News for the Wyoming Legal Aid and Access to Justice Community | Volume 1, Issue 4
October 31, 2013
In this issue:
Wyoming Joins National Celebrate Pro Bono Week
Wyoming joined in this year’s National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, October 20-26, 2013 by holding 16 pro bono events throughout the state. Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation declaring the week to be Pro Bono Week in Wyoming in recognition of the contribution volunteer attorneys make in their communities.
The Wyoming Center for Legal Aid hosted seven pro bono events throughout the state during the week, including Skype clinics, advice clinics, and outreach and clinics for veterans. The Center hosted events in Cody, Thermopolis, Newcastle, Laramie, and multiple events in Cheyenne.
Local bar associations also hosted legal advice clinics. The Sheridan County Bar Association and the Uinta County Bar Association both held events during the week.
Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc. also participated by organizing events in and around each town in which they have offices, hosting events in Casper, Lander, Gillette, Riverton, and Rock Springs.
In all, more than 120 individuals received pro bono legal assistance from nearly 50 attorneys who volunteered their time and services during pro bono week. In addition, numerous veterans at the Veterans Stand Down, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, received information from the Center and Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc. about available legal resources.
The Center thanks those attorneys who volunteered their time and talents to provide services to many individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford an attorney. To show appreciation for those attorneys who volunteer their services and to encourage others to do the same, the Center and the Wyoming State Bar co-sponsored a pro bono appreciation happy hour in Cheyenne with guest speaker, Hon. Justice James Burke, discussing the importance of pro bono service.
Center Board Member Receives Wyoming State Bar Community Service Award
(From the Wyoming State Bar press release)
Cheyenne attorney, Patrick Day, received the 2013 Community Service Award from the Wyoming State Bar. The award was presented to Day during the Bar’s Annual Meeting and Judicial Conference in Gillette, Wyoming on September 12, 2013.
The nomination for the award was submitted by the Hon. E. James Burke of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
“Pat’s leadership and vision as Chair of the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid has created the foundation that is turning the promise of a statewide program for legal assistance for those who can’t afford an attorney into a reality,” said Justice Burke, Chair of the Wyoming Access to Justice Commission.
“Pat has spent countless hours volunteering on the Board for the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid. He is the inaugural President of the Board and has been responsible for shaping the structure and goals for the Center. His leadership has been at the heart of the Center’s work toward improving the accessibility of legal services to the low-income in Wyoming. His vision has led the Center to take innovative approaches to expanding services to areas of the state that have never before had regular access to a legal aid attorney,” said Justice Burke. “Under Pat’s leadership, the Center and the Center’s grantees have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people that have been served through new programs and initiatives in the past year.”
Patrick Day is a 1984 graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law and is currently a partner with the Cheyenne office of Holland & Hart, LLP.
Lyttle and Masterson Receive State Bar Pro Bono Awards
(From the Wyoming State Bar press release)
Cheyenne attorney, Aaron Lyttle, and Casper attorney, John Masterson, each received a Pro Bono Award from the Wyoming State Bar. Each was presented the award at the State Bar Annual Convention and Judicial Conference in Gillette on September 12, 2013.
Lyttle was nominated for the award by Thomas Long, the senior member of Long Reimer Winegar Beppler LLP in Cheyenne.
Lyttle assisted the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center in freeing Andrew Johnson who was wrongfully incarcerated for over 23 years and has recently been exonerated and all charges dropped as a result of DNA test which established that the DNA evidence collected from rape victim was that of another man.
In the course of Johnson’s representation, in addition to gaining the right to have the DNA sample undergo DNA testing, Lyttle helped secure a new trial, and the charges against Johnson have now been dropped and Johnson has received an Order of Actual Innocence and Exoneration. Lyttle also went to extraordinary lengths to get Johnson a temporary furlough to attend the funeral of his mother, who died shortly before Johnson was released on bond after being granted a new trial.
Although Johnson is now a free man, he struggles with the complications of losing his house, having no savings or social security earnings and facing an immediate need to pay bills. Lyttle has continued to assist Johnson.
Lyttle received his J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law with honors, Order of the Coif in 2010. He works as an associate with Long Reimer Winegar Beppler LLP in Cheyenne.
Masterson was nominated for the pro bono award by Ann Rochelle, a Casper attorney. Masterson received his award for his tireless efforts for the Casper community. Masterson is Vice President of the Wyoming Medical Center Board, Treasurer of the Tate Foundation, member of the Board of CASA of Natrona County, spearheaded efforts to raise additional tax revenue for a new library building, serves on the Wyoming Board of Law Examiners, serves as the President of the Troopers Foundation, and is President of the Masterson Family Foundation.
In addition to his service on various boards and foundations, Masterson also does legal work for non-profit entities such as Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, 307 Dance Academy, Downtown Community Farmers’ Market, Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps, and Natrona County Library Board of Trustees.
“John is a well-respected member of the legal community. He is talented, good-natured and compassionate,” said Rochelle. “He is a great representative of the Casper legal community and deserves recognition.”
Masterson earned his J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1986. He is a partner in the Casper office of Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, LLP.
SPOTLIGHT: Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., Cheyenne Office
Legal Aid of Wyoming Helps Widow Fight Scam
Contributed by Rick Martinez, Deputy Director and Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., Cheyenne Office
Mary*, a low-income senior, came to Legal Aid after losing her husband. In order to pay tribute to her recently deceased husband, Mary had purchased a beautiful headstone from a local businessman. Unfortunately, the tombstone purchase was a scam. The business owner gave Mary repeated excuses for delay after delay. After more than a year without producing a headstone, Mary asked for her money back, only to be told that the business was declaring bankruptcy and that she would not receive a refund.
Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc. represented Mary, sued the defendant and received a judgment. Post judgment discovery was initiated and it was found that defendant had at least three previous business names under which he had operated this headstone scam and that defendant had never actually filed for bankruptcy. The defendant simply changed the name under which he did business in order to avoid creditors.
Legal Aid found and garnished defendant’s bank accounts and recovered a portion of the judgment. In addition, the client was provided with a free headstone by a company in Fort Collins when they heard of the client’s circumstances. The headstone was placed on the grave a few days before Memorial Day, in time for Mary to pay proper tribute to her late husband who was a veteran.
*Names have been changed.
Community Partnership Supports Legal Aid Attorney in Gillette
Through collaboration between the Council for Community Services, the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., low-income residents of Gillette and the surrounding area may now qualify for local legal help.
Made possible by a grant from the Center, Andrew Johnson was recently hired by Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc. to provide legal services to low-income individuals in the Gillette area. Johnson received his law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington, Kentucky in December 2012.
Providing legal services in Wyoming has historically been a challenge due to the large, sparsely populated nature of the state. The placement of legal aid attorneys in many areas of the state in the past has been cost prohibitive due to the overhead expense of opening a physical office. However, through a cooperative arrangement, the Council of Community Services donated space to house the attorney, which made it feasible to place a legal aid attorney in Gillette for the first time.
The new position will provide services to eligible individuals in Campbell, Crook, Johnson, Sheridan, and Weston Counties.
Focus on Veterans
The Wyoming Center for Legal Aid has partnered with the Wyoming State Bar, along with the Army One Source campaign to assist veterans, many of whom have just come home from active duty. Through the Army One Source campaign, approximately 60 Wyoming attorneys signed up to provide pro bono legal assistance to veterans.
The State Bar and the Center, along with volunteer attorneys and Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., held a legal advice clinic for veterans at the American Legion in Cheyenne on October 26th, and will host another veterans clinic in Laramie on November 14th.
The State Bar and the Center are seeing many applications for legal assistance and will continue to try to find pro bono attorneys and other resources to assist these veterans. Additionally, the Center and staff of the State Bar have met with many veterans service providers in hopes of establishing partnerships that will create a way to connect Wyoming’s veterans with the services they need.
Legal Assistance in Wyoming Continues to Grow
As the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid continues to leverage resources and provide additional opportunities for expansion of legal services, the number of individuals receiving legal assistance in Wyoming continues to grow.
In the first quarter of the current fiscal and grant year, Center-funded programs provided nearly 1,000 individuals with some form of legal assistance from an attorney.
The advice and intake hotline, funded by the Center and operated by Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., assisted 862 callers with advice and brief services, such as assistance drafting or explaining legal documents.
The two new areas of the state which are now being served due to the expansion of legal services are Rock Springs and Gillette. Nineteen new cases were opened in Rock Springs in the last quarter. Although the Gillette program just began operations last month on September 9th, 14 new cases have already been opened. These two programs are made possible through a grant from the Center to Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc.
More than 60 additional individuals received the direct legal services of an attorney through the Center and the Center’s other grantees, the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Teton County Access to Justice Center, and the Wyoming Children’s Law Center.
The Center’s website, www.legalhelpwy.org, is also a valuable tool which provides information, forms, and legal resources addressing the most common legal issues low-income individuals face. The Center has added new form packets and information such as Guardianship of a Minor Child and Adult Name Change to the site. As the Center continues to add resources and information, traffic to the site also continues to increase. The site is now receiving approximately 1,300 visits per month.
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