Access to Justice, 1221 UTBJ, Vol. 34, No. 6. 30

PositionVol. 34 6 Pg. 30

Access to Justice

Vol. 34 No. 6 Pg. 30

Utah Bar Journal

December, 2021

November, 2021

How Attorneys Can Help With The Legal Needs of Lower-Income Utahns

by Ben 1 Welch

Valerie and Dennis live in rural Utah. They require full-time care, including specialized food that must be administered through feeding tubes. The cost of this food - approximately $700 per month - was paid for by Medicaid. Then one day, without notice, Medicaid announced that there was no "medical need" for liquid food and withdrew support. Desperate for help, the family turned to the Disability Law Center, which appointed an attorney to represent Valerie and Dennis. The attorney waded through medical records and even accompanied the family to meet with a nutritionist in order to prove that liquid food serves a "medical purpose." As a result, Medicaid eventually reversed its decision and resumed its support for Valerie and Dennis.

Jessie is a sixty-year-old woman who, after escaping a domestic violence situation, leased an apartment with her daughter. After the pandemic made life more difficult, Jessie was unable to pay rent but mistakenly thought she was automatically covered under COVID-19 eviction moratoriums. Jessie soon faced an order of restitution from her landlord. Jessie contacted Utah Legal Services, which assisted with coordinating rental assistance and filing a CDC moratorium declaration with the court. Although the landlord challenged the validity of her CDC declaration twice, the court ultimately found in Jessie's favor and Utah Legal Services subsequently negotiated with the landlord to accept rental assistance funds in exchange for a dismissal of the case. The dismissal resulted in waiving a potential judgment of late rent and treble damages of over $15,000-an amount that would have destroyed this family who was already living far below the poverty line. More importantly, Jessie and her family were able to stay together in their apartment through the pandemic.

Mary was a young mother who had a two-year-old child and was pregnant with her second child. Her husband kept her isolated from her family and used violence and threats to control every aspect of her life, including how she dressed and ate and how often she talked to her parents. All phone calls went through him, and she was not allowed her own cell phone. Her family helped her contact Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake for help. The divorce proceeding that followed lasted almost two years, and her husband continued his threatening behavior throughout the...

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