JUSTICE FOR ALL
For the uninitiated, the legal system can be stressful, intimidating and confusing. Thankfully, for most of us, a trip to the courtroom is a rare occurrence, and we can rely on the network of trained and experienced lawyers in Southern Nevada to shepherd us through the legal labyrinth. But for hundreds of thousands of our community’s most vulnerable residents, hiring a qualified attorney is beyond their financial means, leaving them with no option but to navigate the system on their own or to simply give up -- absent recourse, absent justice, absent the protections that are the very foundation of enlightened society.
The saving grace for many are the committed professionals at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting those in need. Founded in 1958, the Legal Aid Center serves more than 125,000 clients a year as they face their own unique legal crises. The vast majority of these clients are people with limited means, living at or near the poverty level. They include foster children, victims of domestic violence’ senior citizens’ and families facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, eviction or other financial catastrophes.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Barbara Buckley, the Legal Aid Center employs more than 60 staff attorneys, about as many staffers, and a network of 1,000 private lawyers who volunteer their time and expertise to serve clients through a number of programs. The Children’s Attorneys Project ensures that abused and neglected children have a voice in court, the Family Justice Project provides a range of services for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, and the Consumer Rights Project offers help across many types of consumer issues, including landlord/tenant law, bankruptcy, debt collection and health insurance. The Legal Aid Center also runs two self-help centers for family and civil law, hosts community classes, and holds regular Ask-A-Lawyer events, all of which extend the center’s ability to provide its services with those who need it.
And that need is only growing. In 2007, the Legal Aid Center served a total of 13,500 clients; today that number is nearly 10 times higher. While the center has grown along with the community it serves, adding lawyers and staff to accommodate higher demand and building a $16 million headquarters in 2013, it is still not enough.
A 2018 report commissioned by the Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission found that the state’s five primary legal aid services employ about one lawyer for every 6,000 residents living below the poverty line, far lower than the ratio of 15 lawyers for every 6,000 residents serving the community at large. The report also estimates that the legal needs of low-income Nevadans exceed the capacity of the state’s legal aid providers by a wide margin, creating a “justice barrier” that leaves three-quarters of those legal needs unmet. Notably, that same report found that the state’s legal aid programs generated $128 million in economic impact, equating to a return on investment of $7 for every $1 spent. For the record, I think those estimates are low.
Capacity challenges notwithstanding, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada is among the best of its kind in the country. And, if you have ever met Barbara Buckley, you know exactly why. For the past 30 years, she has not only been dedicated to the proposition of justice for all, but she has done so with compassion and humanity. Unless, of course, you chose to prey on the vulnerable; in which case, she will be relentless, tireless and unwavering (i.e., your worst nightmare). I am sure Ms. Buckley would be quick to say that she does not stand alone, and that her colleagues, policymakers and benefactors all make the good work of the Legal Aid Center possible. A fair point, with due respect to the tone and tenor set from the top.
I certainly hope for the day when its services become unnecessary; but, until that day comes, I take comfort in knowing that the Legal Aid Center will be there for those who need it most. The service that they provide is not only to our most valuable citizens, but to each and every one of us. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK ARCHIVE
||Constructing Economic Growth
|February 2018||Investing in Our Future|
|March 2018||Destination: Nevada|
|April 2018||34 Billion Reasons|
|June 2018||Turning Dreams into Reality|
|July 2018||On Housing and Bubbles|
|August 2018||Pride in Our Schools|
|September 2018||Austerity During Prosperity|
|October 2018||Events, Venues, and the Evolution of Las Vegas|
|November 2018||Economic Legacy|
|December 2018||Vision and Commitment|
||What Is It That Makes a Community Great?
|February 2017||A Competitive Market is a Healthy Market
|March 2017||South Point Bowling Plaza: They Built It and They Came
|April 2017||The Economy and a Better Society
|May 2017||Retail Sales: Another Sign of Nevada’s Strengthening Economy
|June 2017||Entrepreneurship: Key to Nevada’s Economic Rebound
|July 2017||When It Comes to Conventions, Las Vegas Is Serious Business
|August 2017||UNLV’s Hotel College Poised for the Future
|September 2017||Looking Beyond Game Day
|October 2017||Community Is What Defines Us|
|November 2017||A Night with the Golden Knights
|December 2017||Data and Community|
|December 2016||Southern Nevada Housing Market Continues Steady Rise
|November 2016||Jobs in Nevada: Back in the Black|
|October 2016||The UNLV Medical School: Good for the Health of Our Community and Our Economy|
|September 2016||More Workers are Quitting, and That’s a Good Thing|
|August 2016||The Rise of Restaurants|
|July 2016||Cones of Progress|
|June 2016||Nevada and the Autonomous Frontier|
|May 2016||Young Minds Leading Nevada’s STEM Future|
||An Award for GOED Means an Award for Nevada|
|March 2016||Rising Wages and the Strengthening Economies|
|February 2016||North Las Vegas: "What Ifs?" Becoming Realities|
||Evolving Economic Development|
|December 2015||A New Foundation: Economic Outlook|
|November 2015||Committed to Philanthropy|
|October 2015||Celebrating Nevada's Diversity|
|September 2015||The Return of Investment|
|August 2015||What's Working in Public Education|
|July 2015||Metal Rebel: UNLV Robotics|
|June 2015||Housing: Recession and Recovery|
|May 2015||Public Safety Key to Economic Growth|
|April 2015||Working Together: Touro University
|March 2015||Progress and Patience: Downtown Redevelopment
|February 2015||Welcome Forward: Economic Recovery|
|January 2015||More than Low Taxes: Economic Development|