Category: Media release

RALEIGH – Thanks to a two-year, $450,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, Legal Aid of North Carolina is expanding its housing-justice services to homeowners and renters in Eastern North Carolina.

The grant will fund a two-pronged effort targeting separate causes of housing instability among low-income residents of the region: heir property, which refers to homes and land passed down outside of the courts, an arrangement seen predominantly in Black, rural communities; and eviction, an endemic problem in low-income communities everywhere.

Of the total grant funds, $300,000 is being used to launch the Heir Property Pro Bono Project, a new effort at Legal Aid NC to involve the private real-estate bar in heir property work throughout Eastern North Carolina. Legal Aid’s Raleigh and Wilson field offices will use the remaining $150,000 to expand eviction-defense work in the City of Raleigh and Edgecombe and Nash counties.

“At Wells Fargo, we believe everyone should have access to a quality, affordable home and opportunities for creating generational wealth through homeownership,” said Suzie Koonce, Senior Philanthropy and Community Impact Specialist at Wells Fargo. “We are proud to provide this important grant to Legal Aid NC to help more families in Raleigh and across Eastern North Carolina access the legal services they need to stay in their homes and address systems that often lead to loss of property, land, and wealth for families of color.”

Heir Property Pro Bono Project

The Heir Property Pro Bono Project will partner with the North Carolina Bar Association’s Real Property Section, with support from the North Carolina Bar Foundation, to recruit North Carolina real estate lawyers and paralegals to help heir property owners establish clear title to their home and land, thereby preserving generational wealth in families, and safe and affordable housing in low-income communities. Heir property arrangements are most common in Black, rural communities in Eastern North Carolina and some mountain communities in Western North Carolina.

Heir property is a home or land that is inherited informally, often from a family member who passed away without leaving a will. Heir property typically involves several people who have inherited shares in the same property, an arrangement that makes it difficult to use the property as collateral for a loan, sell the property, or enroll in recovery-assistance programs following a natural disaster.

As a result, families lose the ability to rely on heir property as a practical financial asset, impeding their ability to secure loans and financial assistance to keep the property in a habitable condition. This can lead to the property’s abandonment, which destabilizes communities by lowering surrounding property values, decreasing local tax revenue and creating safety hazards. [1]

“Whenever we stabilize and formalize home ownership, we help preserve the stock of affordable, sanitary housing,” said Lesley Albritton, Chief of Staff for Legal Aid NC and former project director and managing attorney of the firm’s Disaster Relief Project, which often encounters heir property issues in their work. “This grant enables Legal Aid NC to expand our work facilitating long-term disaster recovery, increasing and maintaining habitable and affordable housing across the state, and supporting equitable resiliency.”

Through this project, Legal Aid NC plans to create a partnership between its attorneys and members of the private bar to better help low-income North Carolinians—particularly Black residents of rural communities—resolve complex heir property cases.

Erin Haygood, Director of Pro Bono Programs at Legal Aid NC, said, “Pro bono attorneys are vital partners in so much of what we do at Legal Aid of North Carolina. Through this project, we will integrate them into our heir property work for the first time. Combining the talents of our attorneys and members of the real-estate bar will allow us to maximize the efficacy of our advocacy to low-income homeowners in North Carolina.”

Attorneys and paralegals with real-estate experience can sign up for our Heir Property Pro Bono Project at

Legal Aid NC’s Heir Property Pro Bono Project owes a debt of gratitude to the Land Loss Prevention Project, a Durham-based nonprofit that pioneered heir property work in the early 80’s. Since then, it has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue in North Carolina’s legal community and beyond. Among its practice areas, the Land Loss Prevention Project provides direct legal services to heir property owners statewide. The work of our project would not be possible without their legacy of committed service. Attorneys and paralegals trained by our project will be invited to also provide pro bono service through the Land Loss Prevention Project and Pisgah Legal Services, a civil legal aid organization serving Western North Carolina, as part of a pro bono referral network managed by the North Carolina Bar Association’s Real Property Section and the North Carolina Bar Foundation.

Eviction defense

Funded by $150,000 from Wells Fargo, Legal Aid NC will expand its eviction defense work in the City of Raleigh, which is served by our Raleigh field office, and in Edgecombe and Nash counties, which are served by our Wilson office.

“Keeping families in their homes by preventing eviction has always been one of our top priorities at Legal Aid NC,” said Pamela Thombs, managing attorney of our Raleigh office, “but there are never enough resources to help everyone who needs us. This funding will allow us to provide life-changing legal help to families who would otherwise have nowhere to turn.”

Ayanda Meachem, managing attorney of our Wilson office, said, “Eviction doesn’t discriminate. Our clients live in urban and rural communities, in apartment complexes and mobile home parks, and eviction is a problem everywhere. This funding will help us serve more families confronting eviction and homelessness, wherever they are.”

North Carolinians facing eviction can visit to find free self-help and know-your-rights resources, or apply for help by calling our statewide Helpline at 1-866-219-LANC (5262) or applying online at

[1] To learn more about heir property, read Disasters Do Discriminate: Black Land Tenure and Disaster Relief Programs, Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, by Lesley Albritton, director of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Disaster Relief Project, and Jesse Williams, former Legal Aid NC staff attorney and current law fellow at Wake Forest Law’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

Category: Media release

GREENSBORO, NC – Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) is delighted to announce the selection of LANC board member, Manisha Patel, Managing Attorney at the Law Office of Manisha P. Patel, PLLC, as the incoming President Elect for the Greensboro Bar Association. With her exceptional legal acumen and unwavering dedication to serving the community, Patel’s appointment is a testament to her outstanding professional achievements.

“I am honored with the confidence the membership has placed on me! I don’t take this lightly,” expressed Patel. “I am excited to bring my skills to the organization and contribute to its continued success.”

Commencing her role as President Elect on July 1, 2023, Patel is enthusiastic about revitalizing the annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) event. She intends to inject new energy by introducing fresh speakers and exploring topics that have not been previously covered in Greensboro. Patel is eager to present the innovative ideas she has already been developing for the annual CLE in February.

“As President Elect, I am excited to bring a new spin on our annual CLE and introduce novel ideas to our legal community,” stated Patel. “I am thrilled to present the ideas that I have already been churning, and I believe they will provide valuable insights and professional growth opportunities for our members.”

Patel’s appointment as President Elect is a testament to her exemplary service to the legal profession and her dedication to the pursuit of justice. Her vast experience and deep understanding of legal matters will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and success of the Greensboro Bar Association.

LANC takes immense pride in Patel’s accomplishments and commends her commitment to promoting access to justice for all individuals. Her leadership will undoubtedly inspire others within the legal community to make a positive impact in the lives of those in need.


Category: Media release

CHARLOTTE — Wells Fargo lawyers and paralegals provided free legal advice to Legal Aid of North Carolina clients struggling with serious housing-conditions issues at a Lawyer on the Line pro bono event May 17 at the bank’s offices in Charlotte.

Legal Aid NC’s flagship pro bono program, Lawyer on the Line, connects clients with common legal problems to pro bono volunteers—lawyers, paralegals and law students—who, working under the supervision of Legal Aid NC attorneys, provide free legal advice over the phone. Volunteers can serve individually from their home or office, or as a group with colleagues from their employer or local bar association.

Lawyer on the Line is a quick and easy way to spend an hour or two and feel like you’re directly helping someone,” said Mark Metz, Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo, who participated in the event.

Mark’s client was living in a home infested with mold caused by multiple leaks, problems that the landlord was not addressing. Mark advised his client, who was nearing the end of his lease and planning to move, to negotiate a resolution with his landlord that would compensate the client while avoiding litigation.

“It felt great,” Mark said. “So much of our typical work is long and drawn out. This was very quick and provided an immediate benefit to someone.”

Glenn Huether, Lead Counsel at Wells Fargo and co-coordinator of the bank’s pro bono projects in Charlotte, helped a woman living with mold, a broken lock on her front door and other issues threatening the safety of her family. Glenn’s advice to her client included making repair requests to her landlord in writing, taking pictures and calling local code enforcement.

“It felt very rewarding,” Glenn said, “particularly when she told me, ‘This has been so great. I’m so thankful. I’m so glad we talked. I really needed this!’ That made it feel so worthwhile.”

Janice Reznick, Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo and co-sponsor of the bank’s pro bono initiatives, said, “Wells Fargo is really committed to the communities in which we operate. We encourage everyone within our legal department—not just attorneys—to participate in pro bono, and there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.”

Speaking of her own motivation for championing pro bono, Janice said, “I think it’s important to help the community as lawyers and legal professionals. As a lawyer, being able to provide my legal knowledge and use my skills to help others is an incredible experience.”

Craig Baldauf, Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo, helped a client whose small house had no heating or air conditioning, roaches, electrical problems and mold—problems that the client has been trying to get fixed for four years.

“It’s easy to forget, particularly when you work for a company, that our problems tend not to be the problems faced by the average person,” Craig said. “It felt really nice to take a break from our corporate problems—which are important, but in a different way—to help somebody in the community who has been struggling for years to get a decent place to live. I left with a really positive feeling about the experience and my role in it.”

Kasasira Mwine, E-Discovery Project Manager for Wells Fargo, did a double shift of pro bono service on the day of the event. He handled a Lawyer on the Line case after attending court in the morning to handle a separate pro bono case for one of our clients.

Explaining his dedication to pro bono service, Kasasira said, “Especially in the housing arena, there’s so much that tenants are entitled to under law that they’re not aware of. It gives me a lot of joy to help tenants claim as much of their legal rights as they can. To me, it’s very important to provide that to people in the community. Every chance I get to do that, I’m going to be a zealous advocate for them.”

Natali Bollinger, Senior Paralegal with Wells Fargo, helped a client whose home had a broken water heater that was causing sewage backup, standing water on her lot, dirty drinking water, a skyrocketing water bill and other issues.

“My client has done everything right,” Natali said. “She’s paid rent on time, documented all the problems, taken photos and videos. My client hasn’t called code enforcement yet. We hope that code enforcement can decide if there are violations and put pressure on the landlord.”

Discussing why she volunteered to participate in the Lawyer on the Line event, Natali said, “It was something that was easy, a minimum time commitment, and provided an opportunity to really help out. Wells Fargo is amazing. The opportunities to give back and do pro bono are endless.”

Todd Stillerman, Assistant General Counsel at Wells Fargo and longtime pro bono volunteer, said, “The work that we do with our legal aid partners is all about providing security, stability and safety to families and children in our communities. The ability to have access to the law and access to legal remedies is crucial. Wells Fargo has recognized for a long time that providing that access is something we need to be doing. I get an incredible amount of support from my employer to do this work.”

Addressing the fears that attorneys may have about pro bono work being outside their professional comfort zone, Todd said, “I’m an investment bank lawyer. I’m not a litigator. I’ve done what I’ve done because I’ve had support from Legal Aid and the attorneys that work there. They’ve helped me do things that I never imagined I’d be able to do. No matter what your background is, no matter what your skill level is, no matter what your experience is, it only takes a little bit of courage to do this work.”

Other Wells Fargo volunteers who participated in the event are:

If you want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of North Carolinians in need, visit the Pro Bono section of our website to learn about our programs and sign up to join our mission for justice:

Want to stay in the loop on pro bono at Legal Aid of North Carolina? Join our pro bono email list to stay connected:

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Category: Media release

← Back to Three Labor Camp Cooks Represented by Legal Aid of North Carolina Farmworker Unit and the North Carolina Justice Center settle their human trafficking and wage theft claims with Gracia Harvesting, Inc.

RALEIGH (June 2, 2023) – With the assistance of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Farmworker Unit and the North Carolina Justice Center, three farmworkers reached a settlement for their case against farm labor contractors José M. Gracia Harvesting, Inc., José M. Gracia, and Gracia & Sons, LLC (Gracia Defendants) based in Four Oaks, North Carolina, for human trafficking and unpaid overtime wages. The settlement agreement, which just received approval by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, requires the Gracia Defendants to pay the Plaintiffs $102,500, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Defendants are additionally court-ordered to make extensive changes to how they do business in the future.

The Plaintiffs, all women, were employed through the federal H2A visa program. During their employment with the Gracia Defendants, Plaintiffs allege they were paid for only a fraction of the long hours they worked cooking meals for farmworkers, while being subjected to poor and abusive working conditions. The Plaintiffs allege agents of the Gracia Defendants recruited them from Mexico to work for Defendants in North Carolina as agricultural workers. The Plaintiffs incurred significant debts for their visas and travel and, upon arrival in North Carolina, learned they were required to work in the Defendants’ kitchens preparing and selling food while the male H2A workers earned higher wages working in the field. Because they were working as camp cooks for their labor contractor employer rather than in the field doing agricultural labor, the Plaintiffs should have been paid one and a half times their regular rate of pay for their overtime hours. Instead, they allege, Gracia Defendants did not pay them at all for their overtime hours.

In their lawsuit, the Plaintiffs state that Defendants confiscated their passports, threatened them with criminal and immigration consequences if they were to leave, and forced them to work in an environment with verbal and physical abuse, sexual harassment, unpaid wages, extremely long hours, and food deprivation. One of the Plaintiffs fled almost immediately, while the other two allege they worked upwards of 100 hours a week with no overtime pay. In the complaint, one Plaintiff describes suffering intentionally inflicted burns and other physical injuries and being prevented from leaving the migrant camp.

In addition to the financial settlement, the Gracia Defendants must post signs in their labor camps in Spanish and English, reinforcing the rights of housing occupants to have visitors. They are required to post additional signage published by the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission advising workers of emergency resources and develop and disseminate a comprehensive sexual harassment and sexual assault policy. Additionally, the Defendants must post signs explaining that persons employed as cooks are entitled to overtime pay, use an electronic timekeeping system for camp cooks, and pay overtime to all cooks. The Defendants are prohibited from possessing or controlling their employees’ passports or identification documents and are required to provide timely reimbursement to all their H2A workers for their travel and visa expenses.

One of the Plaintiffs, Yesica Velasco-Lopez, explained, “It was important for us to come out of this case making the future better for others that come to work after us. Other workers won’t have to suffer like we did.”

“It was important for there to be signs up in the labor camps with phone numbers that workers can call for help,” Velasco-Lopez continued. “Workers should not be afraid if they need information about their rights. There are people that can help them.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Carol Brooke, Senior Attorney, North Carolina Justice Center,, 919-856-2144; Caitlin Ryland, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid of North Carolina Farmworker Unit,, 919-856-2180

Comunicado de prensa: 3 cocineras para trabajadores agrícolas representados por la División de Trabajadores Agricolas de Ayuda Legal de Carolina del Norte y el Centro de Justicia de Carolina del Norte resuelven sus reclamos de trata de personas y robo de salarios con Gracia Harvesting, Inc.

RALEIGH (2 de junio, 2023) – Con la asistencia de la División de Trabajadores Agricolas de Ayuda Legal de Carolina del Norte y el Centro de Justicia de Carolina del Norte, tres cocineras para trabajadores agrícolas llegaron a un acuerdo para su caso contra sus contratistas de trabajadores agrícolas José M. Gracia Harvesting, Inc., José M. Gracia y Gracia & Sons, LLC (Demandados de Gracia) con sede en Four Oaks, Carolina del Norte, por trata de personas y salarios de horas extras no pagados. El acuerdo de conciliación, que acaba de recibir la aprobación del juez del Tribunal de Distrito de los Estados Unidos Terrence Boyle, requiere que los Demandados de Gracia paguen a los Demandantes $ 102,500, más los honorarios y costos de los abogados. Además, los Demandados recibieron una orden judicial que les obliga a realizar cambios extensos en la forma en que hagan negocios en el futuro.

Las Demandantes, todas ellas mujeres, fueron empleadas a traves del programa federal de visas H-2A. Durante su empleo con los Demandados de Gracia, las Demandantes alegan que se les pagó solo por una fracción de las largas horas que trabajaron cocinando comidas para los trabajadores agrícolas mientras estaban sujetas a condiciones de trabajo deficientes y abusivas. Las Demandantes alegan que agentes de los Demandados de Gracia las reclutaron desde México para trabajar para los Demandados en Carolina del Norte como trabajadores agrícolas. Las Demandantes incurrieron en deudas significativas por sus visas y viajes y, al llegar a Carolina del Norte, se enteraron de que se les exigió que trabajaran en las cocinas de los Demandados preparando y vendiendo alimentos, mientras que los trabajadores masculinos H2A ganaban salarios más altos trabajando en el campo. Debido a que estaban trabajando como cocineras en el campamento para su empleador contratista en lugar de en el campo haciendo trabajo agrícola, a las Demandantes se les debería haber pagado una vez y media su tarifa regular de pago por sus horas extras. En cambio, alegan que los Demandados de Gracia no les pagaron en absoluto por sus horas extras.

En su demanda, las Demandantes afirman que los Demandados confiscaron sus pasaportes, les amenazaron con consecuencias penales y de inmigración si se iban y les obligaron a trabajar en un ambiente bajo abuso verbal y físico, acoso sexual, salarios no pagados, horas extremadamente largas y privación de alimentos. Una de las demandantes huyó casi de inmediato, mientras que las otras dos alegan que trabajaron más de 100 horas a la semana sin pago de horas extras. En la demanda, una demandante describe haber sufrido quemaduras infligidas intencionalmente y otras lesiones físicas y que se le impidió abandonar el campamento de migrantes.

Además del acuerdo financiero, los Demandados de Gracia deben colocar letreros en sus campos de trabajo en español e inglés, reforzando los derechos de los ocupantes de la vivienda a tener visitas. Se les exige que coloquen letreros adicionales publicados por la Comisión de Trata de Personas de Carolina del Norte que informen a los trabajadores sobre los recursos de emergencia y desarrollen, y difundan, una política integral de acoso sexual y agresión sexual. Además, los Demandados deben colocar letreros que expliquen que las personas empleadas como cocineros tienen derecho al pago de horas extras, usar un sistema electrónico de registro del tiempo para los cocineros del campamento y pagar horas extras a todos los cocineros. Los Demandados tienen prohibido poseer o controlar los pasaportes o documentos de identificación de sus empleados y están obligados a proporcionar un reembolso oportuno a todos sus trabajadores H-2A por sus gastos de viaje y visa.

Una de las Demandantes, Yesica Velasco-Lopez, explicó, “Fue importante para nosotros salir de este caso mejorando el futuro para otros que vienen a trabajar después de nosotros. Otros trabajadores no tendrán que sufrir como nosotros. “Fue importante que se pusieran carteles en los campamentos con números de teléfono a los que los trabajadores puedan llamar para pedir ayuda”, dijo Velasco-Lopez. “Los trabajadores no deben tener miedo si necesitan información sobre sus derechos. Hay personas que pueden ayudarlos.”

Category: Media release

RALEIGH, NC – Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), a leading civil legal service provider committed to equal access to justice, is pleased to announce the appointment of Scheree Gilchrist as its Chief Innovation Officer. In this strategic role, Gilchrist will spearhead the innovation initiatives at LANC, fostering a culture of creativity, collaboration, and efficiency to advance the organization’s vision for an inclusive justice system.  

Under Gilchrist’s leadership, LANC will launch the Innovation Lab, a new venture dedicated to exploring and implementing innovative solutions within the organization. The lab will serve as a hub for interdisciplinary teams to collaborate, develop, and test ideas that allow legal services to be delivered more efficiently to North Carolinians. 

Expressing her enthusiasm for the new role, Gilchrist stated, “Legal Aid of North Carolina is proud to be the first legal services organization in the country to launch an innovation lab. We are leading in the innovation space because we understand that technology paired with a human-centered collaborative approach can improve and scale our work.” 

As the Chief Innovation Officer, Gilchrist will develop and execute a comprehensive and sustainable innovation strategy that aligns with LANC’s vision of being an innovative, creative, and progressive legal services provider. Beginning with modernizing the intake process, LANC will collect more data and adjust its service offerings to better meet existing needs, particularly in rural areas. 

“1.5 million North Carolinians are eligible for our services,” said new LANC CEO Ashley Campbell. “We do not have sufficient financial resources to meet that need. We must innovate in order to improve client service delivery, particularly in rural areas of the state.” 

Gilchrist brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role. She graduated with honors from the University of the West Indies School of Law and holds an LL.M. from Duke Law School. She has been an integral part of the LANC team since 2006, starting as a staff attorney and progressing through various roles within the organization. During her tenure, Gilchrist demonstrated exceptional leadership as she transitioned from being a supervising attorney to managing attorney of LANC’s Centralized Intake Unit. 

By embracing a human-centered approach, LANC will work towards reshaping the landscape of civil legal services and breaking down barriers that hinder equal access to justice. Through Gilchrist’s strategic guidance, LANC aspires to set new standards for innovation within the legal sector and create a lasting impact on the lives of those in need. 


To learn more about the Innovation Lab, visit or contact Scheree Gilchrist at

Category: Media release

CHARLOTTE · May 9, 2023 — Lawyers with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Bank of America celebrated Financial Institution Pro Bono Day on April 27 by providing free legal advice to Legal Aid of North Carolina clients struggling with poor housing conditions. Bradley hosted the event in its Charlotte office, which is located across the street from Bank of America’s global headquarters. 

During the event, lawyers from the firm and bank partnered up to provide free legal advice over the phone to our clients facing serious problems with their living conditions, everything from leaky ceilings to dangerous faulty wiring.

Leah Campbell, Counsel at Bradley, organized the event. When asked what inspires her to do pro bono work, she said, “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity when they go into the court of justice. It can be very scary if you’re not familiar with it. That’s why it’s important for a lawyer to be there with them.” 

She also praised her firm’s commitment to pro bono. 

“One of the founding values of the firm is public service,” she said. “Both pro bono and community service in general. That commitment is demonstrated in part by the fact that attorneys can receive billable credit up to a certain amount of pro bono hours. We want to encourage people to do it.”

Megan Scholz, Associate General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, spoke of the Bank’s commitment to pro bono. “Bank of America is very committed to pro bono, volunteer work and community engagement across the country and around the world. Attorneys are encouraged to use their skills to give back to their community and are able to do so during work hours to encourage participation.”

Nate Viebrock, Counsel at Bradley, helped a woman living with a leaky ceiling, rotted-out stairs and a broken kitchen appliance. 

“We were able to get a hold of her landlord,” Viebrock said. “The landlord said they had her on their list for repairs and would call us back when the repairs were scheduled. It’s powerful when they hear their tenants have representation. That touches on why I choose to do pro bono. Our work sometimes takes months, years, to ever see any kind of result. Here we made a phone call and got a quick result for our client.” 

Andria Patterson, Assistant General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, had a client who was dealing with a bug infestation and faulty wiring on a kitchen appliance that could have caused a fire. 

“I have a passion for helping people,” Patterson said. “That’s really why you become an attorney in the first place — you want to help people. Pro bono pulls on that passion. Especially when you see people who need legal help but can’t afford an attorney. You always want to step in and fill that gap.”

Amy Puckett, Senior Attorney at Bradley, who partnered with Patterson on the case, said, “It sounds trite, but I think it’s very important to give back and invest in the community. This is a skillset that I have and it’s nice to try to make the Charlotte community better, whether in a small way or a big way.” 

Bob Roth, Associate General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, who handled one of the more complex cases of the day — he was on the phone with his client for at least an hour — addressed the anxiety that some attorneys have about pro bono.

“You hear the acronym FOMO — fear of missing out. In pro bono there’s FOMU — fear of messing up. Part of overcoming that fear is realizing that there are resources to help you out. You’re not swimming alone. If you have that concern, you should try to dispel it as best you can and try something new.” 

If you are an attorney who wants to try something new, visit the pro bono section of our website to learn about our programs and sign up to join us on our mission for justice. Go to

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Category: Media release

For over two decades, the Battered Immigrant Project of Legal Aid of North Carolina has provided critical legal assistance to immigrants suffering from domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Now, the project team is excited to announce they have changed their name to Immigration Pathways for Victims, or IMMPAV.

Rona Karacaova, managing attorney at IMMPAV, says on the change, “When Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Battered Immigrant Project was created in 2002, due to federal restrictions, its focus was to assist immigrant victims of domestic violence. Since that time, the scope of the immigration services which Legal Aid of North Carolina provides has expanded to include services for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking due the federal government’s recognition that that immigrant victims of these crimes are especially vulnerable and need legal services. Thus, we are now changing our name to Immigration Pathways for Victims (IMMPAV) to accurately reflect the services we provide immigrant victims of crimes.”

IMMPAV will perform the same duties and responsibilities of the Battered Immigrant Project. With this name change, the team aims to continue handling the same category of cases with the same efficiency, efficacy, and empathy that they’ve regularly employed over the last twenty years.

Karacaova continues, “IMMPAV’s goal is to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking obtain the immigration benefits which Congress created for them. These benefits include employment authorization and legal status so that victims can emerge from the shadows, work, and support their family members without being tempted to return to abusive situations in order to provide shelter and food for their children and themselves. Immigration law is complex, and the process to apply for various benefits is confusing and can take years. Without our assistance, many victims and their family members would not be able to access the benefits to which they are entitled.”


Category: Media release

GREENSBORO – Elon Law students working with Legal Aid of North Carolina attorneys provided free legal advice to low-income renters struggling with poor housing conditions at a Lawyer on the Line pro bono clinic held Monday at the law school. Lawyer on the Line, our flagship pro bono program, connects our clients who have day-to-day, non-emergency legal problems to volunteer attorneys — and law students — who provide them with free legal advice over the phone.

Working under the supervision of our attorneys, nine students partnered up to serve six clients, who were struggling with issues ranging from mold to radon poisoning. The students called their clients to learn about their problems and then discussed their clients’ situations with our attorneys. Afterwards, the students drafted letters to the clients summarizing their legal issues and the advice that was approved by the attorneys.

“Everyone enjoyed the clinic,” said Matt Ferris, co-director of Elon Law’s Pro Bono Board, which organized the event. “Interacting with clients and learning from practicing attorneys is valuable real-world experience for students.”

Nicole Mueller, supervising attorney on our Pro Bono Team and an Elon Law alum, helped organize the clinic and served as a supervising attorney. “Law school pro bono clinics are a win-win for everyone,” she said. “Clients get free legal help, students get experience, and we can serve more clients. Plus, we hope the experience inspires students to make pro bono an integral part of their legal careers.”

The students participating in the clinic were April Bourommavong, Elizabeth Fadl, Joselyn Harden, Courtney Latourrette, Liz Martinez, Brooke McCormick, Kayla McLaurin, Lindsay Young and Nick Young. The Legal Aid NC attorneys participating were Shaun Arnold, Amanda Feder, Janet McAuley-Blue and Charlisa Powell, all from our Greensboro office. Liam O’Brien, an Elon Law student interning with our Economic Justice Initiative, also participated. Jill Bridges, case coordinator on our Pro Bono Programs team, screened the clients and prepared the case files.

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Category: Media release

Charlotte, NC – Legal Aid of North Carolina has announced Larissa Mañón Mervin, Legal Aid NC supervising attorney for Pro Bono Programs, as its new Charlotte Managing Attorney. This transition precedes long-time Charlotte Managing Attorney Cindy Patton’s retirement.

In her new role, Mervin will lead the staff and operations for the Charlotte office and service area, ensuring Legal Aid NC’s continuous effort to provide free, quality legal services to eligible clients in Mecklenburg County.

Mervin is a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates and serves on the Board of Governors for the North Carolina Bar Association and the Board of Directors for the Mecklenburg County Bar Association.     

“My goal in this role is to make sure staff feels valued and appreciated for the phenomenal work they do,” said Mervin. “I want to ensure that they have the tools necessary to effectively represent our clients and give them the best services possible. I look forward to continuing our work with community partners and sister agencies to provide comprehensive services to Mecklenburg County.” Mervin’s predecessor, Patton, began her legal services career in the early 1990’s at Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. She joined Legal Aid NC at its establishment in 2002 and commenced her 20-year span as its managing attorney.

“I have enjoyed my work and consider it an honor and privilege to have had the opportunity to serve our client community for over 30 years and to have worked with such talented and dedicated staff,” Patton said. “I am very pleased Larissa will be the next managing attorney for Legal Aid NC. She is an extraordinary leader. I’m confident that under her leadership, the Charlotte Office of Legal Aid NC will continue to successfully serve our community.”

During her career, Patton has trained, mentored, and supervised staff while providing legal services to over 2000 clients, making a positive impact on the Charlotte community and the clients they serve.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best managing attorneys at Legal Aid NC and Cindy is certainly included among those at the top of the list,” said Mervin. “Collaborative in nature, she was always available to answer questions or brainstorm a solution. She also gave me the necessary autonomy to independently lead my team according to my expertise.”


Category: Media release

White House Official joins celebration for community health workers

Raleigh, N.C. – Thursday, March 23rd marked 13 years since the passing of the Affordable Care Act. The landmark legislation has survived numerous challenges and attempts to repeal it. This past Open Enrollment Period, over 800,000 North Carolinians enrolled in a private individual health plan through the Affordable Care Act. This breaks the previous record by over 120,000 enrollees.

The NC Navigator Consortium celebrated this record-breaking achievement by hosting a luncheon at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh. The luncheon honored the achievements of community health organizations and non-profits across the state. The NC Navigator Consortium, a project of Legal Aid of NC, is a non-profit organization with the goal of connecting as many North Carolinians as possible to health coverage. The 60 partner organizations in attendance have assisted the NC Navigator Consortium’s outreach and enrollment efforts over the past 13 years. Eastern Regional Director, Angela Cameron, organized the event.

The ceremony also included speeches from high-profile guests. White House Appointed official, Antrell Tyson from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offered his congratulations to the Navigators and community organizers present. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Tyson, “”it reflects the hard work and dedication you all committed to this aligned cause.” He transmitted a celebratory message on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration and lauded the administration’s American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act for lowering the cost of premiums.

Alicia Davis, the Director of Legislative Affairs was able to deliver good news from Governor Cooper’s office. “Just hours ago,” Davis beamed “House Bill 76 was approved.” This announcement was met by cheers from the community health workers. The “Access to Health Care Options” bill expands Medicaid, effectively eliminating the “Medicaid Gap” and broadening access to healthcare for the populations these organizations serve. There could be no better news for groups dedicated to eliminating barriers to coverage.

Alexander DeAbreu from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave a presentation on the fast-approaching “Medicaid Unwinding”. At the onset of the pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), requiring Medicaid programs to not revoke anyone’s access to coverage in the middle of a health crisis. The protections required by the FFCRA expire this year, removing hundreds of thousands of people from Medicaid.

The CMS Outreach Specialist emphasized the importance of connecting to those affected and preventing them from being blindsided by this process. Navigators are preparing for the influx of people who may need access to Marketplace health plans.

The event concluded with an award ceremony for longtime partners who have gone above and beyond. Cameron and NC Navigator Consortium Director, Mark Van Arnam relayed anecdotes of how these longtime allies hosted events, made referrals and assisted in healthcare outreach over the past 13 years. The recipients of the Affordable Care Act Champion Awards were Urban Ministries of Wake County, Advance Community Health, Alliance Medical Ministry, Dress for Success, and Martin Street Baptist Church, the host site for the luncheon. 

The NC Navigator Consortium is the only federally funded entity of its kind in North Carolina, supported in part by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Cone Health Foundation. Learn more at, and follow us 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 Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.


The project described was supported by Funding Opportunity number CA-NAV-23-001 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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies.