Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
50th Anniversary Year Exhibit
Justice is Golden
Celebrating Fifty Years of
Fighting for Fairness for Vulnerable People
November 1967- October 2018
Justice is Golden
This law-related education exhibit was made possible by
the generous support of the Louisiana Bar Foundation.
WELCOME TO THE
“Justice is Golden”
Legal aid programs provide assistance that keeps faith
with one of America’s core values, equal access to justice,
changing the lives of low-income people and improving
communities. Locally, Acadiana Legal Services and
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) deliver civil
legal help to thousands of our most vulnerable community
members. On a daily basis, legal aid lawyers prevent the
loss of shelter, income, personal safety, medical care,
family stability, and other human rights. An Economic
Impact Study released by the Louisiana Bar Foundation
in 2017 found that for every $1 invested in civil legal
aid, there is $8.73 of social return on investment
through immediate and long-term benefits as well as
taxpayer savings. Providing civil legal aid is not just
the right thing to do, it simply makes sense.
– Chief Justice
Bernette Joshua Johnson
I am especially honored to welcome you to the “Justice is Golden” Exhibit as I was a legal aid attorney
early in my career managing the Lower Ninth Ward office of the New Orleans Legal Assistance
Corporation (NOLAC), SLLS’ predecessor in the New Orleans area. Back then, NOLAC was dubbed “an
experiment” in a 1970 Times Picayune news article attracting legal minds “all motivated by a desire
to assist the poor.” Despite a difficult start, constant funding challenges, efforts to dismantle the
program, and the overwhelming legal needs of Louisiana’s high poverty population, civil legal aid has
helped ensure a more just society.
This Exhibit commemorates SLLS’ 50th Anniversary and its impact over the past five decades. Key
to that success is SLLS’ dedicated staff, volunteers, board, and partners. Strong support from the
judiciary, practicing lawyers, bar associations, elected officials, law schools, the philanthropic
community, and other stakeholders has been critical to its achievements. Though much remains to
be done, we can all be proud of advancements in justice through the work of Louisiana civil legal aid
programs. I hope you enjoy this Exhibit reflecting on SLLS’ history, as we focus together on laying a
strong foundation to increase access to justice for the next fifty years.
Aaron & Gianna, PLC
Association of Corporate
88 Farmers Market
Heller, Draper, Patrick, Horn &
SLLS 50t h ANNIVERSARY YEAR SPONSORS
THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS
SPONSORS and SUPPORTERS
Golden Defenders of Justice
Adams & Reese LLP
Herman Herman & Katz LLC
Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation
Baptist Community Ministries
Barrasso Usdin Kupperman
Freeman & Sarver, L.L.C.
Entergy Services, Inc.
Gordon Arata Montgomery
Jane Johnson & David Marcello
Kean Miller LLP
Silver Patrons of Justice
Baton Rouge Area Foundation • Capital One Bank • Phelps Dunbar LLP
Bronze Allies of Justice
King Krebs & Jurgens
R.L. Landreneau, Jr.
Le Croissant d’ Or
Liskow & Lewis
Louisiana Association of
Louisiana State Bar Association
Loyola University N.O.
College of Law
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
McGlinchey Stafford, PLC
Friends of Justice
Kim Tam Jewelry
New Orleans Bar Association
New Orleans Bar Foundation
Simon Peragine Smith
Southern University Law Center
Stone Pigman Walther Wittman
Mark & Monica Surprenant
Tulane University Law School
United Way of
R. Patrick & the Hon.
Sarah S. Vance
Walters, Papillion, Thomas,
O’Bryon & Schnabel
Optima Eye Care LLC
SLLS 50t h ANNIVERSARY YEAR
R. Patrick Vance & Darrel Papillion
David F. Bienvenu
The Hon. Bernadette D’Souza
Dean Thomas Galligan
Ashely Aubrey Harrison
Dean Madeleine Landrieu
Judy Perry Martinez
Warren McKenna III*
Dean David Meyer
Chancellor John Pierre
The Hon. Kern Reese
Lauren Davey Rogers
The Hon. Ray Steib
Jennifer Van Metre*
The Hon. Lisa Woodruff-White
The Hon. Jay Zainey
* SLLS Board Member
SPECIAL APPRECIATION TO
CHIEF JUSTICE BERNETTE JOHNSON, the ASSOCIATE JUSTICES,
& STAFF of the SUPREME COURT of the STATE of LOUISIANA,
the LOUISIANA BAR FOUNDATION for its support of the “Justice is Golden” Exhibit,
the SLLS 50th Anniversary Advisory Committee,
the LOUISIANA STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA LEGAL SERVICES staff,
and URVI PATEL for their unwavering dedication helping
SLLS Commemorate our 50TH Anniversary Year
WITH THANKS and CREDIT TO ALAN HOUSEMAN AND LINDA PERLE
for their December 2013 Article “Securing Equal Justice for All: A Brief History of Civil Legal Assistance
in the United States” relied upon extensively as a reference for our Exhibit.
The Early Days of Legal Aid
In 1919, Reginald Heber Smith, a young Harvard Law School graduate, received a grant to research
the legal system and its effect on the poor. The result was a book entitled Justice and the Poor, which
challenged the legal profession to ensure that access to justice was available to all without regard to the
ability to pay. The American Bar Association (ABA) responded to this call by devoting a section of its 1920
annual meeting to the concept of “legal aid.” It created the still existing Standing Committee on Legal Aid
to ensure the ABA’s involvement in the delivery of legal assistance to the poor.
State and local bar associations responded by sponsoring new legal aid programs. The programs were
loosely connected under a network which eventually became known as the National Legal Aid and Defender
Association. Most were in urban areas operating in isolation with small staffs and volunteers. During
the early years, less than 1% of indigent clients were served with approximately one attorney per every
120,000 low-income people.
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection/Yale University Press
Photographer Ben Shahn- Depression Era Photo of People Waiting in Line
Louisiana lawyers have long responded to the legal needs of the poor through volunteer service and
support for civil legal aid. Organized programs date back to the Depression Era when the private bar
mobilized to help struggling families. The New Orleans Bar Association (NOBA) had lines of low-income
people stretched around the block waiting to see volunteer attorneys. NOBA almost lost its lease due to
the high traffic. Several NOBA members founded the Legal Aid Bureau on June 10, 1935 with a shoestring
budget later funded by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. It provided civil legal aid through a small
staff with 90% of its work in family law. The need far outpaced available resources.
The War on Poverty & Legal Aid
“The War on Poverty” is the unofficial name for legislation introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson in
his 1964 State of the Union address in response to a 19% national poverty rate. This led Congress to pass
the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act establishing the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). OEO funds
were used for initiatives like Head Start, VISTA, and Job Corps. That same year, Edgar and Jean Cohn wrote
a seminal article for the Yale Law Journal arguing that neighborhood law offices were necessary for an
effective anti-poverty program. Sargeant Shriver, OEO’s first Director, agreed to earmark legal aid as an
eligible service for OEO funds.
In New Orleans, a group of attorneys founded a nonprofit law firm on November 6, 1967 called the New
Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation (NOLAC) to apply for OEO funding. Their vision was a law firm to
advocate for the rights of the poor just as private law firms do for their clients. The original NOLAC Board
of Directors was:
Milton E. Brener
Mary Ellen Hamilton
Nils R. Douglas
Hon. Revius O. Ortique, Jr.
John P. Dowling
Benjamin J. Johnson
Benjamin E. Smith
A.J. Waechter, Jr.
George J. Gulotta
Hon. Ernest “Dutch” Morial Addie Watson
Hon. James C. Gulotta
John P. Nelson, Jr.
NOLAC opened its doors in May 1968 with six neighborhood offices scattered across New Orleans, later
expanding to cover five parishes. Most offices were staffed by up to five attorneys with a few support staff.
NOLAC handled family law, landlord-tenant, consumer problems, benefits, and employment law matters
for individual clients. It also had an active Law Reform Unit and a robust class action practice resulting
in significant systemic social justice victories.
Birth of the
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)
By 1971, the idea of an independent national legal services entity began to take root. A bill to create the
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) “immune to political pressures and a permanent part of our system of
justice” was proposed. The bill was vetoed. In 1973, the Nixon Administration proposed a new bill. In the
end, 24 restrictions were added limiting the types of cases that could be taken, restricting lobbying and
rulemaking, limiting class actions, and eliminating funding for training centers. After extensive wrangling,
the bill became law on July 25, 1974 as the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974. It was one of the last
bills Nixon signed before resigning.
The LSC Act created a private, nonprofit corporation controlled by an independent bipartisan Board
appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It received federal funding from Congress to
make grants to local programs throughout the country under an organized national framework. It also
had responsibility to ensure its grantees were complying with restrictions. Distinguished Louisiana jurist
Justice Revius Ortique, Jr., one of NOLAC’s founding Board members, was appointed to the first LSC Board.
LSC funding provided resources to support the opening of nine different civil legal aid providers across
Louisiana. A “minimum access” plan was developed with the goal of two lawyers for every 10,000 poor
people based on federal poverty guidelines. For the first time ever, all 64 Louisiana parishes were served
by a legal aid office, though legal needs continued to outpace available resources and program capacity.
By 1981, LSC was funding 325 programs in the states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin
Islands, Micronesia, and Guam.
Acadiana Legal Service Corp.
Kisatchie Legal Services Corp.
Northwest LA Legal Services
Capital Area Legal Services Corp.
Baton Rouge, LA
New Orleans Legal Asst. Corp.
New Orleans, LA
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Legal Services of Central LA
North LA Legal Services
Southwest LA Legal Services,
Lake Charles, LA
Social Justice Victories
Lead to Backlash
LSC programs had major impacts on laws affecting the rights of low-income people. Victories were won
in state and federal appellate courts including the United States Supreme Court, regarding constitutional
rights of the poor. Nationwide, LSC attorneys won landmark decisions while developing a body of poverty
law still relied upon today.
From 1968 to 1992, NOLAC successfully handled dozens of class actions resulting in social change and
million dollar verdicts. One of its most famous cases was Cook v. Ochsner Foundation Hospital, et. al,
61 F.R.D. 354 (E.D. La. 1972) which asserted that eight local hospitals in the New Orleans area were
discriminating against African-American patients in the provision of medical care. After years of complex
litigation, Cook v. Ochsner established the right of the poor to access free care in 18 federally financed
hospitals in the city and the nation. Its racial discrimination challenge resulted in a federal investigation,
charges, and remedial plans by three major New Orleans hospitals.
NOLAC filed class actions against housing authorities for defective living conditions, denial of due process
in the tenant grievance process, remediation of lead-paint in public housing, and improper tenant utility
allowances. NOLAC sued school boards on behalf of special needs children to ensure special education
rights and challenged unfair admission policies.
NOLAC sued the State to require it to process
food stamp applications within 30 days, to
provide compensation for unnecessary delays,
and to recalculate thousands of applications
when an improper eligibility formula was used.
While not exhaustive, examples of other class
actions involved consumer rights, juvenile
detention, Medicaid claim processing, rights for
domestic violence victims, and a decision finding
that “tacking” service without mail service also is
unconstitutional in eviction cases.
Restricting the Activities of
Civil Legal Aid
From 1970-1980s, significant class action victories, legislative advocacy, and representation of
undocumented immigrants by legal services programs created a backlash. These activities became a
contentious topic in Congress. With the election of President Reagan, LSC’s future was in crisis as he
sought to eliminate it. Though the program was not defunded, LSC’s budget was slashed by 25%. The
Administration also began replacing the LSC Board. By the end of 1982, LSC Board members had been
From the 1980s to 1996, more restrictions were placed on the types of cases LSC programs could handle
and who could be helped. The role of LSC funded programs was severely limited in legislative advocacy or
rulemaking activities. Representation of undocumented immigrants was virtually eliminated. Class action
representation against government agencies or others was prohibited. Programs could not take on cases
challenging welfare reform, selective service, or engage in grass roots advocacy. Attorney fees obtained by
programs had to be sent to LSC.
New regulations to involve the organized bar in the governance and delivery of civil legal aid were
established. This included requiring that a majority of each local LSC funded program’s Board of Directors
be lawyers appointed by either state or local bar associations. Efforts to involve private attorneys in civil
legal aid were launched.
LOUIS A. MARTINET LEGAL SOCIETY
Civil Legal Aid Powered by Pro Bono
LSC funded civil legal aid programs rely primarily on staff attorneys, but early on were also encouraged
to voluntarily create pro bono programs and support private attorney involvement (PAI). In the 1980s, the
ABA led an unprecedented effort to prevent the Reagan Administration from eliminating LSC funding. It
adopted a resolution urging Congress to “mandate the opportunity for substantial involvement of private
lawyers in providing legal services to the poor.” By 1984, LSC adopted regulations requiring all grantees to
devote 12.5% of their LSC funding to annual support of pro bono and PAI activities.
In 1986, NOLAC provided seed funding to start the New Orleans Pro Bono Project. Other Louisiana pro bono
programs began or grew with the infusion of LSC funds in Baton Rouge, Alexandria, and Shreveport. Today,
SLLS provides sub-grants to the Pro Bono Project in New Orleans and the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation to
provide free legal assistance to about 1,000 vulnerable clients every year. These investments have laid the
foundation for additional pro bono partnerships to expand access to justice using non-LSC funds.
– June 2017
Shreveport Bar Foundation Pro Bono Project
Southwest Pro Bono
Lafayette Parish Bar Foundation/Pro Bono Project
Central Louisiana Pro Bono Project
The Pro Bono Project
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ North Shore Pro Bono Project
Baton Rouge Bar Foundation Pro Bono Project
SLLS has further expanded pro bono. It created an in-house North Shore Pro
Bono Project through a Louisiana Bar Foundation Community Partnership Panel
grant, an incubator attorney partnership serving domestic violence victims with
the LSBA LIFT program, has a panel of volunteer lawyers for our Low-Income
Taxpayer Clinic, works with the Martinet Society of Greater Baton Rouge to handle
pro bono cases, and partners with the LSBA Young Lawyers and the Louisiana
Justice is Golden
Chapter of Corporate Counsel on “Wills for Heroes” programs. LSC’s new Pro Bono
Innovation Fund (PBIF) 2015 grant stream allowed SLLS to start a Medical-Legal
Partnership project. A 2017 PBIF Transformation grant will help us enhance our
pro bono program to make it the best it can be in the 21st century.
Law School Partnerships Expand
Access to Justice
Since its inception, SLLS has proudly worked with law schools
and law students to expand access to justice. Activities include
summer clerkships, externships, law clinics, alternate break
volunteer opportunities, training efforts, and post-graduate
Fellowships. Every year, over 10,000 law student hours are
contributed to SLLS’ work on behalf of vulnerable people.
Illustrative examples of law school partnerships include:
2017 Gillis Long Graduates for Justice
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
– “Graduates for Justice”
The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center affiliated with Loyola University’s
New Orleans College of Law has been a strong supporter of SLLS
for decades. Their latest program provides paid post-graduate
internships. The Graduates for Justice program offers full-time, short-term employment to recent graduates
waiting for summer bar exam results. Postgraduate interns work for eight weeks with local civil legal aid
offices gaining valuable legal experience and skills while assisting vulnerable people in our community.
SLLS is honored to be a partner in this new one-of-a-kind initiative filling a service gap.
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
– “Flood Proof” Successions & Title Clearing Clinic
Following the 2016 flood in Baton Rouge, SLLS formed and led a five member collaborative partnership
including the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center. Working with SLLS, LSU created its first Succession Clinic
to help flooded homeowners obtain clear title to heir property so they can receive recovery funding. Since
the project’s inception, 106 flooded homeowners have received free legal help to unlock $3,045,763 in
recovery funds or other economic benefits. The Clinic works to help low-income people get the legal proof
needed to show they own their home typically a requirement to get FEMA funds, insurance proceeds, loans,
or rebuilding resources.
Southern University Law Center – NITA Public Service Trainings
In 2016, SULC partnered with SLLS to offer staff training through an innovative National Institute of Trial
Advocacy (NITA) program. Under NITA’s new Public Service program, 32 public interest lawyers were paired
with 16 SULC students for an intensive free four-day training. This training gives students interested in
public service careers an edge while also sharpening the skills of civil legal aid attorneys. SULC was one
of the first law schools in the country to participate in the NITA Program. The program was repeated in
2017 and is on track for a 2018 session. SLLS is also proud to partner with SULC on a number of projects
including its Succession Clinic as part of our “Flood Proof” project.
Tulane University Law Center
– Lutz Fellowships Expand Service to Victims of Abuse
Since 2014, six recent Tulane Law School graduates have started their practice while filling civil legal
services gaps for victims of domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, and disasters. Through a gift from
corporate attorney Laurent C. Lutz, a 1986 Tulane Law School graduate, the law school and SLLS share the
cost of one year Fellowships. Mr. Lutz, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary
of Sallie Mae, says in creating the fellowship, he and his family hoped to “give new Tulane lawyers
opportunities to follow their aspirations to help others,” with a focus on improving children’s lives. SLLS
has been fortunate to retain each Lutz Fellow on staff at the end of their Fellowship.
Mergers Change the Landscape
of Civil Legal Aid
Beginning in 1998, LSC promoted efforts to merge and reconfigure basic field programs. This move away
from local control to fewer programs serving much larger geographic areas, permanently changed the way
legal aid was delivered. By 2016, mergers reduced LSC funded programs from 325 to 133.
In 2003, NOLAC merged its five parishes (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Bernard and Plaquemines)
with SLLS’ five parishes (Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Washington, and Livingston) and began
operating under the SLLS name. Similar consolidations took place in other parts of the state. By 2010,
only four Louisiana LSC funded programs existed – Acadiana Legal Services, Capital Area Legal Services,
Legal Services of North Louisiana, and SLLS. In July 2011, SLLS assumed responsibility for civil legal aid in
twelve more parishes in the Baton Rouge and Houma areas from Capital Area Legal Services.
Louisiana Legal Services Network
As of January 1, 2017, there are two LSC funded programs here as compared to the nine programs that
originally served the state in the early years. Acadiana Legal Services took over Legal Services of North
Louisiana and now covers forty-two parishes with SLLS serving the other twenty-two. Both programs serve
50% of Louisiana’s poverty population, the second highest poverty rate in the United States. Both SLLS and
Acadiana have six offices each scattered throughout the state.
State Planning Strengthens
Access to Justice
As legal aid programs across the country faced decreased federal funding, the need for strategic state
level planning to strengthen the delivery network became paramount. In response, many states formed
entities, typically called Access to Justice Commissions or Access to Justice Committees, composed of
prominent justice community stakeholders to focus jointly on identified justice problems in their state.
The Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) Access to Justice (ATJ) Committee was established in 1996 to
consolidate two already existing LSBA committees (the Legal Services Committee and the Volunteers in
Public Service Committee). To support its work, the LSBA created a staffed Access to Justice (ATJ) Program.
The ATJ Program is a joint effort of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Louisiana State Bar Association and
the Louisiana Legal Services Programs. The ATJ Program dedicates personnel to support ongoing activities
of the non-profit civil legal aid organizations in their efforts to provide access for indigent people to
the court system. Over the years, it has also taken on independent efforts to address the unmet need of
Louisiana’s indigent population.
By order of the Louisiana Supreme Court, signed September 17, 2015, the Louisiana Access to Justice
Commission was created and continues the work of the long-standing LSBA ATJ Committee to pursue a
coordinated and systemic approach to ensuring the public’s access to the legal system. Its mission is
to “assure continuity of policy and purpose in the collaboration between the private bar, the courts, and
the civil justice community so as to further the goal of assuring that Louisianans, regardless of their
economic circumstance, have access to equal justice under the law.” Upon consultation with the Chief
Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the LSBA President appoints twenty-one members with diverse
backgrounds with a proven commitment to access to justice in Louisiana. The representative membership
of Louisiana’s Justice Community stakeholders brings an increased involvement by judges, clerks of court,
the business community, and others to nearly two decades of collaboration between the LSBA and the
Louisiana Supreme Court on Access to Justice efforts.
Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath
Hurricane Katrina was the biggest crisis in SLLS’ history.
60% of staff lost their homes with 100% displaced six
weeks or more. 1/3 never returned. The New Orleans
SLLS office was out of commission for 10 weeks. The
Chalmette office was destroyed. Within days of the storm,
SLLS opened a disaster hotline and temporary office run
by six displaced SLLS staff stationed at Legal Services of
70% of homes and businesses in New Orleans received severe damage with hundreds of thousands of
residents evacuated or made homeless. Through the generosity of the private bar, law schools, students,
foundations, and the general public, resources to help meet swelling legal needs were available. Then
Co-Executive Director Mark Moreau said, “It was our darkest, yet finest hour.” For its sustained record of
excellence after Katrina, SLLS received an ABA Hodsen Award. It was the only civil legal aid program to
receive a special award from HUD for its post-Katrina housing advocacy work.
Pictured Left to Right - Mark Moreau, SLLS Co-Executive
Director, Maritza Katz, Staff Attorney, and Brian Lenard, SLLS
Co-Executive Director mucking out flooded Chalmette office
Highlights of Katrina
Related Impact Work
SLLS corrected a problem on a national scale - the Disaster Housing Assistance Program included food
stamps as income when setting rents. SLLS advocacy with HUD fixed the problem for 31,000 people with
an estimated benefit of $10 million.
A HUD landlord displaced 300 families to charge higher rent. SLLS advocated with HUD to get it to approve
Tenant Protection Vouchers and relocation assistance to them plus an additional 1,500 families from 12
more HUD developments. The value of this was $5 million annually.
HUD stopped rent assistance to more than 600 families suspected of getting duplicate housing benefits.
SLLS persuaded HUD to reinstate rent checks. Further investigation contradicted the initial assessment.
Most were found not to be “double dipping”.
SLLS helped over 1,500 disaster-impacted homeowners obtain over $72 million in Road Home recovery
funding by clearing title to informally passed down heir property. From 2007-2008, SLLS alone performed
26% of all title clearing work done by all LSC programs.
SLLS handled more than 1,100 FEMA claims obtaining over $8 million in FEMA recovery funding to help
stabilize their lives.
Nationally, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid. Over the past seven years, Louisiana legal
services program have had a 39% drop in LSC federal funding levels. In fiscal year 2011, Louisiana civil
legal services programs were funded at approximately $9.7 million compared to fiscal year 2017 levels of
about $5.9 million.
Yet the unmet legal needs of low-income people remains high. A 2017 LSC Justice Gap Report found that
86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in the past year received inadequate
or no legal help. Despite this, the current Administration proposed elimination of LSC from the federal
budget. In response, the ABA, law school deans, corporate counsel from Fortune 500 companies, partners
from over 200 of the largest law firms, bar associations, prominent jurists, and many others opposed this
proposal. Strong bipartisan support in Congress has resulted in ongoing LSC funding, though there will
likely be future efforts to defund LSC.
LA’s Portion of LSC Funding
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
The proportion of LSC funding in SLLS’ budget has dropped from
100% in the early years to 43% today. Federal funding for civil
legal aid is not the only challenge. Louisiana is one of only four
states which receive no state funding dedicated to civil legal aid.
Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) funds, since 1988 the
second largest resource for most civil legal services programs,
faced plummeting revenues over the past few years due to falling
SLLS 2017 Funding
Federal Funding 17%
Filing Fees 6%
Technology Opens New Frontiers
Advances in technology combined with shrinking funding have driven innovations in technology. Limited
assistance can now be made available to large numbers of people cost-effectively. Recognizing this, LSC
began a new grant making stream through its Technology Initiative Grants (TIG). Since 2000, $57 million
has been awarded to 670 projects. TIGs have supported the development of legal education websites, selfhelp
resources, apps for mobile devices, and referral systems making legal help easily available to the
public. TIG’s facilitate a wide array of projects harnessing the power of technology to support equal justice.
In 2002, SLLS received its first TIG to create a public information website called
www.LouisianaLawhelp.org. In 2016, over 143,000 unique visitors obtained selfhelp
forms, legal information, or referrals from the site. Since the site is almost 15
years old, we are excited to revamp it to better assist our community. A new 2017
LSC TIG will provide the means to upgrade the site.
Over the past decade, SLLS has become a leader in using technology to expand civil legal aid resources to
more people. Recent projects include:
• Video training resources for staff and volunteers
• Statewide online intake available 24 hours per day/7 days per week
• Making www.LouisianaLawhelp.org mobile-friendly
• Creating a Spanish language mirror site for www.LouisianaLawhelp.org
• Using document assembly systems to create fillable self-help forms for common legal problems
SLLS was also pleased to partner with the ABA Center for Innovation
and Stanford University Law School after the Great Flood of 2016
to create a mobile phone app called “Flood Proof.” The app makes
it easier for disaster survivors and their attorneys to get legal
help, triage cases, and share documents in title clearing cases.
Disasters & Civil Legal Aid
“First Boots on the Ground, then Suits on the Ground”
Over the past twelve years, southeast Louisiana has weathered eight presidentially-declared disasters
- Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Isaac, the March 2016 Flood, the Great Flood of 2016, 2017 New
Orleans East Tornadoes - and the BP Oil Spill. When disaster strikes, SLLS works closely with the LSBA
Disaster Committee, the ABA Young Lawyer’s Division, LSC, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and other
partners to implement effective disaster response. Preparing for and responding to disaster law problems has
unfortunately become “business as usual.” We know “first come boots on the ground, then suits on the ground.”
In 2016, 51 of 64 Louisiana parishes were included in presidentially declared disaster areas from two major
floods. Through the generous support of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the W.J. Kellogg Foundation,
the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Capital Area United Way, the Legal Services Corporation, AARP, the
Louisiana Bar Foundation, a Tulane Law School Lutz Fellowship, Baptist Community Ministries, Equal
Justice Works, and the Greater New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, SLLS mounted a
significant disaster legal response. We are very grateful for this outpouring of support. We are thrilled that
the United Way of Southeast Louisiana is providing a significant investment in the fall of 2017 to support
civil legal aid for still recovering North Shore disaster victims.
In February 2017, SLLS was included on a panel at an LSC Congressional Briefing to speak about the role
of civil legal aid in disasters. We recently provided disaster law training to over 1,200 civil legal aid and
volunteer attorneys to help them respond to the legal needs of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria
disaster survivors. SLLS is also working with a state recognized tribe to provide legal assistance through
a lengthy relocation process related to frequent disasters. The tribe, dubbed by the media as the first
“climate change refugees,” is losing its ancestral land as it gradually sinks into the Gulf of Mexico.
Self Help Desks Help Address
Unrepresented Litigant Crisis
Near 2010, with shrinking funding for civil legal aid, the number of self-represented litigants rose to
as high as 65% in many courts across the country including Louisiana. The civil justice system found
it needed new ways to provide some level of help for people without an attorney especially in family law
cases. Local courts in partnership with civil legal aid, bar associations, and other organizations started
self-help Desks or courthouse kiosks with self-help resources.
In Louisiana, civil legal aid and pro bono programs
began operating self-help Desks
several years ago. These desks now
serve thousands of people annually.
SLLS usually locates the self-help desks
it operates in rural areas where it does
not have an office or where it runs a pro
bono project. Through the support of the
Louisiana Bar Foundation, the United Way
of Southeast Louisiana, and the United
Way of St. Charles Parish, SLLS started
pilot self-help Desks. These and other
resources have allowed SLLS to continue
operations beyond initial startup.
SLLS’ Self-Help desks include:
• Washington Parish Self-Help Desk in Partnership with the 22nd Judicial District
• St. Tammany Parish Self-Help Desk in Partnership with the 22nd Judicial District
• Lafourche Parish Self-Help Desk in Partnership with the 17th Judicial District
• St. Charles Parish Self-Help Desk in Partnership with the 29th Judicial District
• Jefferson Parish Domestic Violence Project in Partnership with the 24th Judicial
District Self-Help Desk and the Pro Bono Project
Photo Courtesy of the Daily Comet - Houma Today, Staff Photographer Abby Taylor
- People Gathered Outside the Lafourche Parish
Courthouse in Thibodaux, Louisiana
for Collective Impact
Effective legal interventions often require the collaboration of multiple partners to achieve maximum
impact. Strategic partnerships draw on the strengths of different agencies working towards a common
goal. SLLS is proud to lead innovative collaborations while serving a key support role in others. A few recent
Medical-Legal Partnerships- Goal is to integrate legal
services as part of the health care treatment plan to improve
the health of vulnerable patients.
SLLS is the lead agency for an onsite medical-legal
partnership at two Daughters of Charity Services of New
Orleans (DSCNO) federally qualified health clinics. Partners
include the Pro Bono Project and DCSNO. LSC’s Pro Bono
Innovation Fund supports this project.
Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program (JRAP) & Public Housing Youth Reentry- Goal is to improve economic
opportunities for public housing area youth up to age 24 in New Orleans who have arrest or criminal
records through civil legal aid and other supportive services.
SLLS leads a collaborative with the Housing Authority of New Orleans, Providence, the Justice &
Accountability Center, and Urban Strategies. Activities include expungement clinics, Know Your Rights
sessions, and individual representation in 150 cases to resolve collateral consequences of arrests and
convictions. Generous support is provided through HUD and Baptist Community Ministries.
Ending Chronic and Family Homelessness Advocacy Collabortive- Goal is to end chronic homelessness in
greater New Orleans by 2017 and family homelessness before 2020 and maintain it at functional zero.
SLLS is a critical partner in a collaborative led by Unity of Greater New Orleans along with Travelers Aid
Society. Through advocacy, centralized intake, system integration, and training, we will functionally end
chronic and family homelessness in New Orleans. Generous support is provided through the United Way of
5 elements of collective impact
Tribute to NOLAC and SLLS Directors
NOLAC/SLLS has been blessed with dedicated, visionary Executive Directors since the day we opened
our doors. So much of what we have been able to accomplish over the years is due to the legacy of these
leaders who were also outstanding advocates and mentors in their own right. Former NOLAC and SLLS
Richard Buckley Lila Hogan
Joseph Meyer, Jr. David Duhon
James “Jim” Sacher
A special homage is owed to long-time Directors
Mark Moreau and Brian Lenard who each devoted
their entire careers to NOLAC/SLLS. For over three
decades each, Mark and Brian stabilized the
program growing it into what it is today. They are
legends beloved by many in the legal and nonprofit
community. Having ably led SLLS through
catastrophic Hurricanes, funding crises, mergers,
and so many other challenging times, they are
heroes to our staff.
Due to serious illness, Mark retired in the fall of
2013 with Brian stepping down in May 2014 – the
end of an era. To honor Mark, who passed away in
February 2014, the New Orleans Bar Association created the Mark A. Moreau Award to annually honor his
impressive career in public interest. Mark was also posthumously honored in October 2017 as a “Housing
Justice Hero” at the National Housing Law Project’s annual conference. Brian received the 2014 LSBA Leah
Hipple McKay Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteerism.
Since May 2014, SLLS has been led by Executive Director Laura Tuggle and Deputy Director Roxanne
Newman. We are honored to stand on their shoulders as we move SLLS forward to accomplish our shared
vision of a more just society.
Pictured Above Left to Right:
Brian Lenard, SLLS Co-Executive Director, Chris Ralston,
SLLS Board Member, Mark Moreau, SLLS Co-Executive Director
receiving 2012 City Business Leadership in Law Awards
Hub for Justices and Judges
NOLAC/SLLS has served as a hub for many leaders. Since we opened our doors, forty-three former staff,
board, and committee members have been or become judges or jurists including trailblazer Chief Justice
Bernette Johnson. We are proud to have been part of their careers.
Louisiana Supreme Court
Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson
Revius O. Ortique Jr.
Louisiana Courts of Appeal
Joan M. B. Armstrong
Edwin A. Lombard
Marcel Garsaud, Jr.
James C. Gulotta, Sr.
Madeleine M. Landrieu
Terri F. Love
Ernest “Dutch” Morial
United States District Courts
James A. Comiskey
Louis Moore, Jr.
Ivan L. R. Lemelle
Jay. C. Zainey
State District Courts, Hearing Officers, & Juvenile Courts
Reginald T. Badeaux, III
Paulette R. Irons
Stephen B. Beasley
Kim A. Boyle
Margaret Burke (Alaska)
Sidney H. Cates, IV
Desiree Cook Calvin
Charlotte A. Cooksey (Maryland)
Darryl A. Derbigny
Charles L. Elloie
Alan J. Green
Ethel S. Julien
Yada T. Magee
Robert H. Morrison, III
Kern A. Reese
Emile R. St. Pierre
Ronald J. Sholes
Kirk A. Vaughn
Cultivating the Next Generation of
Justice Leaders through Fellowships
With generous support from local and national organizations, SLLS hosts innovative Fellowship projects
to respond to urgent community needs. The New Orleans Bar Association and the New Orleans Bar
Foundation currently fund a Veterans Justice Fellowship to address unmet legal needs of vulnerable
veterans. Equal Justice Works funds two Disaster Law Fellows. Two Tulane Law School Lutz Fellows and
a Loyola Law School Gillis Long Social Justice Fellow are helping address the urgent needs of domestic
violence victims and abused children. A new LBF Child Welfare Fellowship will provide resources to help
SLLS represent abused/neglected children and their special education needs. Borchard and Berkeley
Foundation Fellowships enable SLLS to fight for housing justice for seniors and people with re-entry issues.
New Orleans Bar
& NOBA Foundation
Child in need of
Care, Disaster, &
Child in Need
Since 1967, SLLS has grown to become Louisiana’s largest civil
legal aid provider. We now cover twenty-two parishes from six
offices, have 101 employees, and operate five Self-Help Desks
in partnership with local courts. Staff are embedded onsite with
community partners, like hospitals, health clinics, community
colleges, domestic violence centers, and homeless shelters to
ensure civil legal aid is part of a holistic solution to improving lives.
Fellowships with law schools, foundations, and bar associations
help us meet urgent needs. Since 1997, when computerized case
management began, SLLS has helped 510,317 people in 179,391
cases, an average of 25,515 people helped annually.
Having an SLLS lawyer prevents loss of family, food, shelter, income, medical care, or personal safety.
In 2016, SLLS handled over 11,000 cases helping over 26,000 vulnerable Louisianans, reached another
13,500 people through community education, and provided legal information to over 143,000 more through
www.LouisianaLawhelp.org. Priorities for our work include:
• Protecting domestic violence victims & abused children
• Preserving homes, improving housing conditions, & defending housing rights
• Safeguarding the rights of special populations like disaster victims, seniors, veterans, the
homeless, or people living with disabilities
• Increasing the income of consumers & the working poor
• Improving health, education access, and employment opportunity
• Providing self-help resources, community education, and legal information to the public
The direct economic impact of our 2016 work for clients was $22.3 million while a Louisiana Bar Foundation
Economic Impact Study found that for every $1 invested in civil legal aid, there was $8.73 of social return
on investment. Pro bono attorneys donated 5,465 hours of service valued at almost $1 million dollars while
law students racked up over 10,000 hours of service.
Excellence in Advocacy
through Impact Work
Though SLLS no longer handles class actions, we continue to address systematic problems. This includes
impact work such as appellate cases to overturn improper denials of the right of indigent clients to proceed
in forma pauperis, protecting public housing tenants, challenging the foster care system, and ensuring
fair housing and affordability protections are enforced for disabled tenants. Notable examples are:
Desire Area Residents Council vs. HANO – SLLS filed suit against the Housing Authority of New
Orleans (HANO) on behalf of the Desire Area Resident Council and over 400 individual HANO tenants forced
to relocate from public housing as the sites were torn down and redeveloped. The suit involved inadequate
tenant relocation assistance due to HANO’s failure to properly adjust utility allowances. It settled for $3.3
million and resulted in utility allowance increases for 10,000 tenants once schedules were raised.
Catrice Johnson et al vs. Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish,
442 F. 3d 356 (5th Cir. 2006) – This case was a victory of first impression
in federal court granting voucher holders a private right of action to sue
housing authorities for inadequate utility allowances in the Housing Choice
Voucher Program. This affected all voucher holders in the United States. The
housing authority requested U.S. Supreme Court review which was denied.
53 low-income elderly and/
or disabled tenants living in affordable units at
the American Can apartment complex faced a Christmas
time eviction in December 2016. The owner wanted to
substantially raise rents on units it claimed no longer
had to be rent restricted for poor people. Through SLLS’
representation of seven tenants, we discovered the owner had likely failed to comply with affordability
protections. After settlement negotiations, tenants were provided a nine month delay on evictions, $1,500
each towards payment of moving costs, and housing search assistance. Due to extensive media coverage,
this case unearthed serious concerns regarding the failure of government agencies nationally to monitor
affordability compliance periods to protect low-income tenants.
Photo Courtesy of the New Orleans Advocate,
Staff Photographer Matthew Hinton
- Mike Ensault, disabled Vietnam Veteran being evicted
from the American Can apartments.
Making a Difference
for the People We Serve
Despite constant defunding threats, regulatory compliance, disasters, inadequate resources, huge
caseloads, and other challenges, we have the best jobs! Knowing the difference we make in someone’s
life, inspires us. Below are a few words of thanks from recent clients:
“From the moment I shook your hand, I felt the support. For the first
time in years, my kids and I feel safe- even better, we are safe. We
can’t thank you enough.”- Y.N.
“I want to thank you for all you have done. You were awesome in the
courtroom. You gave me something I have not had for most of my
life, and that is the freedom to live, speak, and feel without being
criticized. This is a big turning point in my life. This has changed
my life, and I will always remember what you have done.” - S.A.
Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right. Psalms 106:3. “Your help in winning my
eviction made me think of this verse. You took away the stress hanging over me. Continue to help others.” - S.G.
“It’s not just the thoughtful way you helped, it’s the caring behind your kindness.”- D.L.
“You worked so hard to help me solve the biggest crisis of my life. Thank you for putting up with me and all the
“My brother and I would like to express our utmost appreciation for all your hard work in helping us get our
succession finished and our FEMA claim approved after the flood destroyed our home.”- E.S.
“I just cannot express my thanks enough, you have truly impacted my life. As I write this note, I am in tears.
When I thought I was lost, you helped me find my way. Thank you for being my support system and letting me
know that I deserved better.”- K.
“I highly appreciate your help. I couldn’t have done this without you. I was very lucky to have you as my attorney.
Will never forget you. Thank you for a fresh start.”- Z. A.
“A million thanks for a million dollar job! You have changed my
“You may not know it, but you saved my life. I was in pain, couldn’t
afford medicine, and had about given up. Working with you was one
of the best things in my life.” - S. M.
“Thank you so much getting the eviction overturned – I am so glad
you and SLLS were there and thank you for helping those who need
it most.”- L.S.
“You are my guardian angel. Thank you for being there for my family. We can always count on you to help in our
time of need. Don’t know what people would do without you.”- P. C.
Forging a Path Ahead for the Next Fifty Years
SLLS is working harder than ever to ensure equal justice and fairness for vulnerable people. During
our 50th year, we will launch several initiatives to enhance our capacity to better serve clients and our
community. From October 2017 - October 2018, be on the lookout for:
Investments in Capacity to Increase Access to Justice
• LSC Pro Bono Innovation Fund Transformation Grant - October 2017
• LSC Technology Innovation Grants - October 2017
• New Orleans Office Moving to New Location - April 2018
• LBF Funded Statewide Case Management System Upgrades -Spring 2018
• New SLLS Agency Website - Early Spring 2018
SLLS is also tackling new projects to fill service gaps and increase access to justice to vulnerable people.
New Projects Underway to Increase Access to Justice
• Veteran Justice Fellowship and Medical-Legal Project Expansions
• Reentry Court Collaborative Lawyering Project & Civil Legal Aid for Reentry Youth
• Trafficking Grant in Partnership with Healing Place Church
• United Way of Southeast Louisiana Disaster Grant for Long-Term Recovery
• Coastal Advocacy Grant with Louisiana Appleseed for the Bayou Region
Be part of SLLS’ story for the next 50 years. Subscribe to our
newsletter at www.slls.org and like us on Facebook.
Check out our website to find out more about our
upcoming 50th Anniversary Year activities
including four law school events and four
community forums in the Baton Rouge,
New Orleans, Northshore, and
Bayou Region areas.
www.slls.org (504) 529-1000
SLLS has offices in Baton Rouge, Covington, Hammond, Harvey, Houma, and New Orleans