Nonprofit celebrates one-year anniversary

In the original business plan for the legal clinic, Justice Unlocked, the staff expected 15 to 20 cases in its first year, executive director Jamie 
Sutton said.

However, since the nonprofit opened in December 2015, Justice Unlocked said it has opened 88 cases.The organization’s legal services have helped get clients out of jail, regain custody of their children and have a place to live after being evicted, Sutton said.

The nonprofit will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a fundraising dinner at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Fountain Square Ballroom.

Justice Unlocked is a local nonprofit that provides low-cost legal services for people unable to afford attorneys.

It provides services in areas like criminal law, family law, landlord and tenant law, small claims court, and a victim’s justice clinic.

The nonprofit is a sliding scale legal clinic, Sutton said, which means it provides low fees based on income and household size.

It serves people who do not qualify for pro bono legal 
services but cannot afford to pay the full price for an attorney. In Indiana the average price for an attorney is $250 an hour, Sutton said.

According to the organization’s website, Justice Unlocked’s rates can be as low as $50 per hour.

Justice Unlocked is one of the few organizations of its kind, and the idea of sliding-scale legal services is a new movement, Sutton said.

One of the biggest issues the nonprofit faces is how many people are below Justice Unlocked’s income guidelines cannot always get help at organizations that provide pro bono services. These pro bono organizations might be too busy and not have enough resources to accept certain cases, Sutton said.

Justice Unlocked tries to help some of these people who are below their income guidelines, but because it is funded mostly by private donations and client fees, it can be difficult to accommodate these clients, he said.

Deputy development director Lasserina Dowell said the nonprofit helps people know even though they cannot afford an attorney, they can still have access to legal services.

“It helps them feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dowell said.

Justice Unlocked’s services help make the legal process more efficient by allowing clients to understand the system, Sutton said.

“One thing I think we do is that we help the legal system operate more smoothly by being able to provide guidance and help to people who otherwise would be slowing things down because they don’t know what to do,” he said.

Many clients at Justice Unlocked feel discouraged with the legal system because they do not understand the rules, Sutton said.

Justice Unlocked helps them navigate a complicated system, which clients appreciate even when they lose a case, he said.

The organization is of civic value to the community, he said.

“It’s important for our society to function, for people to believe in the justice system, for people to believe that the courts are a fair place where problems can get solved,” he said.

The dinner is open to people 21 or older. Tickets are $25 for students and $50 for 
general admission.

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