Legal aid office reaching out to low-income clients

By Melonie Flomer

June 4, 2014

ROCKINGHAM — Not everyone embroiled in civil disputes can afford attorney fees. That’s why a team of public-interest lawyers is offering help to low-income Richmond County residents.

Legal Aid of North Carolina has scheduled two intake days this month in Dobbins Heights and Ellerbe to help the needy find out if they qualify for free legal assistance.

“The intake events are only an introductory step,”said Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Sean Driscoll. “All a person needs to bring to the appointment is any documentation related to his or her case.”

Richmond County has an estimated 11,265 people living below the federal poverty line, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. Driscoll said the legal aid office in Rockingham opened two years ago in response to the area’s need.

Eligibility for free legal aid is determined by lawyers who ask a series of questions during scheduled appointments. Driscoll explained that eligibility depends on numerous factors, not all of them income-related.

The Rockingham office is a branch of the agency’s Pittsboro office. Until last month it only served Richmond County, but since May it also serves residents of Anson County.

The types of legal aid offered are restricted to civil matters and do not include criminal cases. Domestic violence, food stamp issues, housing and foreclosures, Medicaid disability denials and consumer issues are a few examples of cases Legal Aid of North Carolina can assist with.

Rebecca Price, another attorney at the Rockingham office, is one of three full-time lawyers on staff at the facility.

“Usually, we don’t send people to private attorneys,” Price said. “We handle our cases in-house.”

Legal intake days are planned from 9-11 a.m. Thursday, June 12 at Dobbins Heights Town Hall and 9-11 a.m. Thursday, June 26 at Ellerbe Town Hall. Both events are by appointment only.

Beginning in July, appointments will also be available at 145 Thompson Road in Hoffman on the second Thursday of each month.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call the Legal Aid of North Carolina office at 910-817-7670.

Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.