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May 21, 2012

Phila. Bar Association, Municipal Court to Announce Free Legal Assistance Program for Veterans in Need May 21

As approximately 40,000 veterans nationwide prepare to celebrate their first Memorial Day since returning home from Iraq for the final time, leaders of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Philadelphia Veterans Court will gather today (Monday, May 21) at 1 p.m. in City Hall Room 450 to announce a citywide program in which volunteer lawyers will provide free legal assistance to Philadelphia veterans who cannot afford or do not have access to the legal services they need.

The pro bono services will be provided as part of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Military Assistance Program (MAP). Previously, volunteer lawyers assisted only active-duty military personnel and their families through the MAP. The new services, to be announced today, will expand assistance to include veterans, specifically in the areas of service-related compensation, discharge status and health care issues. The MAP will also benefit defendants who come into contact with the criminal justice system through Philadelphia Veterans Court who are in need of such civil legal assistance.

“For these military personnel and their families, resuming a normal, everyday life isn’t easy,” said Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor John E. Savoth. “For many, it is a constant struggle. As Philadelphia lawyers, who are distinguished by our pro bono service, we have a duty – an inherited responsibility – to help ease their burden.”

President Obama announced in October that 33,000 U.S. troops would also be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September of 2012, further underscoring the need for legal services for the hundreds of service men and women in the Philadelphia region who are transitioning back to everyday life, Savoth added.

In addition to Savoth, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, both of whom are decorated Marine Corps veterans, will speak at today’s event. Justice McCaffery is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the state’s problem-solving courts program and has been a leading force in establishing Veterans Courts throughout the Commonwealth. Introductions will be provided by Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield.

President and administrative judges, court administration, Criminal Division deputy court administrators and volunteer attorneys participating in the program will also be in attendance. The event is open to all members of the Bar.

Philadelphia veterans and active-duty military personnel and their families in need of assistance can contact the MAP Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 215-238-6388.

Lawyers who are interested in volunteering to provide pro bono services as part of the MAP can contact Charlie Klitsch, Director of Public and Legal Services for the Philadelphia Bar Association, at 215-238-6326.

The MAP is co-chaired by Michael Taub, Staff Attorney for the Homeless Advocacy Project, and Wesley R. Payne IV, Assistant Treasurer of the Philadelphia Bar Association and a Partner at White and Williams LLP, and is being coordinated by Jennifer Segal Coatsworth, an Associate at Margolis Edelstein.
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