ACCESS TO JUSTICE
BY SHELLY DILL
Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center (JAM-LAC)1 began in 2006 as a program of the nonprofit organization Mile High Ministries. JAMLAC is a faith-based legal service provider that offers free civil legal services to low-income clients in the greater Denver metro area serving primarily Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties. JAMLAC volunteer attorneys provide comprehensive legal services to clients, thereby strengthening their capacity to positively direct their own lives. Each year more than 1,000 clients receive direct legal services. Approximately 90% of these clients have experienced some type of trauma JAMLAC has a team of six attorneys, seven support staff, and many volunteer attorneys that advocate for clients' rights in a way that provides them increased empowerment and dignity.
What are Faith-Based Legal Services?
JAMLAC is part of a historically larger movement around the country that promotes faith-based legal aid—a community-based, holistic approach to meeting legal needs that integrates the attorney's faith, motivations, and beliefs into his or her work4 The American Bar Association has recognized faith-based legal aid as an important component of the provision of legal aid services.5
Faith-based legal service providers are not monolithic in style or substance.6 Some are small and independent, while others are part of larger national organizations. Some have paid staff, whereas others are run entirely by volunteers. And some limit services to legal advice, whereas others offer full representation for cases.
In addition, many faith-based services provide support beyond the transactional interaction. For example, at JAMLAC, attorneys may address spiritual matters influencing the situation or offer to pray with clients about their legal matter. While some lawyers may have less expertise with the spiritual component, JAMLAC ensures that resources in this area are readily available to lawyers and provided directly to clients, thereby facilitating a holistic and transformative encounter.
JAMLAC strives to meet both the legal and physical needs of its clients, as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. JAMLAC is a "faith informed model" where lawyers operate in a traditional role but within a faith-driven values system.7
JAMLAC's mission is to seek justice for those struggling with poverty and oppression in a way that affirms their dignity and strengthens their capacity to positively direct their own lives.8 It pursues justice by increasing and improving legal aid services and providing legal representation to the most marginalized people in the community. Faith directs and motivates JAMLAC to advocate for vulnerable people to "speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy."9
JAMLAC's vision is to foster healthy communities where transformed and empowered individuals and families contribute to the community's well-being. In fact, 92% of clients who have received JAMLAC services report having greater knowledge of their legal rights, and feeling safer and less alone.
What Services does JAMLAC Provide?
JAMLAC mobilizes and equips the legal community to provide pro bono representation and engages other non-legal volunteers. Last year, 116 volunteers donated over 3,500 hours to JAMLAC. JAMLAC’s areas of direct services include family law,10 immigration, civil protection orders, and chapter 7 bankruptcy. JAMLAC also presents legal workshops for low-income...