BRISTOL, Tenn. – The Bristol Tennessee Bar Association will begin hosting monthly free legal advice clinics to assist low-income individuals. The first monthly clinic will be held on Oct. 12, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Bristol Faith in Action. The location is 1534 Euclid Avenue in Bristol, Va. Successive clinics will occur on the second Saturday of each month.
The legal clinic is a walk-in only clinic and is open to the public; no appointments are necessary. Volunteer attorneys and paralegals from the Bristol Tennessee Bar Association will offer legal counsel free of charge. Individual cases will not be accepted, but may be referred to community resources or legal aid agencies. The clinic is being offered as part of the Tennessee Supreme Court's Access to Justice Initiative.
Johnson City attorney Tony Seaton has been working with a similar clinic in Johnson City for the past few years. Additionally, a monthly clinic was recently established in Kingsport. According to Seaton, the clinics are about lawyers helping people. "Legal matters can be intimidating for many, and our goal is to remove that intimidation and give people sound direction and counsel," he says.
The Access to Justice Commission appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court has encouraged similar programs in different areas of Tennessee to provide better access to the court system. Johnson City began a legal clinic in 2011 and Kingsport launched a program in September.
Bristol Tennessee Bar Association Pro Bono Coordinator Suzanne Shackelford Queen has been instrumental in launching the new Bristol clinic. According to Queen, "Many people have difficulty obtaining legal services due to the cost. So often, I hear from pro se litigants – those who are representing themselves – that they don't know where to turn, they don't know what to do next, and they don't feel as if they are even heard when they go to court. This is our opportunity, as volunteer attorneys, to help them navigate the legal waters and to give them a stronger voice so that they will be heard."
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