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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 program is made possible through a grant from International Paper and funding from the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.
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.
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.
The service complements the web-based resource OnlineTNJustice.org – a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services 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 family law, divorce, child support, child custody, domestic violence/stalking, orders of protection, housing, housing issues, landlord/tenant disputes, repair issues, eviction, debt and collection, debt relief, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, car repossession, credit card lawsuits.
Information is also available about 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 and 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.