By SARA ARTHURS
People who need a lawyer but don’t have money to pay for one can sometimes get help from Legal Aid of Western Ohio.
The nonprofit organization provides free legal help for civil needs to people meeting certain income guidelines. They do not help in cases of criminal charges, such as DUI, said John Keenehan, attorney with Legal Aid of Western Ohio. But they may help with things like civil protection orders, in domestic violence cases. And they’ve helped people with divorce-related matters and with writing wills. They’ve also done outreach to seniors at 50 North through an Older Americans Act grant.
The nonprofit organization receives money from several sources. Private lawyers are required to maintain a special trust account, and the interest from these accounts goes to the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, which redistributes them to Legal Aid programs throughout the state. This is the organization’s primary source of funding. It is dependent on interest rates, attorney and pro bono director Melissa LaRocco said. But Legal Aid also gets smaller amounts of money from a variety of sources, including some federal funds and sometimes agencies like United Way.
Generally they can assist people who earn up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $30,375 for a family of four. However, in some cases they can help people who earn more, depending on the situation.
“When in doubt, call,” Keenehan said.
Keenehan has been at Legal Aid for 38 years, LaRocco for 11. Both said they find the work rewarding.
In need of more information? Call the Legal Aid line at 888-534-1432 or visit www.legalaidline.org.