It’s Time to End 287(g)

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to join more than 40 local organizations and groups in signing on to a letter asking Sheriff Irwin Carmichael to end Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program. We urge you to read the letter below to learn about how the 287(g) program is harming our community.

As the largest non-profit legal service provider practicing before the Charlotte Immigration Court, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

Sheriff Irwin Carmichael
Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office
801 E. 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Dear Sheriff Carmichael,

We, the undersigned organizations and community advocates, urge you to immediately end all formal collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including the voluntary 287g agreement and ICE detainers. These policies have caused great harm to our community, they undermine public safety, deprive individuals due process, waste county resources, and expose tax payers to possible legal settlements. After 12 years and more than 15,000 deportations in Mecklenburg County because of 287g, it’s time to terminate the program and find solutions that promote community safety while protecting immigrant families.

Since the start of the 287g program in 2006, we’ve had thousands of deportations, many of them for minor infractions or misdemeanors. While your office continues to highlight a handful of cases of individuals with serious crimes, the fact is that a great majority of deportations under the 287g program are due to minor offenses. In fiscal year 2010, for example, more than 50% of ICE detainers in Mecklenburg were due to traffic violations. The Sheriff’s office is deporting fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, disrupting and separating families in the process.

We know these stories well, people like Holman Acosta who was arrested for not having a driver’s license while on his way home from his son’s soccer game. Holman was forced to leave the country and is now living in Honduras, thousands of miles away from his U.S. citizen family. Alejandro Lopez was arrested on his way to work for not having a driver’s licence and placed in deportation proceedings because of 287g. Gus Zamudio, a DACA student from Northwest School of the Arts, was convicted of a misdemeanor and forced to accept a “voluntary departure” instead of fighting his case from Stewart Detention Center, known for its human rights violations. Gus was not able to walk in his graduation and is now living alone in Mexico.

The 287g program does not improve relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement, in fact it creates distrust and fear. Only 60 of the 3,007 counties in the United States have 287g agreements. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies across the nation have declined to participate in the program. Additionally, the program runs counteractive to the efforts of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department to build trust with the immigrant community.

Legal actions have been taken against the program in several jurisdictions across the country, exposing localities to pay costly settlements, all covered with taxpayer dollars. Besides the possible liability, 287g focuses the county’s scarce resources in a strategy that has not been independently proven to decrease crime. While the federal government covers some of the cost associated with this program, localities cover most of the expenses. In the first year of the program, the estimated cost of 287g in Mecklenburg County was $5.3 million, it is unclear how much money it has cost taxpayers since then because the Sheriff’s office has refused to publicize this information.

It is because of these reasons that we demand that as a public servant tasked with the responsibility to protect and serve the community of Mecklenburg County, you terminate the voluntary 287g program and refuse to honor ICE holds in county jails. These demands are in line with the 2015 Charlotte’s Immigration Integration Task Force recommendations. We believe that Mecklenburg County should be a place where all people feel welcomed, safe, and protected.


Comunidad Colectiva

  1. ACLU of North Carolina
  2. Action NC
  3. Alerta Migratoria
  4. American Friends Service Committee
  5. Antoine Ensley, Candidate for Mecklenburg County Sheriff
  6. CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
  7. Camino Church
  8. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
  9. Charlotte Democratic Socialists of America
  10. Charlotte Latin Pride
  11. Charlotte Pride
  12. Charlotte Women’s March
  13. Charlotte Uprising
  14. El Centro Hispano, Inc.
  15. Emily Zimmern, Co-Chair Charlotte’s Immigration Integration Task Force 2015
  16. Familias Unidas
  17. Garry McFadden, Candidate for Mecklenburg County Sheriff
  18. HANA Center
  19. Indivisible NC District 9
  20. Jamie Hildreth, Candidate for County Commissioner At-Large
  21. Justice & Respect in the Reinforcing Industry Coalition (JRRIC)
  22. Korean Resource Center
  23. Latin American Coalition
  24. Latino Commission On AIDS
  25. Libre
  26. Meck PAC (Mecklenburg LGBTQ Polical Action Committee)
  27. National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
  28. National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
  29. National Korean American Service & EducationConsortium (NAKASEC)
  30. National Organization for Women (N.O.W) Charlotte
  31. New South Progressives
  32. North Carolina Asian Americans Together
  33. Rev. Leach, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte
  34. Safety, Accountability, Fairness, Equity (SAFE) Coalition NC
  35. Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN)
  36. Siembra NC
  37. Sil Ganzo, Founder of ourBRIDGE for Kids
  38. Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC)
  39. Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice
  40. Students for Education Reform National
  41. Students for Education Reform NC
  42. UNC Charlotte’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies
  43. Unidad Nacional de Hispanos Aliados (UNISAL)


1 Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department, ICE Report 1/29/2018,
2 Hannah Gill and Mai Thi Nguyen, The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Local Immigration Enforcement
in North Carolina Communities . The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010.
3 Randy Capps, Delegation and Divergence: A Study of 287(g) State and Local  Immigration Enforcement . Migration Policy Institute, 2011.
4 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Delegation of Immigration Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, 01/10/18.
5 American Immigration Council. The 287(g) Program: An Overview , 2017.
6 Hannah Gill and Mai Thi Nguyen, The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Local Immigration Enforcement in North Carolina Communities . The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010
7 Charlotte City Government. Immigration Integration Task Force Report, 2015.


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Ted Fillette Announces Retirement After 45 Years of Service

After 45 years of service, Theodore O. Fillette, assistant director and senior managing attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte, has announced he will retire at the end of March.

Ted Fillette

Ted Fillette

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy thanks Fillette for his tireless service as a champion for those in need and his accomplishments at the state and federal level that have established housing rights for all North Carolinians.

Fillette joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, in 1973. He has served with the Center and partner agencies for his entire career, as a leading expert and advocate for the housing rights of low-income people across the state.

Over the course of his career, Fillette has represented countless individual clients, served as counsel or co-counsel on precedent-setting cases in the state’s highest courts and federal court, and successfully advocated to establish fair and equitable housing laws.

In 2002, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy split into two organizations. Fillette joined the branch that became Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte, closely coordinating services and resources with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Since then, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina have been partners in justice, running a joint annual fundraising campaign, the Access to Justice Campaign, and the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program.

After March 31, Cindy Patton, who has been with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid since 1992, will remain managing attorney of the Charlotte office serving in her administrative capacity.

Thomas P. Holderness, of Robinson Bradshaw, will join the staff and continue Fillette’s work supporting and training Legal Aid staff in Charlotte and across the state in their litigation efforts at the trial and appellate court levels. Holderness, a longtime volunteer, will also offer support and co-counseling to pro bono attorneys volunteering with Legal Aid.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will recognize Fillette’s career and significant contributions to the state on March 8, at 5:30 p.m. during 50 Years of Justice, a program with the Mecklenburg County Bar celebrating Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s 50-year history.

Donate NowYou can help us carry on Ted’s legacy by making a gift to the Access to Justice Campaign. If you’ve already made a gift to this year’s campaign, consider making an additional contribution in Ted’s honor to help us reach our $550,000 goal. Give today to change tomorrow. Your gift ensures that another generation of advocates will continue the work Ted started, defending the rights of those in need to build a stronger community for us all.

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Need Help Renewing DACA?

Last week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began accepting renewal applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status after a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s previous decision to end the program.

Prior to the ruling, DACA, which protects about 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children without legal immigrant status from deportation, was scheduled to end March 5. The ruling granted a request from states to continue the DACA program until lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s decision can play out in court.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is willing to meet with DACA recipients who either

(1) need to renew their DACA status within the next 150 days or
(2) have DACA status that has expired since September 5, 2017.

Individuals who meet either of these criteria should call attorney Becca O’Neill at 704-971-4790 to schedule an appointment. Others with additional questions should contact us by calling 704-376-1600 or 800-247-1931 (Spanish help line).

As a champion for those in need, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to advocate on behalf of Charlotte’s immigrant community and defends families in court to protect them from exploitation and grant them safety, security and stability.

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Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Files Class Action Complaint Against NC DHHS

Claims State Improperly Terminating Medicaid Benefits, Access to Health Care

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) have filed a class action complaint against the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), alleging that the state has been improperly terminating Medicaid coverage for thousands of North Carolinians since January 1, 2014.

In the complaint filed Dec. 4, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and NHeLP ask the court to grant declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of plaintiffs Marcia Quinteros Hawkins, Alicia Franklin and Vanessa Lachowski, Kyanna Shipp and thousands of other Medicaid recipients in the state, ordering Secretary Mandy Cohen, as head of DHHS, to reinstate Medicaid coverage that has been improperly terminated since 2014 until the agency’s policies, practices and procedures are compliant with federal law.

The complaint argues the state has violated federal law by terminating health coverage without considering patients’ status under all Medicaid eligibility categories; not adequately sending written notice of the termination in a timely manner; ignoring patients’ rights to a pre-termination hearing to appeal the decision; failing to accommodate patients’ disabilities; and failing to communicate in the appropriate language for Medicaid recipients with limited English proficiency. These actions are violations of the Medicaid Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and NHeLP allege that by wrongfully denying Medicaid benefits, the state has jeopardized access to health care for low-income children, parents, seniors and disabled adults in North Carolina. The  complaint also alleges DHHS policies have failed to reasonably accommodate people with disabilities and created barriers for people with limited English proficiency.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont) provides expert legal advice and representation to those who cannot afford it, but desperately need it, something the organization has been doing since its inception in 1967. Each year, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy serves 3,500 families each year who are facing a crisis of safety, shelter, health or income. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy provides committed advocacy work on behalf of clients, resulting in policy changes at the local and national level to impact a greater number of people. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is a champion for those in need, ensuring their safety, security and stability. For more information, visit

Founded in 1969, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) protects and advances the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. NHeLP advocates, educates and litigates at the federal and state levels. Our lawyers and policy analysts stand up for the rights of the millions of people who struggle to access affordable, quality health care. We are guided by the belief—a challenge—that each generation should live better than the last. Learn more at

Read the full complaint

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Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Marks Passing of First Executive Director

Hon. Marvin K. Gray
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is saddened to learn that the Honorable Marvin Gray, the first executive director of the organization, died Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Admitted to the N.C. State Bar in 1960, Gray was a trial lawyer who specialized in insurance cases. He was appointed executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Mecklenburg County when it was formed in 1967. He served about one year and returned to private practice. Gov. Jim Martin appointed Gray to a seat on the Superior Court in 1986, where he served until his retirement.
The organization now known as Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy was established 50 years ago to provide civil legal assistance to those in need. The then Legal Aid Society of Mecklenburg County (LASMC) began operation with three attorneys and two secretaries. In 1979, LASMC changed its name to Legal Services of Southern Piedmont (LSSP) and expanded to include Cabarrus, Gaston, Stanly and Union Counties. Today, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps domestic violence victims seek protective orders, the sick find healthcare coverage, disabled veterans obtain income and health benefits, senior citizens at risk of scams, homeowners in danger of foreclosure and immigrants in danger of exploitation.
Our condolences go out to the Gray family.

Obituary originally printed in the Charlotte Observer Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017:

Hon. Marvin K. GrayCHARLOTTE - The Honorable Marvin Kenneth Gray left this earth to serve a higher court on November 7, 2017. Judge Gray was preceded in death by his wife Carol Hyland Gray, his parents Marvin Lawrence Gray and Lettie Ward Gray, as well as his two sisters, Rita Gray Perry and Sylvia Gray Summers. Judge Gray is survived by his son, Marvin K. Gray, Jr. (Ken) and wife Barbara Fisher Gray; and his daughter, Jane Gray Boland and her husband Mark Daniel Boland. Additionally, he has four granddaughters: Caroline Elizabeth Gray; Emily Gray Massey and husband, Thomas Chase Massey; Ashley Nicole Williams; and Kathryn Gray Boland — along with nieces and nephews sprinkled throughout the Carolinas and in Massachusetts.
Judge Gray was born on March 8, 1931 in the small, unincorporated Gates County, NC community of Hobbsville — founded and settled by his Hobbs ancestors. He attended Hobbsville Elementary School and Elizabeth City High School. At the time of Judge Gray’s graduation from high school, he was awarded the Bonner Award for most valuable football player and captain, and he was also named one of 10 outstanding seniors in his high school graduating class.
Following graduation from high school in 1950, he enrolled at Wake Forest University where he was offered a football scholarship, and he played his freshman year as a defensive tackle and offensive guard.
Judge Gray’s college career was interrupted when he was asked to serve in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He was based at Tempelhof Airfield in the American sector of Berlin. Upon discharge, he returned to Wake Forest University, obtained a B.A degree, and was accepted to Wake Forest University’s School of Law. Judge Gray received his law degree in Spring 1960 and was admitted to the practice of law in September 1960. While at Wake Forest University, he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and Phi Delta Phi Law Fraternity.
During the 1960s Judge Gray served as the first executive director of what was then termed the Legal Aid Society of Mecklenburg County. He practiced law in Charlotte as a partner in the law firm of Golding, Crews, Meekins, Gordon and Gray, performing almost entirely civil trial work. While in the practice, Judge Gray held the following offices of the 26th Judicial District Bar: Chairman of the Calendar Committee; member of the Executive Committee; Chairman of the Unauthorized Practice Committee; Chairman of the Grievance and Ethics Committee; member of the Medico Legal Committee; Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mecklenburg Legal Services Program; and Charter member of the Chief Justice W.H. Bobbitt American Inn of Courts. During this time, he was also a Charter member of the North Carolina Defense Attorneys; member of the North Carolina Bar Association; member of the Insurance Section of the American Bar Association; member of the American Judicature Society; and a member of the Alumni Board of the Wake Forest University School of Law.
In 1986, Governor James Martin appointed Judge Gray to the Superior Court Bench, and he served continuously in that capacity until he retired on December 31, 2000. Upon retirement, Judge Gray was appointed as an Emergency Superior Court Judge by Governor James Hunt, a position from which he ultimately retired in 2010. During the 23 years he served as a superior court judge, he held many noteworthy positions, including his appointment by Chief Justice Burley Mitchell as the Superior Court Member of the Judicial Standards Commission and later to the Civil Procedure Legislative Study Commission. He was a member of the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges.
During the 1990s, then Conference President Forrest Ferrell appointed Judge Gray as Chairman of a Committee to revise the Superior Court Judge’s Bench Book, which turned out to be a tremendous task, taking about five years to complete and expanding the then Bench Book from one to two volumes (one criminal volume and one civil volume). Judge Gray was always quick to mention that he was assisted by very able Committee members in performing this lengthy and important task.
Judge Gray’s life apart from the law has revolved around the enjoyment of spending countless and unselfish hours with his family, watching his children and grandchildren grow up — he lived his life with conviction, passion, and strength that inspired in his family a legacy of faith and fortitude. He loved participating in family genealogy, and the collection and reading of books on the American Civil War — a collection that is comprised of more than 200 volumes. He was an avid sports fan, and his television was always tuned in to watch college and professional football as well as the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. Additionally in 1965, Judge Gray extended his community leadership by becoming one of the founding members of Rama Swim and Racquet Club and served as its first President. He was a true mentor to not only his family but also their friends. There was rarely an empty space at the Gray dinner table.
In 2009, the Mecklenburg Bar Committee commissioned an artist to paint Judge Gray’s portrait, which today hangs on the sixth floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. His proudest moment as an attorney was his appointment to the Superior Court Bench. In the words of Judge Gray, “For me, this is the end of a very pleasant and satisfying career. I have no predictions for the future of the profession. Like the common law, it will go where the circumstances take it.”
Funeral services will be held on Monday, November 13th at 11:00 a.m. at Sardis Presbyterian Church, 6100 Sardis Road, Charlotte, NC, and the family will receive friends in the church’s Fellowship Hall from 12 – 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, 1431 Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28204 or to the Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, 8919 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28210.
In addition, the family would like to thank the staff and residents at Waltonwood of Cotswold for their generous caregiving and loving fellowship over the past year as well as the Levine & Dickson Hospice House during Judge Gray’s final days for their special care they extended to the family. J.B. Tallent Funeral Service is serving the Gray family.

Remembrance in The Charlotte Observer

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Decision to End DACA disrupts family safety, security, stability

Yesterday’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program over the next six months disrupted the lives of nearly 800,000 young people and their families across the country.

DACA has provided temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to qualifying immigrants since the program began in 2012. Those who qualify came here with their families as children and have since assimilated into our communities, growing up to contribute as hard-working neighbors.

For most of these young people, the United States is the only home they have ever known. They are citizens in every sense except by the letter of the law.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is disappointed to learn this news because we know first-hand the value these “dreamers” bring to our community and our local economy as we work with the immigrant community to uphold human rights, ensure fairness and protect people from exploitation.

Since 2012, we have helped 155 people in our community apply and qualify for this status, which enables them to pursue their dreams like any other American by allowing them to attend college and to seek employment without the threat of deportation.

DACA recipients enrich our community and are an essential part of the local economy as business owners, employees and consumers, who pay taxes into a system of benefits from which they will never be entitled to receive as non-citizens.

They support their families, which include parents, siblings and their own children, most of whom are U.S. citizens.

Stripping the ability to work and pursue an education from DACA recipients and threatening deportation after they willingly divulged personal identifying information to the government shows no regard to the families at the heart of this issue. More broadly, doing so establishes a terrible precedent of exclusion that undermines our country’s values of justice and fairness.

The fates of these young people and their families should not be used as a political bargaining chip between the Trump administration and Congress, especially when family safety, security and stability is on the line.

There is a better approach.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy urges Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act introduced in the U.S. Senate this past July. This legislation would offer these dreamers the opportunity to become citizens in the country they call home. The bill also offers solutions and protections for undocumented young people who do not qualify for DACA, but also arrived in the U.S. as children. You can do the same by contacting members of your Congressional delegation.

In the meantime, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with dreamers, their families and the broader immigrant community, advocating on their behalf for a fair and sensible immigration system that promotes family unity and provides opportunities for immigrants to pursue a path to citizenship.

What is DACA
eferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)?

  • DACA is a temporary status that offers protection from deportation and eligibility for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors to attend college or to apply for a work permit.
  • It is a two-year program that requires regular renewal with the U.S. government.
  • To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:
    – Under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
    – Arrived in the U.S. before turning 16;
    – Lived continuously in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 until the present;
    – Physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of
    DACA application;
    – Came to the U.S. without documents before June 15, 2012, or lawful status
    expired as of June 15, 2012;
    – Currently studying at or graduated from high school, earned a certificate of
    completion of high school or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the
    military (technical and trade school completion also qualifies); and
    – Must NOT have convictions of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors
    (including a single DUI), or three or more misdemeanors of any kind.
  • The Process
    – Applicants must consult a qualified attorney before submitting any application to immigration authorities. Families often must be able to afford an immigration attorney to even apply. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and other legal service organizations help people who could qualify, but can’t afford to pay an attorney.
    – Applicants must collect documents that prove one’s identity, birth, country of origin, presence in the U.S. as of June 15, 2012, continuous residence in the U.S., and a clean criminal record among other supporting documents to meet DACA criteria.- Applicants must complete applications in a process that requires filling out several forms.- Applicants must submit applications with supporting documents, photos and payment of a $495.00 application fee.- Applicants must undergo a background check and get fingerprinted.- Applicants must wait to receive a final decision in six to eight months.

What you can do to help:

  • Attend upcoming events on immigration and other policies that affect our clients and community
    – Monday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. St. John’s Baptist Church,
    Hear immigration attorney Maureen Abell talk about the impact the DACA rescission and other changes to immigration policy has had on Charlotte over the last year.
  • Encourage friends and family members to make their voices heard in the deliberation process. Now is the time to speak up and advocate on behalf of yourself, your neighbors and your community.
  • Sign Up for Action Alerts and follow us on social media to stay informed.
  • Make an investment in your community and support our work by donating to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. You can direct your gift to the DACA Support Fund which directly covers costs to applicants renewing their protected status. Your gift to this effort will also be MATCHED up to $25,000 by a generous donor in our community.
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My Summer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

This post was written by Abby Mitchell, a summer intern for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s development team. Abby is a rising senior at American University.

I sat in an old-fashioned leather office chair as an intern at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, and asked a routine question: “How did you come to work here?”

Ted Fillette, senior attorney of the Legal Aid of North Carolina Charlotte office, sat across the table, a lifelong advocate for housing rights in North Carolina whose work began as an attorney for Legal Services more than 40 years ago. As a veteran in the fight for social justice, he symbolizes hope that it is possible to advocate for and enact change, make it sustainable, have a lifelong occupation in the process.

He looks across the table and promises to compress the story to a minute and a half: “When I was in college at Duke in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King came to speak at the campus and I was a freshman. Having come from Alabama, I lived in a completely segregated community. I had no idea what was going on in my state. It was shocking to me and it changed my life. It made me want to do something about it. The question was, when, where, and how?”

I’ve been reflecting on that statement ever since. More than his dramatic story of getting the landlord-tenant legislation he drafted passed into law, effectively protecting the rights of thousands of North Carolinians, or his impact in Charlotte over his career, I’ll remember that sentiment he expressed.

When I went to off to college in 2014 and left St. Louis, my hometown, riots over the Michael Brown shooting were erupting just miles away in Ferguson. I remember that feeling Ted had described. The shock of uncovering neighborhood segregation in St. Louis, the question that followed, “What now?” and even today, the “When, where, and how?” of it all.

As my senior year of college looms, these questions remain, in anxiety inducing bursts. The process of figuring out the answer to that question is a long and challenging one for any young person, but I think it’s especially hard if you’re aiming to make a difference.

Many of these young people, like me, come to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to see what making a difference looks like even in the mundane, day-to-day moments. As I write this on my final day as an undergraduate development intern, I can tell you that no matter what you work on here, you’ll find a passion and commitment for the mission of pursuing justice up close, and if you’re like me, that fire will catch in you too.

A couple weeks into my time here I met Matt Freeze, a summer associate for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, for lunch. He told me about his previous experience advocating on behalf of children’s rights in Washington, D.C. and his current position as a development director of a nonprofit for abused children in Rowan County.

He shared his summer experience helping disabled individuals trying to get benefits from insurance companies. I asked him what he wanted to do after he finished law school and he told me he wanted to work with a legal services organization or with the elderly, preparing wills because the act of drafting a will is a process of preparing a life for loved ones after you are gone. There’s nothing more selfless than that.

In June, I go to a monthly morning networking event for nonprofits hosted by SHARE Charlotte. I talk with a woman from the Arc of Mecklenburg County who lights up when she realizes that our services could help the families her organization serves.

In July, I go with a Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy staff to volunteer at Hospitality House of Charlotte, where family members of patients at the nearby hospital can stay for reduced rates or for free. We make far too much lunch for the house in exchange for inspiration.

Later, I get to interview an attorney in one of Charlotte’s biggest office buildings to talk to him about the pro bono work he has done for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and in a particularly reflective moment, he tells me, “I would like to think every lawyer returns or is pulled to return to more of a local type of help, to give back.”

In July, a staff attorney shares a letter from a client expressing gratitude even though he was unable to win her case. She was so grateful just to have someone fighting for her. She wrote, “You always kept your word to me, calling to inform or advise or provide as promised.” Sometimes just being in someone’s corner makes all the difference.

These are the moments that will stay with me long after my internship experience. From researching the broader benefits of medical legal partnerships in the community to simply serving as a witness at a will signing, the work I did here has shown me that even in seemingly mundane moments of day-to-day office work, there’s a beautiful dedication to advocacy with the ultimate hope of building a better world. One day, I hope to join that cause with the passion I found here.

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We are Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

On September 1, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont will mark 50 years of pursuing justice for those in need in the Charlotte area. We plan to celebrate in a variety of ways in the coming months, and we hope you will join us. In addition to celebrating this milestone in September, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont will update its brand – including changing its name to:
The decision to change our name came after a lengthy process of asking the community, our stakeholders, volunteers and supporters how we can better serve those in need.Overwhelmingly, the response was that we should continue the work we are doing, expanding our services when possible to help more people in the Charlotte region. This process also made us realize just how little the broader community knows about what we do. The direction was clear.
We believe that by changing our name and rebranding, we will position our organization to meet the challenges of the next 50 years with an identity that directly reflects our work and dedication to serving this community. We intend to be more visible so that more people can know that we are a resource and seek our services.While the name, logo and tagline, “justice lives here.” are new, we will not change our commitment to pursuing justice for those in need through expert legal representation and systemic advocacy on behalf of people in crisis.
And as we make this change and grow into our new identity, our work is more critically important now than ever.
Our organization would not be where it is today without the ardent support we have counted on over the last 50 years. We head into the next half century striving to realize our vision of a community that is just, fair and empowering to every one of its residents.
You can help us get there.
Continue to be our champions by participating in the events around our 50th anniversary and introducing others in the community to our organization.Thank you for supporting and believing in our mission of pursuing justice.
Kenneth L Schorr
Executive Director
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N.C. Budget Cuts Hurt Our Ability to Serve

Last week, we and the entire civil legal aid community were shocked and appalled as the North Carolina General Assembly approved a budget that eliminated all $1.7 million in state funding to provide legal assistance to people who can’t afford representation in civil legal matters.

The Access to Civil Justice Act is one of the public and private funding sources LSSP relies on to ensure that we can help people in crisis, who have no other source of legal assistance. Our annual budget is a patchwork of diverse support but each source is vitally important to our stability and impact.

One third of Mecklenburg County residents are financially eligible to receive our services. Without our help, thousands of families may lose financial security, health care, housing and the stability that supports upward mobility. In the wake of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report citing the critical necessity of expanding upward mobility and opportunity to build a stronger city, now is not the time for NC to cut funds that directly support that end.

The elimination of the Access to Civil Justice Act will have devastating effects on civil legal assistance across the entire state. Legal Aid of North Carolina, our partner in justice, will lose $1.5 million in state funding, while the proposed budget from the White House seeks to eliminate federal Legal Services Corporation funding, which greatly supports Legal Aid’s operations.

LSSP and LANC offer critical support to people in crisis, help them address their basic needs, and strengthens our community. This funding cut comes as a huge blow even as we enjoy the success of our annual Access to Justice fundraising campaign, which has raised $525,000 to date – a historic amount under the leadership of campaign chair Cory Hohnbaum. But we must maintain ALL of our support to meet the growing needs of clients.

For 50 years, LSSP has provided legal representation and advocacy to ensure the safety, security and stability of our clients, promote fairness and empower people to increase their economic mobility and opportunity. We now face a loss of funding that will limit our ability to serve the community and hurt those most in need.

We appreciate the ongoing support we receive from local sources – individual contributions and institutional support – that lets us deliver justice to people in need.

Thank you,

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Joe Trunzo

PB_Spotlight_Joe_Trunzo_Dechert_061617_003 4x6(1)Joe Trunzo is an associate attorney at Dechert, LLP specializing in securitization transactions. He moved to Charlotte from New York to join the firm in 2014. Soon after, he began volunteering his pro bono services with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont’s Legal Services for the Elderly program, helping seniors draft and execute estate planning documents, including wills, powers of attorney and healthcare powers of attorney documents. In his free time, Joe enjoys spending time with his fiancé, their dog, a Goldendoodle named Buddy, and their friends and neighbors in the community.

Summer intern Abby Mitchell conducted this interview.

When did you start volunteering with LSSP?

So, I started volunteering at the end of 2014. I moved down to Charlotte and started working at Dechert in May of 2014 and knew I wanted to do pro bono. I got involved through Jeanine Johnson who was the pro bono coordinator here at the time when she asked if I could help with some wills cases that had come in. I think it was November or October, and I just realized that I really enjoyed doing it, so now, almost any time a wills case comes in, I try to be the first guy to get it.

Yeah, it sounds like it would be really rewarding.

It is. You meet the people you’re working and for and so often they thank you right away. They say, “Thank you so much for doing this for me,” or “It means so much to my son,” or “I’m hoping this will take care of my grandson.” It’s just great. It’s such a contrast to what we do here. So often you can never really put a face to a name. It’s some guy in New York or some guy in London who’s calling you and you never meet him.

And you primarily volunteer with Legal Services for the Elderly correct?

Yeah, so the majority of the work that I’ve done are wills, power of attorney, and healthcare powers of attorney.

That’s such an interesting group because they’re so forward thinking about providing for other people in such a selfless way through estate planning.

Yeah it is. Putting a will together is not an easy thing to do. You’re forced to confront your own mortality. You have to get over that fear in order to take care of people that you care about. When you think about it it’s really a selfless thing to do.

How do you balance pro bono with having such a work-intensive job?

That’s a great question. The biggest thing is making it a priority. Typically when I do these wills, putting the three documents together takes anywhere from seven to 10 hours, sometimes less, sometimes more. Then getting them executed can be at least an hour if not more. I’ve had a couple of cases where clients have had tons of questions. We’ve had to go through things. We had to make changes on the fly, and that took 3 hours alone. And really there were so many occasions where I could have said, “I can’t make it today”, or “Hey, I know we scheduled to set this up for you on Friday morning but I can’t make it” but you just have to do it. You have to treat it like the work you do for the firm, because it is just as important. I think as long as you approach it with that mentality, you’ll always be able to balance it and find a place for it.

And you know, Dechert is really great about doing that. Every lawyer here has a requirement. I think it’s like 28 or 50 hours for every year that you have to do for pro bono in order to be in good standing with the firm. So when you’re getting that kind of support from the firm, it makes it a lot easier to say “I’m thinking about taking on a pro bono project this month.”

It seems like a lot of the law firms around here are really invested in that work, which I think is great.

Yeah that’s one of the coolest things I found about Charlotte. When I was up in New York, the law firms, all do pro bono work, but it wasn’t taken as seriously as it is here. Here, my firm is expecting me to do this, and I should be doing this as part of my development as a person, and part of my development as an attorney. And when you’re not getting that coordination with the higher ups at the firm, it also, then it becomes harder to prioritize it.

What do you enjoy the most about the pro bono work you do?

Really and it sounds so cliché and corny but it really is helping people. Being able to give people a sense of relief. That’s the thing I notice the most when we sign these things up. When people are done, they seem relieved. It’s like there’s this big weight being lifted off their shoulders. You know, I mean you probably live your whole life thinking I should probably put a will together. As you get older, it weighs on you even more.

When we’re able to provide that service for someone, you see that you’ve lifted something that has been troubling them.

Everyone is very appreciative and very thankful which is really cool. You learn about these people and the people that they care about. And so, learning, getting to know them and realizing again, that you’re able to provide this kind of relief by providing this service is the best part.

Do you think working on these cases provides different complications than your everyday job?

Oh yeah, yeah for sure. It’s just a different kind of problem that you never would really think about here. Like with the healthcare power of attorney stuff, people are faced with tough decisions, like if something were to happen, “Do I want to be put in a vegetative state?” You’re forced think about the legal implications of those decisions.

That has to be a really unique way to grow as an attorney also.

Yeah it is. It would be hard to find a lawyer who would say, “Oh I wanted to become a lawyer to represent these big international companies” No lawyer would ever tell you that. No, you wanted to be a lawyer because you wanted to help people. Thanks to LSSP and the pro bono work they offer. I can do that.

What advice would you give to attorneys that want to get involved in pro bono with LSSP or otherwise?

The advice I would give them is get involved as soon as you can. It really is rewarding. It really is such a refreshing change from what you typically do daily. I don’t care how busy you are, force yourself to make it a priority. There’s always time for it. We often like to think we work around the clock, and sometimes we do, but you can always find a half hour, or an hour, you can always find it. If you prioritize it, you always can. Pro bono work is just as important, and it is exponentially more rewarding than probably the work you do in the day to day.

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