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Coalition Seeks Funding For Legal Services In Vermont Civil Courts

The brick exterior of the Caledonia County Courthouse in St. Johnsbury.
Elodie Reed
As the next legislative session nears, the Vermont Access To Justice Coalition plans to ask lawmakers to help Vermonters who can't afford a lawyer in civil proceedings.

The Vermont Access To Justice Coalition plans to ask lawmakers for over $1 million to assist Vermonters who can't afford a lawyer in civil proceedings.

The request follows a 10 year decline in funding for legal services statewide according to coalition member and former Vermont Bar Foundation president Daniel Richardson.

Most of the funding, Richardson said, “is really to meet unmet needs that exist, but there’s no real program to cover them.”

More from VPR: Report: Helping Low-Income Vermonters Access Legal Services Benefits State Economy [Nov. 5]

The requested funding would provide legal assistance for low-income Vermonters navigating family court or immigration court, for tenants facing evictions and for low-income adoptive parents, according to a draft of the request.

Roughly a quarter of the funding would go toward general operations at Vermont Legal Aid, and another $48,000 would pay for legal services guaranteed by state law but otherwise unfunded.

Presently, Richardson said, the state guarantees legal services to adults facing an involuntary guardianship appointments, and parents found in contempt for failing to pay child support, but it provides no funding for those services.

Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily was also a regular reporter and producer on Brave Little State, helping the podcast earn a National Edward R. Murrow Award for its work in 2020. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
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