Toussaint Romain will lead Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy | WFAE 90.7

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has a new chief executive officer. As a former public defender, law professor and civil rights activist, Toussaint Romain is no stranger to the legal system.

In his new role, Romain says there are three core values that the Advocacy Center is focusing on, which are part of the organization’s vision to build a just community.

“The first is safety which is especially important,” Romain said. “Second is economic security so people can take care of their basic needs. And finally, stability because we want to make sure folks know that they’re in an environment where it’s going to be stable and that they’re able to move forward with the hope of upward mobility and economic opportunity.”

Romain says the Advocacy Center partners with other organizations so they can offer more than legal services.

“We’ve been involved in the community since 1967 to really help that child, that mother, that immigrant, that person with disabilities, that veteran and that senior,” Romain said. “That’s what’s most important, and we get to do it on a daily basis.”

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“Helps Everyone”: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy appoints new CEO|Queen City News

CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – After a nationwide search of over six months, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy found their next leader in their very own backyard. Toussaint C. Romain has dedicated his professional life to the people of Charlotte – as a public defender, a civil rights leader, and a community organizer. And he has big plans for the center even before his first official day on the job begins next Monday, May 16, 2022. 

Romain is the first person of color to stand at the center’s helm. He says its mission is to promote justice within its core values of “safety, economic security, and stability.” 

It sounds like an enormous task for only a staff of 40 but they also have formidable reinforcements of approximately 500 pro bono lawyers from various industries across the county. 

See the full coverage on Queen City News

Celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Historical Confirmation

Today marks a historic day as Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed to the Supreme Court as the first female African American Justice, a long overdue first.  Of the 115 justices that have served on the Supreme Court, only seven have not been white men.  Jackson is undoubtedly a powerful symbol of what can and should be achieved by women of color.

Jackson’s presence on the Court will widen the perspectives that are brought to judicial debate.  Her own lived experience as a Black woman enriches her assessments of day-to-day life in the United States, providing a necessary counterpoint to the historical white male majority.

As an organization that focuses on fighting for justice for those that need it, not just those that can afford it, the Advocacy Center sees Jackson as a fellow champion.  At her confirmation hearings Jackson said, “I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under Law”, are a reality and not just an ideal.”

Jackson served as a public defender for nearly nine years, choosing to defend men and women who could not afford a lawyer but deserved justice.  She also comes to the Court having served as a U.S. District Court judge for eight years, an area of legal work only shared by one other Justice, Sonia Sotomayor.  Her experience as a trial judge provided her with the unique opportunity to directly confront the impact our judicial system was having on people’s lives. Jackson understands the importance of seeing the humanity of all people in the courtroom, an understanding that will no doubt affect her legal interpretations in the highest courtroom in our country.

Most importantly, Jackson’s prior rulings have shown a dedication to upholding legal protections for people with disabilities, workers, immigrants, and those most vulnerable.  These are the men, women, and families we fight for every day, who will be impacted by Jackson fighting for them too.

‘The least we can do.’ Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy hosts asylum application clinic

Charlotte NC-The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s offices in east Charlotte were filled with lawyers and immigrants working together to file asylum applications on Saturday.

After people enter the country and are detained at the border, they generally have one year to file for asylum through an I-589 form. Though people can file the applications themselves without the aid of an attorney, legal assistance drastically improves their chances for success in immigration court.//accepted

This weekend’s clinic is the first of its kind in North Carolina, CCLA immigration attorney Rebekah Niblock said, though similar clinics have been held throughout the country.

Though the clinic’s participants won’t be legally represented by the CCLA in court, it’s a way for the agency, overburdened with requests, to expand its reach and serve more clients without having to turn anyone away.

“We can’t accept everyone,” Niblock said. “But the least we can do is help them get their applications out.”

Read more at:

Biden Implements 100 Day Moratorium on Removal Proceedings

On inauguration day, the Biden Administration announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would “conduct a review of [all] policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement” to, among other things, “build fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process.” Titled the “Pekoske Memo,” the announcement also requires DHS to provide recommendations for the issuance of revised policies as soon as possible and no later than 100 days.

The Pekoske Memo prohibits removal (deportation), for 100 days beginning January 22, 2021, of any immigrant who was present in the US before November 1, 2020. There are only two categories of persons to whom this moratorium does not apply. The first category includes persons who are terrorists, suspected terrorists or individuals who pose a national security threat. The second category is comprised of individuals who have stipulated to removal as part of a criminal disposition.

The Pekoske Memo further instructs DHS that, during the 100-day period beginning February 1, 2021, any actions taken by DHS that would be permitted outside of the removal moratorium be consistent with the priority of apprehending and removing immigrants only in the following categories: (a) terrorists, suspected terrorists or other individuals who pose a national security threat; (b) individuals who crossed the border after Nov. 1, 2020; and (c) non-citizens who have committed certain serious crimes as defined by immigration law.”

The moratorium will impact the vast majority of immigrants in the United States. However, we caution immigrants who have had contact with the criminal justice system to determine whether they might have stipulated to removal as part of a criminal disposition. A stipulation to removal as part of a criminal disposition disqualifies a person from eligibility for the moratorium on removal. Immigrants who have had contact with the criminal justice system and are worried about removal (deportation) should call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for assistance in making this determination.

With limited exceptions, the Pekoske Memo provides a desperately-needed reprieve to immigrants who, for the last several years, have woken up to the daily realization that this day may be their last here. We celebrate the memo’s publication and look forward to the reforms that are underway at DHS!

You can find a full text of the Pekoskie Memo at:

El Memo de Pekoske prohíbe la deportación por 100 días

El día de la inauguración, la Administración de Biden anunció que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) “realizaría una revisión de [todas] las políticas y prácticas relacionadas con la aplicación de la ley de inmigración” entre otras cosas, “construir procedimientos de asilo justos y efectivos que respeten los derechos humanos y debido proceso “. Titulado “Pekoske Memo”, el anuncio también requiere que el DHS brinde recomendaciones para la emisión de políticas revisadas lo antes posible y no más tarde de 100 días.

El Memo de Pekoske prohíbe la deportación por 100 días, comenzando el 22 de enero del 2021, de cualquier inmigrante presente en los EE. UU. antes del 1 de noviembre de 2020. Solo hay dos categorías de personas a las que no se aplica esta moratoria. La primera categoría consiste de personas que son terroristas, presuntos terroristas o personas que representan una amenaza para la seguridad nacional. La segunda categoría está compuesta por personas que han estipulado la deportación como parte de una disposición criminal.

El Memo de Pekoske también instruye al DHS que durante el período de 100 días que comienza el 1 de febrero de 2021, cualquier acción tomada por el DHS que se permitiría fuera de la moratoria de deportación sea consistente con la prioridad de aprehender y expulsar inmigrantes solo en las siguientes categorías: (a) terroristas, presuntos terroristas o personas que representan una amenaza para la seguridad nacional; (b) individuales que cruzaron la frontera después del día 1 de noviembre 2020; y (c) no-ciudadanos que hayan cometido delitos graves según lo definido por la ley de inmigración.

La moratoria afectara a la gran mayoría de los inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos. En cambio, nosotros advertimos a los inmigrantes que han tenido contacto con el sistema de justicia criminal que determinen si podrían haber estipulado la deportación como parte de una disposición criminal. Una estipulación de remoción como parte de una disposición criminal descalifica a una persona de la elegibilidad para la moratoria de deportación. Inmigrantes que hayan tenido contacto con el sistema de justicia criminal y están preocupados de la deportación son bienvenidos a llamarnos para obtener ayuda para tomar esta determinación.

Con limitadas excepciones, el Memo de Pekoske proporciona un respiro que tanto necesita la comunidad inmigrante que durante los últimos años se han despertado y se han dado cuenta este día puede ser el último aquí. Celebramos la publicación del memorando y esperamos con interés las reformas que se están llevando a cabo en el DHS.

Puede encontrar el texto completo del Memo de Pekoskie en:

New COVID-19 relief act signed. Aid extended to millions.

On December 22nd congress passed the most recent COVID-19 relief package. The act provides $908 billion dollars in aid to families, businesses, nonprofits, and states. As we learn more about the act and how the programs and funding will be implemented, we will update our website and social media accordingly. Please contact us at the appropriate numbers below if you or your family are struggling and need assistance.  

This list is not exhaustive, and the bill contains programs and funding not listed here.  

Here is what we know so far: 

Unemployment Insurance

This act extends the CARES Act’s unemployment insurance expansion through March 14th, 2021. Specifically, this act:  

  • Provides an additional $300 per week to supplement all state and federal unemployment benefits, starting after December 26, 2020 and ending March 14, 2021 through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program; 
  • Extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides continued unemployment assistance to the self-employed, freelancers, gig workers, part-time workers and other individuals in non-traditional employment. It also increases the number of weeks of PUA benefits an individual may claim, from 39 to 50; 
  • Extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, providing additional weeks of federally-funded benefits to workers who have exhausted their regular state unemployment benefits. It also increases the weeks of PEUC benefits an individual may claim, from 13 to 24 and; 
  • Provides full federal financing of state Shared Work programs, allowing employees who are working reduced hours to claim partial unemployment compensation, through March 14, 2021. 

For FAQs about unemployment insurance click here. Apply for unemployment at the Department of Employment Security website or call 1-888-737-0259.

Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) 

Critical financial support in the form of one-time direct payments of $600 is being made available for individuals making up to $75,000 and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, as well as an extra $600 per eligible child dependent. We do not know if this amount will be increased. This is the same eligibility as the original $1,200 stimulus payment, but also expands these direct payments to mixed-status households, ensuring that millions of immigrant families across the U.S. get access to this relief. 

These payments will likely be distributed in a similar way as the $1,200 payments through direct deposit or check. Stay up to date with this information on the IRS website

Those who did not previously receive the original $1,200 stimulus check or received the incorrect amount may be able to receive it through a Recovery Rebate Credit when filing you 2020 tax return. Learn more here. 

If you have questions about the $600 economic impact payments or the recovery rebate credit, contact a tax advocate at: 980-202-7329  

Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance 

This act extends the CDC Eviction Moratorium through January 31st, 2021. Read more on how you can use the moratorium to prevent eviction here. 

An additional $25 billion will be distributed to existing local housing agencies that can best distribute these funds on behalf of tenants. It is unclear what organizations or programs this funding will go toward but can be used to pay past due rent, future rent payments and utility and energy expenses.  

The act provides $638 million to assist low-income families with drinking water and wastewater utility bills. This money will also be distributed via state and tribal governments. You can apply for utility assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or RAMP Charlotte. 

Nutritional and Food Assistance 

Millions of families across the country are struggling to put food on the table. This act addressed food insecurity by: 

  • Increasing monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for the next six months beginning January 1st, 2021 through June 30th, 2021. Unless there are other supplements, this increase will be added to the current maximum eligible monthly amount per family size;  
  • Excluding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) from being counted as income for calculating eligibility and amount of SNAP benefits; 
  • Extending SNAP eligibility to college students who are eligible for a federal or state work study program or have an expected family contribution of $0 and; 
  • Improves the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (PEBT) program to school-age children and expands the program for children younger than six years old.  

If you need assistance with applying for SNAP, PEBT, or other public benefits, contact our Family Support and Healthcare Unit at 704-376-1600. 


The act provides that consumers in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases will not be denied a discharge if they miss 3 or fewer mortgage payments because of a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to COVID–19. Consumers can have utility service maintained or restored after filing bankruptcy without paying a deposit. Also, consumers cannot be denied a mortgage forbearance under the CARES Act if they have filed bankruptcy or received a bankruptcy discharge. 


Charlotte, N.C. – The organizers of have delivered 24,946 submitted applications for the N.C. Extra Credit Grant program to North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR). Each approved application will result in a $335 check for an eligible family, distributing over $8M of aid for those in greatest need. The application period reopened last month after Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and its partners, Robinson Bradshaw and Legal Aid of North Carolina, took successful legal action to ensure families with the most need had time and access to complete the application. NCDOR will mail checks to eligible applicants by Dec. 30, 2020. (Anyone needing to know the status of their check should call NCDOR at 1-877-252-3052.) For more information, please visit the NCDOR website.

“The Extra Credit Grant program was a wonderful opportunity to provide desperately needed relief to struggling North Carolina families,” said Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Executive Director Kenneth Schorr. 

Made possible by federal coronavirus relief funds, the N.C. Extra Credit Grant program was intended to help families offset the expense of educating and caring for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible middle- and high-income families received grants automatically through N.C. tax filings; however, many low-income families with annual incomes of $20,000 or less could only receive an Extra Credit Grant if they submitted an application to the NCDOR by Oct. 15, 2020. Robinson Bradshaw, on behalf of Legal Aid of North Carolina, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and several low-income families, filed a complaint which resulted in a court order on Nov. 5, 2020, that reopened and extended the application period. The 335forNC team worked quickly to create a secure and easily accessible online application which closed Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, at 2 p.m.

“I am proud of the fast and creative approach our team took to ensure that thousands of families got the relief they needed,” said Adam Doerr, an attorney with Robinson Bradshaw. 

Robinson Bradshaw is a Carolinas-based corporate law firm celebrating 60 years of providing comprehensive legal services to clients. Robinson Bradshaw represents businesses across the country ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Learn more at

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can provide those in need with information, advice and advocacy in consumer protection, home preservation, health care access and public benefits, immigration, tax assistance and more. Our mission is to pursue justice for those in need. Our vision is to build a just community, where all people are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic human needs of safety, economic security and stability. Learn more:

The Gift of a Second Chance

Javourya Winstead had several charges in her youth as a result of being, in her own words, “young and reckless.” Although these charges were from long ago, she still faced the collateral consequences of her past convictions.  

Javourya with her son

Criminal records significantly hinder social mobility, particularly for Black people and other communities of color. Expungement reduces the list of nonviolent offenses that will “flag” a criminal background check, which can automatically disqualify someone for a job. In addition to removing barriers to employment, research shows that expungement leads to increased wages and reduces recidivism—the possibility of someone receiving another charge or becoming re-incarcerated. 

 Eighty-five percent of our clients who seek expungements are Black. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is working toward eliminating the collateral consequences of the criminal justice system, giving people who deserve it a second chance, and ensuring individual’s past mistakes are not a substantial barrier to economic opportunity. With our systemic advocacy initiatives, Governor Cooper signed the Second Chance Act into law, which expands eligibility for N.C. residents to have nonviolent criminal offenses removed from their records through expunctions. 

Javourya felt that her past actions no longer reflected the person she is today: “In reality, everybody’s done something [wrong], whether you got caught or not; it’s the principle that I had to own up to it. I did it. And the only thing I can do is change.” She reached out to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy just to see if her record could be expunged: “I hesitated because I thought, ‘I don’t know if my record’s good enough.” To her surprise, it was.  

No longer burdened with past mistakes, Javourya “felt like the world lifted off my shoulders. . .  I’ve heard ‘no’ so much because of my record that it finally feels good to be able to say sooner or later I’m going to hear a ‘yes.’”  

With her record expunged, Javourya has been able to support herself and her three-year old son and is attending school for real estate this fall. She encourages others like herself to “just make that one phone call and talk to someone at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy because they are the professionals and know what they’re talking about. One mistake should not be a lifetime sentence.” 

Learn more about the Access To Justice Campaign here.

Justice for Lake Arbor Tenants Subjected to Dangerous Housing Conditions

The NC Justice Center, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and the law firm of Robinson Bradshaw filed a lawsuit in 2019 against the former owners and property managers on behalf of class of Lake Arbor tenants who had paid rent during periods of time when serious Housing Code violations were left unrepaired in their units.

To read the Lake Arbor settlement agreement click here.

If you believe you are entitled to funds from the Lake Arbor settlement, please fill out this online form (English) (Spanish) or leave a voicemail at 704 376-1600 ext. 524.

Si usted piensa que tiene derecho a recibir fondos del avenimiento de Lake Arbor, por favor llene este formulario en línea (inglés)(español).

Charlotte (Dec. 9, 2020) – The former owners and managers of west Charlotte’s Lake Arbor Apartments agreed to pay $547,500, to settle litigation brought on behalf of a class of former tenants. The Charlotte Housing Inspector found the class of former tenants’ apartments to have dangerous conditions.

The North Carolina Justice Center, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and Robinson Bradshaw represented plaintiffs in the case against Lake Arbor Dean TIC LLC and Lake Arbor 80M TIC, LLC, as well as former property managers Broad Management Group, LLC and Wellington Advisors, LLC. The state Superior Court complaint alleged that the former Lake Arbor owners and property managers violated Charlotte’s Housing Code and North Carolina consumer protection laws between 2015 and 2019 when they improperly sought and collected rent from tenants living in Lake Arbor apartments found to have dangerous conditions. The complaint alleged that the Lake Arbor Apartments owners’ and property managers’ actions violated North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Unfair Debt Collections Act, and Residential Rental Agreements Act. The defendants denied those allegations and claimed that they did nothing wrong or illegal.

“These landlords kept taking the rent and taking the rent, all the while refusing to fix serious safety problems in tenants’ units, as found by the City,” said former Lake Arbor tenant and class plaintiff Serita Russell. “It’s about time they were called to account. I’m glad the lawsuit was settled, and I hope other landlords take this as a lesson on what happens when a landlord cares more about making money than the safety of its tenants.”

After the filing, Lake Arbor evicted all tenants rather than complete repairs. The defendants then sold the property to New York-based URS Capital Partners in April. This sequence of events exposed how dire Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis has become, leaving tenants vulnerable to displacement and homelessness just for exercising their rights to a safe and habitable place to live.

An important consequence of the litigation is that landlords in Charlotte will think twice about allowing dangerous conditions to persist at their properties.

“Landlords and property managers are legally obligated to keep units in a fit and habitable condition and make timely repairs of all violations noted by local housing inspectors,” said Julian Wright, an attorney at Robinson Bradshaw. “Continuing to collect rent while failing to make such repairs can itself violate the law, subjecting the landlords to the possibility of treble damages and attorneys’ fees.”

The North Carolina Justice Center is one of the state’s preeminent voices for economic and social justice. As a leading progressive research and advocacy organization, its mission is to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household in the state has access to the resources, services, and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security. For more information, visit

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. The Advocacy Center serves more than 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, economic security and family stability. For more information, visit

Robinson Bradshaw is a Carolinas-based corporate law firm celebrating 60 years of providing comprehensive legal services to our clients. We represent businesses across the country ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Visit for more information

Looking Toward a New Administration


This has been an unparalleled election season for many reasons, among them occurring during a global pandemic and national protests for racial justice. We now know the outcome of our national and state elections. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy applauds those who have fought so fiercely to protect the democratic process, register others to vote, and cast their own ballot. Despite numerous obstacles, North Carolinians voted early and by-mail in record numbers yielding this historic administration. Kamala Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be elected to national office—an incredible achievement for Harris and the United States as a whole. This is a historic end to an historic year.  

Now, more than ever, our country needs strong leadership to overcome the socio-economic consequences of this pandemic. We hope that the Biden administration will implement policies that expand services and protections to low-income families and all United States residents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these issues include universal healthcare, raising the federal minimum wage, ensuring the availability of asylum relief for immigrants, and expanding access to our legal system. 

The Advocacy Center also acknowledges the important role of the state legislature in passing policies that impact our community and our clients. Here are a few key issues affecting North Carolinians that our organization encourages the state legislature to pass and for our community to support: 

  • Medicaid Expansion: Access to affordable care is critical during the COVID-19 crisis. North Carolina is just one of twelve states not to have expanded Medicaid eligibility so that all state residents have affordable healthcare options. Without Medicaid expansion, it is estimated that over 500,000 people fall into the coverage gap—even more since the start of the pandemic. Learn more about the coverage gap here
  • Fixing our broken unemployment insurance system: Over one million North Carolinians have applied for unemployment benefits since March. The overwhelming volume of applications paired with implementing new assistance programs has caused significant delays, making the process more confusing for applicants. These funds are critical to families trying to recover from this pandemic. 
  • Expanding food assistance programs: The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program expanded food assistance for North Carolinian families during this pandemic. Families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) have been receiving the maximum eligible benefits through October 2020. To ensure individuals can feed their families, these programs and expansions must continue without work requirements. 
  • State funded rent and mortgage relief: The CDC Eviction Moratorium expires on December 31st, 2020 with no adequate plan to keep all North Carolinians safely housed. The state legislature must act quickly to increase program funding for rent and mortgage relief by allocating nearly 1.5 billion unreserved dollars toward assistance for families affected by COVID-19.  

While these issues have a distinct urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also necessary social safety nets beyond this global crisis. As federal and state protections expire, programs must be implemented to ensure there is support for all North Carolinian families to endure this pandemic and put our state on the road toward economic recovery. 

While we celebrate the incredible work of activists, voters, and elected officials across the country, the fight for safety, security and stability in our society continues. Call your state and federal representatives regularly to show your support of low-income North Carolinian families and pandemic relief efforts. Volunteer with community organizations, exercise your constitutional right to protest and petition, and practice empathy and compassion. Our community’s influence does not end after we cast our ballot: looking beyond electoral politics is integral to lasting change. 

This year has certainly presented challenges to our communities, but Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will continue to serve and affirm low-income families, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans, disabled people, and immigrants. We strongly believe that diversity of life and experience is what makes our country great and we will persist in fighting for access to justice for all people. Our vision is to build a just community, where all people are treated fairly, which does not, and will never, end after an election. 


The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy