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Wyoming Legal Eagles Offer Free Advice for Pro Bono Week

October 30, 2009

Laramie, WY - Attorneys throughout the state are marking the first-ever National Pro Bono Celebration week, organized to heighten awareness of what is often called the "justice gap," in which 50 million people across the country can't afford legal help for civil court issues. The Celebration will recognize attorneys who donate their time for such cases, and attempt to encourage more attorneys to help level the playing field when it comes to access to the courts.

Dona Playton, member of the recently formed Wyoming Access to Justice Commission, says there are a range of court issues for people with lower-incomes.

"Housing, creditors, divorce cases, domestic violence cases. People have a right to access the civil justice system and it shouldn't depend on whether or not you have the financial resources."

The American Bar Association estimates 80 percent of the legal needs of Wyoming's lower-income families are unmet. Currently, Wyoming is one of only two states that does not have a legislative or other specific state appropriation to directly support general, civil legal aid for low-income residents. That's something Playton says they're trying to change in the interest of civil rights, and as a good state investment.

"If you get the right child support amount, if you get the property equitably distributed, help people know what their rights are as far as retirement accounts, you can help them stay off of welfare."

Legal experts can donate time through phone consultations, document review, or even short court appearances.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY