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PLEASE NOTE BEFORE READING: The names of the individuals portrayed in the following series were altered to protect our client’s identities.
Cameron was a high school senior who dreamed of enrolling in LSU and becoming the first college graduate in his family. While his parents lived in Mississippi, Cameron lived with his 23-year-old step-brother in a small apartment in Covington, LA. His parents believed that it was for the best because they could not longer take care of him themselves.
A few months before Cameron moved to Covington, his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. While it broke her heart to see Cameron leave her side, she had no other options but to send him away. His father also could not support him – he had lost his job, was depressed, and started abusing drugs.
When Cameron moved to Covington, he was determined to make a better life for himself. He studied hard in school and hoped that his grades would help him get accepted into college. He wanted to make his mother proud.
Unfortunately, life in his new home was far from easy. His step-brother barely made enough for the two of them to survive. Every month, they were forced to choose between having a warm meal to eat or a warm place to sleep. So, Cameron decided he needed to get a job. While still going to school full-time, he started working 40 hours a week.
Cameron still kept hitting roadblocks – he could not access the things he needed on his own because he was a minor. He couldn’t get health insurance. He couldn’t get car insurance to drive his car back and forth to work and school. He couldn’t apply for financial aid for college. He learned that without financial aid, he would have to pay for all of his tuition costs out-of-pocket. Even though he was working, he was barely making ends meet and knew he could never afford to pay the entire college tuition on his own. He felt lost and didn’t know what to do next.
Cameron’s mother encouraged him to get an emancipation so he could access the things he needed on his own. She encouraged him to get legal help. That’s when he turned to Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
We matched his case with one of our volunteer attorneys and she helped Cameron complete the joint emancipation pleadings. They argued to the court that due to the urgency of his mother’s diminishing health, the judgment should be granted immediately. And they won. Within less than a week, Cameron was emancipated.
Now, Cameron has the legal documents he needs to take ownership of his life. Thanks to the generosity and zealous advocacy of his SLLS Northshore Pro Bono Project attorney, he can access the healthcare, car insurance, and other services he needs. And, most exciting of all, he can build a new future for himself as he launches the next chapter of his life as a college student. He looks forward to earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, so that he can make enough money to support himself and his family.
The Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ (SLLS) Northshore Pro Bono Project celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 in Covington, La. The event commemorated the untiring efforts of dedicated pro bono attorneys who have volunteered their time and skills to fight for the rights of more than 3,506 low-income and vulnerable people on the Northshore over the last 10 years.
“The impact these bright men and women make on the community is truly remarkable,” said Roxanne Newman, SLLS Deputy Director. “It’s because of them [pro bono attorneys] that our clients can successfully move forward and rebuild their lives. Day in and day out, they’re out there fighting for a victim of domestic violence, helping a disabled veteran obtain benefits owed to them, protecting an elderly man from a wrongful eviction, and so much more.”
In honor of these achievements, the celebration sought to inspire other attorneys and volunteers in the Northshore to stand up for equal justice. “Don’t let any body convince you that the little thing that you’re doing can’t have a big impact,” said 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery, one of the event’s speakers. “One ripple can cause a wave, which can lead to a big change in our community.”
The celebration included four hours of free training to help attorneys refine the skills they need to help low-income people who can’t otherwise afford an attorney. There was also a luncheon presentation to honor the accomplishments of SLLS’ pro bono attorneys and the supporters who make the Northshore Pro Bono Project possible. Special guests speakers included the Honorable Beth Mizell, Louisiana State Senator (District 12), the Honorable Mike Cooper, Mayor of the City of Covington, and six judges from the 22nd Judicial District Court (JDC).
Over the last decade, SLLS’ Northshore Pro Bono Project has continued to expand its services to at-risk families living on the Northshore. It now coordinates six ongoing special legal clinics and partnerships. Its volunteer attorneys have donated $150,000 worth of legal services to those in need each year.
Thank you to the Legal Services Corporation, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, and to our many volunteers and supporters, including CJ’s Florist, Outback Steakhouse, Abita Roasting Company, Another Broken Egg Cafe, and Essence Linens, who helped make the celebration such a success.
As SLLS looks toward the future, we are excited to continue expanding our services and fighting for justice for all on the Northshore. Check out the “Get Involved” pages on our website to learn more about how you can help make a difference in your community. If you would like to view more photos from our February event, then check out our Facebook page.