The LegalWorks mission: to remove legal obstructions and impediments that can disrupt people’s pursuits towards employment and community engagement.
LegalWorks aims to remove legal problems, many of which may appear incidental or small, but nevertheless impede progress in individuals’ lives. A criminal record for relatively minor misbehavior of years ago; an arrest warrant issued because of a old traffic ticket; a license suspension based on an accident involving a claim for which you never received notice. These are examples of how one incident with apparently minor legal consequences can haunt an individual’s effort to obtain or improve employment, housing options, health care options and a good credit rating. Individuals with the stigma of a criminal history or an ongoing warrant face profound personal challenges – we want to help remove these obstacles.
LegalWorks is a unique but vital service to Greater Cleveland residents whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by very correctable legal problems. LegalWorks helps by resolving the small legal issues that can hold people back from employment and personal fulfillment. By serving the public in neighborhood offices, LegalWorks fulfills a community need not met by other services Although Legal Aid serves as a critical resource for our community, either because of its limited resources (no criminal work), access issues or financial eligibility requirements, many Northeast Ohio indigent people must seek counsel elsewhere. A 2015 report by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice found that of every four Ohioans financially eligible for services like Legal Aid, three are turned away due to insufficient resources.
Hatched in March 2014 as a joint effort with the Famicos Foundation in Glenville to help people in that community reach financial independence by removing barriers to employment. Famicos Cares: LegalWorks targeted unemployed men and women with criminal backgrounds that could be sealed, men and women with “minor” outstanding offenses and consequent arrest warrants (usually for missing court) and a significant elderly population that benefitted from simple wills or real estate transfers. As LegalWorks evolved, the small staff focused on six targeted areas: 1) sealing of the records (expungements); 2) vacating pending traffic, misdemeanor, probation or low-level felony warrants, and then assist with the underlying offense; 3) license suspensions; 4) outstanding warrants based on past misdemeanors, traffic offenses, probation violations 5) drafting simple wills and living wills and handling housing and other probate matters; and 6) defending civil, foreclosure, or credit-related claims.
Now a tax-exempt non-profit, LegalWorks is linked with the County Public Defenders’ Office, the County Prosecutor’s Office, the Cleveland Municipal Court, Legal Aid, the County Re-Entry Program, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shannon Gallagher, Cleveland Municipal Judge Suzan Sweeney, and the CSU Marshall School of Law Community Clinic. In addition to regularly scheduled office hours at the Famicos Foundation and the Cleveland Women’s Recovery Center, LegalWorks participates in dozens of intake sessions at various neighborhood centers in Cleveland throughout the year. In the last two years, LegalWorks has helped over 500 individuals by removing significant barriers to employment.