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Client Story: A Mother with Limited Income Receives Pro Se Assistance

While searching for divorce help online, Ruth met a TLSC attorney who supported her throughout the legal process. 

As an unemployed mother with no savings due to my status as a homemaker for over fourteen years, I had no funds to hire an attorney after I separated from my then-husband. He had agreed to work amicably with me when I served him with a petition for divorce and even said we would not need attorney involvement. After weeks of giving me the runaround, I received a letter from an attorney stating that she had been retained as his counsel. I was obviously hurt and frustrated. Thankfully, I found TLSC during an online search and hoped that I could get some help through a chat session on their site TexasLawHelp.org. I was surprised when one of the attorneys engaged in a long chat with me and expressed support after I gave him all the details.

Maria talks about the courage of her clients, how COVID-19 is impacting victims, and the importance of trauma-informed care.

In the Fight for Justice: Meet Maria

Meet Maria, an Intake Specialist in our Crime Victims Litigation Program. When a victim calls seeking help, Maria's is the first voice they hear. Her patience, calm demeanor, and compassion are reassuring and a momentary refuge for those in crisis. ​

On the courage of victims seeking help

Even though callers are in crisis, there is something to celebrate — they are getting help. It takes a lot of courage on their part to make that first call. Knowing that I'm a part of their journey forward fills me with great satisfaction and gratitude. 

TexasLawHelp.org: Responding to Legal Needs Caused by COVID-19

At the onset of the pandemic, legal aid leaders convened to organize and coordinate a statewide effort to help low-income Texans with COVID-19 related legal issues. They needed a centralized location to house the information, and they chose TexasLawHelp.org. 

TexasLawHelp.org is a website that offers legal forms, FAQ’s, a legal help directory, and myriad resources needed to represent oneself within the court system — all for free. Texas Legal Services Center manages the site, and many of our legal aid partners regularly contribute new information and content.

Texas Legal Aid Providers Ready to Assist Low-Income Renters and Borrowers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Texas Legal Services Center, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Joint Press Release

Last week the Texas Supreme Court extended the statewide eviction moratorium to promote safety and prevent homelessness. This order extends the moratorium on eviction hearings until May 18 and prohibits orders authorizing actual eviction until May 25, with exceptions for imminent threats of physical harm and criminal activity. Several Texas counties have extended these deadlines even later than the statewide order.

Case Alleging Lending Violations Moves Closer to Being Heard by Jury

Texas Legal Services Center and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Joint Press Release

A federal judge issued a ruling today ensuring that West Dallas homeowners will have a trial on whether a lender violated numerous consumer protection laws. In denying HMK Mortgage, LLC’s motion for summary judgment, Judge Brantley Starr removed the last barrier to a jury hearing the plaintiffs’ claims in a lawsuit filed nearly two years ago. The trial is set for late June.

Texas Tribune and ProPublica

Texas regulators vote to ban residential utility shut-offs during pandemic while buoying companies

The Texas Public Utility Commission voted Thursday to ban utilities from cutting off power and water services to Texans who have lost jobs and income during the COVID-19 crisis for at least the next six months.

But while it provides immediate relief to Texans worried about keeping their lights on and taps running as they face layoffs and blunted incomes, the order that the three-member commission approved unanimously does not provide direct assistance to utility customers, who will still be on the hook for their bills.

Coronavirus: Public Utilities Commission Of Texas Approves Order To Temporarily Suspend Utility Shutoffs

CBS DFW

Thousands of residential customers unable to pay their utility bills can expect some short-term relief.

The Public Utilities Commission of Texas approved an order Thursday suspending disconnections for water, electric and sewer services for at least the next six months, according to spokesman Andrew Barlow.

Victory for Low-income Texans: No Utility Cutoffs per Public Utility Commission Order 

Texas Legal Services Center Press Release

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas orders that no electric, water, and sewer service be shut off because of nonpayment during the COVID-19 threat. It requires retail electric providers to offer deferred payments to customers who request it. Customers will need to contact the company to be referred to the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program. 

Dallas Morning News

Consumer advocates pressure Texas to halt use shutoffs during COVID-19 outbreak

Advocacy groups are pressuring the state’s utility regulator to suspend water, phone and electricity shutoffs during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak as workers face furloughs and layoffs.

After the Texas Supreme Court halted eviction proceedings last week, the Texas Legal Services Center and six other groups petitioned the Texas Public Utility Commission to stop providers from shutting off water, phone and electricity services.

Texas Nonprofits Call On Public Utilities Commission to Halt Utility Shutoffs During COVID-19 Crisis

Texas Legal Services Center Press Release

Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC), Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, People's Community Clinic, Texas Health Action, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) and Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) submitted a joint petition to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requesting that there be no utility shutoffs for nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. 

No Disruption in Client Services Due to COVID-19

Karen Miller, Executive Director of Texas Legal Services Center

In response to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, all our team members are working remotely. However, our clients will experience minimal disruption in service.

 

We're able to do this because we deliver legal assistance through helplines, LiveChat, phone, and email correspondence. Our organization has always used remote delivery methods so we can reach some of Texas' most vulnerable populations—including those who are homebound or living in rural areas. Therefore, we don't expect clients to experience any significant changes with our level of service.

In the Fight for Justice: Meet Wesley

Wesley talks about establishing a new Medical-Legal Partnership, a case that really stuck with them, and finding inspiration in their clients.

Meet Wesley, an amazingly warmhearted staff attorney with our Medical-Legal Partnerships. Our Medical-Legal Partnerships embed Texas Legal Services Center attorneys within healthcare teams to detect, address, and prevent health-harming legal needs of individuals and communities. Wesley works with patients at the Kind Clinic—an Austin healthcare center that provides sexual health services including PrEP and PEP access, STI testing and treatment, HIV testing, and gender-affirming care to Central Texans in need. 

Ann talks about projects that have stuck with her, her career path, and how she prevents burnout.

In the Fight for Justice: Meet Ann

Meet Ann, a powerhouse staff attorney on our Impact Litigation Team. Impact Litigation uses direct representation to strategically address a legal or social issue and effect systemic change for the better. Our current cases run the gamut—from consumer law and discrimination to police brutality and Title IX issues.

Client Story: A Second Chance for a Young Mother

A Letter from Texas Legal Services Center Client: Taylor

My name is Taylor; I am 27 with two handsome boys. I was in my last semester in college when I reached out to Texas Legal Services Center. Getting my background expunged was something I always wanted to do, I just didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer and pay for the cost to get it removed. One night I was up just thinking about my future and career, and I didn’t want my record to hinder me from getting the job that I dreamed of. I googled the courthouse down here in Beaumont, Texas, and somehow it led me to TLSC website. I scrolled through the website, and I saw that I could be eligible to get my record expunged or an order of nondisclosure.

Coming Together to Serve Survivors of Sexual Assault

A Texas Legal Services Center Program: LASSA

We assist with a wide range of issues such as safety, privacy, protective orders, housing, employment, immigration, education, divorce, custody, crime victims' compensation, and navigating the criminal justice system as a survivor. After we conduct the intake, we discuss legal options and rights. We provide legal advice, and, at the client's request, conduct services such as contacting law enforcement to determine the status of the criminal investigation or writing a letter to a landlord to help a client terminate a lease. If the client is in need of more extensive services or it makes sense for us to refer outside of Texas Legal Services Center, we make a referral to the appropriate network partner through a warm handoff. We also conduct safety planning with clients and can connect them with supportive services such as crisis centers, shelters, mental health support, and food assistance.

A Letter from Karen: Holiday Wishes

Karen Miller, Executive Director of Texas Legal Services Center

Seven out of every ten low-income households have experienced at least one civil legal problem in the past year. And 70% of low-income Americans describe their civil legal problems as affecting their lives 'very much' or 'severely.' 

We're working to change that.

With over a dozen programs offering free legal services across the state, our work touches almost every area of civil law that impacts low-income Texans. We help victims of violent crimes obtain protective orders, host gender-affirming legal clinics, work with veterans and their families to obtain benefits, educate our clients on their rights as parents, and so much more.

Client Story: Safeguarding the Financial Future of a Vietnam Veteran's Widow

A Letter from Texas Legal Services Center Client: Miguel

My mother's joint bank account was wrongfully garnished by a private creditor in an amount of just under twenty-two thousand dollars, just two weeks after my father passed away. The bank account contained my father's VA and SSI benefits (he was a Veteran of the Vietnam War). It was already a very stressful period for my family with my father recently passing and it was made even more stressful with the garnishment.

After weeks of many letters and phone calls to the bank, the creditor, the creditor's attorney, the bank’s attorney, the courts and other potential attorneys, we felt helpless and at a point where it seemed nothing was getting resolved for us. The attorneys we contacted for assistance were either non-responsive or wanted a large retainer fee and percentage of the returned dollars in order to help us. It truly felt as if the cards were totally stacked against us.

New State Law Will Soon Stop Debt Collectors from Harassing You Over Old Debts

CBS | Austin

Tim Gasaway mostly helps veterans get their benefits in his work at Texas Legal Services Center, where he is the managing attorney of the Veterans Legal Assistance unit. But he heard a lot of complaints about "zombie debts" from his clients. "It's very, very important, very stressful for these people," he said. "Oftentimes you will talk to a consumer who had a credit card debt 10 years ago."

The statute of limitations on a debt in Texas is four years. That means you can't be sued for it after that. But there's a loophole. "The out is they will contact a consumer who has one of these debts and cajole them into making a payment or affirming the debt," Gasaway said. That re-starts the clock -- and those debt collectors, who often have bought those old debts for pennies on the dollar -- are just trying to trick you so they can sue you.

New State Law Will Soon Stop Debt Collectors from Harassing You Over Old Debts

CBS | Austin

Tim Gasaway mostly helps veterans get their benefits in his work at Texas Legal Services Center, where he is the managing attorney of the Veterans Legal Assistance unit. But he heard a lot of complaints about "zombie debts" from his clients. "It's very, very important, very stressful for these people," he said. "Oftentimes you will talk to a consumer who had a credit card debt 10 years ago."

The statute of limitations on a debt in Texas is four years. That means you can't be sued for it after that. But there's a loophole. "The out is they will contact a consumer who has one of these debts and cajole them into making a payment or affirming the debt," Gasaway said. That re-starts the clock -- and those debt collectors, who often have bought those old debts for pennies on the dollar -- are just trying to trick you so they can sue you.

Waxahachie resident brings civil action lawsuit against Ellis County Sheriff’s Office

Waxahachie Daily Light

On Thursday, Nov. 29, Solis filed a civil action lawsuit with the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas – Dallas Division against the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office for violating his rights under the Rehabilitation Act and the American Disabilities Act.

According to court documents obtained by the Daily Light, the ECSO failed to properly prepare its deputies for reasonable accommodation, interaction and transportation of people with disabilities in their custody, which caused injury and trauma to Solis.

Solis seeks compensatory damages under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, equitable relief and attorneys’ fees, and costs and litigation expenses from the ECSO. He is represented by attorney Wayne Krause Yang and local counsel, Eliot Shavin of Dallas.

A man with Huntington’s called police for a safe ride home. He ended up in a hospital

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“As Mr. Solis struggled to retrieve his identification from his pocket with hands that spasm, he told the (deputies) that he suffers from Huntington’s disease. It was obvious to them that (Solis) did not have good control over his hands as he attempted to reach into his pocket,” the suit states.

Solis’s lawyer, Wayne Krause Yang, said the deputies reacted with anger to Solis’s symptoms and his disability.

Solis says in the suit the officers started to question him antagonistically, argued with him and ignored his explanation of his disease. Solis started to walk away and “attempted to get a little space from the (deputies).”

Wall Street Journal

AT&T Overpaid Some Pensioners. Now It Wants the Money Back.

PHOTO: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Managing Attorney Roger Curme with the South Central Pension Rights Project commented in a Wall Street Journal article by Theo Francis detailing the tactics used by AT&T to reclaim awarded pension funds to former employees. Mr. Curme represented a client battling credit collection agencies after AT&T and Fidelity Investments attempted to rescind payments.

 

For press inquiries, contact: 

Meghan Lee, Communications

512-477-6000 x214 | mlee@tlsc.org

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