Author: Helen Hobson

Raleigh, N.C. – Legal Aid of North Carolina is proud to announce that staff attorney Cody Davis, J.D., M.P.A., has been elected chairperson of the North Carolina Commission for the Blind/State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Davis to the board in 2019; he was reappointed to the board this summer, and nominated for the top position by peers. In this role, Davis will advise the NC Department of Health and Human Services for the Blind on issues relating to services for persons with disabilities, especially vocational rehabilitation, independent living and medical eye care programs. The council also develops and submits a state plan to monitor, review and evaluate these programs. More information can be found on Gov. Cooper’s website.

“I am blind, and in high school and college, I received services that made my education, training and livelihood possible,” said Davis. In addition to work-related vocational rehabilitation services, he has received support from independent living programs that help those with disabilities learn skills to improve daily living and mobility. “I will lean on my experience to develop a more active and engaged membership for the Commission for the Blind/State Rehabilitation Council. Additionally, I hope to create more opportunities for public input.”

Working out of Legal Aid NC’s Concord office, Davis works on the organization’s Medicaid Appeals Technical Team serving clients across the state. Davis and his colleagues help North Carolinians with appeals related to Medicaid eligibility, which includes helping someone prove that they meet the State’s disability threshold, or income and resource requirements. They also help those who have Medicaid with appeals related to denial for a needed service. Learn more about Legal Aid NC’s work to increase access to healthcare.

Davis attended North Carolina State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, philosophy and criminology, and a Master of Public Administration in policy analysis and management. After graduating from the Campbell University School of Law in 2018, he served the school as a Wallace Public Service Fellow. His work in public service continued as a program evaluator and legal analyst with the North Carolina General Assembly and as a fellow at the UNC School of Government. He joined Legal Aid NC in 2021 as an intake attorney and was promoted to the Medicaid Appeals Technical Team four months later. He has served on the North Carolina Commission for the Blind/SRC in various roles since 2019.

“Living with hearing and vision loss can be incredibly challenging, but there are so many people like Cody who turn their personal experience into a passion for advocacy,” said Legal Aid NC CEO Ashley Campbell. “We are proud of Cody. He’ll bring valued leadership to these organizations and increase their impact.”

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube

Author: Helen Hobson

Through local partnerships, expunction clinics offer students the opportunity to hone their legal skills while giving clients access to needed legal resources.

By Sean Rowe

After years lost to drug abuse, Anthony Darity, of Asheville, N.C., is working hard to turn his life around. Part of that includes overcoming the collateral effects of addiction by cleaning up his criminal record. “I never really realized how many charges I actually had for serious drug offenses,” Darity said.

Legal Aid of North Carolina attorney Rachel Smith and Lok Ho JD/LLMLE ’25 meeting with a TROSA resident.

Through TROSA, a 24-month residential recovery program located in Durham for men and women from across North Carolina, Darity has been able to secure a stable job and get access to health care. Thanks to a recent clinic offered at TROSA’s James St. campus by the Durham Expunction & Restoration (DEAR) Program, Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), and Duke Law School, he will also be able to put his past criminal record behind him.

Nearly 40 Duke Law students volunteered to work with licensed attorneys to help TROSA residents determine if they were eligible to expunge one or more criminal records, including both dismissed charges and older nonviolent convictions. The service, which involves assisting clients with navigating confusing legal documents and terminology, was free.

“It’s a good thing, just the fact that you’re helping people out, people with families, people who never thought they would have a chance,” Darity said.

1L John Godfrey Jr. said the clinic was a high point to his first semester of law school. “It was humbling to be trusted by our clients and the supervising attorneys to do meaningful work,” he said. “As I prepare for exams, I feel much more grounded in why I decided to go to law school and what I can do with my degree.”

Criminal records can be a significant barrier to securing housing and employment and pursuing educational opportunities. In North Carolina, dismissed charges and acquittals are permanent public records that can create a negative impression with employers, landlords, and licensing boards that makes it more difficult for people to achieve stability and access economic opportunity.

TROSA resident Samuel Downey of Durham said his criminal record has been a barrier to finding work. Being open about his past often didn’t help.

“I’ve went to jobs and applied and when it gets to the point where it says, ‘Do you have a felony?’ I was always put ‘Yes,’” Downey said. “There are times when I can explain my way through it and there were times where it was like zero tolerance for a felon.”

In preparation for the clinic, students attended a series of three work sessions at the Law School, where they worked with a supervising attorney to review each of the 25 clients’ cases for expunction eligibility and to prepare necessary petitions. Jessica Miller ’24 said she looked forward to meeting with the TROSA residents and sharing some good news.

“It was so rewarding to be able to show the clients their petitions that we had worked to prepare for them, and to help them clear their records and get a fresh start!,” Miller said. 

Darity said he was the first in-person client for the student he met with, recalling them as “nervous,” but “confident.” Downey said he came away feeling more informed about his options and more hopeful about his future.

“We had a good conversation,” Downey said. “They really broke it down, what I needed to know as far as letting me know what I could pursue as far as my criminal record.”

1L Caroline Granitur said working in the clinic is in line with her professional aspirations of doing post-conviction pro bono work. “Having this hands-on opportunity to connect with a real person and complete real work to help them expunge past records has allowed my law school experience to go beyond the confines of the classroom and do good for the broader Durham community,” she said.

On hand to supervise students at the clinic were Duke Law Director of Pro Bono D.J. Dore; Jessica Luong T’04, DEAR Supervising Attorney and a former Mecklenburg County assistant public defender; Ali Nininger-Finch, DEAR Staff Attorney; and Rachel Smith ’18, LANC Staff Attorney. DEAR’s Jeremiah Brutus coordinated the clinic.

Dore pointed to the expunction clinic as both a hands-on learning opportunity for students and a chance for them to see how their work can impact a client’s life.

“The TROSA expunction clinic provides the perfect example of experiential learning through meaningful pro bono work because it requires our law students to use a wide range of legal skills, including statutory analysis and application, document drafting, and client counseling,” Dore said. “But what makes this clinic special is knowing how hard these residents have worked to overcome significant substance use disorders. All the clinic’s clients have completed at least 15 months in the program, and I witnessed a few emotional moments when a student was able to inform a client about significant expunction relief. Allowing our students to play a small part in the residents’ recovery is an extremely meaningful experience.”

Darity says he’s looking forward to making a new start with a new foundation. “The future looks bright,” he said, adding some words of encouragement for the students: “Believe in yourself.”

Read this article on Duke Law’s website.

Author: Helen Hobson

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

12:00pm – 1:00pm EDT

1 hour of Ethics/Technology CLE credit (***pending approval by the North Carolina State Bar)

Cost: $65

Program Overview:

This CLE will broadly discuss a lawyer’s professional responsibility in using technology, with a specific focus on operating a virtual office and utilizing the increasingly online legal systems/processes.  Primarily, the discussion will focus on Rules 1.1 (Competency) and 1.6 (Confidentiality), with some discussion of Rule 5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law). This CLE will also highlight relevant ethics opinions.

Presenter:

Brian Oten is the Director for Ethics and Special Programs at the North Carolina State Bar. In this role, he serves as Chief Ethics Counsel, Director for the Board of Legal Specialization and the Board of Paralegal Certification, and Counsel to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission.  Oten plays a vital role in the development and strengthening of the ethical standards for lawyers in North Carolina, and he frequently speaks on matters of professional responsibility across the state.  Oten joined the State Bar in 2007 as Deputy Counsel, where he litigated disciplinary hearings, managed complex grievance investigations, and represented the State Bar in both state and federal court.  He has served as an Adjunct Professor at UNC School of Law and Campbell Law, where he has taught courses on legal writing and professional responsibility since 2011.  He has also served as a guest lecturer in Forensic Entomology courses at North Carolina State University.

Oten earned his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, where he was the managing editor of the First Amendment Law Review. Oten also completed his undergraduate education at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he obtained a B.A. with academic distinction in Political Science. After law school, Oten served as law clerk to Associate Justice Edward T. Brady of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and then to Judge Lacy H. Thornburg of the Federal District Court, Western District of North Carolina. Oten is admitted to practice in Illinois (retired) and North Carolina.

Author: Helen Hobson

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a civil non-profit law firm dedicated to providing equal justice to North Carolina residents who are experiencing poverty and marginalization. The Legal Aid NC team is diverse and our culture is inclusive. Our aim is to not only provide our clients with legal help but empowerment. To ensure equal access to justice for all, we respect backgrounds, honor heritage and view what makes us different as assets. We invite you to do the same.

November Celebrations

National Native American Heritage Month

National Veterans and Military Families Month

November 11 – Veterans Day

International Transgender Awareness Month

November 13 – 19 Transgender Awareness Week

November 20 – International Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 25 – Thanksgiving (U.S.)

November 28 – December 6- Hanukkah

December Celebrations

December 1 – World Aids Day

December 1- Rosa Parks Day

December 2 – International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

December 3 – International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 10 – Human Rights Day

December 25 – Christmas (U.S.)

December 26 – January 1 – Kwanzaa

Author: Helen Hobson

Raleigh, N.C. – In partnership with Advance Community Health, the NC Navigator Consortium is hosting a free enrollment event this Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Advance Community Health’s Raleigh location, 1001-1011 Rock Quarry Rd. Raleigh, NC 27610. The Consortium is welcoming both pre-scheduled appointments and walk-ins for Triangle residents to get free assistance exploring and enrolling in health coverage options at healthcare.gov.

The Consortium is excited to be able to help Triangle residents access quality, affordable health coverage with increased Marketplace subsidies made available through the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Open Enrollment for HealthCare.gov Marketplace coverage will not end until Jan. 15, 2023, but those who need coverage starting Jan. 1, 2023, will need to apply by Dec. 15, 2022. The NC Navigator Consortium’s federally qualified health insurance Navigators are available by free appointments (by phone, in person or virtually) to provide local help to consumers needing to apply for or update their Marketplace coverage. Appointments may be scheduled online by calling 1-855-733-3711 or online at ncnavigator.net.

“The service we provide is even more critical now the family glitch has been fixed, making millions more eligible for coverage on the HealthCare.gov Marketplace,” said Mark Van Arnam, director of the NC Navigator Consortium, who added that coverage has never been more affordable. “Thanks to tax credits and subsidies made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, four out of five enrollees are getting covered for $10 or less.”

The NC Navigator Consortium connects consumers to qualified health plans that provide essential health benefits and preventive care, in addition to mental health care, ER care and maternity coverage, not limited by caps or pre-existing conditions. Health insurance Navigators help North Carolinians maximize their coverage by:

  • Taking time with them to help avoid mistakes
  • Showing all options, ensuring their providers are in-network
  • Explaining terminology and processes, increasing health insurance literacy
  • Assisting them with estimating their income for the year ahead, one of the most difficult parts of the HealthCare.gov application process

The NC Navigator Consortium is the only federally funded entity of its kind in North Carolina, supported in part by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Learn more at NCNavigator.net, and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Members of the Consortium are Access EastCharlotte Center for Legal AdvocacyCouncil on Aging of Buncombe CountyCumberland HealthNETHealthCare AccessHealthNet GastonKintegra HealthNC FIELD and Pisgah Legal Services. The Consortium is led by Legal Aid of North Carolina

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn and YouTube

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The project described was supported by Funding Opportunity number NAVCA210405-02-00 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The contents provided are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS or any of its agencies.

Author: Helen Hobson

They aren’t called man’s best friend for nothing. Much more than mere companions, dogs have long been integral partners in some of humankind’s most important activities, from raising livestock to enforcing the law. For people with disabilities, service dogs can be a literal lifeline, helping them live and work in ways they otherwise couldn’t.

Unfortunately, the role of service dogs isn’t always understood, and their presence isn’t always appreciated. In 2013, attorneys in our Wilmington office came to the defense of a disabled military veteran whose landlord threatened to evict him for having a service dog. Thankfully, our advocates could rely on a powerful law to make their case for our client: the federal Fair Housing Act, which was passed in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act.

In part, the law defines unlawful discrimination as the refusal of a landlord to make “reasonable accommodations in rules”—in this case, a ban on pets—for people with disabilities. With this clear-cut language on their side, our attorneys were able to convince the landlord that allowing our client to stay in his home, with his service dog, was a reasonable accommodation he was required to make under federal law. 

Author: Helen Hobson

← Back to Healthcare Access

Raleigh, N.C. – The NC Navigator Consortium welcomes the start of Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace® at HealthCare.gov with an updated website to help North Carolina residents get covered at NCNavigator.net. While Open Enrollment lasts until Jan. 15, 2023, the NC Navigator Consortium’s statewide network of health insurance Navigators work year-round to answer questions about health coverage, help consumers update their HealthCare.gov policies and enroll in new ones after qualifying life events. To that end, the upgraded NCNavigator.net makes it easier to connect consumers with the information they need, and access to the free, unbiased help finding quality, affordable coverage they have come to trust.

Open Enrollment for HealthCare.gov Marketplace coverage will not end until Jan. 15, 2023, but those who need coverage starting Jan. 1, 2023, will need to apply by Dec. 15, 2022. The NC Navigator Consortium’s federally qualified health insurance Navigators are available by free appointments (by phone, in person or virtually) to provide local help to consumers needing to apply for or update their Marketplace coverage. Appointments may be scheduled online by calling 1-855-733-3711 or online at NCNavigator.net.

Designed and developed by Kelso Communications and J.D. Ledford of 18 Stone Design, the new NCNavigator.net features FAQs and resources to educate consumers on the importance of health insurance, the difference between HealthCare.gov and Medicaid/CHIP and more. The site also features important updates such as next steps for Bright Health policyholders following the termination of their policies, and those who may be impacted by the end of the family glitch which makes it possible for families to purchase coverage other than employer-sponsored health insurance.

NC Navigator homepage screenshot.png

“The service we provide is even more critical now the family glitch has been fixed, making millions more eligible for coverage on the HealthCare.gov Marketplace,” said Mark Van Arnam, director of the NC Navigator Consortium, who added that coverage has never been more affordable. “Thanks to tax credits and subsidies made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, four out of five enrollees are getting covered for $10 or less.”

The NC Navigator Consortium connects consumers to qualified health plans that provide essential health benefits and preventive care, in addition to mental health care, ER care and maternity coverage, not limited by caps or pre-existing conditions. Health insurance Navigators help North Carolinians maximize their coverage by:

  • Taking time with them to help avoid mistakes
  • Showing all options, ensuring their providers are in-network
  • Explaining terminology and processes, increasing health insurance literacy
  • Assisting them with estimating their income for the year ahead, one of the most difficult parts of the HealthCare.gov application process

The NC Navigator Consortium is the only federally funded entity of its kind in North Carolina, supported in part by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Learn more at NCNavigator.net, and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Members of the Consortium are Access East, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Cumberland HealthNET, HealthCare Access, HealthNet Gaston, Kintegra Health, NC FIELD and Pisgah Legal Services. The Consortium is led by Legal Aid of North Carolina

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org and follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube

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The project described was supported by Funding Opportunity number NAVCA210405-02-00 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The contents provided are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS or any of its agencies.

Author: Helen Hobson

Now legalaidnc.org is more user-friendly and accessible for clients

Now legalaidnc.org is more user-friendly and accessible for clients

Raleigh, N.C. – Legal Aid of North Carolina has fully launched its new website at the existing legalaidnc.org address. Designed and developed by Charlotte-based Kelso Communications and Priceless Misc, the website features the new Legal Aid NC brand debuted earlier this year to celebrate and honor the organization’s 20th anniversary. Navigation has been updated to better tell the organization’s story and demonstrate the incredible impact the organization makes in all 100 counties of North Carolina. Most importantly, client resources and self-help materials have been reorganized to be easily accessible and searchable. The new legalaidnc.org website also makes it easier for the community to donate and get involved.

“While I am thrilled with how fresh and friendly the design of our new website is, I am even more excited by how well it will serve our clients,” said Ashley Campbell, CEO of Legal Aid of North Carolina. “Our attorneys, paralegals and staff are always happy to help, but this website will help our community educate and empower themselves.”

The new Get Help section of legalaidnc.org:

In addition to better serving clients, the robust Pro Bono section of legalaidnc.org caters to members of the legal community across North Carolina who are looking for a way to give back. The website features a full list of pro bono programs and staff who can help attorneys, law students, paralegals and others channel their passion into projects that maximize their impact and time. The website also features opportunities for continuing legal education.

Legal Aid NC’s upgraded website is a key milestone in the organization’s 20th anniversary strategy to increase its impact. Legal Aid of NC has grown to become the only organization that can remove civil legal barriers to economic opportunity for every vulnerable North Carolinian. Currently, the organization includes more than 500 staff and volunteer attorneys who provide legal services to 22,609 people, benefitting 53,265 total individuals, with the legal and non-legal services they need to live safe, stable, self-sufficient, productive and meaningful lives. Though the organization makes a huge difference, the demand for its services surpasses its capacity to help. Legal Aid NC’s investment in redeveloping its website ensures that legalaidnc.org is no longer a barrier for those who want to donate or volunteer.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube

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Author: Helen Hobson

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

2:00pm – 6:00pm EDT

4 hours of General CLE credit (***pending approval by the North Carolina State Bar)

Cost: $65

Program Overview:

This CLE will focus on the intersection of custody in Chapter 50 and 50B cases. Many would expect that survivors of intimate partner and family violence who bring the abuse up in a custody matter would often be awarded primary custody. However, studies have shown that protective parents experience unexpected outcomes at a significant rate. The first session of the CLE will explore the studies on the topic and the possible reasons for the disparate outcomes for survivors of intimate partner and family violence. The second session will look at drafting 50B orders to help in later Chapter 50 custody cases. It will point out differences in both orders and how to prepare a case to help a client in a later Chapter 50 custody case. The program will end with a panel of North Carolina judges and their discussion of domestic violence law.

Presenters:

Sarah Caraffa is a staff attorney at the Raleigh Office of Legal Aid of North Carolina. She has been on the Domestic Violence Team in the Raleigh office for over five years, litigating Chapter 50B protective orders as well as other related Chapter 50 actions, mainly custody. Prior to working in North Carolina, Sarah practiced immigration law, working specifically with refugees and asylees. She graduated from Saint Louis University with a JD and MSW.

Elysia Prendergast-Jones is a supervising attorney for the Raleigh Office of Legal Aid of North Carolina. She works primarily in the fields of family law and domestic violence. She enjoys empowering clients and working with the population that LANC serves. She serves on the WCBA and NCAJ CLE committee. She is on the board of Triangle Area Parenting Support and a member of her daughter’s PTSA. Elysia has spoken at many CLE’s in the areas of family law and domestic violence. 

Elysia’s legal experience extends from family law to A/N/D court to criminal and civil court as well as the NC Court of Appeals, where some of the cases have recently been published. She has always had a passion for helping people as she has taken a position as a staff attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina working with clients in domestic violence situations. 

She was a previous supervising attorney for NCCU’s School of Law’s Lawyer on the Line program, in connection with Legal Aid and provided guidance to students as they navigate the law to help their clients. Former Chairperson of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Solo, Small Firm, and General Practice Division, she has served as Chair for the council of the Young Lawyers’ Division, the Law-related Education Committee, the Juvenile Justice Section, and others. Additionally, Elysia participated in Camp Confidence, a joint task-force between the Cary Police Department and the NCBA to work with at-risk youth during summers. 

Elysia has a degree from NCCU’s School of Law, as well as a Master of Business Administration and Master of Arts from Webster University in counseling psychology. She has a B.A. from Coker College in psychology and English. Elysia has been a teacher for Wake County and a counselor working with children.  

Devin Trego is a supervising attorney in the Fayetteville office of Legal Aid of North Carolina, where she has worked for the past five years. Prior to moving south, Devin worked as a staff attorney for the Barbara J. Hart Justice Center, the legal project of the Women’s Resource Center, in her hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Temple Law School in Philadelphia. 

The Honorable Margaret Eagles, Wake County District Court Judge 

The Honorable Valene McMasters, Forsyth County District Court Judge

The Honorable Craig James, Johnston County District Court Judge