Community Legal Services kicks off fund-raising campaign
Community Legal Services (CLS), the organization that provides legal needs to the poor, is starting a fund-raising campaign in Yuma County.
To raise money, CLS is asking each attorney to donate the amount of money equivalent to two billable hours each year for three years, according to Conrad Mallek, a Yuma County Attorney's Office prosecutor who is CLS president-elect. The fund-raiser, called the Arizona Equal Justice Campaign, was started last year in Maricopa and Pima counties.
This year the program is being expanded to the rural counties and Yuma County is the first one of those, Mallek said.
The equal justice campaign was started so CLS could reach more people. Much of CLS money is provided by the federal government but funding is inconsistent.
"Like everybody else, we don't know how much we're going to get," Mallek said.
That's why CLS, along with People's Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA), started the equal justice campaign. And Mallek, who has been a CLS board member for six years, said the campaign in Maricopa and Pima Counties has been successful. He pointed out lawyers in the state's two metropolitan counties donated $1 million to the campaign last year.
However, funding was still not enough to help all of those in need. According to statistics, CLS, People's Legal Services and SALA provided legal services to more than 21,000 poor people with critical civil legal problems. But another 50,000 were turned away because of a lack of resources. The goal of the campaign is to raise another $3 million in three years so the three organizations can serve another 25,000 clients.
The type of cases handled by CLS and the other two organizations that help the poor include family law, preventing homelessness, protecting against fraudulent consumer practices, protecting a client's income and providing access to health care, education and employment as well as juvenile and individual rights.
Even before the equal justice campaign began, Arizona's attorneys helped the poor through pro bono work. CLS reports that 986 Arizona attorneys in 2000 provided 24,360 volunteer hours and closed 2,784 cases for poor people.
For the Yuma County campaign, Mallek is being helped by Monsignor Richard O'Keeffe, Yuma County Superior Court Judge Andrew Gould and 10 other local attorneys - Wayne Benesch, Michael Donovan, Ronald Jones, Steven Kiholm, Stephen Shadle, Wm. Michael Smith, Thomas Varela, Cristyn Weil, John Weil and Anthony Young.