Category Archives: Free Legal Help

Legal Help for Seniors

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Many businesses and government agencies give special treatment to people over a certain age. That age limit is usually around 60, 65, or somewhere in between. If you’re a “senior”, an “elder”, or otherwise in that category, you can usually get discounts from private enterprise on things like meals, hotels, and movie tickets. From the government, you can get a lifetime pass to National Parks for only $10.

When it comes to the justice system, seniors don’t get any breaks. If you’re accused of a crime, or sued for damages, the law only cares about your age if you’re a … Read More

Conciliation: A New Form of Dispute Resolution

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When people have a disagreement that can’t be resolved by simply discussing the problem, they may end up going to court for a resolution  – especially if the disagreement involves something as important as family issues or large sums of money. Going to court can be very expensive if you hire a lawyer, and it still costs some money (e.g., filing fees) if you don’t hire a lawyer. It’s very time consuming either way, especially if you don’t hire a lawyer.

And it’s not quick; courts are busy, many court systems are underfunded and overburdened, and it can be months … Read More

Mental Illness Commitments

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Our 2008 blog post about mental illness cases introduced two aspects of that topic. Last month we covered Mental Health Courts – specialized court programs which can set up treatment in lieu of incarceration for some criminal offenders with mental health problems. For those offenders, their mental illness may have been a contributing factor in their commission of a crime, but is not severe enough to warrant commitment to a mental institution.

In order to be committed, a mentally-ill person must be dangerous to himself or herself or to others, or be unable to care for himself or herself. Criteria … Read More

How to Complain About Your Lawyer

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This blog has discussed many ways to find a lawyer, from how to decide whether or not you really need a lawyer to evaluating a prospective lawyer by using online resources and checking disciplinary records. In between, we covered ways to find free legal help here and here; lawyer referral services here, here, and here; using lawyers for limited services; even finding legal help during a natural disaster.

After using all these resources – or after getting a recommendation from a friend – you’ve found a lawyer to take your case. So far, … Read More

Who is a Friend of the Court?

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Actually, the correct question is “What is a Friend of the Court?” The Friend of the Court we’re describing here is not a person. There is a different type of “friend of the court” who can be a person – or a group or organization – who files a brief in an appellate court case. If they are not a party to the case, they are an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”). They may be providing additional information to help the court take a broader view of the issue on appeal, or they may be providing additional … Read More

Everything I know about the Legal System, I learned from the Movies

Think for a moment about the influence of popular culture informing your opinions about the legal system.  Whether a consumer of film, television, radio, music or literature, you have likely been exposed to broad, thematic messages about law and justice.

These messages may be inspirational and enlightening, or distorted and inaccurate representations of our legal system.  Legal professionals may be vilified or sainted, redeemed or doomed, but their portrayals often linger long after we leave the theater.  Who can forget Jack Nicholson bellowing at Tom Cruise in  Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” or  Al Pacino … Read More

Finding the Right Attorney, Part 2 – How to be a Savvy Legal Consumer With Online Resources

Last month’s blog article “How do you find the right attorney for your legal issue, your area, and your budget” (July 18, 2013) promoted the idea of using lawyer referral services offered by state and local Bar Associations. The ubiquity of the programs (more than 300 nationally) and the mission of matching legal consumers with unbiased, qualified referrals based upon specific legal needs is endorsed and governed by the American Bar Association. The referral services include pre-screening assistance, detailed educational and professional profiles, and assisted selection of appropriate counsel.
Whether you utilize a referral program or decide to … Read More

Natural Disaster? You May Need a Lawyer

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Think back just a few years, and what events stand out in your memory? Some really big ones may jump out at you: the 2004 Indonesian tsunami; the 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. A little more recent and closer to home: Hurricane Katrina, August 2005 (over 1800 dead, over $100 billion in damage). The Joplin, Missouri tornado, May 2011 (over 150 dead, nearly $3 billion).

But when you think about just last year in the United States, the number and frequency of natural disasters becomes more striking. The worst of 2012:

  • Hurricane Isaac, August – AL, FL, LA,
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How do you find the right attorney for your legal issue, your area, and your budget?

Finding an attorney can be a daunting process! Do you rely on personal recommendations from friends or family members?  Select from the parade of lawyers advertising on late-night television? Search the internet for professional directories and performance reviews?

There are countless resources available to assist you with searching for legal representation. In this article, I’d like to recommend one simple starting point: consult your local state or county bar association. More than 300 lawyer referral programs are offered by area bar associations to direct legal consumers to appropriate counsel.

These programs were created to assist the public in selecting attorneys … Read More

Can you fire your Public Defender or Court-Appointed Attorney?

If you have been charged with a crime that may result in incarceration and you cannot afford an attorney, the court will offer you legal representation.  Depending on the jurisdiction, a public defender or court-appointed attorney will be assigned to represent you.  Whether a public defender (a paid government lawyer who represents indigent defendants) or a court-appointed attorney (a private practice lawyer hired by the court to represent indigent defendants on an ad hoc basis), both are licensed practitioners in your state.  Regardless of the type of advocate appointed, the attorney will act as your legal counsel.  But what happens … Read More