Dorman Ray Brumbelow of LSLA’s Longview office and Christina Gindratt of its Waco office discussed how their organization provides pro bono (free of charge) legal representation to eligible veterans in civil cases, including from divorce, credit card debt and others, to bankruptcy. Lone Star, which has 13 branch offices with at least one attorney each, helps low-income individuals (not just veterans) and families with civil legal problems, but does not handle criminal cases, they said.
Ms. Gindratt, a Temple resident, told Wednesday’s meeting at the Upshur County Senior Citizens Center that her firm decided “we really needed to focus on helping veterans.
“The need greatly outweighs what we can provide. We cannot help everybody, so we have to prioritize,” said the involvement coordinator for veterans’ projects in LSLA’s Waco office. “Veterans are a priority...Veterans are a population that really don’t seek legal services.”
LSLA is funded by federal, state and local grants, and deals with a “wide variety of things,” she said. However, all clients must meet standards for income, asset liabililty and citizenship guidelines, Ms. Gindratt said.
For a one-member household, she said, the client must receive less than $1,935 monthly, which is less than a person working 40 hours weekly for minimum wage would earn.
Brumbelow is pro bono litigation coordinator for the downtown Longview office, which holds a clinic where veterans may come without an appointment at 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays. If the veteran qualifies for legal help, that office matches him/her with a pro bono attorney.
“Coming to talk to us is free,” he said. “If you’ve got a problem, then you’ve got nothing to lose.”
However, he cautioned that his firm is for veterans who “have no one to help them,” have no “resources,” and are unable to hire private attorneys. Lone Star is not for someone making, say, $80,000 yearly income, he said.
He also said that veterans who are served with legal papers should call him immediately at 903-758-9123, not wait till a Thursday clinic to seek help.
When a veteran contacts a Lone Star branch office, that office reviews the case to see whether that branch can staff it. If not, the office sends the case to its veterans’ unit, and if that unit cannot assist, the case is referred to Ms. Gindratt.
Brumbelow said 95 percent of veterans who see him have legal problems unrelated to their military service, such as family issues, public benefits (Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc.), landlord-tenant cases, and foreclosures.
Ms. Gindratt said the firm handles such matters as divorce, federal tax problems, Veterans Administration benefits, and many credit card debt collection cases. By law, she pointed out, someone can’t be required to pay such debt if it’s at least four years old.
“We want to get the word out that you (veterans) can come see us,” said Brumbelow, whose office is in the Glover-Crim Building at 140 E. Tyler St., one block from the Gregg County Courthouse.
He further said his organization hopes to receive help from Gilmer attorneys.
Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler, who maintains a private law practice in Gilmer, said he and the other local attorney at the meeting, David Griffith, “spend a couple of hundred hours a year doing pro bono work.”
Fowler asked what commitment Lone Star seeks if an attorney signs up to work with the organization.
Brumbelow replied that lawyers ask for varying amounts of cases, but that most sign up for two yearly, and some for six. Others ask for one monthly, he said.
Lone Star provides lawyers with malpractice insurance through the State Bar of Texas, while also paying filing fees and other legal expenses, Brumbelow added.
Ms. Gindratt said a benefit for an attorney utilizing Lone Star is that his/her pro bono work can be reported to the state, and once it reaches 75 hours, the attorney can receive free Continuing Legal Education (CLE), providing potentially substantial savings to the lawyer.
Furthermore, an attorney can learn a skill for which he/she can charge, she said.
Added Brumbelow, “We’ve got a lot of training opportunities we can provide for people who want to represent veterans.”
Gilmer attorney Mike Martin “does a lot of work with us,” and another Gilmer attorney, Karen Bishop, worked with the organization before she became a mediation attorney, Brumbelow added.
According to its brochure, Lone Star Legal Aid serves 72 Texas and four Arkansas counties, has offices in 13 cities, and has existed since 1948. Ms. Gindratt said the firm has a “fair number” of attorneys with 30 or more years’ experience.
Representatives of the LSLA will attend the veterans’ Benefit Outreach Fair being hosted by the local American Legion R.E. (Peppy) Blount Post No. 320 on Saturday, July 20, at the Gilmer Civic Center.
Jerry Holsworth, second vice commander and immediate past commander of the local post, hosted Wednesday afternoon’s meeting. He noted that Judge Fowler has been working with the local Legion.