2020 Pro Bono Honor Roll

Download a copy of the Pro Bono Honor Roll 2020

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 2019.

Individuals with asterisks next to their names completed more than 50 hours of pro bono service in 2019.

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.

Alexander Abramovich *
Jonathan T. Adams
John Huske Anderson, Jr.
Blas P. Arroyo
Andrew D. Atkins
Meredith W. Barnette
Fitz Barringer *
R. Locke Beatty
Tiffany Marie Burba
William M. Butler
Avery Devin Catlin
Robert Payne Cave, Jr.
Geard M. Chapman *
Amanda M. Colley
Richard H. Connor III
G. Lee Cory, Jr.
Adam Sterling Coto
Robert A. Cox, Jr. *
Marcus H. Crow
Josef C. Culik
Benjamin Charles DeCelle
Kevin L. Denny
J. Robert Duncan
Christopher J. Fernandez
Walter D. Fisher, Jr.
Jacob Richard Franchek
Victoria S. Gonzalez *
Stephanie E. Greer-Fulcher
Ariel E. Harris
Abigail W. Henderson
Tanielle D. Henriques *
Mark A. Hiller*

Travis Styres Hinman
Brett Alan Hubler
William R. Hummel
David H. Jones
Stuart Manly Jones, Jr.
Richard H. Kim
Mark W. Kinghorn *
Heryka Rodriguez Knoespel
Jill R. Lanois
Nicholas H. Lee
Ryan W. Lifland
Carlos Andres Lopez
Kyle Joseph Luebke
Aubrey H. McEachern
Thomas E. McNeill *
T. Richmond McPherson, III
Emma Claire Merritt *
Graham Strowd Miller
Eric William Mills
Joseph V. Moreno
Elizabeth A. Murphy
Sarah N. Negus
Christiane Nolton
Nancy Black Norelli
Paul J. Osowski *
Shaun F. Pacious
Andrew R. Parrish
Fern A. Paterson
Emily C. Pera
Kim Brett Perez
Kathleen Elizabeth Perkins *

Henry N. Pharr III *
Amanda Katherine Reasoner*
Alice Carmichael Richey
Paul J. Osowski
Patrick L. Ridinger
Susan Courtright Rodriguez *
Melissa A. Romanzo *
Robert J. Roth
Evan M. Sauda
Jason Schubert
Brett Michael Shockley *
Adam G. Smith
Wendy L. Spanbauer
Lisa Sperber
Paul A. Steffens
W. Todd Stilerman
Curtis Charles Strubinger
Mary Katherine Stukes
Nadira Aisha Swinton
Rachel Ann Temple
Catherine E. Thompson
Lauren Tonon
Alyson Grossman Traw
Leslie Campbell Tucker III
Charles Phillip Wells
Nathan A. White *
Abigail Forrister Williams
Seaira R. Wolf *
Fred M. Wood, Jr. *
Gabriel Wright

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 at ncprobono.org.

Charlotte Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty for Filing False Tax Returns

from WSOC TV:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte tax preparer pleaded guilty in federal court Friday for filing false tax returns for her clients and for herself.

Andrivia Wells entered a guilty plea for three out of 35 counts, including aiding and assisting the filing of false tax returns and filing false tax returns for herself. She did not address a charge related to obstructing criminal investigators from the IRS.

From 2011 through 2019, Wells ran Rush Tax Service out of three locations: Beatties Ford Road, Nevin Road and North Tryon Street. Federal prosecutors say Wells prepared more than 6,000 tax returns and received more than $1.2 million in fees from her clients. Oftentimes, the tax fees were taken from the clients’ tax refunds and clients were unaware of how much they were being charged, which was frequently more than $500.

According to the indictment filed in 2019, Wells filed clients’ tax returns with fabricated items, including wages, filing status, American Opportunity Credits, education credits, Schedule C business income and losses and more. The clients did not know what Wells was doing until they were contacted by the IRS with questions about items on their returns.

Shortly after Wells was notified about the investigation, prosecutors allege she set her Beatties Ford Road office location on fire. It was the very same day her summons response was due. The fire destroyed client files, financial records, and computer hardware.

If you’d like to safeguard your filings this tax season and you make less than $56,000 a year, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy attorney Arthur Bartlett said taxpayers should consider going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. There are locations across Mecklenburg County, and it’s sponsored and funded by the IRS.

If you do have to pay someone to file your taxes, Bartlett said to remember this important tip.

“Make sure you know you’ve looked at the return as best you can and you’ve asked questions where it doesn’t make sense because ultimately the IRS is going to hold you responsible, very likely, if the one you looked at and signed is the one that’s filed.”

The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is assisting Wells’ victims. You can reach them at 704-376-1600.

N.C. Ranks 37th on Prosperity

This release is from the group Financial Security CLT. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is a member.

Weathering a financial storm is essential for all families to build towards a stronger future. New data released this week about the financial health of our state highlights where disparities exist that prevent individuals and families from reaching economic freedom in five areas: financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, home ownership and housing, health care and
education.

According to the 2020 Prosperity Now Scorecard, North Carolina ranks 37th on prosperity for its residents. One in four households are unable to make ends meet while employed in low-wage jobs and working multiple jobs doesn’t ensure stability for many families. For example, 48% of renters across the state are cost burdened.

Racial economic inequality further limits opportunities to prosper, with North Carolina ranking 26th in racial disparity. For example, the homeownership rate of White households is 74% compared to 45% for Black households and 46% for Latino households. Additionally, over 60% of households of color are liquid asset poor in North Carolina as compared to 33% of White households. People of color throughout the state have more than double the uninsured rates than those of Whites. Evenly distributing resources to address racial wealth inequity is crucial.

North Carolina has adopted eight of 28 policies to support economic inclusion and mobility.

“This scorecard compels us to advocate for stronger policies so that families can thrive and prosper,” said Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Executive Director of Financial Security CLT. “Working together to remove barriers to savings, earning, health and financial security, we can further boost resilience, opportunity and financial well-being for all.”

Member organizations of Financial Security CLT see first-hand the impact of these inequities which inspired the coming together of this coalition and vision to positively impact the racial wealth gap and improve financial security of Charlotteans. Our members include: Care Ring, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Communities in Schools, Community Link, Council for
Children’s Rights, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, GreenLight Fund Charlotte, Latin American Coalition, Leading on Opportunity, Urban League of Central Carolinas and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

About Financial Security CLT
Financial Security CLT is a coalition of nonprofit organizations working in Mecklenburg County who share a belief that financial security is the underpinning of economic mobility. The ability to weather financial emergencies, share equitably in economic opportunity, and plan for a brighter future is a vision shared by all coalition partners through our differing individual missions. We work collaboratively to help families get on and stay on a path to greater financial security through empowerment and asset building. Our vision is to improve the financial security and knowledge of residents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, especially in communities of color, and create economic opportunity for all.

2020 Expunction Clinics Kick Off with Help of Triage Partners

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy kicked off its 2020 expunction clinics Jan. 22 with volunteers from the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership to help 15 Mecklenburg County residents apply to have their criminal records expunged.

An expunction (also called an “expungement”) removes minor offenses and misdemeanors on one’s criminal record that create significant barriers to economic stability and opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps low-income Mecklenburg County residents get their criminal records expunged allowing them to pursue a broader range of economic opportunities.

The expunction clinic was the first of six to be held this year.

“This is a breath of fresh air,” said Bernard, who had been working toward a new start before coming to the clinic for help.

He heard about the expunction clinic and registered through Running Works, a Charlotte nonprofit that empowers individuals and families to break cycles of abuse, abandonment, neglect, poverty and homelessness through running, career development services, counseling, group therapy and housing initiatives.

“What I needed the most was to clean up my record instead of giving up,” he said.

Now Bernard is waiting to learn if his application will be approved.

Bernard is one of more than 2 million North Carolina residents living with a criminal record. Too often, these individuals are automatically denied employment, housing, and other opportunities, based on past involvement with the criminal justice system, including dismissed charges and long-ago convictions.

As part of its 2020 Advocacy Agenda, the Advocacy Center supports legislative efforts to expand eligibility for expunctions, such as The Second Chance Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the N.C. Senate last year. We are hopeful that the N.C. House of Representatives will consider and approve this legislation this spring.

Through our individual representation and advocacy, the Advocacy Center seeks to help people with criminal records have a fair chance at productive citizenship.

Special thanks to Lara Nichols and Ann Warren of Duke Energy; Kevin Denny and Justin Knapp of McGuireWoods LLP; Abigail Williams of K&L Gates LLP; Katie Clarke and Fern Patterson of Parker Poe; and Chad Crockford of Wells Fargo for volunteering their time through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership.

Wondering if you are eligible to clean up your criminal record?

Mecklenburg County residents can learn more and register for our upcoming clinics by calling 704-376-1600 ext. 510.

Registration is required to receive assistance. Applicants must not have any pending criminal charges.

2020 Open Enrollment Numbers Strong in N.C.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is celebrating another year of strong health insurance enrollment after the seventh open enrollment period for health coverage through Federal Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As a member of the N.C. Navigator Consortium, the Advocacy Center’s Health Insurance Navigator Project helped North Carolina have the third highest number of enrollments behind Florida and Texas for states on the federal exchange. During this year’s enrollment period, 505,275 individuals signed up for 2020 Marketplace Coverage–almost 3,000 more than last year’s enrollment period.

This year’s enrollment period, which typically lasts Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, was extended to 3 a.m. Dec. 18 to accommodate website issues for consumers trying to enroll on the final day.

During that period, the Advocacy Center assisted more than 1,400 residents, helping them understand their coverage options and select plans that best fit their needs and budget for 2020.

“Our team did an incredible job in just 45 days,” said Julieanne Taylor, coordinator for the Health Insurance Navigator Project.

The Advocacy Center was able to host more than 150 additional appointments this year thanks to the support of 18 volunteers from the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership and the community.

Volunteers hosted 66 appointments during enrollment events on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays during the six-week period. Volunteers also made more than 500 calls to help consumers schedule appointments.

“Our volunteers helped us serve more consumers on a tight timeline,” Taylor said. “They were all so helpful and jumped in to support us wherever they could.”

The 2020 enrollment period may be over, but navigators are now assisting individuals who qualify to select coverage during Special Enrollment Periods. Anyone who has experienced a major life event such as getting married, moving, changes in income, welcoming a new family member, or loss of coverage can call 1-855-733-3711 or visit ncnavigator.net to get free help to understand their coverage options.

Navigators are located at sites across Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties all year to help consumers understand their coverage options.

Advocacy Center navigators will also be stationed at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites through tax season to help consumers reconcile any financial assistance they receive for health coverage in preparing their taxes.

Then & Now: A Decade of Justice

In 2010 …

Charlotte was recovering from the Great Recession, which had destabilized thousands of people through job and home loss that eroded financial security.

As a result, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy saw the overall community need for legal assistance increase by 15%, including an overwhelming need from families facing foreclosure.

The Recession’s effects continued to be felt throughout the decade to shape our community, to define the issues of economic mobility and inequity we fight to address, and to steadily impact the people the Advocacy Center serves today.

As we mark the passing of a critical decade for Charlotte, we’re taking a look back at the work we’ve done to build a more just community for everyone in the Charlotte region.

Then

Our name was Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, a name we had been operating under since 1978.

Number of staff: 19

Now

Today we are Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy! In 2017, we changed our name and celebrated 50 years of service.

Number of staff: 50

Our new name reflects our commitment to providing both individual legal representation and systemic change to advance our mission of pursuing justice for those in need.

Growth to Address Systemic Problems in a Changing World

Since 2010, we’ve launched several projects to meet increased demand for assistance, creatively address the root causes of poverty and support our community’s most vulnerable populations, including:

Access to our legal system

Life altering decisions are made every day in our civil legal system that directly impact a person’s chance at a stable life and opportunity.

Despite the gravity of these decisions, no one is guaranteed legal representation in civil legal cases, leaving only those who can afford an attorney with true access to justice.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and legal service organizations across the country fight to provide equal justice for all in a legal system that is currently inaccessible for those who lack the money and resources to navigate it.

Federal funding for legal service organizations through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) peaked in 2010. The funding increase was necessary to support legal service organizations assisting an increasing number of people while having lost key funding resources during the Recession. Funding has not increased since, despite the fact 25 percent more people qualify for legal assistance today than in 2007.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy does not receive LSC funding (learn why), but we advocate for sustained and increased funding for our partners that do, such as Legal Aid of North Carolina.

A 2014 impact report from the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission showed that 2.2 million North Carolinians qualified for civil legal aid services and 80 percent of civil legal needs of low-income people went unmet.

Despite these unmet needs for civil legal aid, the N.C. General Assembly eliminated $1.7 million in funding for the Access to Civil Justice Act that enabled the state’s legal service organizations, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services, to help people navigate their way out of crisis.

Today, the gap between access and justice is still wide:

  • 1 in 3 Mecklenburg County residents is low-income.
  • 71 percent of low-income people experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year,
  • Only 14 percent received the legal help they needed to address their problem.
  • In Mecklenburg County, there ONE legal aid attorney available to every 11,500 low-income residents between the Advocacy Center and Legal Aid.

Learn about the justice gap and how you can help

Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement

By 2010, the Advocacy Center was assisting families who were fighting foreclosure and trying to put their financial lives back together in the wake of the global financial crisis. When the housing crisis peaked in 2009, more than 12 million homeowners were experiencing negative equity across the U.S.

Today, the Advocacy Center helps families and communities navigate Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis as more people struggle to find and remain in affordable places to live. That assistance includes foreclosure prevention; defense against unfair and deceptive sales and purchases; property tax relief; and impact litigation on behalf of tenants to ensure safe and habitable housing conditions under N.C. law, including a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Lake Arbor Apartments.

Welcoming Immigrants into Our Community

Charlotte’s Immigration Court opened in 2008 to serve applicants from North and South Carolina. The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program began serving applicants who could not afford legal assistance in the court, which quickly gained a reputation as one of the most hostile in the country.

With the Immigration Working Group, the Advocacy Center to begin the Immigration Assistance Project in 2010 to help unrepresented people in the court, providing consultation, education and referrals to assist them in court proceedings. Since its creation, it has been a vital legal resource to thousands of people that is not available in most immigration courts.

Today Charlotte’s Immigration Court continues to be one of the most hostile courts for applicants seeking immigration relief with judges known for their high denial rates.

By 2014, violence and instability in Central America generated a wave of unaccompanied migrant children to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, safety and reunification with family already living in the U.S.

The Advocacy Center launched the Safe Child Immigrant Project to ensure these children had an advocate.

Without our intervention, these children would have had not have had legal assistance to make their case for asylum, special immigrant juvenile status or other forms of relief they were entitled to receive.

Due to an overwhelming backlog, the first green cards from many of these cases were finally granted in 2018, allowing these children and their families to remain safely in the U.S. without fear of return to dangerous situations in their home countries.

This victory is a stark comparison to the current reality for thousands of children seeking relief at the U.S. border. They will not see the same outcome under current federal immigration enforcement, even though they have endured the same hardships and have the same valid claims for relief as these new green card recipients.

The Advocacy Center remains a presence in Immigration Court serving as a legal resource for individuals who otherwise would not receive any assistance and an advocate fighting to ensure dignity, fairness and due process for applicants.

Economic mobility

The Advocacy Center fought to maintain public benefits that stabilize families, while also ensuring access to them with increased demand for social support after the Recession, including SNAP benefits (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Today, the Advocacy Center is still fighting cuts and policies that destabilize families at the federal and state level, while helping families understand what is available under changing laws and policies.

Since 2018, the Advocacy Center has fought changes to the federal Public Charge rule to consider use of public benefits to determine approval for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or applying for a green card to become legal permanent residents. Confusion and fear surrounding the rule change has led local families who are eligible to receive public benefits to forego support out of fear. Federal courts halted the rule’s implementation in October 2019, and the Advocacy Center continues to monitor ongoing litigation.

Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is educating N.C. taxpayers on new regulations stemming from federal tax reform passed in 2018, while continuing to help taxpayers protect themselves from scams and fraud.

In conjunction with a new state law changed the waiting period for expunging non-violent misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions in 2017, the Advocacy Center began helping Mecklenburg County residents apply for removal of non-violent, eligible offenses from their criminal records. This project sought to remove barriers to economic mobility that come with having a criminal record. In FY19, we assisted 217 people to expunge criminal records in N.C. and advocated for passage of expanded eligibility for expungements in the N.C. General Assembly.

In 2016, the Advocacy Center partnered with Central Piedmont Community College’s Single Stop program to provide legal assistance that helps students overcome barriers to their education and pursue economic opportunity. In the first two years, the partnership provided $72,855 in legal assistance while obtaining or preserving $103,462 in public benefits for students and their families.

Access to quality, affordable health care

The Advocacy Center has been litigating to ensure families have the health care they are entitled to receive under the law through major cases, including:

  • Pashby v. Cansler, later Pettigrew v. Brajer: The lawsuit, initially named Pashby v. Cansler, was filed in 2011 by the Advocacy Center, Disability Rights N.C. and the National Health Law Program, alleging that the state violated federal Medicaid law and the Americans with Disabilities Act by determining eligibility for personal care services under more restrictive criteria for people living at home than for those who live in institutional settings known as adult care homes. A settlement was reached in 2016, allowing vulnerable citizens who need health services to safely remain in their homes and have their services restored.
  • Pachas v. NCDHHS: The Advocacy Center brought the case on behalf of a terminally ill man, who had been the primary provider for his wife, two young daughters, and elderly in-laws. Pachas was trying to support his family on Social Security disability benefits before eventually qualifying for Medicaid benefits that covered his medical treatment for a stroke and a brain tumor. Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services determined Pachas’ income was above the federal poverty level based on the level of an individual, not for a family, and required him to pay a large deductible on his Medicaid benefits. In 2018, attorneys argued before the N.C. Court of Appeals that the state was violating federal Medicaid law in applying its definition of family size to determine eligibility for benefits. The N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in 2018 and unanimously ruled in favor of the Center to vacate the Court of Appeals ruling. The case is now with the Court of Appeals for a ruling on the merits of the case.
  • Hawkins v. Cohen: The Advocacy Center and the National Health Law Program filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2017 to stop illegal terminations of Medicaid benefits in North Carolina that resulted in a preliminary injunction and a certified class action.  The improper actions included due process violations, failure to reasonably accommodate the disabled, and creating barriers to access for recipients with limited English proficiency. The class action is ongoing. As a result, the state changed its computer system earlier this year to stop Medicaid coverage from automatically terminating when a county worker does not timely complete a required eligibility review. Under this programming change, Medicaid coverage for more than 124,000 cases was extended in the past two months that would otherwise have been terminated without notice.

With the first open enrollment season for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Advocacy Center launched the Health Insurance Navigator project to help consumers understand their options and get the health care they needed under the new law.

Since 2013, we’ve helped thousands of people understand their options and get health coverage, while reducing the state’s uninsured rate. The navigator project has been recognized as a national model and received a visit from Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 2015.

At the end of 2019, our health insurance navigators completed their seventh open enrollment season, helping residents in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties understand their coverage options in a changing healthcare landscape to select health plan that meet their individual needs and budget.

The ACA included opportunity for states to expand their Medicaid programs and close the coverage gap for low-income people to insure all Americans. The Advocacy Center began advocating for expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in the N.C. General Assembly, which has failed to act. Expansion would insure an estimated 500,000 NC residents who make too little to afford private health coverage but too much to receive financial assistance paying for coverage. Expansion also would have lowered overall health costs for residents and spurred an estimated $2.9 billion in business growth by 2020.

Today we are still urging the N.C. General Assembly to expand Medicaid so that more residents have access to health care. Residents like Allan.

The N.C. General Assembly approved changes to the state’s Medicaid program in 2015 that privatized the administration of the program. The Advocacy Center has been working with providers and beneficiaries to make sure they understand what the change means and how to continue receiving health care. The Advocacy Center is also monitoring the change to ensure access under the law. The implementation of the new program was supposed to take place in fall 2019, but it has been delayed due to the legislature’s inability to pass a budget.

Protection from exploitation

To improve quality of life and ensure independence, the Advocacy Center has worked to empower seniors through education, legal representation and specific services that enable them to remain self-sufficient, their property unencumbered and their finances protected through Legal Services for the Elderly program and other projects.

The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection program has continually worked to protect low-income people from scams and bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable groups who lack access to resources to understand their rights as consumers.

Immigrants have historically been targets for exploitation in our country. The current administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy toward immigrants who are undocumented has exacerbated their vulnerability and stoked fear in families, regardless of immigration status.

For 12 years, Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program facilitated hundreds of deportations by assisting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level. The voluntary program directed police to target, arrest and hold residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.

This practice tore families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets and eroded trust of law enforcement, all while diverting local taxpayer funds away from public safety to enforce federal immigration policy, which is outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies. The Advocacy Center has long believed this policy has harmed our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to potential legal settlements.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden ended the 287(g) program in late 2018 after winning election on the issue. In 2019, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the N.C. General Assembly’s mandate that local sheriffs cooperate with ICE and honor detainer requests. The Advocacy Center continues to monitor local and state policies that negatively impact immigrants in our community.

In 2018, the Advocacy Center fought against ICE presence in our courts after officials arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into custody and placed her in deportation proceedings. This woman, Maria, and her son are survivors of domestic violence who were appearing for a hearing in their case.

The arrest became part of a national dialogue on how ICE activity in courthouses negatively impacts public safety and the ability for crime victims, especially victims of domestic violence, to seek justice.

The Charlotte Immigration Court later terminated her deportation case with the support of ICE, allowing Maria and her family to remain in the U.S. as they pursued a U-Visa, which provides protected status to victims of crime. The victory came after months of negotiation with ICE through the partnership of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

In response to increased ICE activity since 2017, the Advocacy Center has partnered with community groups, including the Action NC, Comunidad Colectiva, El Puente Hispano and the Latin American Coalition to help individuals understand their civil rights and provide emergency planning for families in the event of family separation through arrest and deportation.

A decade of justice

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has covered a lot of ground over the  last 10 years, but the gap between access and justice remains wide.

In the decade ahead, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy remains committed to closing that gap by building a more just community where all are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs and thrive.

In 2020 and beyond…

We will always fight to ensure

  • Access to our legal system
  • Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement
  • All feel welcome in our community
  • Economic mobility
  • Access to quality, affordable health care
  • Protection from exploitation

While the means to accomplishing our mission will change with the needs of our community, our resolve to pursue justice for those in need remains constant. Because we believe …

justice lives here.

ACA Open Enrollment Is Here

To schedule a free in-person appointment, individuals can call the statewide navigator hotline, 1-855-733-3711 or go to ncnavigator.net.

The Open Enrollment Period for 2020 health insurance coverage started Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15, giving consumers 45 days to enroll in health coverage from the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace.

Despite confusion around the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the ACA and its protections remain the law: financial assistance is still available to eligible consumers; individuals cannot be denied coverage or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, such as cancer or diabetes, among others.

Last year, more than 90 percent of North Carolinians who enrolled in Marketplace coverage were eligible for financial assistance, which can lower monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. .

Mecklenburg County also had the highest number of enrollments in the state in with 60,229 residents signing up for 2019 coverage. Of those who enrolled, 53,878 residents received financial assistance; 16,655 enrolled for Marketplace coverage for the first time.

As a member of the N.C. Navigator Consortium, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s team of health insurance navigators are available to help consumers understand their health insurance options through both the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicaid.

Navigators are federally certified and required to provide objective, non-biased information about all healthcare options available. Navigators from the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will be assisting consumers at different community locations in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties during open enrollment.

Open Enrollment Navigator Sites

  • Beatties Ford Road Library
  • Cabarrus Health Alliance
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
  • CMC Myers Park
  • CMC Northpark
  • CPCC-Main Campus
  • El Puente Hispano
  • Goodwill Industries

  • Independence Library
  • Latin American Coalition
  • Mecklenburg County Health Department
  • Monroe Library
  • New Beginnings Church
  • Union County Human Services
  • West Boulevard Library


Watch Julieanne Taylor explain to WBTV’s “On Your Side Tonight” what consumers need to know for Open Enrollment.

The Advocacy Center will also host enrollment events every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy satellite office located at 1524 Elizabeth Avenue, in Charlotte. On Saturdays, walk-ins are welcome until 3 p.m.

A final enrollment event will be held Sunday, Dec. 15, noon to 8 p.m. at 1524 Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte.

To schedule a free in-person appointment, individuals can call the statewide navigator hotline, 1-855-733-3711 or go to ncnavigator.net.

All consumers – new and renewing – are encouraged to return to the Marketplace during Open Enrollment to explore their options and enroll in health coverage. For individuals renewing coverage, it is important to review application information and 2020 plan options because plans and prices change every year.

What are the benefits?

By signing up for health insurance, consumers may receive free preventive care, which includes

  • well-women visits
  • physical exams
  • regular screenings
  • wellness tests

The ACA has made insurance more accessible and affordable to consumers, and consumers can find quality, affordable plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you may face high out of pocket costs if you have a medical emergency or need to visit a doctor.

To qualify for financial assistance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have household income between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Certain immigrants are eligible even if income is below the poverty line.
  2. Be a U.S. citizen or lawfully present immigrant. This includes green card holders, refugees, asylees, U visa holders, work and student visa holders, TPS, among others.
  3. Not eligible for affordable employer-based coverage, Medicaid, or Medicare.

Special Enrollment Periods

After December 15, some individuals may be eligible to enroll for coverage through a Special Enrollment Period. Special Enrollment Periods are available for individuals who recently experienced a major life change, such as a permanent move, the birth of a child, or a newly obtained immigration status. If you qualify, then you may enroll in Marketplace coverage within 60 days of the change. It is important to note that you can also enroll for coverage under Medicaid and CHIP all year long.

If you have questions about your health coverage options, navigators are available the entire year to assist consumers understand their options, enroll in Marketplace or Medicaid coverage, report changes to the Marketplace, understand their medical bill, and assist with Marketplace appeals.

To contact a Navigator to schedule a free, in-person appointment, consumers can call to 1-855-733-3711 or go online to ncnavigator.net.

Learn more about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Health Insurance Navigator Project

Access to Justice Campaign Kicks Off for 2020

Nearly 500 local supporters, attorneys, community leaders and advocates gathered to celebrate ACCESS to legal assistance in our community at the 13th annual Justice for ALL breakfast Oct. 23.

The event officially kicked off the 2020 Access to Justice Campaign benefiting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina, raising more than $90,000 toward our $500,000 goal.

Timika Shafeek-Horton, chair of the 2020 Access to Justice Campaign, reiterated how critical individual support is for the viability of these organizations and more importantly, our broader community:

“Simply put: the more financial resources each organization has, the more individuals and families in need they can serve in the ways that have the greatest impact. By supporting more families, our community will be stronger for everyone as we work together to address issues of equity, fairness, mobility and opportunity.”

Check out highlights from
Justice for ALL 2019!

Join the movement to build a more just community in which all know stability and are empowered to find opportunity.

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The Access to Justice Campaign is currently underway and runs through the end of the year. Those who contribute a leadership gift of $1,000 or more by November 30 will be recognized as Access to Justice Champions during #GivingTuesdayCLT 2019 on December 3.

Why support the
Access to Justice Campaign

There is a justice gap in Mecklenburg County, and it plays a role in our community’s stability. One in three residents is low-income, and 71 percent of low-income residents are likely experiencing a civil legal issue that has significantly affected their lives.

However, with limited resources between the Advocacy Center and Legal Aid, there is one legal aid attorney for every 11,500 low-income residents. Families are in desperate need of legal assistance, but they can’t afford it. A friend can’t help; a church can’t help; a social worker can’t help—these families need a lawyer who understands what to do in front of a judge when stability is on the line.

Last year’s campaign raised more than $500,000 thanks to the generous support of the community and members of the Mecklenburg County Bar.

The Advocacy Center and Legal Aid use these funds to provide coordinated legal assistance that responds to rapidly changing community needs.

The Access to Justice Campaign is the most stable funding source these organizations depend on to serve the community because it it provides flexibility when traditional funding sources go away.

Together, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina fight on their behalf every day to ensure fairness under the law that preserves stability and allows them make ends meet.

Marles Recognized as YWCA Emerging Leader

Natalie Marles

YWCA Central Carolinas recognized Natalie Marles with the Emerging Leader Award during its Woman of Achievement Awards event Oct. 17 for her work ensuring marginalized people have access to health care, knowledge and justice. 

The annual awards event honors three generations of women who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

An immigrant from Bogotá, Colombia, Marles is committed to social justice, merging her work life as a paralegal-advocate for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and personal life working for the needs of the Hispanic and Latinx community with the goal of fostering inclusion within the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.

Marles helps low-income individuals get their criminal records expunged through the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project, which focuses on improving economic mobility, stable housing and entrepreneurship in targeted communities in the Charlotte area. Criminal record expungements expand economic mobility by clearing misdemeanor offenses that often prevent individuals from pursuing employment and housing opportunities.

Through the Advocacy Center’s Know your Rights and Power of Attorney community workshops Marles has helped immigrants understand their constitutional rights and worked to ensure these rights are upheld.  She has become a trusted face in the immigrant community through her professional and personal work.    

Marles joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in 2016 as a health insurance navigator helping individuals and families, including immigrants and Spanish speaking residents, understand their health coverage options to enroll in plans that best fit their individual needs under the Affordable Care Act.

After finding limited health services for the Hispanic community in Cabarrus County, Marles established a nonprofit organization called El Puente Hispano (the Hispanic bridge) with other community leaders in 2017 to provide programs that provide support and improve physical and mental health for the Hispanic community in the Charlotte area.

Marles began her local volunteerism serving as a triage nurse and health promoter for Bethesda Health Center after moving to the area from Miami in 2009. She also spent two years volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem, giving children impacted by abuse, neglect and abandonment a voice in Cabarrus County. 

Marles is a member of the Enlace Charlotte, formerly The Latin American Council, board of directors. She is also part of the Mecklenburg County Latino civic engagement and last year helped launch the campaign “Latino tu voto cuenta” (Latino your vote counts) encouraging people to understand the importance of civic engagement and participation in the democratic process. 

Judge Promoted by Trump Administration Threatened a 2-Year-Old With an Attack Dog

On March 30, 2016, in an immigration courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 2-year-old boy was doing what you might expect: He was making some noise. But Judge V. Stuart Couch—a former Marine known to have a temper—was growing frustrated. He pointed his finger at the Guatemalan child and demanded that he be quiet.

When the boy failed to obey his command, the threats began. “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” Couch yelled.

Couch continued, as a Spanish-language interpreter translated for the child, “Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Couch continued to yell at the boy throughout the hearing when he moved or made noise. 

Kathryn Coiner-Collier, the only independent observer in the courtroom that day, says her mouth was on the floor as Couch made his threats. She sometimes saw Department of Homeland Security dogs sweeping the court building, and it was completely plausible to her that dogs could have been there that day. Coiner-Collier, then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to assist immigrants who couldn’t afford attorneys, says she “ferociously scribbled everything” Couch was saying. Soon after, she wrote an affidavit containing the dialogue above, and Kenneth Schorr, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, submitted a complaint to the Justice Department in April 2016.

Read more at Mother Jones

Additional coverage

New York Times, Kristof: Our Children Deserve Better

Univision: Un juez promovido por Trump amenazó a un niño de 2 años con soltar a un perro si no guardaba silencio en la corte

WCNC: Charlotte immigration judge threatened to sic “big dog” on child during hearing