Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Celebrates Legal Aid Day
By Anne Yeager | November 3, 2017
The Ohio Capitol Rotunda was the setting for 60 volunteers and legal aid staffers to pay tribute to Legal Aid Day.
Ohio legal aid ensures that the most vulnerable citizens have access to the civil justice system and legal system when it comes to housing, education, protection from domestic violence, and other ways.
"Legal aid is a big law firm," said Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) President Angela Lloyd. "They specialize in the areas of law that particularly impact low-income Ohioans. And they are there to serve those Ohioans in the same way a giant law firm would service its clients."
There are 248 legal aid attorneys who helped 114,000 low income Ohioans last year.
Ohio Supreme Court Administrative Director Michael Buenger spoke at the celebration.
He worked in Kosovo from 2007 to 2010, following the devastating civil war to help re-establish a justice system.
"It took me leaving this country where we tend to take so much for granted to understand how fortunate I am to live in a society where I really don't worry about proving that I own my home or my car, that I am who I say I am, that my children are, indeed, my children," said Director Buenger.
A significant portion of funding for the Legal Services Corporation, or the LSC, that helps fund legal aid in Ohio and across America is in jeopardy.
The message to lawmakers was that their constituents need Legal Aid services in the state.
"It's a good thing for Ohio as far as economics," said OLAF Board President David Kutnik. "It's a good thing for people to have access to justice, to be able to move forward with their lives and improve their lives. When people have a higher level of living that benefits everyone."
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor sent letters to members of Ohio's Washington delegation this past spring, and again last month, urging their support for funding at current levels.
"The Chief's efforts have been critical," said Lloyd. "It's so important and valuable to have the support and imprimatur of the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, especially in this year when she's also head of the Conference of Chief Justices."
Legal aid attorneys have represented low-income Ohioans with everything from court hearings to school hearings since the Ohio General Assembly founded OLAF in 1994.