If you have been charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor that potentially carries a jail sentence and not just a fine, you are entitled to a free lawyer – at least in Greenville County. This right to counsel for minor offenses is a result of Law in Action’s efforts. Now a system is in place for indigent criminal defendants to have free lawyers.
In civil cases however, there is not a constitutional right to a free lawyer. Many people don’t know this. South Carolina Legal Services (Legal Services) provides free lawyers for many low income people for many different types of civil cases (family law, housing, unemployment benefits, etc.). However, Legal Services can only handle so many cases which leaves many individuals who desperately need legal help without lawyers in their important civil disputes.
Law in Action has decided to start “One Case at a Time” to help deserving but low income individuals in the Upstate on a case by case basis. This project will be selective and small – at least in its initial phase. LIA will carefully screen potential candidates for civil case legal assistance and only after the Pro Bono Program and Legal Services have been tried.
We feel that civil litigants who go to court without legal representation are often at a total loss. The rules of evidence can be complicated and frustrating to a plaintiff trying to collect unpaid wages for example. LIA wants to help when we can and when the cause is right. That is why this new project is now underway.