TJSL’s Free Clinics Help to Close the “Justice Gap”

 
Published: June 17, 2013 share

When TJSL’s first free legal clinic opened its doors on June 13 in Otay Mesa, there was a line of community members waiting to see a lawyer.

 

They came to the right place.

 

The free legal clinics are a joint program of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Center for Solo Practitioners and Eighth District City Councilman David Alvarez, who funded the clinics through his council office budget.

 

“We knew there was a need for these free legal services in the community, but we hadn’t found the vehicle for them until I got a visit from Professor Luz Herrera,” said Councilman Alvarez. Professor Herrera is one of the founders of the Center for Solo Practitioners, which is an incubator program for TJSL alumni who are starting their own practices.

 

“This is an excellent example of connecting alumni to individuals who need legal services,” said Professor Herrera. “My hope is that TJSL is able to continue to provide an example of what it means to be involved in the community.”

 

The second clinic was held June 14 at the Sherman Heights Community Center, on Island Avenue, within sight of TJSL’s campus.

 

Enrique Sanabria was one of the first clients and he met with TJSL Solo Practitioner Ben Aguilar ‘11.  Afterwards Sanabria was filled with hope that his legal issue was going to be resolved favorably, and Councilman Alvarez said it would have cost Sanabria around $2000 just to get in the door to see a private lawyer.

 

“This is the greatest thing in the community,” said Hector Villegas, another client. “This is something that is really needed. How am I going to get help without money?”

 

Citizens in District 8 came in with many types of legal issues – from criminal cases to family law to immigration situations.  A third clinic was held in San Ysidro on June 15 and the free clinics will continue through June 29 in the three different communities.

 

"We are really excited about this new partnership with councilmember Alvarez, said Aguilar. "It is evident that there is a great need for more this type of free legal clinics all over San Diego County. We did not get a break between clients. We are looking forward to serve more of District Eight's constituents in the next couple of weeks."

 

“The Free Legal Clinics were created to help fulfill the one of the missions of the Center for Solo Practitioners, which is to reach people who feel that they cannot afford or are not entitled to competent legal advice and representation,” said TJSL Adjunct Professor Lilys McCoy, who directs the solo practitioner’s center. “During our inaugural weekend of legal clinics, we provided legal counseling to more than 40 San Diegans in District 8. And we have appointments lined up for the next two weekends. The new solos were outstanding in their dedication to the project. They continue to amaze me with their professional excellence. We are incredibly appreciative to Councilmember Alvarez for the opportunity to work with his office and provide this service in District 8.”

The Free Legal Clinics will offer assistance to walk-ins or by appointment at (619) 550-4879 or solocenter707@gmail.com.   The clinic locations, dates and times of operation are:

 

Thursday, June 20 & 27    3:00 – 5:30 p.m.             Otay Mesa-Nestor Library

Friday, June 21 & 28    3:00 – 6:00 p.m.                 Sherman Heights Community Center

Saturday, June 22 & 29    9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.     San Ysidro Senior Center