October 14, 2005
The Honorable John Lynch, Governor
The State of New Hampshire
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
ATTN: Katherine M. Hanna, Esquire
Chief Legal Counsel and Director for Policy
RE: Legal Assistance for Flood Victims
Dear Governor Lynch:
I am writing to you as president of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Like you, the legal community has been moved by the sobering and heart-rending experiences and stories of survival of many of our state’s citizens as a result of the recent flooding. We also realize that the floods have left many residents vulnerable and in need of services. We thought it would be important to let you know of our willingness to help.
As a result of the floods, there may be a myriad of legal issues which citizens and businesses need to address. Those issues might include housing or constructive eviction problems, insurance, interruption of benefits, reconstructing lost documents, including bank and school records or health care paperwork, environmental problems, or even tax issues. And those issues might arise now or sometime after the flooding victims have had a chance to take stock of what has happened to them.
Through the efforts of three organizations, the New Hampshire Bar Association Pro Bono Referral Program, the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) and New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), we can offer a unified system to assist those in need of legal services at minimal or no cost.
- The New Hampshire Pro Bono Referral Program is operated by the New Hampshire Bar Association and has hundreds of volunteer attorneys who represent low-income clients at no cost in a variety of civil areas. For family and housing law matters, callers are screened for financial eligibility by LARC. People requiring assistance in other matters such as consumer issues, insurance problems, probate and estate issues, income tax disputes, etc., can contact the program directly at (603) 224-6942 to reach staff members for phone interviews. Eligible families and individuals can be linked to volunteer attorneys who concentrate in practice areas useful to resolve their problems. Also, by calling the statewide Domestic Violence Hotline (1-866-644-3574), victims of domestic violence can access the Pro Bono Violence Emergency (DOVE) project, which can link victims with volunteer attorneys for representation.
- LARC operates a toll-free hotline that provides financially eligible callers with advice, information, and referral services. It refers clients to the Pro Bono Program as well as NHLA and other organizations. Its focus is on family law and housing preservation. It also provides information, advice and referral services concerning government benefits such as Social Security, SSI and state and local welfare. In addition, people above income guidelines are given information about other programs that may help them. High demand and limited resources make it difficult for individual callers to talk to an advocate without making multiple calls. However, LARC will provide special instructions on its telephone greeting message to enable callers from disaster-affected areas in New Hampshire (and the Gulf Coast) to reach an advocate on their first call. The hotline number is 800-639-5290.
- The New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) Claremont office serves low-income and elderly residents of Cheshire, Sullivan, Western Hillsborough and Southern Grafton Counties. NHLA can help with legal problems concerning housing (evictions, unsafe conditions, discrimination against families or by race, ethnicity, etc.); government benefits (Social Security, SSI, Medicaid, Medicare, state and local welfare, Food Stamps, VA benefits); nursing home residents' rights, utility problems (denial or termination of electric, telephone, or water/sewer service), and domestic violence. The Claremont office can be reached toll-free at 1-800-562-3994 or at 542-8795.
There are two other services we wanted to make available. First, through the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Reduced Fee Program, people who may not qualify for free legal assistance can obtain it at substantially reduced rates. Much like the Pro Bono Program, this program can link a person in need with lawyers who concentrate in areas of the law valuable to solving that person’s problems. The maximum hourly rate is $75.00.
Second, the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service has agreed to waive its usual administrative fee for flood victims. That service matches callers with panel attorneys. The first half hour consultation is free. The program is designed to make legal information and services available to those who can afford the services of a lawyer, but do not know whom to contact.
Finally, if you observe unique legal problems which do not fall into the traditional categories described above, or if there are vulnerable victims in need of legal services who may not expressly qualify for assistance under one of these programs, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am certain that through the many lawyers of the New Hampshire Bar, we can locate and mobilize resources to assist those in need.
We are proud of all of the state and local officials and employees, as well as the many aid organizations, that have responded so promptly and bravely to the flooding. We hope that as legal needs arise from this disaster, you can look to the New Hampshire legal community to do its share.
Please let me know how we can help.
Richard Y. Uchida
Cc: Jeannine L. McCoy, Executive Director
Virginia Martin, Associate Executive Director of Legal Services
John E. Tobin, Jr., Esquire, Executive Director, NHLA
Marilyn B. McNamara, Esquire, Executive Director, LARC
The Honorable John T. Broderick, Jr., Chief Justice