ST. GEORGE From the moment the Southern Utah Community Legal Center opened its doors in downtown St. George this month, callers flooded the phone lines to learn if they qualified for free legal help.
"It is going really well," said Adam Caldwell, president of the Southern Utah Bar Association, a main sponsor of the legal clinic that offers free advice to low-income and disabled individuals. "In the first three weeks that we've been open, we've been completely booked."
The legal center, located at 229 E. St. George Blvd., Suite 103, is staffed full time by a paralegal during regular business hours. Each Tuesday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., a group of attorneys from the Southern Utah Bar Association arrive at the center to provide free consultations and answers to legal questions.
"We've had a smattering of everything," said Monique Murray, who works as the center's paralegal. "People are really thrilled to have someone here in the community willing to help."
The center has, so far, helped individuals with questions regarding divorce, custody, bankruptcy, contracts, landlord/tenant disputes, domestic protective orders and disability issues, she said.
"People really want to learn how to advocate for themselves, and we can help point them in the right direction," said Murray. "We've had people as young as in their 20s to people in their 90s calling us for help, and everybody else in between."
Caldwell said the legal center serves as a unique clearinghouse, providing a wide variety of do-it-yourself information to walk-ins and valuable follow-up services for those with more complicated legal issues.
"We've got about 40 attorneys signed up to provide pro bono legal consultations, and I expect many more to sign on as we get past the beginning stages," he said.
Of the eight free consultations offered by attorneys at the center last Tuesday, Caldwell said all but one person could be helped by services offered through the site.
"There are many individuals who are discouraged from seeking needed legal assistance because they are fearful of the cost," said David Clove, chairman of the volunteer board of director for the center. "The goal of the Southern Utah Community Legal Center is to provide free legal services to people who cannot afford to see a lawyer. We hope accessibility to the justice system will be greatly enhanced by these efforts."
The legal center is a partnership between And Justice for All and the Southern Utah Bar Association. For more information or to make an appointment, call the Southern Utah Community Legal Center at 435-628-1604.