For Madison County residents who are looking for information and assistance in certain legal matters, the courts offer several legal resources free of charge to clients, through its Pro Bono Committee.
The Third Judicial Circuit Court Pro Bono Committee offers three different programs: free legal appointments for civil and family matters, legal assistance for U.S. veterans in a variety of areas, and assistance in real estate matters.
“We know the programs are successful because members of the public continue to call for appointments and the lawyers continue to volunteer to help,” Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder told the Florida Record. "We matched four veterans to attorneys in the first quarter of this year, also.”
In the first three months of 2016, two dozen attorneys volunteered to see appointments from January through March. Those attorneys include Amy Meyer, Bonnie Levo, Brenda Baum, Carol Cagle, Casper Nighohossian, Christine Kovach, Dustin Maguire, Elizabeth Levy, Ellen Burford, Eric Rosser, Gale Stipes, Ian Murphy, Janel Freeman, Joe Whyte, Kelly Stephan, Kristen Strieker, Lauren Gearhart, Leonard Berg, Nathaniel Carroll, Phil Steinman, Ron Williams, Shari Murphy, Stephanie Galetti and Terry O’Leary.
The Pro Bono Committee first started these programs in 2011, with the creation of the free legal appointments program. Crowder said that it has been the most widely utilized of the three programs offered free of charge to Madison County residents.
Programs are organized by the pro bono coordinator, and the self-help center, located at the Madison County Law Library in the basement of the Madison County Courthouse.
The free legal appointments program provides an opportunity for low income residents without attorneys to set up an appointment on the second or fourth Tuesday of each month, allowing them 30 minutes with an attorney to discuss civil matters. Any civil matter is fair game, such as landlord-tenant issues, collections cases, divorce and child support, or small claims issues.
Those who have questions or problems pertaining to real estate deeds can make an appointment on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, with Amy Meyer, recorder of deeds, in the Madison County Law Library.
The third program is for veterans who do not have attorneys. When contacting the pro bono coordinator, veterans are asked to identify themselves, in order to help more quickly.
Anyone who needs legal assistance or who wants to volunteer to help should contact Angela Wille at 618-296-5921 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another way that the Pro Bono Committee knows the programs are making a difference? People are talking about it.
“We had a letter to the editor in the Alton paper specifically thanking the pro bono attorney for his assistance in helping the writer get pension benefits straightened out,” Crowder said.