04 Mar, 2024
2 mins read

Why legal aid matters | opinion







wherry

When I speak to civic groups about Alpine Legal Services, I’m surprised how many people have heard of us but aren’t sure what we do.

People also tell me they don’t realize the right to legal representation applies mostly to criminal cases. They didn’t know that those facing a life-altering civil legal matter — an eviction, a protection order from abuse and violence, a custody case, an emergency guardianship — are most often not entitled to an attorney. That’s where civil legal aid comes in. That’s what we do.

Alpine Legal Services has been around in one form or another since 1987. A group of lawyers saw the need to uphold justice for people who had strong cases but didn’t know how to present them and couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. They saw people walking away from our justice system feeling powerless and resentful. They realized that if you want to live in a safe and stable community, you can’t have people thinking our system of justice is not for them. They knew a true system of justice required not only fair and impartial judges, but advocates on both sides, to get to the truth and uphold the law, regardless of someone’s ability to pay a lawyer, or social status.

Right now, you can think of Alpine Legal Services as an emergency room for legal aid. We get more requests for aid than we can handle, so our necessary and calculated response is to triage the most critical civil legal aid cases and help get people stabilized. We are short-staffed (spoiler alert: legal aid attorneys who can afford to live in our area are not easy to come by), so our main criteria for meeting with a client at this time is whether someone is at risk of

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