Veterans Legal Clinic – An Integrated Approach to Pro Bono Legal Consultation
By Joseph E. Rupp
A few months ago, one of the volunteer attorneys from the Veterans Legal Clinic received an email from a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) social worker with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). One of the veterans receiving services through the VA was having some legal troubles. The veteran had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in district court for some criminal charges. He had failed to appear because he was completing inpatient treatment for substance abuse. Additionally, the veteran was indigent and did not have an attorney. He was now in a position where he needed to go to court to clear the warrant, be assigned an attorney, and address the criminal charges against him. Problematically, if he went to court, he would likely be placed under arrest and would not be able to bail out, resulting in the veteran losing his bed space and being dismissed from the inpatient substance-abuse treatment into which he had finally been admitted.
The second Thursday of the month was approaching. The volunteer attorney was able to contact the veteran and meet with him at the Veterans Legal Clinic that is held at the VA complex in Salt Lake City. The attorney, the veteran, and the VJO social worker, who was also at the clinic, discussed together a solution to address both the legal matter and the substance-abuse treatment. The attorney reached out to the assigned prosecutor in the criminal case and explained the situation – i.e., the outstanding warrant, need for inpatient treatment, and lack of legal representation. The VJO social worker, who regularly attends the Third District Court Veterans Court with Judge Royal Hansen, reached out to her contacts in the District Attorney’s office to explain the veteran’s progress in the inpatient treatment program.
With all parties involved, a court date was set and the prosecutor agreed to recall the warrant when the veteran appeared in court, with the understanding that the veteran would immediately return to his inpatient treatment. The veteran appeared in court. He was appointed counsel, returned to complete the inpatient program, and his counsel was able to resolve the criminal matter in his absence. This is one example of many where veterans in Utah have been served by the integrated approach of the Veterans Legal Clinic.
The Veterans Legal Clinic
The Veterans Legal Clinic is a co-sponsored initiative by the Young Lawyer Division (YLD) of the Utah Bar and the S.J. Quinney College of Law...