Now the poor can afford legal advice
A new legal-aid service for low-income valley residents will openits doors on March 1, the result of two years of planning by lawyers,government officials and other supporters.Called the Roaring Fork Legal Services, the private, nonprofitagency will be handling civil cases for those who can’t afforda lawyer, but whose income prevents them from qualifying for government-sponsoredlegal aid.And one day, said two of the lawyers involved, the agency maytake up the cause of battling such social ills as racial and economicdiscrimination.”To me, the story is that on March 1, the balance of power isshifting,” intoned Aspen City Attorney John Worcester, treasurerof the new service. “It will be a little harder for people toscrew minorities and the poor. I see this as one of the firstand strongest advocacy groups for the low-income and minorityresidents of the valley.”Worcester, along with RFLS President Tim McFlynn, has an extensivebackground in class-action type litigation. The service is located at the Schultz Health and Human ServicesBuilding, in office space donated to the organization by PitkinCounty. Executive Director Kathy Goudy will run the service, andstarting March 1, will field calls from anyone who thinks theyhave a problem that requires legal assistance. Her office willprovide service for clients in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.Goudy, who does not speak Spanish but expects a considerable portionof the requests for service will come from the valley’s Latinopopulation, said last week that she already had begun interviewingbilingual applicants to work as her assistant and paralegal.A statement announcing the opening of the service termed it a”no-cost or low-cost legal aid program,” and pointed out thatGoudy, a 42-year old attorney with a decade and a half of privatepractice behind her, has extensive experience in the areas ofpoverty law and minority issues. She moved here from Des Moines,Iowa, and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. She ismarried with two children.The RFLS was created, the statement continued, “in response toalarms sounded by judges throughout the area.”McFlynn noted that one local judge told him that as many as two-thirdsof the divorce cases that come before his court involve peoplewho represent themselves because they can’t afford an attorney.And, McFlynn continued, the judge estimated that “if they couldhave had mediation, half of them wouldn’t have been there [incourt].”He said that mediation will be one of the primary services offeredby RFLS, in the belief that many disputes can be settled withoutresorting to lengthy court battles and a lawyer’s services.Another of the founding lawyers, Helen Klanderud, said the RFLSwill be drawing on an existing pool of trained mediators who usedto perform mediation services for the defunct Center for ConflictResolution.Worcester pointed out that there is no way of knowing what thedemand will be for services, but he said the organization is startingout with a projected annual budget of $110,000 to $120,000. And,McFlynn added, fund-raising has already begun for the second yearof operation.The startup funds, more than $100,000, were raised by a combinationof pledges from 35 area law firms and grants and contributionsfrom local governments, individuals and private organizations.The 17-member board of directors is primarily made up of attorneys,but also includes elected officials, such as Pitkin County SheriffBob Braudis and Basalt council member Jacque Whitsitt.A “sliding scale” of fees is still being developed, organizerssaid.
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