Free legal assistance available for low-income individuals facing civil legal problems due to the coronavirus pandemic

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JOINT PRESS RELEASE
April 2, 2020

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Amy Starnes, Public Information Director, State Bar of Texas
800-204-2222 ext. 1706 or 512-427-1706
amy.starnes@texasbar.com

Edie Surtees, Communications Director, Disability Rights Texas
512-407-2739
esurtees@drtx.org

Clarissa Ayala, Communications Director, Lone Star Legal Aid
713-652-0077
cayala@lonestarlegal.org

Shelby Jean, Director of Communications, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
817-339-5384 or 806-281-8235
jeans@lanwt.org

Shelby Alexander, Interim Communications Director, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
512-374-2717
salexander@trla.org

AUSTIN — As the coronavirus pandemic shakes the lives of Texans, causing uncertainty about their healthcare and economic futures, the state’s legal service and access-to-justice providers are joining together in a partnership to assist in this time of crisis.

A toll-free legal assistance hotline is available to low-income individuals and families across Texas who are confronted with civil legal problems as a result of the pandemic. People may call 1-800-504-7030 to be connected with legal service providers in their area. Areas of legal assistance or guidance include:

  • Bankruptcy and debt-collection matters
  • Employment issues, unemployment applications and appeals
  • Child custody, visitation, and support issues
  • Life, medical, and property insurance claims
  • Mortgage or foreclosure problems
  • Public benefits issues (e.g., Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, Social Security)
  • Healthcare directives and powers of attorney
  • Consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and scams
  • Landlord-tenant problems
  • Disability discrimination
  • Family and domestic violence concerns

Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who can provide free legal help. Callers should be aware there are some limitations on the legal services available. This service is a partnership among the State Bar of Texas, the state’s legal aid agencies, volunteer organizations, and access-to-justice organizations. See below for a full list of partners.

Online Assistance

Texas Legal Services Center has created a webpage of COVID-19 resources including information on eviction and tenants rights, forced quarantines, unemployment benefits, and others. The website also has a LiveChat feature to assist low-income individuals with their legal questions. A Texas directory of legal aid providers listed by county can be found at texasbar.com/referraldirectory.

Barratry or improper solicitation

The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that in many cases it is a crime in Texas for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a person for purposes of legal representation if the person has not first requested the call or personal visit. The contact is not illegal if the attorney is not seeking payment or has a preexisting
professional-client or family relationship with the person being contacted.

If you witness something you believe to be improper solicitation, or barratry, please get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar of Texas Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office toll free at 1-866-224-5999.

Partnership members

  • Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program  is a joint project of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. DVAP recruits, trains, and supports volunteer attorneys to
    provide free, civil legal help to low-income people in Dallas County.
  • Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to
    help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal
    participation in society.
  • Houston Volunteer Lawyers is a nonprofit service of the Houston Bar Association. The mission of Houston Volunteer Lawyers is to provide free civil legal services to lowincome people in Harris County and to promote volunteerism among lawyers.
  • Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas is a nonprofit organization that strives to meet the legal needs of more than 1.5 million eligible clients in its 114-county service area. The fifth-largest legal aid program in the United States, LANWT provides a wide variety of broad-based legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients including family law, landlord/tenant cases, public benefits, wills, foreclosure prevention,consumer issues, and community revitalization matters.
  • Lone Star Legal Aid is the fourth largest service provider of free legal aid in the United States. LSLA serves 72 counties in Texas and four in Arkansas, from Texarkana, to the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast state-line, down to Matagorda Bay, an area with over 2 million Texans eligible for free legal
    services. LSLA has 14 offices throughout east, southeast, and northeast Texas; covering consumer, housing, environmental justice, disaster recovery, tax relief, family law, domestic violence, sexual assault, crime victim rights, veterans benefits, and more.
  • The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system.
  • The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid.
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation  was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984 and is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 150,000 Texas families each year.
  • Texas Legal Services Center is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide high-quality legal representation, advice, advocacy, and education at no cost to underserved people across the state. With more than a dozen practice areas, our work touches almost every aspect of civil law that impacts low-income Texans.
  • Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. provides free legal services to approximately 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 southwestern counties including the entire Texas-Mexico border. TRLA attorneys specialize in more than 45 practice areas, including disaster assistance, family, employment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, subsidized housing, education, immigration, farmworker, civil rights, and environmental law.
  • Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps members of the community with low-incomes access the civil justice system by providing volunteer attorneys who donate free legal advice and representation, and by supporting and training those attorneys in Travis, Hays, and
    Bastrop counties.

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