News: Legal Service Support Section, attorneys provide pro bono service
Story by Cpl. Michael Iams
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Camp Pendleton’s Legal Service Support Section and attorneys from counties around the base held the first Help for Heroes event at the Joint Legal Assistance Office here, July 27.
Help for Heroes is a legal assistance event with classes to help service members and their families understand and deal with various legal issues.
“This idea first came up during one of our conferences where we heard young service members were dealing with the same problems 70 years ago,” said Harry Pergerson, circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. “Many of the problems they were experiencing were family issues and running up debt they can’t afford.”
According to Pergerson, a Marine veteran, he contacted other Marine veteran attorneys and civilian attorneys in the surrounding counties to inform them of this problem and find a way to help service members and their families.
“This is the first time we are doing something like this so today is for us to test the waters and see if members of the private nonprofit bar would provide legal service to active duty service members,” said Judge Maria Stratton with Los Angeles county court. “We will see what topics are needed for when we do something like this again.”
Some of the topics discussed were family law, consumer law, tickets, citations and warrants, service member’s civil release act, taxes and housing issues.
“Our hope is to provide information awareness of resources that can help empower the service members here to avoid legal challenges that might manifest in the future and know where to turn to get help in the event they find themselves in a legal crisis,” said Paul Freese, vice president of Public Counsel.
Information that was given to the service members and their families include child custody and child support issues, debt collectors and credit card issues, taking care of tickets and criminal records expunged to be eligible for jobs out of the service, employment law issues and housing issues.
“I came to help provide information about the traffic and criminal warrants,” said Nicholas Garces, an attorney at the Ticket Clinic in Los Angeles County. “I will be able to help show how to fix any problems the service members and their families may have with tickets, citations or warrants or how to fight the violation.”
Classes were held throughout the day with experts in each topic explaining the common problems and solutions to those problems.
“We have civilian attorneys, professors who teach at law schools, but are pro bono attorneys from various organizations that give free legal services as well as one-on-one sessions for further consultation,” said Maj. William Ivins, officer-in-charge of LSSS. “The goal is to bring these attorneys on base and cover topics that are relevant to service members.”
This event is meant to help service members and their families learn about legal issues and consult with civilian attorneys in specific topics for further assistance.
“I see this event as something that we can all do well into the future,” said Pregerson. “This is not a one shot deal and we want to establish relationships with service members and the families and have someone they can call when they have an issue.”