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Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015

Toll-free line offers legal information

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A coalition of Tennessee legal groups has joined forces to launch a toll-free phone line offering free legal information and referrals to low-income Tennesseans.

The service, known as aLEGALz, will assist Tennesseans in finding resources to deal with civil legal issues. Those who cannot afford a lawyer may call the line at 888-aLEGALz (1-888-253-4259) and leave a message at any time. Calls will be returned by a licensed Tennessee lawyer.

The aLEGALz program is made possible through a grant from International Paper and funding from the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.

"This new service, along with our website, OnlineTNJustice.org, makes Tennessee a national leader in meeting the challenge of connecting all our citizens to the available resources," said George T. "Buck" Lewis, chairman of the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. "I am thrilled that these groups have come together to launch this exciting initiative."

The Access to Justice Commission is facilitating the aLEGALz project. The commission was created by the Supreme Court, which tasked it with developing initiatives to remove barriers to access to justice in the state.

"The Supreme Court considers access to justice for all citizens one of its highest priorities, and we are grateful to those that have made this new service possible," said Supreme Court Justice Janice M. Holder, who serves as the court's liaison to the commission.

aLEGALz is the first statewide phone line dedicated to assisting low-income Tennesseans facing legal problems, and is the next step in an ongoing effort to improve access to the legal system for all Tennesseans. The service will complement the existing web-based resource OnlineTNJustice.org -- a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and the Tennessee Bar Association, which allows users to post legal questions and receive answers from volunteer attorneys through a secure online messaging service. Since the service launched in 2011, more than 1,800 Tennesseans have received free legal assistance through the site.

Both the web and phone programs are part of an effort to eliminate barriers such as geographic location, work schedule or family obligations that keep those in need from receiving free legal help. The services also expand access to free assistance for people in rural areas of the state, and provide an alternative source of assistance for those who are turned away from legal aid offices because they do not qualify or because the local agency lacks the resources to handle the case.

The aLEGALz line will be staffed by a Tennessee-licensed attorney who will be able to provide referrals to appropriate legal service providers, pro bono assistance programs, free legal clinics and other social service providers. If ongoing legal representation is needed, callers may be referred to a free legal service provider or volunteer attorney program.

Tennesseans may use the aLEGALz line to request information and referrals on a range of civil law issues, including, but not limited to the following:

Family Law

Divorce

Child Support

Child Custody

Domestic Violence/Stalking

Orders of Protection

Housing

Housing Issues

Landlord/Tenant Disputes

Repair Issues

Eviction

Debt & Collection

Debt Relief

Bankruptcy

Home Foreclosure

Car Repossession

Credit Card Lawsuits

Benefits

Social Security / SSI

Medicaid

Welfare / Food Assistance

Health Care Access

Medicare

Consumer Issues

Consumer Fraud

Predatory Lending

Home Repair Scams

Contract Disputes

Employment Issues

Employment Problems

Discrimination Claims

Unemployment Benefits

Education Issues

Enrollment

Discrimination

Suspension

Though aLEGALz can assist callers desiring to clear a criminal record, it cannot help with criminal problems, including traffic tickets.

The phone line has been donated by AT&T and will be managed by TALS with significant input from and coordination with the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission.