J. Reuben Clark Law Society

2015 Franklin S. Richards Award Recipient, Salt Lake Chapter, Reaches New Heights Through Pro Bono Efforts

At the Law Society’s annual fireside in January, the Franklin S. Richards award was given to the Salt Lake City Chapter in recognition of their outstanding example of pro bono service. Notably, the Chapter has been able to partner with several community organizations to increase Chapter members’ opportunities to use their legal skills for good.  For example, the Chapter partners with the LDS Church’s Salt Lake Inner City Mission (the SLICM) to perform pro bono services to needy individuals and families throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The Chapter places an average of 2 SLICM-referred cases per week.  Chapter members have provided criminal defense, performed pro bono adoptions, obtained protective orders for abused spouses and children, defended unlawful evictions, provided bankruptcy and family law counseling, and helped unite families with immigration law assistance.
In one case referred by the SLICM, a family was facing civil judgment and potential homelessness due to an overly aggressive property owner and management company. The father did construction and remodeling for the company and lived with his family in one of its apartments. The company sold the property, and the new owner/manager did not pay the father for the previous month’s work remodeling and repairing its property, including all of the wages the father had paid to workers. The new owner then evicted the family for failure to pay rent.  The family wanted to move on with its life, but the new owner then sued for unpaid rent. A Chapter member agreed to take the case on and succeeded in getting the property management company to dismiss the suit.
Another example is the Chapter’s partnership with the University of Utah Law School and the LDS Church Employment Services Center located at Welfare Square. The Chapter staffs two monthly short consultation legal clinics: one focused on immigration and general legal services and the other focused on debtors and bankruptcy. University of Utah law student volunteers run the clinic and shadow the volunteer attorneys, who provide short-form legal advice.
In addition, local bishops and stake presidents are increasingly contacting the Chapter directly to make requests for worthy pro bono clients. In one such case, the client—a disabled elderly woman—rented out the main floor of her house (and lived in the basement) in order to provide income to live on. The client rented to a tenant who, contrary to the lease, allowed her three adult sons and three large dogs to move in with her and stopped paying rent consistently. It was evident even from the outside that the tenants were damaging the house and the yard. To make matters worse, the sons damaged the house by smoking and were up all hours of the night, garnering complaints from the neighbors and making it difficult for client to sleep and live. For six months, the client tried to persuade the tenants to abide by the lease or to move out, but the tenants insisted on taking advantage of the helpless, wheelchair-bound client. Members of the bishopric called the Chapter Pro Bono coordinator and requested assistance. The accepting attorney visited the tenants, served them with process, and evicted the tenants in five days. The attorney also advised the client regarding use of the tenants’ security deposits to effect repairs and cover back rent. The bishopric then rallied the ward’s elders’ quorum and young men’s and young women’s auxiliaries to repair, paint, re-carpet, and fumigate the house and to repair the yard. The pro bono legal services provided by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Salt Lake Chapter are becoming integral to the ward’s efforts to help the needy and vulnerable in the community.
By Brian Rothschild, SLC Chapter

Posted: July 7, 2015