Seeds of Justice: Legal Aid of Nebraska
On October 10, Nebraska Appleseed is celebrating the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations who have stood up for justice and opportunity for all the 2019 Good Apple Awards. We are proud to introduce you to the honorees we are recognizing this year.
The Seeds of Justice Award honors outstanding legal contributions to public interest law and/or pro bono contributions by private lawyers and law firms advancing the public interest.
In the early morning hours of Presidents Day 2018, a three alarm fire destroyed Legal Aid of Nebraska’s office in Lincoln. In an instant, offices, personal belongings, and years of organizational history had turned to ash, and for their team of attorneys and staff, an otherwise typical morning had turned into a disaster.
But what the fire could not destroy was Legal Aid’s commitment to justice: the next day, without an office, Legal Aid attorneys were back in court, working for the clients they serve. In the midst of tragedy, Legal Aid’s mission of providing high-quality legal services to low-income Nebraskans went undeterred.
Over the last year, it’s been an odyssey of hope, perseverance, and an unyielding commitment to the mission of advancing justice for all. These very themes are nothing new for Legal Aid, but rather, they have been at the center of the organization for over five decades.
Comprised of 8 offices across the state, Legal Aid is the only statewide provider of free civil legal services serving all 93 counties in the state. Through innovative strategies, far-reaching programs, and a dedicated team of experienced attorneys, they reach every corner of Nebraska, bringing to light the plight of Nebraska’s poor, and using the power of the law to assist those who often have nowhere else to turn.
“Legal Aid fills an important need in our community. They have deep expertise in the legal issues that are connected to the root causes of poverty in our state and work daily to help individuals solve those problems. They sit on the front lines of justice for individuals and families who are paid low wages and stand with them as they navigate the challenges of our legal system,” said Becky Gould, Appleseed’s Executive Director.
Legal Aid focuses their work in 4 program areas: housing, income & benefits, family, and debt. Through these areas, they go after the root causes of poverty and inequality, helping families navigate the tricky legal landscape, and lifting them up to self-sufficiency. In 2017 alone, Legal Aid assisted over 6,000 families by finding stability through guardianships, child custody cases, and protection orders for domestic violence victims.
It wouldn’t be possible without their exceptional roster of attorneys. “Legal Aid is passionate and generous with their time and talents. They are devoted to service and have made a commitment to work for the betterment of their clients. They are zealous advocates that are familiar with the needs of the clients they serve,” said Robbie McEwen, Appleseed’s Legal Director.
This intimate knowledge of the needs of their clients and of their communities have helped Legal Aid develop programs that bring legal services and legal advocacy directly to those who need them most. Within their four main issue areas, Legal Aid also has programs focused on farm and ranch law, Native American issues, tax law, and health care.
Legal Aid also runs a Disaster Relief Program, which came into sharp focus last spring as floods devastated communities in eastern Nebraska. As families were left to pick up the pieces after homes and farms were damaged, Legal Aid was there to offer legal assistance and facilitated a network of pro bono attorneys to assist those affected.
“Recognizing Legal Aid with the Seeds of Justice Award is about lifting up what lawyers and the legal community can do to advance social justice. There is no question that Legal Aid has been the leading provider of low-income legal services in Nebraska. They represent the best of what lawyers can do to support individuals in our communities and we are proud to recognize them for that work,” said Becky.
For their decades of legal services to Nebraska’s communities, tireless commitment to equal justice, and for their work helping families all across our state see better days, we are proud to award Legal Aid of Nebraska with the Seeds of Justice Award at the 2019 Good Apple Awards!