Missoula MLSA!

Posted in Announcements, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Montana Supreme Court Case Helps Homeowners

MT Supreme Court Decision, Morrow vs. Bank of America, N.A.

The Montana Supreme Court recently entered a decision in Morrow v. Bank of America, N.A., that may help Montanans who have experienced abuse or misconduct at the hands of their mortgage loan servicers and/or are in the foreclosure process.   

The homeowners in the case, the Morrows, made several claims in District Court against Bank of America about the servicing of their mortgage.  Several claims related to discussions between bank employees and the Morrows, such as instructions to the Morrows to skip a payment intentionally and to ignore notices of acceleration. The Morrows also asserted that bank employees repeatedly told them over the phone that they were approved for a modification, but they received letters denying their applications for modification and ultimately received notice of a scheduled trustee’s sale of their property. 

The District Court granted summary judgment to the bank on all of the Morrows’ claims, in essence ending their suit without any relief for them.


The Morrows appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, asking that the summary judgment on their claims be reversed.  MLSA filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the Montana Supreme Court, supporting the Morrows’ appeal. During oral argument, the justices asked the attorneys for the Morrows and the bank questions about MLSA’s brief, including questions about the nature of a mortgage servicer’s duty to a borrower.


On May 7, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the District Court's order with respect to several of the homeowners’ claims, including actual fraud, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act.  This means the Morrows can now take those claims to trial. The decision allows the Morrows a chance to have a jury decide their claims and opens the door to other homeowners with similar claims to try their cases. It also clarifies several aspects of Montana law about the standards mortgage servicers must meet, and will help to promote servicers’ compliance with those standards in the future.

More Information:

Last Best News article

Billings Gazette article

The full version of the Montana Supreme Court’s decision is available here.  A synopsis of the decision is available here.

Posted in Consumer Tagged with: , , , ,

MLSA Holds Legal Clinic for Remote Clients Using Computer Tablets

MLSA recently held a clinic using computer tablets that allowed an MLSA attorney located in Missoula to give “face-to-face” legal advice to clients in another community.


MLSA staff attorney Diana Garrett and each clinic participant used specially formatted tablets to discuss the participant’s case. Ms. Garrett and the participants were able to view and speak to one another using the tablets, as well as to review documents.


The participants, domestic violence survivors with family law issues, reported that using the tablets was a positive experience and more helpful than simply using the telephone because of the ability to see the attorney with whom they were speaking. Ms. Garrett also found using the tablets more helpful in providing advice to clients than speaking over the telephone and a valuable experience.

A Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant funded MLSA’s purchase of the tablets. MLSA will continue to use the tablets to provide more services to remote clients throughout Montana in clinics as well as through other means.

Posted in Uncategorized

MLSA to Provide Services at Veteran Stand Downs Across Montana

US FlagMLSA is pleased to attend Veteran Stand Downs across Montana this spring through fall.

MLSA AmeriCorps "Justice for Montanans" members, MLSA staff, and Justice for Montanans members from the Montana Court Help Program and the Montana Office of Consumer Protection will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to Stand Down attendees.

Veteran Stand Downs provide homeless veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc. More than that, Stand Downs also help to provide struggling veterans with a sense of community and acceptance.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.


See Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information on these and more Stand Downs we plan to attend.

May 10 – Anaconda: Anaconda Armory / 101 Polk Ave / Saturday 9am-4pm (MLSA will not attend Sunday.)

May 31 – Kalispell

June 7 – Bozeman         

June 28 – Missoula: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Missoula Armed Forces Reserve Center (New Armory) 9883 Running W Road, Missoula (Across from Yogi Bears Jellystone Park on Hwy 93 North)

June 28- Trout Creek: 8am to approx. 1pm

Trout Creek Park (9 Park Street)

August 1 and 2 – Hamilton: MLSA will attend both days from 9am – around 3pm, National Guard Armory

September 12 – Dillon: MLSA will be in attendance from 9am to 3pm, Armory Readiness Center (1070 Highway 41 N. Dillon)

October 16 – Billings, Shrine Auditorium-1125 Broadwater Ave

October 18 – Helena, St. Paul's Church, 512 Logan St


Montana Legal Services Association 

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , , ,

Celebrate Law Day: Why Every Vote Matters

 

 

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

 

Abraham Lincoln’s words are those that most of us recognize in some form or fashion. The phrase describes our nation’s democratic ideal, that government should have only the powers that citizens give it.

Voting is the way that we, ordinary people, give the government its powers. Take away our right to vote and you take away our democracy. Over the years however, there have been many struggles and challenges in providing all Americans the means to vote. Even today, not everyone can easily and freely exercise his or her right to vote.

This Law Day we encourage you to learn more about the importance of voting rights, and to reflect on how honoring every American’s right to vote is the only way to preserve our democracy for which so many have fought and given their lives.

Learn More

American Bar Association President Silkenat on why every vote matters:

Voting Rights – Wikipedia

Voting Rights – US Department of Justice

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , , ,

April is Fair Housing Month!

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability in the sale or rental of housing.

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If you are a Montanan who has experienced housing discrimination, there is help. You can:

  • Contact Montana Fair Housing at: (406) 782-2573 / 1-800-929-2611   Montana Relay: 711- (406 782-2573 / 800-929-2611
  • View Montana Fair Housing's website by clicking here.
  • Read more about the Fair Housing Act, Fair Housing Month, or learn about filing a housing discrimination complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  by clicking here.
Posted in Access to Justice, Housing Tagged with: ,

New MLSA Pro Bono Program Coordinator

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Angie Wagenhals is MLSA’s Pro Bono Coordinator


MLSA is pleased to announce that Angie Wagenhals is MLSA’s full-time pro bono coordinator.

Angie has worked with MLSA since 2011 as a program assistant with pro bono coordination duties, but now will dedicate all her time to support pro bono and help expand pro bono statewide.

Among Angie's many duties are expanding legal clinics for pro se litigants with pro bono attorney instruction, as well as coordinating quarterly continuing legal education credit trainings for pro bono attorneys.

Angie can be contacted at 406/543-8343 extension 207 or awagenha@mtlsa.org.

Posted in Access to Justice, The Legal System, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

MLSA’s Alison Paul Awarded National Medical-Legal Fellowship

Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) Executive Director Alison Paul has been selected for a national medical-legal fellowship in the “Where Health Meets Justice” program. This fellowship was awarded to 24 leaders providing legal aid to the poor and is designed to improve the intersection of health and the law in each of their communities.

The program, a collaboration of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), with funding by the Public Welfare Foundation, will build healthcare expertise in the legal aid community so that organizations such as MLSA can better meet the legal needs of clients that affect their health.

“Legal needs related to housing, domestic violence and public benefits are inextricably linked to the health and well-being of low-income communities,” said Camille Holmes, Director for Leadership and Racial Equality at NLADA. “For decades, civil legal aid offices have worked to improve housing conditions, protect utility access and appeal benefit denials. But what has been missing is a concerted effort to align these services with the delivery of healthcare for the same populations. This fellowship aims to remedy that.”

MLSA is a non-profit law firm that empowers low-income people by providing legal information, advice, and other services free of charge, thereby protecting and enhancing the civil legal rights of, and promoting systemic change for, Montanans living in poverty.
While MLSA has a long-standing partnership with Riverstone Health in Billings to assist with the legal needs of its patients, participation in the fellowship program will allow MLSA to learn new funding strategies and opportunities within the healthcare sector, as well as to strengthen the organization’s tools and processes for providing exemplary services across the state.

Paul joins twenty-three other senior level staff from legal aid agencies in 21 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as inaugural fellows. During the year-long program, a faculty of national experts in healthcare administration, policy, research and economics will guide the fellows.

Posted in Access to Justice, The Legal System Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Attorneys Honored as Champions of Justice

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MLSA is pleased to announce that MLSA attorneys Bob LaRoche and Amy Hall have been honored with the Montana Justice Foundation's (MJF) Champions of Justice awards.

Also honored are several individuals nominated by MLSA for their work with MLSA’s pro bono efforts, including Deborah Anspach, Gary Connelly, Jane Cowley, Jessica Fehr, Shannon Hathaway, Diane Kaatz, Marijo MacDonald, and Sheila Verlanic.

Part of MJF's 35th Anniversary, the awards honor 35 Montanans who have made significant contributions to the law over the last three-and-a-half decades.

The charitable arm of the Montana legal community, MJF's mission is to achieve equal access to justice for all Montanans through effective funding and leadership.

MLSA congratulates Mr. LaRoche and Ms. Hall, as well as all other honorees.

For more information about the awards and recipients, visit the MJF website.

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Uncategorized

MLSA Attorneys Admitted to Fort Belknap Bar

MLSA attorneys Jen Hill-Hart and Joe Hardgrave were recently admitted to the Fort Belknap Tribal Bar. Ms. Hill-Hart is also a member of the bar of the Chippewa-Cree at Rocky Boy and Mr. Hardgrave is a member of the bars of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne. Both are also admitted to the State Bar of Montana.

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is homeland to the Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) and the Assiniboine (Nakoda) Tribes and has a tribal membership of 7,000 enrolled members.

Find out more at these links:

MLSA Indian Law Practice Group

Fort Belknap Tribal Nation

 

Posted in Access to Justice, American Indian Issues, Announcements, The Legal System, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Shares Expertise on Providing Access to Justice through Technology

Alison Paul, MLSA Executive Director, recently participated in a panel discussion in Austin, Texas, on how technological innovations can facilitate access to justice.

MLSA, known nationwide as a leader in legal aid technological innovation, participated in the panel to share information and practices towards the goal of increasing access to justice in Montana and the rest of the nation.

The panel, moderated by Legal Services Corporation (LSC) President James J. Sandman, included executive directors and lawyers from LSC-funded organizations and others in the legal aid community. Organizations that were represented included Texas Legal Services Center, Lone Star Legal Aid, Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, LSC, and Legal Aid Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The event was held in conjunction with a judges’ panel on the importance of access to justice to the judiciary.

Posted in Access to Justice, Technology, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic At Tax Help Day

MLSA's Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) recently attended the Tax Help Day event in Helena, along with other tax-related service providers.

At the event, LITC presented information about LITC and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to both individuals and service providers, as well as made brochures, flyers, and palm cards available to participants.

LITC will be presenting on LITC and the EITC in Billings and Great Falls — look for news about those events in upcoming weeks.

LITC helps low-income taxpayers with federal tax issues with the IRS year-round, including:

  • Negotiations or Settlements of Tax Debt

  • Innocent Spouse Relief Requests

  • Injured Spouse Claims

  • Earned Income Tax Credit Appeals

  • Audits or Examinations

  • Deficiency Notices

  • Tax Court

  • Liens and Levies

  • Referrals to Tax Assistance Organizations

(LITC does NOT help prepare tax returns).

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Want to know more? Read about LITC here.

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Taxes, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Legal Services for Homeless Montanans

MLSA attorneys and AmeriCorps members recently attended the Billings Community Connect and Missoula Homeless Connect events, providing legal information to approximately 300 people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

MLSA addressed attendees’ legal needs by providing legal topic brochures, applications, and business cards featuring information for both the MLSA HelpLine and MontanaLawHelp.org. Further, MLSA offered private consultations for attendees who needed help filling out applications and/or specific legal information for their problems.

MLSA attended the events in support of fighting poverty by providing legal services to Montanans who cannot afford attorneys. If you represent an organization that would like to inquire about MLSA’s outreach and education, please contact us here.