It’s a cliché: Lawyers wear suits and ties. They carry briefcases and are serious with serious careers—the epitome of a grownup. Many days, this summary encapsulates precisely what I do. And I find the work fulfilling. But I also crave opportunities that shake up that routine, where I can use my education and stretch my legal muscles in service of the public good.
In 2008, College Park Church forged a partnership with Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic to help improve and strengthen the Brookside neighborhood on the near east side. We have enjoyed the grace they bring to our community through their efforts towards justice. And we support one another in offering love and care to our neighbors in need.
In case you missed it, this August, we featured our Victim Justice Program (VJP), exploring the hardships faced by many of our clients and the provisions in place to help them achieve safety and stability.
Two young women sat in Katy Strader’s office, describing what happened to them the previous weekend when an armed man broke into their home. It was only Katy’s first full week as a Bilingual Paralegal for the Victim Justice Program (VJP) and this new client intake was a jarring introduction to the work. Both girls were shaking and crying as they detailed the robbery, which had left a third friend in critical condition with a gunshot wound.
Kanfing Camara worked with Director of Immigrant Services Rachel Van Tyle in the Immigrant Justice Program (IJP) during her internship. She helped the IJP staff by filling out various immigration applications and completing other administrative work. Of her experience, she says, “I learned a lot about different immigration applications, and which forms handle what sort of issues, from getting a work visa to obtaining a green card. I became more aware of the actual work that immigration lawyers do, and how to be personable to clients.” Her favorite part was hearing the stories of the clients, where they came from, and why they came to the United States. She says, “I really liked seeing how they lit up when they were told that their case would be picked up by the Clinic.” This fall, Kanfing is heading into her last year of undergrad at Purdue University.
Though the intricacies of the immigration system are vast, one basic statement remains true: There is nowhere for the average immigrant to get in line and simply receive their papers. That is not an option. For our clients who have suffered abuse and violence, that is still not an option.
In case you missed it, this July, we highlighted our Immigrant Justice Program, sharing our hearts for our immigrant neighbors, focusing on compelling client stories, and clarifying the historical context for immigration in this country.
Director of Immigrant Services Rachel Van Tyle says, “Modest Means is a legal phrase that means lower cost services. Some may call it ‘low bono’ as opposed to pro bono. It means that there is usually a flat fee for a case.” And while the flat fee depends on the case type, the cost remains affordable.
Bible verses like, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” provide Jack with clear guidance about what he is supposed to do. “These aren’t just nice words, but are rules of conduct,” he explains.
The day the ICE raids were supposed to begin, Laura Pontius spoke to a group of immigrants who were gathered in a Catholic Church to learn about their legal rights and the most recent changes to immigration law. After her presentation, a man approached her and the priest. She recalls that the man was visibly afraid, but he had a message to share. “All of my family and friends are really scared about what’s going to happen,” he told her. “It brings us a lot of peace that there are people out there thinking about how we’re feeling and about how we might need certain resources right now.” As he spoke, Laura was struck by how many times the man thanked her. Again and again, he expressed his gratitude that members of the community cared about what happened to him and his family.
In honor of the July 4th holiday last week, we are celebrating the naturalization of several of our clients, which is when someone becomes a U.S. Citizen. Before becoming a citizen, a person must first become a Legal Permanent Resident, which is colloquially referred to as having a Green Card. Here are just three recent stories.
Immigration has become the signature political issue of the last few years. So often, you hear people calling for reforms of the system, but we cannot possibly know where we should go without understanding where we have been.
In case you missed it, this month, we’ve been taking a close look at the impact and importance of the Legal Clinic's neighborhood roots in our community. Also this month, thanks to the generosity of several families, we've been able to match every contribution up to $25,000! You are making an impact. Not only have we secured our match, but our community has rallied, raising a combined $84,875—and we're still going strong!
In case you missed it, for the month of May, we highlighted Project GRACE and our Expungement Help Desk, unique client stories, national media coverage of the work being done by our staff, and the importance of the Second Chance Law for the flourishing of our communities. We kicked off the month with a special message from Help Desk Manager Julie Mennel.
In the latest Civil Legal Needs Study commissioned by the Indiana Bar Foundation, there is only 1 attorney available for every 10,000 low-income Hoosiers. There are 20 for all others. Moreover, 96% of the legal issues faced by the poor go unrepresented by an attorney.
When Stan was only 19-years-old, a group of guys he hung out with one night got picked up for breaking into a building. These men—who already had cases pending and who were in search of lighter sentences—claimed that Stan was with them during the break-in. Scared, but lacking the financial resources to effectively defend against the charges, Stan took the first deal that was offered to him.
As a young girl, Jordan Huttenlocker dreamed of being a veterinarian. Over the years, however, her ambitions shifted, and she eventually became a lawyer, practicing medical malpractice defense. For a time, this was the perfect marriage of her interests. But after eight years of working as a full-time attorney at a large firm in Chicago, Jordan and her husband decided to move back to Ft. Wayne. Jordan took a step back from her career to focus on raising their two small children. Soon, however, she sought part-time employment again. “I realized I really did miss practicing law,” she says.
The words, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way!” are stenciled on the far office wall of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s Expungement Help Desk. These words also comprise a message we try to convey to those who step through our doors in the basement of the City County Building. Our visitors are ready to leave their past behind in search of a second chance. Perhaps they are unable to find a good job or a nice apartment to call home. Or perhaps they are prevented from seeking educational opportunities for career and life advancement.
In case you missed it, this April, we highlighted our amazing team of volunteers, sharing stories of their most meaningful client interactions, exploring their reasons for giving back, and learning how volunteering nourishes them in turn. We kicked off the month with a special message from Volunteer Coordinator Kathleen Bloxsome.
Volunteer Attorney Fatima Skimin understands the experiences of the immigrants she serves through the Clinic. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, as a girl, she received a French education, and later attended Law School in Montpellier, France. In the mid 1990s, however, Fatima chose to come to the U.S. as an international student.
After studying in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries for several years, Katie Bailey returned to Indiana knowing one thing: She wanted to meet and support her immigrant neighbors living in the Indianapolis community. With prior experience translating and interpreting for legal issues through an internship, Katie sought out an organization to utilize her many skills. Soon, she began to volunteer for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
Waiting with the others in court that morning, Phil was fascinated by the eclectic mix of people and their reasons for being there. Everyone had a story. There were those who were divorced, wanting to rid themselves of the name they had taken on as a newlywed. There were children who were being adopted, now bestowed with new names to match their new family. Phil marveled at the ceremony and power as the judge declared for each person, “You will forever be known as—” before christening them anew. “It felt like a religious moment,” Phil says to me now.
Every Wednesday morning at our main office, new potential clients have an opportunity to speak to an attorney about a pressing immigration or tax issue. While they sit in the waiting room, if they choose, they can fill out a prayer request card, which is then given to our volunteer prayer team. This team is currently comprised of two people: April Ervin and Grant Sellers.
In 1992, Dr. Frank Kik, Senior Pastor at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, challenged the congregation to be “a force for Christ in the heart of the city.” In response to this challenge, a handful of volunteers established the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. This small but mighty team of passionate volunteers committed to use their time, talents, and treasures to provide those living in the neighborhood with access to quality legal services.
In case you missed it, this March, we shared stories about the work done by our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), information on the biggest scams that threaten our clients, and helpful tips and resources for those who are facing tax-related issues.
One of the services we provide through our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is to represent people in the U.S. Tax Court. If you are selected for an IRS examination or audit, the IRS will take a closer look at your tax return to determine if there are any discrepancies or errors. At the end of this process, taxpayers are told if they still owe money. If they do not agree with the results of the IRS exam, they have 90 days to file in Tax Court.
Jim Foltz’s father owned a bakery where Jim mopped floors and washed dishes after school when he was just a boy. Down the road lived a prominent, local attorney who was friends with his father and grandfather. Over the years, Jim observed this man’s work, and he dreamed of one day becoming an attorney as well. “I thought that I could mediate and help people reach a fair and agreeable solution when they had difficulties,” he says. “That was my main motivation for becoming an attorney.”
In case you missed it, this February, we shared stories about the work done by our Housing Department, information on the biggest threats to safe housing faced by our clients, and helpful advice regarding housing-related topics. We kicked off the month with a message from Staff Attorney Chase Haller on “The Hidden Housing Crisis.”
Amy describes their Advocacy Program as the backbone of their work. “We assist individuals who believe they may have been a victim of housing discrimination to determine if there is in fact evidence of a violation of law or not,” she says. “If we find evidence of an unlawful practice, we then become an advocate for that victim and assist them in getting justice.”