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On “Law Day,” Many in WV Can’t Afford Needed Legal Help

May 1, 2008

Charleston, WV – Today is the 50th anniversary of "Law Day," a commemoration of the rule of law and the American judicial system. State legal experts say there's not much to celebrate, however, for those West Virginians who are prevented from exercising their legal rights -- because they can't afford legal representation.

Adrienne Worthy, executive director of Legal Aid of West Virginia, says her group's mission is to provide legal assistance for those who can't afford it, because people need such access in order to protect their individual rights. And many, she says, are facing serious problems.

"We're reducing poverty by making sure that people aren't discriminated against on the job, by making sure that they have access to affordable and safe housing, by making sure that there's no violence in their lives, through domestic violence or other family issues, and access to health care. That everyone has access to the justice system, so that there is a level of fairness in our communities, our state, our country -- that's what Law Day is about, and why it's important to folks who provide legal services to the poor that we talk about it."

Worthy adds her office has to prioritize the most pressing cases -- domestic violence, loss of housing, and wage and benefit issues -- because there simply is not enough legal help to go around for those who can't afford it. (Learn more about how Legal Aid of West Virginia works and who qualifies to use its services, at

A few West Virginia attorneys are receiving awards today for their service-related contributions to the profession. Charleston attorney Nate Bowles is among those being honored for providing free legal help; he encourages other lawyers to pitch in, too.

"In order to have a system of justice which truly affords that justice, and helps our society be what it is, we need to provide access. For lawyers, sometimes that means devoting their time without charging a fee."

Bowles believes federal funding for legal aid could also make a big difference in West Virginia.

Rob Ferrett/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - WV