Advocacy Center Statement on Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Decision

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is aware of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. While this decision and the ultimate overturning of Roe v. Wade does not directly impact our work, it will impact the clients that we fight for every day.

The Advocacy Center will continue to advocate for our clients to ensure they have access to quality, affordable healthcare and will increase awareness of North Carolina’s recent expansion of Medicaid postpartum coverage. We will continue to support Medicaid expansion in North Carolina and utilize our advocates to increase access to healthcare coverage for the most vulnerable populations.

Our mission is to pursue justice for those in need and we stand with those that experience healthcare injustices.

Juneteenth is a day of celebration!

We have come so far, yet we have so far to go.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

On June 19, 1865, the enslaved men, women, and children of Galveston finally received word of their freedom in the last state of the Confederacy with institutionalized slavery.  The announcement was met with celebration, a celebration that is now commemorated as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day.

It took two years for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to reach the enslaved people of East Texas.

It took 156 years for Juneteenth to be recognized as a Federal holiday in the United States.

It will take even longer for true freedom to reach Black men, women, and children in our country.  We see this in our work at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy as we fight for equal justice under the law for our clients.  The majority of these clients are people of color disproportionately impacted by poverty, facing systemic and economic barriers to equity and opportunity.

We recognize the critical role our organization plays in building a more just community. Doing so requires taking a hard look at our practices and making sure that everything we do lives up to our standard of justice.  In the face of systemic racism, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with the Black community and its allies across the country in the movement to make change.

But today is a day of celebration.  Juneteenth is an opportunity to remember the progress our country has made, the work that is left to be done, and envision a future where we all prioritize racial justice and equity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will close our office to observe Juneteenth.  We observe this day to show support for our Black neighbors, colleagues and clients who deserve to be treated equally as human beings.  Staff is encouraged to spend the day volunteering, reflecting on the true meaning of the holiday, or participating in community-led celebrations.

Celebrate Juneteenth with us: 

Educate yourself: Spend the day learning about Juneteenth’s history, including how Black families felt after being emancipated.

Participate in local Juneteenth events:  Find an event near you with these local guides: 23 Juneteenth celebrations in Charlotte area in 2022 and Juneteenth Charlotte 2022.  

Reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, the racist system it built persists today. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against Black people in America and throughout the world. 

Place a sign in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for your front yard or door. This is a great way to help educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holiday. 

Celebrate with a cookout: Gather your friends and family together to celebrate freedom. 

Keep the spirit of this special day alive by continuing to fight for justice for ALL! 

“Light at the end of a tunnel”: Moniek’s Juvenile Record Expunction

“I love bringing things to life.”  Whether it’s creating something for a friend, the bulletin boards at her church, or arts & crafts time with her daughter, Moniek loves spending her free time working with her hands. But that precious free time is hard to come by as she fills her busy life taking care of her 1-year-old daughter, her birth mother and the mother who raised her, as well as working as a dental assistant.

It was her work as a dental assistant that brought her to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  As she began to prepare for her national dental board exams, her instructor expressed concern that Moniek’s past might impact whether she could take the tests.  These concerns were not new to Moniek.

Since the age of 15, Moniek had difficulty finding employment because employers were unwilling to overlook her juvenile criminal record.

“I was a child, I was crazy, and I didn’t want to listen to anyone.  But I’m not that person anymore.”

She determined her juvenile record would not impact her dental board exams, but Moniek did not want the charges hanging over her head any longer.  Having investigated the expunction process before, Moniek knew she needed a lawyer, an expense she could not afford.  She decided to contact the Advocacy Center where she connected with a pro bono attorney from Robinson Bradshaw, Blaine Sanders.  Blaine is helping Moniek get her juvenile record expunged, creating a future Moniek did not think was possible. 

Moniek’s adorable daughter

For many North Carolinians, criminal records can spark collateral consequences by limiting a person’s housing, employment, and other opportunities.  By removing those barriers, expunction has proven to have a significant impact on an individual’s economic opportunity.  Research also shows expunction can lead to increased wages and reduces the possibility of a person receiving another charge or being incarcerated.

For Moniek, it personally meant she could confidently apply to dental hygienist school and be proud of the example she was setting for her daughter. 

“I know I’ve made mistakes, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.  I want people to know that the person you are in the past does not have to define who you are in the moment, or the person you could become in the future.”

We need Medicaid expansion now

1 in 10 North Carolinians have no health insurance, one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country.  Low-income seniors, people living with disabilities, veterans, immigrants, and their families need access to affordable healthcare. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy fights for this right every day. 

The current Medicaid coverage gap in our state means that thousands of individuals have income levels that are too high to qualify for Medicaid but are too low for premium subsidies through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, leaving them without access to vital health insurance.  Medicaid expansion would give 600,000 North Carolinians, nearly 100,000 of which live in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, an affordable health insurance option.

Why do we support in Medicaid expansion?

Medicaid expansion has antipoverty implications.  Millions of Americans are pushed into poverty every year because of out-of-pocket spending on health care.  Research has found that Medicaid coverage cuts the likelihood of incurring a burdensome medical expense in half. 

Medicaid expansion makes health care services more accessible for everyone.  The current coverage gap puts vulnerable populations at an even greater risk, including people living with disabilities, people with complex medical needs, and those living below the poverty line.  Expansion would provide the critical coverage these individuals need, resulting in improved quality of care and better health outcomes in the process.  In North Carolina, nearly half of the individuals in the coverage gap are people of color.  Research has found that racial disparities in health coverage and access to care would be narrowed by Medicaid expansion. 

Medicaid expansion strengthens our community.  Currently 63% of North Carolinians in the coverage gap are from working families.  Expansion would benefit workers, allowing them to live healthier lives and be more productive.   With more individuals covered by health insurance, hospitals and doctors will decrease their costs for caring for uninsured individuals, allowing them to reduce health care costs for everyone. In addition, North Carolina stands to gain $1.7 billion in new federal funding with Medicaid expansion.  But without expansion, our state will lose billions of dollars each year, all while North Carolina taxpayers continue to fund Medicaid expansion in 39 other states.

How can I get involved?

North Carolina state Senators overwhelmingly passed House Bill 149, creating a path for Medicaid expansion in our state.  But now the fight moves to the North Carolina House of Representatives.  Over 70% of North Carolinians favor closing the coverage gap.  If you believe Medicaid expansion is critical, we urge you to call your legislators to let your voice be heard!

With Evictions Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Charlotte Attorneys Describe Human Consequences

By Sam Carnes, Queens University News Service

Evictions in Mecklenburg County have returned to pre-pandemic levels and are now averaging 2,500 per month, a rate that keeps Charlotte among the nation’s top cities for evictions, say attorneys with legal aid organizations that represent tenants. 

The most recent data from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts indicates a level of 30,000 eviction cases annually, said Isaac Sturgill, an attorney specializing in housing with Legal Aid of North Carolina. The Eviction Lab, a project of Princeton University, ranks Charlotte sixth in the nation for evictions. A 2017 UNC Charlotte Urban Institute report indicated that 28,471 eviction complaints were filed in the 2015-16 fiscal year.  

These rates have human consequences, said Toussaint Romain, who recently became chief executive officer for the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Romain recalls visiting Charlotte’s tent city of homeless people in August 2020. 

“We really saw whole families, like a mom and a dad and three babies who were living in a tent for the first time in their lives,” Romain said. “They were there because they worked in the service industry. And when COVID happened, shut all that down, and they were kicked out of their places because of not paying rent. … and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 2-year-old baby, you know, that was homeless.” 

Sturgill and Romain are two of dozens of attorneys who represent people experiencing the worst consequences of the rising cost of housing in Mecklenburg County. Without a course correction in the cost of housing, these lawyers say, Charlotte risks becoming a city like San Francisco. 

“Charlotte is on track to be a city for white-collar professionals that make a certain income, [with] an underclass of people who serve the professional class,” said Ismaail Qaiyim, who founded the Queen City Community Law Firm and works with the Housing Justice Coalition CLT and the Latin American Coalition. 

Read more: Charlotte Journalism Collaborative

‘Break that vicious cycle. Lessons as public defender key to Toussaint Romain’s new role

BY LAUREN LINDSTROM

Charlotte NC-As Toussaint Romain settles into his role as Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s new chief executive, the clients he represented for a decade as a criminal public defender are never far from his mind. When clients used to walk into his office, he could anticipate all the economic and civil matters that might have led them to his door. A past eviction, revoked driver’s license or unresolved immigration issue often lingered in a client’s history, threatening their economic stability.

Romain joined the nonprofit legal firm and advocacy organization in mid-May as its new CEO, a role he was drawn to as a way to tackle these upstream legal issues that often trap low-income people in cycles of poverty and thwart economic mobility. “Folks are desperate. They have criminal records, can’t get jobs, don’t have housing,” he said.

Romain, who was most recently deputy general counsel for Appalachian State University and spent a decade as a public defender in Mecklenburg County, said returning to Charlotte for this role continues the work he’s fought for his entire career — providing essential access to legal representation and resources for vulnerable residents to achieve upward mobility. “We’re really trying to break that vicious cycle by providing the resources, legal information and legal advice” that people need, he said.

Read more at: charlotteobserver.com

Summer Fest

Join us July 16th for a family event that will include health screenings, vaccines, community resources, and legal services. The event will take place from 10am-2pm at our new location, 5535 Albemarle Road, with information, food, & fun for the whole family!

Special thanks to our community supporters:

Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest (GSHNC) is a nonprofit organization with the mission to build girls of Courage, Confidence, and Character, who make the world a better place; we do this through hands on experiences in STEM, Outdoors, Entrepreneurship, Life Skills. As Girl Scouts, they develop a strong sense of self, discovering their interests and ambitions as they pursue their dreams with the confidence that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. GSHNC serves girls from raising kindergarten to 12th grade in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Anson, Montgomery,  Stanly, Rowan, and York counties.  To learn more about Girl Scouts visit www.gsusa.org or call 704.731.6500 or e-mail at customercare@hngirlscouts.org

Healthy Blue is a Managed Care Health Plan for Medicaid members in North Carolina providing access to quality low-cost health care. We work with thousands of doctors, specialists, and hospitals throughout the state, and we partner with many local organizations to help you get the care and services you need to live your best.

2022 Pro Bono Honor Roll

Download a copy of the 2022 Honor Roll

The Mecklenburg Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte is pleased to recognize our committed pro bono attorneys who donated at least 20 hours of service or closed three or more cases for our clients in 2021.

Individuals with an asterisk completed more than 50 hours of pro bono service in 2021.

Congratulations and thank you to the dedicated legal professionals listed below. Each of you has played a key role in helping our agencies provide access to justice to low-income clients in our community.

Vince Altamura

Andrew D. Atkins*

Keith Atkinson

Cynthia A. Aziz

Luis F. Benavides

Demian J. Betz

Christopher J. Brady*

Stephanie K. Briggs-Evans

Leslie Samuel Bright III

Tiffany Angela Marie Byrd

Amanda M. Colley

G. Lee Cory, Jr.

Peter J. Covington

Kevin L. Denny*

Courtney M. Duncil

Richard L. Farley

John J. Feliciano-Acosta

Christopher J. Fernandez

Faye Ann Flowers*

Kiah T. “Chip” Ford IV

Jordan Grace Forsythe

Jasmine K Gardner

Christian K Glista*

Nitin Kumar Goyal*

Lara Ann Greenberg

William N. Harris*

Charles C. Harris

Christopher A. Hicks

Anna M. Holloway

James D. Horne Jr.

Fred William Irving

Paul Kinney*

Heryka Rodriguez Knoespel

Abbey M. Krysak

Matthew Robert Lancaaster

Rene J. LeBlanc-Allman

Nicholas H. Lee

Dana Lumsden

Kayla McCann Marty

Thomas E. McNeill

Emma Claire Merritt

Elena Faria Mitchell

Rebecca A. Moriello

Kevin Patrick Murphy

Raja Nader*

Raj Natarajan

Lara Simmons Nichols

Edward M. Nogay

Olabisi Ayodele Ofunniyin

Fern A. Paterson

Kim Brett Perez*

William Carl Petraglia

Kevin Pratt

Susan Courtright Rodriguez

Melissa A. Romanzo

Robert J. Roth

Gabriela Sampaio

Jocelyn Singletary

Lindsey Laughridge Smith*

David L. Sobul

Jennifer M. Stevens*

W. Todd Stillerman

Nadira Swinton

Elizabeth McLellan Thomas

Daniel S. Trmmer

Robert Kent Warren

Mark S. Wierman

William Michael Zoffer*

North Carolina attorney volunteers!

Be sure to report your pro bono hours to the N.C. Pro Bono Resource Center to be recognized with your colleagues statewide for your service. Visit ncprobono.org/volunteer/ to learn more about the N.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 and statewide pro bono initiatives.

Attorneys who report at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services in a year will be inducted into the NC Pro Bono Honor Society and receive a certificate from the Supreme Court of North Carolina recognizing their service. Learn more and report your hours at https://ncprobono.org/report/.

Marking a tragic milestone: 1 million Americans lost to COVID-19

As our nation mourns the loss of 1 million Americans to COVID-19, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy reflects on the tragic loss of our neighbors to the pandemic.   We mourn their deaths, we mourn for the families and friends that loved them, and we mourn for our community that continues to cope with this loss every day. 

While a monumental milestone, what is lost in the number is the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had across ages, races, income level, and healthcare access.   Older Americans account for 93% of deaths, including more than 200,000 deaths of residents and staff at long-term care facilities.  This figure, though tragic, is likely a gross undercount as it does not account for the nearly one million people living in assisted living facilities.  Some calculations indicate that roughly one third of COVID deaths were in facilities that house not only seniors with disabilities but also younger people (ages 31-64) living with disabilities.  The Nation Council on Disability noted, “For decades, federal and state healthcare data collection practices failed to capture baseline information about the functional disability status of patients and the public, leaving people with disabilities uncounted during and after public health emergencies.”  People with disabilities were often sidelined when resources in hospitals and personnel were scarce.  Furthermore, the existing shortage of care workers for people with disabilities prior to the pandemic was further exacerbated during the health emergency, leaving people with disabilities and their caregivers without sufficient support and at even greater risk of being institutionalized.

The disparity in rates of infection and death are further evident when race and income level are considered.  Hispanic, Black, and American Indian and Alaska Native people were about twice as likely to die from COVID as White people.  Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Natives were at about one and a half times greater risk of contracting COVID than their White counterparts.  This variance is also tied to income inequality, as low-income workers were often employed in industries deemed “essential” and were left with no choice but to return to work despite the potential for increased exposure.  As a result, employees in several industries exempt from stay-at-home orders, including food services, agriculture, and manufacturing were twice as likely to die from COVID than others the same age

What lies at the heart of this disparity is years of systemic divestment that led to large gaps in healthcare resources and infrastructure for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color across all income levels.  This inequity existed long before the pandemic and was simply laid bare by the public health emergency.

Throughout the pandemic, we recognized that the families and individuals for whom we fought for fair access to health care and public services were also the families and individuals feeling the effects of the pandemic most intensely.  Life may have begun to return to normal for some in our community, but these vulnerable populations continue to be impacted by the effects of the pandemic.  When the public health emergency ends, tens of thousands North Carolinians without access to affordable healthcare will no longer be eligible for Medicaid in North Carolina, a state that has elected not to provide health insurance to all low-income adults.  (This Medicaid gap results in a population with income levels that make them ineligible for Medicaid yet too poor for premium subsidies through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.  Without expansion, hundreds of thousands in our state will remain without access to affordable healthcare.)  Just as we mourn with our community for this tragic milestone, so too will we stand with our community to advocate for people living with the disabilities, People of Color, and low-income children and families that have been further marginalized by this public health crisis.

What you need to know: Tax law changes for North Carolina Veterans

Last November, North Carolina passed a law to allow eligible retired members of the Armed Forces to deduct certain military retirement pay when calculating taxable income in North Carolina. The law also allows eligible beneficiaries of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) to deduct certain SBP payments.  The deduction applies to the following:

  • Retirement pay for service in the Armed Forces to a retired member that either
    • Served at least 20 years, or
    • Medically retired under 10 U.S.C. Chapter 61. (This deduction does not apply to severance pay received by a member due to separation from the member’s armed forces.)
  • Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments to a beneficiary of a retired member who is eligible to deduct retirement pay.

Beginning in tax year 2021, eligible retirees or SBP beneficiaries may deduct military retirement pay or SBP payments on a North Carolina individual income tax return.

If you are eligible for the deduction but have already filed your North Carolina individual income tax return, you should consider filing an amended return with the North Carolina Department of Revenue to deduct the payments.   (For more information on how to amend your 2021 North Carolina Individual Income Tax Return, Form D-400, see the instructions for the return, Form-D401, on the NC Department of Revenue website.)

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a retired member of the Armed Forces. I received retirement pay in 2021. Am I eligible for the deduction?

A retired member of the Armed Forces is eligible for the deduction if the retired member

  1. Served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces; or
  2. Was medically retired from the Armed Forces.  For more information on medical retirement, see Disability Retirement.

I am a beneficiary of a retired member. I received a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payment in 2021. Am I eligible to deduct the SBP payment?

If the retired member who purchased SBP coverage served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or was medically retired from the Armed Forces under 10 U.S.C. Chapter 61, then the beneficiary of the retired member can deduct the SBP payment when calculating North Carolina taxable income.

Where can I claim the deduction?

An Eligible retiree or beneficiary can claim the Deduction on the North Carolina Department of Revenue Form D-400 Schedule S, line 20.

I’m eligible for the deduction but have already filed my North Carolina individual income tax return for tax year 2021 with the military retirement or SBP payments in my calculation of North Carolina taxable income.  How can I claim the deduction?

You should consider filing an amended return with the North Carolina Department of Revenue to deduct the payments.  For more information on how to amend your 2021 North Carolina Individual Income Tax Return, Form D-400, see the instructions for the return, Form-D401, on the NC Department of Revenue website.

I am a retired civilian employee who worked for the Armed Forces. I received retirement pay in 2021. Do I qualify for the deduction?

No. Retirement pay received for work performed by a civilian employee does not qualify for the deduction.

Do retirement payments made to an individual other than the retired member of the Armed Forces qualify for the deduction?

No. North Carolina explicitly limits the deduction to payments made to the retired member of the Armed Forces. For example, the former spouse of the retired member of the Armed Forces may be entitled to receive a court-ordered payment from the retirement pay of the member. Because such payments are made to a person other than the retired member of the Armed Forces, the former spouse does not qualify for the deduction.