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Nevada Lawyers Do Pro Bono Work to Fight “Justice Gap”

October 30, 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - 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

Graham Galloway, president-elect, Nevada Justice Association, recently handled an accident case in which an immigrant family lost a young child, and the hospital bill was so big, there was no insurance money left to pay for anything else. Galloway took the case on a pro-bono basis.

"We were able to convince the hospital to release roughly nine thousand dollars to the mother so she could pay for the funeral expenses. The poor people were going to have to go out and borrow money so they could bury their son. "

This week's celebration is also a call for more legal experts to donate time to help ensure equal access to the civil justice system.

Kimberly Abbott, director of the Pro Bono Project for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, says a recent civil legal needs assessment by the State Supreme Court verified the justice gap in Nevada.

"There was only one legal services attorney for about every five thousand or so people who would qualify for legal help. There's a huge un-met need."

Cal Potter, chairman of the Nevada Alliance for the Homeless, says as many as 50 lawyers will donate time next month to help homeless folks in court.

"They'll be trying to get warrants quashed, lifting some of the burdens they might have from the court, and hopefully moving them on towards getting them back not only with a home, but with a job and trying to deal with the whole problem."

On the bright side, Abbot says the number of lawyers doing pro bono work is up this year. And, free legal services will continue beyond this week's celebration. Attorneys will be recruited to donate time for homeless as part of Project Connect at Cashman Field.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV