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Legal Hub: Wyoming Center for Legal Aid E-News

News for the Wyoming Legal Aid and Access to Justice Community | Volume 1, Issue 2

April 23, 2013

In this issue:

  • Governor to Attend Grand Opening of Sweetwater County Family Justice Center
  • Four New Members Appointed to Wyoming Access to Justice Commission
  • GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: Coalition Advocates for Victims of Abuse
  • Funding from Wyoming Center for Legal Aid Continues to Increase Legal Services in Wyoming
  • Center’s New Website Sees Statewide Traffic

Governor to Attend Grand Opening of Sweetwater County Family Justice Center

The Sweetwater County Family Justice Center in Rock Springs will host a grand opening on April 30, 2013 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Governor Matt Mead will be in attendance and will commemorate the grand opening with a ceremony scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. Also scheduled to speak at the event are Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips, Wally Johnson, Chair of the Sweetwater County Commissioners, and Brett Johnson, Sweetwater County Attorney. The event is free and open to the public and attendees are invited to tour the facility.

The Sweetwater County Family Justice Center is the first family justice center in Wyoming. It is designed to be a one-stop help center for victims of all forms of family and domestic violence. The Family Justice Center brings together multiple agencies, all housed in the center, in order to provide full-service support for victims and their families. The Family Justice Center partners with many agencies, including law enforcement, social service agencies, and counselors, as well as non-profit legal aid providers, to offer victims all of the necessary services to move forward after experiencing family violence. The Center is funded in part by the Wyoming Office of the Attorney General, Division of Victims Services.

The event comes as the Family Justice Center adds a legal aid attorney to assist low-income individuals with their civil legal needs. The Family Justice Center has partnered with the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Wyoming to offer free civil legal services to qualifying persons. Through a grant from the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, Legal Aid of Wyoming is expanding services to the Rock Springs area and will house an attorney in the Family Justice Center.

The Sweetwater County Family Justice Center is located at 725 C. Street in Rock Springs. For more information about the event, please contact Christie DeGrendele at 307-352-6635.

Four New Members Appointed to Wyoming Access to Justice Commission

The Wyoming Supreme Court recently appointed four new members to the Wyoming Access to Justice Commission: James Salisbury, Wyoming State Bar Foundation President; C. John Cotton, Wyoming State Bar President; The Honorable Shelley Cundiff, Circuit Court Judge, Fourth Judicial District; and Paul Phillips, Legal Aid of Wyoming Board Member. Each Commission member is a dedicated volunteer who works to promote fair and equal access to civil justice in Wyoming. The Wyoming Center for Legal Aid is pleased to welcome the Commission’s newest members and thankful for the time and energy the outgoing members put into the Commission. The Center looks forward to working with the Access to Justice Commission on many more projects to assure justice is accessible to all persons in Wyoming.

For a complete listing of all Commission members and to read more about the Commission, please see the Wyoming Supreme Court’s website at,http://www.courts.state.wy.us/AJC.aspx.

GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT

Coalition Advocates for Victims of Abuse

The Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (the Coalition), based in Laramie, provides a broad range of legal services for victims of domestic violence.The Coalition’s two attorneys strive to address the full range of legal needs of victims of abuse and provide holistic legal services.

Louise* was a victim of severe mental and physical abuse, including strangulation, sexual assault and abuse involving weapons, by her husband of over 15 years. She was concerned for her safety and that of her children. She made the decision to flee the state with her children after filing for divorce, knowing she had to leave behind animals that her husband abused as well. Due to the high lethality risk of the relationship, the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault was able to open her case immediately and help her file for divorce. Attorneys at the Coalition ensured she and her children were in a safe location before her husband was served. Due to the length of the marriage there were property issues which needed to be settled in addition to the issues of custody and support of the minor children. With the help and advocacy of the Coalition, Louise was awarded primary physical custody of the children. Months after her case had closed, Louise again contacted the Coalition. Her ex husband had not paid child support and had sold multiple items awarded to her in the divorce. She had pursued and successfully gained an Order to Show Cause but was unsure how to write the final Order for the judge to sign. An attorney for the Coalition drafted her Order ensuring she was able to collect the financial aid she desperately needed.  The Coalition made it possible for Louise and her children to escape the abusive marriage with the financial support owed to them and live a life free of abuse.

In 2012, the Coalition’s funding from the federal government was cut significantly and the Coalition was faced with reducing their legal staff from two attorneys to one. This reduction would have severely impacted available services to victims. The Coalition, even with two attorneys, is limited in the number of cases they are able to accept. A grant from the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid has allowed the Coalition to maintain two full-time attorneys who handle cases throughout Wyoming. Without the Coalition, victims like Louise would be unable to get the help they desperately need.

*Names have been changed.

Funding from Wyoming Center for Legal Aid Continues to Increase Legal Services in Wyoming

The Wyoming Center for Legal Aid currently provides funding to four grantees in order to increase legal services to qualifying individuals throughout the state. In total, from January to March 2013, Center grants have made it possible for 870 persons to receive legal assistance.  

In November 2012, Legal Aid of Wyoming, in partnership with the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, established the first civil legal aid hotline in Wyoming.  Through funding and support from the Center, Legal Aid of Wyoming operates a toll-free hotline that eligible persons can call from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline employs one full-time and one part-time attorney to answer questions and provide advice and brief legal services, such as document review, to callers.  From January to March 2013, the hotline served 768 callers.

The Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault received additional funding from the Center after the Coalition faced severe federal funding cuts in 2012. The grant from the Center has allowed the Coalition to maintain two full-time attorneys to represent victims throughout the state. From January to March 2013, Coalition staff attorneys opened 15 new cases funded by the grant from the Center.

Teton County Access to Justice Center opened 22 new cases and assisted with 33 self-help reference questions during the last quarter. The Wyoming Children’s Law Center opened 11 new cases for representation and provided limited or brief assistance in an additional five cases during the same time period. In order to increase services statewide, the Center and Center grantees contract with private attorneys to provide representation to qualifying individuals. Through these contracts, an additional 16 new cases were opened this quarter.

Center’s New Website Sees Statewide Traffic

The Wyoming Center for Legal Aid’s new website, www.legalhelpwy.org, received 1,352 visits in the first quarter from all across Wyoming: Freedom to Pine Bluffs, Lovell to Saratoga.  Have you visited our website recently? New family law topics include child support and temporary guardianships for minor children. We also added a new category for legal issues affecting seniors that provides information on advance directives and elder abuse.

Every month the Center adds new topics and categories to keep the website relevant for low-income citizens across the state trying to access the courts on their own or to get them to an attorney. We also post up-to-date Wyoming Access to Justice and Center news items.  Check back often!

The website continues to host a calendar of legal aid events and a growing list of community organizations. If you have an upcoming legal event that you would like to add, or if you know a community organization that might want to partner with us, please give a call at (307) 777-8383 or email us at wcla@legalhelpwy.org.

Wyoming Center for Legal Aid

"Legal Assistance and Information for the Equality State"

2300 Capitol Ave, 1st Floor
Cheyenne, WY  82001
(307) 777-8383
Fax: (307) 777-8382
Email: wcla@legalhelpwy.org

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